Associated Press

Three Things to Know: Stephen Curry gets Warriors a win without relying on three ball

Leave a comment

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) Stephen Curry gets Warriors a win despite hitting just two from deep. Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards had a plan — do not let the Warriors shoot threes. The Wizards defended the arc and a few feet behind it, taking away the shots that had fueled the Warriors’ eight-game winning streak.

So Stephen Curry got 32 of his 38 inside the arc, and the Warriors held on for a 126-118 win in Washington.

Curry shot 14-of-24 overall and just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc, but he was the guy who got the Warriors a win (on a night when Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant combined to shoot 13-of-31). Whenever the Wizards would make a push, it was Curry who pushed back. He did that with 13 points in the third. He did that in the fourth when the Wizards cut Warriors’ lead to two while Curry sat, but when he came in the Warriors quickly pushed the lead back up to eight.

Curry even did a little dance in front of the Wizards’ bench.

Also of note, DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points for the Warriors and picked up his first technical of the season.

2) All-Star Game starters and captains named, and it’s pretty much who you’d expect. When it comes down to picking the five best players in each conference, you’re going to end up with elite players even if we can quibble over a spot or two. The All-Star Game starters for this year’s game in Charlotte were announced, and there’s no bad call in there.

Here are your All-Star starters, chosen by a combination of fan votes (50 percent of the total), media votes (25 percent) and player votes (25 percent).

WEST
Guard: Stephen Curry (Golden State)
Guard: James Harden (Houston)
Frontcourt: LeBron James (L.A. Lakers)
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Golden State)
Frontcourt: Paul George (Oklahoma City)

EAST
Guard: Kyrie Irving (Boston)
Guard: Kemba Walker (Charlotte)
Frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
Frontcourt: Kawhi Leonard (Toronto)
Frontcourt: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)

Not sure there’s much to argue about there. Some people in my Twitter timeline wanted to nitpick LeBron making it after he has missed time, but that just suggests more people are using legalized pot than I thought. The All-Star Game isn’t a reward for half a season only, and this is LeBron “best player on the planet/best player of a generation and still near his peak” James we’re talking about. One could argue Anthony Davis deserved to start more than Paul George or maybe even Kevin Durant, but there is no wrong choice among that group.

Three players the fans wanted did not cut it with the players and media — and the players and media got them right. Fan votes had Derrick Rose as a starter, but he is out and the very deserving James Harden is in. Fans had Mavs rookie Luka Doncic in as a starter, but he wasn’t as popular with media and players so Paul George starts. In the East, the fans had Dwyane Wade as a starter, but that spot now goes to the Hornets’ Kemba Walker, who gets to start in his home town.

Now the coaches will vote for the seven reserves from each conference. Who should they pick? We made our choices already, and check out the NBC Sports PBT Podcast that drops today where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and I debate this very topic.

3) Don’t take him for granted, Russell Westbrook racked up another triple-double. It’s been a debate on NBA Twitter, and on podcasts and more: Does Russell Westbrook deserve to be an All-Star this season? His shooting has been terribly inefficient — 41.8 percent overall, 24.3 percent from three on almost five attempts a game, and a 48.1 true shooting percentage that is dreadful and the worst of his career.

He’s also averaging a triple-double again with 21.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game. His playmaking for others is better this season.

Yes, Westbrook should be an All-Star reserve. And we shouldn’t take for granted his triple-doubles, like the 23-17-16 one he had on Thursday night in a Thunder win over the Pelicans.

This may be a down season by his standards, but he remains one of the game’s elite.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

Daniel/Getty Images
3 Comments

Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates and family for helping him reach this point.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win.

The last player from Europe to win the MVP award was Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
1 Comment

Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

Getty Images
1 Comment

Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

Associated Press
Leave a comment

The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.