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76ers retiring Moses Malone’s No. 2, giving him statue

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Moses Malone played just four of his prime seasons with the 76ers (and then another late in his career)

But they were four great seasons.

From 1982-83 to 1985-86, Malone won MVP, NBA Finals MVP and a championship and made two All-NBA first teams, an All-NBA second team and four All-Star teams.

So, Philadelphia is honoring him.

76ers release:

The Philadelphia 76ers announced today the team will retire the late Moses Malone’s No. 2 in a special halftime ceremony on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 when the 76ers host the Denver Nuggets at 7 p.m. on ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia and 97.5 The Fanatic.

Prior to the game, the 76ers will unveil a Malone sculpture on “76ers Legends Walk” at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey.

Honestly, I’m surprised Philadelphia didn’t already retire Malone’s number. But he spent so little time there. It is a borderline case.

I’m not sure sure why now, but Malone – who already has his number retired by the Rockets – will join select company with multiple retired jerseys. The rest of the list:

  • Wilt Chamberlain (Warriors, 76ers, Lakers)
  • Pete Maravich (Jazz, Pelicans, Hawks)
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers, Bucks)
  • Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers, Heat)
  • Oscar Robertson (Bucks, Kings)
  • Charles Barkley (76ers, Suns)
  • Clyde Drexler (Trail Blazers, Rockets)
  • Julius Erving (Nets, 76ers)
  • Earl Monroe (Knicks, Wizards)
  • Bob Lanier (Pistons, Bucks)
  • Dikembe Mutombo (Hawks, Nuggets)
  • Nate Thurmond (Warriors, Cavaliers)
  • Jerry Sloan (Jazz, Bulls)
  • Kobe Bryant (Lakers, Lakers)
  • Michael Jordan (Bulls, Heat)

Pistons’ Blake Griffin fined $15k for verbally abusing referee (video)

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Blake Griffin brought an edge to L.A. for his first game there against the Clippers. He shunned Clippers owner Steve Ballmer’s pre-game handshake then jawed with Patrick Beverley after the game.

But it was Griffin’s conduct in the Pistons’ next game that got him fined.

NBA release:

Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin has been fined $15,000 for verbal abuse of a game official, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of the Pistons’ 100-94 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday, Jan. 14

I can’t tell exactly what Griffin said, but given his body language and my limited lip-reading, it’s not shocking he got fined.

Most of Stephen Curry’s 3-pointers last night were tightly defended (video)

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Stephen Curry made nine 3-pointers last night – which, hey, happens. The Warriors’ elite offense sometimes spring him for open looks, and he’s the greatest shooter of all-time. He takes advantage.

But that wasn’t the case last night. Curry made some ridiculous deep shots despite the Pelicans contesting well.

Per NBA.com, Curry shot 1-for-1 on 3s against “very tight” defense and 4-for-7 on 3s against “tight” defense. The above video shows those stats sure don’t underestimate the degree of difficulty.

I especially enjoyed Steve Kerr’s in-game interview after Curry shot 7-for-8 on 3-pointers in the third quarter. Kerr on ESPN:

I told him right before all that, “Go make six crazy shots in a row.” So, he’s very coachable.

JaMychal Green throws down mean dunk on Ersan Ilyasova’s attempt to draw charge (video)

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Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova takes a lot of charges. A lot of charges. It’s what he’s known for.

But that sure backfired against the Grizzlies’ JaMychal Green last night.

Three Things to Know: Boston plays up to level of its competition, earns win over Toronto

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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) Boston plays up to the level of its competition, which is enough to earn big win over Toronto. Speaking on behalf of basketball fans everywhere, after watching the last two meetings between these teams, I would like to order seven more of these games for late May. Please. This is a playoff matchup that has to happen.

Now, about last night…

“What is wrong with the Boston Celtics” has been a favorite parlor game around the NBA this season, and while the “too talented” theory and others exist, Wednesday night’s performance and win at home against the Toronto Raptors shed light on maybe the real issue:

These Celtics play to the level of their competition. That gets them in trouble against lesser teams, but when the big guns come to town Boston shows up.

One week ago, the Celtics dismantled a strong Indiana team by 27 points. Boston then turned around and lost to Miami, Orlando, and Brooklyn (the Heat and Nets are .500 teams, the Magic are trying to find their way into the playoffs).

Boston came out Wednesday night like none of those losses happened and played one of its best games of the season to beat Toronto, the team with the best record in the NBA. It was a huge effort led by Kyrie Irving, who had 27 points and a career-high 18 assists, and he outplayed Kawhi Leonard down the stretch of the game (the Kyrie vs. Kawhi duel is what the game became at the end). Irving hit all the big shots.

The Celtics have won 2-of-3 against the Raptors and now are 6-3 overall against Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana, and Philadelphia this season. When the Celtics need to raise their game up, they can, they just don’t do it nightly. After the game, to a man, the Celtics said they need to play like this in their upcoming games (struggling Memphis, then at Atlanta, Miami, and Cleveland).

“We have to play all those teams that aren’t the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philly 76ers, we have to play those teams like they are,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “That only helps us, keeps us in a rhythm, a great rhythm and it holds us accountable for doing the right things.”

Irving took the blame for some of that, admitting he had to call LeBron to apologize and talk leadership.

“It just comes with our maturity as a team,” Irving said. “I did a poor job of setting an example for these young guys of what it’s like to get something out of your teammates. You go and say something publicly and it ends up being received in so many different ways. You never know how fragile or what guys are going through if you say things like that. You’re expecting results but at the same time I should have kept it in-house. Going forward, I want … to get the best out of them but I won’t do it publicly like that.”

Was this win a turning point for Boston? It felt like it, not just in the fact that the had to fight back from behind twice in the game and showed real grit and will, but those postgame comments are a positive. Boston may be learning its lessons and growing into a contender.

Only time will tell. With some soft games on the schedule coming up, we may quickly see if Boston is learning its lessons.

2) Stephen Curry explodes for 23 points in third, Warriors storm back then hold off Pelicans for the win. For the second night in a row, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors put on a basketball fireworks show.

Anthony Davis and the Pelicans were playing maybe their best game of the season and were up 16 on Golden State at Oracle Arena, then Curry went on the kind of run they will show in his Hall of Fame career retrospective video — 23 points on 7 threes in the third.

Curry finished with 41 points on 22 shots, hitting 9-of-17 from beyond the arc. Kevin Durant had 30 points, maybe scariest of all for coaches who have to game plan against the Warriors Draymond Green shot 4-of-7 from three on his way to 17 points (sagging off Green at the arc has been a thing this season, and for a while now).

The Warriors got the win 147-140 in a game with the most threes made in any game in NBA history (43).

It wasn’t a defensive masterpiece by anyone, but the game had amazing shot making all night long.

It was the second night in a row the Warriors looked like the Warriors, and why they are back as the No. 1 seed in the West.

All of that overshadowed a 30 point, 18 rebound game from Anthony Davis, who reminded everyone why he should be in the MVP conversation even if the Pelicans are three games below .500.

3) James Harden scores 58 but the Rockets still lose to Brooklyn in OT. We could be seeing variations of that headline a lot in the next month — James Harden continues to play at an MVP level, but it’s hard to underestimate just how much Houston is going to miss Clint Capela this season, both on defense and in the overall scheme of how they play. (Capela is out 4-6 weeks with ligament damage in the thumb of his right hand.)

Harden was spectacular again on Wednesday, scoring 58 points.

But the loss of Capela was glaring, and Danuel House Jr. being back in the G-League — because the sides couldn’t agree on how to convert his two-way contract — was a more painful loss than expected.

Also, the Nets just do not quit .

After a P.J. Tucker three, Brooklyn was down eight with 1:02 left in the game. But them Sixth Man of the Year Spencer Dinwiddie drained a key three. Then one more. Then a third — this one to send the game to OT. That’s where the Nets got the win.

Brooklyn is a .500 team with this win — an amazing season considering the roster, the expectations, and the fact this team lost Caris LeVert (their best scorer) for much of the season due to an ankle injury. They are building something in Brooklyn that in a few years could be very special.