Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard preps for return to San Antonio by dropping 45 on Utah

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Kawhi Leonard prepares for return to San Antonio by dropping career-best 45 on Jazz. Utah has been back to playing good defense of late: For the 10 games prior to New Year’s Day, the Jazz had allowed less than a point per possession. They have started to look more and more like the Utah team that made a run the second half of last season (even if they are not stringing together wins yet).

Kawhi Leonard didn’t care.

Leonard scored a career-best 45 points on 22 shot attempts (all without hitting a three). He got to the rim seemingly whenever he wanted and was 7-of-9 from the midrange, doing much of his damage in isolation sets.

It wasn’t just Leonard for the Raptors, Pascal Siakam also had a career-high with 28 points.

The Raptors have been battling through some injuries — they have been without either Leonard or Kyle Lowry for each of the last 11 games (and Lowry got an injection for his back Tuesday, he likely misses a little more time), plus Jonas Valanciunas has been out. Still, the Raptors are 7-4 in those games and while it hasn’t always been pretty — they have a middle-of-the-pack offense and defense in those 11 games and a 0.4 net rating — they keep finding ways to win. Which is what great teams do.

However, San Antonio will be up for Thursday’s showdown.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo demolishes Pistons’ Jon Leuer with a thunderous dunk. This is just nasty. Credit to Detroit’s Jon Leuer for trying but…

Just a reminder, Antetokounmpo is on pace to demolish more than just the rims, he’s on pace to set the NBA record for dunks in a season. Dwight Howard holds the record at 266, but the Greek Freak is on pace to top that by about 80 dunks.

3) Ben Simmons just embarrasses the Clippers for a game-sealing dunk. Philadelphia was in control and probably going to win the game anyway, up four (117-113) with 15.9 seconds remaining. This play just sealed it… and gave Doc Rivers an ulcer.

The Sixers were inbounding the ball, the Clippers were looking for a steal and, short of that, a quick foul. Sindarius Thornwell was brought in to guard Ben Simmons, who was inbounding the ball, but that didn’t go so well.

Let that be a lesson to you young basketball players out there, do not turn your back on the inbounder (especially if he’s a smart player).

This game got chippy.

And eventually, Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley — who were in each other’s face a couple of times — were both thrown out.