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Three Things to Know: LeBron James, Lakers will almost certainly miss playoffs

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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) The Lakers lost a big game to the Clippers. With a chance to gain ground on the team they were chasing for the playoffs, the Lakers had all their usual problems – shooting, defense, injury – in a loss to the Clippers last night. Kurt Helin was there and wrote about it.

The fact this was a big game is a tribute to LeBron James.

This loss has the Lakers’ postseason pursuit nearly completely unraveled. But they were barely hanging on by a thread, anyway. They’re now 5.5 games and two teams out of playoff position with 18 games remaining. They’re as close in the standings to the 14th-place Grizzlies as the eight-place Spurs. Most struggling teams get written off even before last night’s loss.

But LeBron demands attention and respect. Look at the Cavaliers team he carried to the NBA Finals last year. It was tough to rule out the possibility he’d drag these Lakers at least to the playoffs. Somehow, someway.

That he almost certainly won’t is a huge blow to the NBA. The league’s premier teams – Lakers and Knicks – are now each going on six straight years without making the playoffs. That leaves a lot of revenue on the table.

It seemed LeBron would be the antidote to Los Angeles’ struggles. That hasn’t happened as quickly as hoped.

Maybe Kevin Durant will straighten out New York next year.

2) The Clippers are good and feeling good. Before the season, Patrick Beverley declared the Clippers the best team in L.A. After last night’s win, he took an earned victory lap.

Ben Golliver of The Washington Post:

Jovan Buha of The Athletic:

The Clippers are in transition. They’ve kept their books clean to chase stars like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant next summer. They traded their best player, Tobias Harris, shortly before the trade deadline for primarily draft picks. They owe the Celtics a first-round pick if they make the playoffs.

But this starless team has remained competitive. The Clippers feisty and take advantage of their depth by always playing hard.

Credit owner Steve Ballmer, who set the tone for a playoff push amid directional uncertainty. Credit Doc Rivers for getting a team full of players on expiring contracts to pull the same direction. And credit these players – including Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and Beverley – for being tougher, harder-working and just plain better than so many of their opponents.

3) Dwyane Wade brought a new element to his jersey swaps – surprise. In his final season, Wade has swapped jerseys with an opponent after most games. Usually, these photo-ops seem pre-arranged. Wade has already picked and informed the opposing player before the game.

But after the Heat’s win over the Hawks last night, Wade swapped jerseys with rookie Kevin Huerter, who wears No. 3 because of Wade. Both Wade and Huerter said the Atlanta guard had no idea in advance, and Huerter looked thrilled. It was an especially fun moment:

Clippers stun Warriors by forcing rare Game 6

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The Warriors feel inevitable.

So, when the Clippers let a 15-point second-half lead dwindle away in the final minutes, the game and series appeared over.

Instead, Lou Williams responded with a personal 8-0 – including a four-point play – run that sparked L.A. to a 129-121 Game 5 win Wednesday. The last two teams to lose a home Game 5 while leading a series 3-1:

  • 2019 Warriors vs. Clippers
  • 2016 Warriors vs. Cavaliers

Golden State will try to avoid any more comparisons to those 2016 NBA Finals in Game 6 Friday. The Warriors have won both their games in L.A. in this series, but have dropped two in Oakland – more home losses than they had the previous two postseasons combined.

The Rockets took care of business earlier in the night, but Golden State didn’t clinch its place in the anticipated rematch. The Clippers just aren’t making it easy.

“It’s a little mix of arrogance and just hard work,” said Williams, who scored 33 points and dished 10 assists. “We have a lot of young guys. We have a lot of veterans, guys that want to prove their names. We were wrote off early on in the year, people saying we weren’t a good team. We take all of those things. We digest it, and we try to make as much as we can out of it. So, it’s shown in this series.”

These Clippers have such an awesome identity.

They easily could have cherished their 31-point comeback in Game 2 as their moment of the series. But they kept fighting.

Patrick Beverley (17 points, 14 rebounds and four assists) was everywhere. Montrezl Harrell (24 points on 11-of-14 shooting with a clutch block) controlled the paint. Danilo Gallinari (26 points) got rolling after a couple off games.

L.A. has already won more games (two) than anyone except Houston (which won three in last year’s Western conference finals) in a series against the Warriors since they added Kevin Durant.

Durant scored 45 tonight, but Golden State turned up its defensive intensity too late.

“Build from this game? This game sucked. We lost,” Klay Thompson said. “Let’s go win Friday. Let’s win big. Let’s freaking win by 30 like we’re capable of.”

Rockets set up rematch with Warriors

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Bring on the Warriors.

The Rockets did their part to set up a highly anticipated rematch by dispatching the Jazz 100-93 in Game 5 Wednesday. With a 4-1 series victory over Utah, Houston enters the second round to face the winner of Warriors-Clippers. Golden State leads 3-1 entering its own Game 5 tonight.

Houston pushed these Warriors harder than anyone has, falling just short in last year’s seven-game Western Conference finals. James Harden said he thinks about losing Games 6 and 7 every day.

Will the Rockets supplant Golden State this year?

Harden is better. Chris Paul is healthy. The Warriors – their veterans a year older, Kevin Durant‘s impending free agency causing more drama – look somewhat vulnerable.

But Golden State is still favored in the second-round series before even winning its first-round series. The Warriors have historic top-end talent, and that usually wins out in the playoffs.

It did for the Rockets against the Jazz.

Harden (26 points, six rebounds, six assists, four blocks and three steals) and Paul (15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals) weren’t great tonight. But they gave Houston enough considering Utah’s best player was Royce O'Neale (18 points on 8-of-13 shooting).

Donovan Mitchell (12 points on 4-of-22 shooting, including 0-for-9 on 3-pointers, with only one assist and five turnovers) had an awful game I doubt he’ll forget. His competitiveness and self-awareness are so impressive. I bet this only fuels him.

The Rockets are ready now.

They’ve won 24 of their last 29 games, going back to the regular season. They like to play a high-scoring style, but they’re versatile enough to adjust. P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela keyed a strong defensive performance tonight.

Houston probably won’t beat Golden State. But the Rockets have the opportunity they’ve desired for the last 332 days.

PBT Podcast: Looking ahead at the NBA playoffs second round

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Boston vs. Milwaukee. Philadelphia vs. Toronto. Houston vs. Golden State.

The first round of the NBA playoffs had plenty of emotion — just ask Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook — but it was short, with very possibly only one series going at least six games.

The second round? That’s not going to be so quick, and it is filled with even matchups that present a lot of questions.

Is this the Rockets’ year? They have the formula, can they execute it? The Bucks were the best team in the regular season, but can they carry that elite level into the second round against Boston? Is Toronto the team to beat?

Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports/Real GM/Celticsblog to look ahead at the second round, and even talk a little about what is next for Oklahoma City.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Sebastian Telfair convicted on gun charge, faces up to 15 years in prison

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Sebastian Telfair – a high school phenom from Coney Island, N.Y. – was the No. 13 pick in the 2004 NBA draft. He never lived up to the hype, but he still stuck in the NBA for 10 seasons, with the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Suns, Celtics, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors and Cavaliers.

He got arrested in 2017 for gun crimes and just his lost his trial.

TMZ:

Sebastian Telfair has been convicted of possessing a firearm … and could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Don’t assume Telfair will get the maximum sentence, but this is a serious conviction and will likely carry a serious sentence.