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Three Things to Know: Lou Williams drops 34, becomes NBA’s all-time leader in bench scoring

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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) Lou Williams drops 34, becomes NBA’s all-time leader in bench scoring in Clippers win. Who is the greatest sixth man in NBA history? Manu Ginobili is at or near the top of the list. Kevin McHale, Jamal Crawford, John Havlicek, Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, Michael Cooper, and Dell Curry should all get mentioned in the conversation.

Make room for Lou Williams on that list.

Williams, the two-time and defending NBA Sixth Man of the Year (and a leading candidate to win it again), came off the bench to score 34 points against the Celtics on Monday night and in doing so passed the elder Curry for most points scored off the bench in NBA history at 11,148.

Williams can just get buckets. Go under the pick and he’ll drain the three (35.9 percent this season), fight over the pick and he’ll use his handles to get to the left elbow area (he doesn’t seem to miss from there) or to the rim. And he’s sneaky good at drawing fouls.

The feisty Clippers handled the Celtics 140-115, the most points Boston has given up in a game since 1994 to the Washington Bullets. Don’t read much into this loss for the Celtics, it was the last game of a West Coast road trip where they went 3-1 and played well. Teams let down in that last game of a trip, plus they may have had the Los Angeles flu after a few days in the city. It happens. So long as it doesn’t carry over when they get back home it’s just one of those games. Flush it and move on.

The Clippers have now won five in a row and have moved up to the six seed in the West. They are going to be a tough first-round matchup for somebody.

2) Toronto’s Serge Ibaka goes after Marquese Chriss and throws punches. Well, it looks like Marc Gasol will be starting the next couple of games in Toronto.

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Cleveland’s Marquese Chriss had been talking smack back-and-forth all game long. It came to a head when, with one second to go in the third quarter Monday night, Norman Powell threw a length-of-the-court inbounds pass to Ibaka, who was being defended by Chriss. The two got hooked up, but Ibaka goes to the ground. Chris walks by and appears to say something, and Ibaka gets up and goes hard at Chriss, grabbing him by the neck, ramming him into the stanchion, and throwing punches.

Ibaka and Chriss were both ejected.

Ibaka is going to get suspended for this, and probably not just one game. Remember, Ibaka was suspended for one game two seasons ago after throwing punches at Robin Lopez. Last season he was suspended for a game for throwing punches at James Johnson. The league sees a pattern and that’s when it comes down hard.

The Raptors fell apart after that and the Cavaliers won 126-101. Toronto looked like a team on the second night of a back-to-back, they just went through the motions against an inferior team and paid the price. Since they’re locked into the two seed, it’s not that big a deal.

3) Russell Westbrook gets into it dropping a profanity-laced tirade on Jazz fan… oh, Oklahoma City beat Utah. There was a game, one with playoff implications in the crowded West. Nobody is talking about the game.

Russell Westbrook got into a verbal exchange with Jazz fans on Monday night, yelling profanity at them. (Note: This video has profanity and is not safe for work or those offended by such language.)

What started it? From Westbrook’s postgame statement:

“How it started was, a young man and his wife in the stands told me ‘to get down on my knees like you used to.’ To me, that’s just completely disrespectful, to me, I think it’s racial, and I think it’s inappropriate.”

The fan denied it, saying he told Westbrook to ice his knees. What we know for sure is five Jazz fans were handed warning cards saying their language and behavior violated the NBA Fan Code of Conduct. However, they were allowed to return to their seats.

Westbrook will get a fine for this. As I have written about before, this is an increasing issue around the league, fans crossing the line with comments looking to get a reaction or rise from players. Sometimes security in the arena is on it and the fan is removed, but it’s far from consistent. Whatever happened in this case, the broader trend is something the league needs to deal with.

As for the game, the Thunder are built to give the Jazz trouble. Donovan Mitchell is the primary — often only — shot creator on Utah, they lean heavily on him and try to hunt mismatches he can exploit. That’s hard against the Thunder. Oklahoma City can start with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Paul George on him, but can switch Jeremi Grant, Terrence Ferguson, or even Russell Westbrook onto him no problem. Because those guys can do a respectable job on Mitchell, defenders can stay home on shooters and contest threes.

The result is a 98-89 Oklahoma City win. The game leaves the Thunder as the four seed in the West but drops the Jazz to the eight seed (a spot they want to get out of, they don’t want the Warriors in the first round).

Watch Kawhi Leonard dunk all over Giannis Antetokounmpo, highlight of 26-3 Toronto run

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For most of the first three quarters of Game 6, the Milwaukee Bucks were in control of the game and looked to be on the way to forcing a Game 7.

But Kawhi Leonard sparked a 10-0 run for Toronto to end the third, scoring eight and assisting on a Serge Ibaka bucket.

That run carried over into the fourth and became a 26-3 run that was highlighted by this insane dunk by Leonard over Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Insane.

I’d say that’s Leonard’s best shot as a Raptor if not for the series winner against Philadelphia.

The Bucks responded with a 7-0 run and this game is going to go down to the wire.

Bucks play with desperation, lead by as many as 15 in first half

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If you think a 15-point lead is safe, go talk to a Portland Trail Blazers fan and get back to me.

The Bucks will still take it. Milwaukee has come out with a sense of desperation, but more importantly got to play with some pace and couldn’t miss early from three — they started 4-of-6 and were 7-of-13 from three as of this writing — and what we saw were play after play from the Bucks, the kinds of things we haven’t seen the last three games. They led by 13 after one, and the lead got as high as 15.

Can the Bucks sustain this, or will they cool down as the Raptors heat up? It’s going to be a wild rest of the game in Toronto.

The Raptors are up 3-2 in the series and playing for their first ever franchise trip to the Finals. The Bucks are playing to force a Game 7 Monday back in Milwaukee.

 

Dwyane Wade got an All-NBA vote, Gabrielle Union would have gone with Klay Thompson

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Honesty from your spouse is a bedrock of any good relationship.

But come on Gabrielle Union, show your man a little love.

Dwyane Wade got one second-team All-NBA vote, and he took to an Instagram story to thank that voter (even if he wouldn’t have voted for himself). His wife would not have voted for her man.

Just a few notes:

• That is a funny video.

• We do not know who cast that vote for Wade, yet. The NBA’s end of season awards are voted on by 100 media members who cover the league (the NBA selects those voters). There is transparency, the full votes will be released after the NBA’s award show next month.

• Third team All-NBA guard was probably the toughest choice on the entire ballot. Because the NBA forces voters to select only two guards for each of the teams (six guards total), rather than allowing voters to just chose the 15 best players for the honor, deserving guys get left off every year. In this case, Stephen Curry and James Harden were first-team locks. Damian Lillard was a clear second-team choice, and a majority of voters had Kyrie Irving joining him on the second team. Russell Westbrook was not far behind Irving and was clear-and-away the fifth choice for voters. That left one guard spot between Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, or anyone else considered worthy (Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, etc.). There is no wrong choice in that group. If players were not locked into positions for All-NBA more guards would have made the cut in an increasingly backcourt dominated league. (For transparency purposes, I did vote Walker in on my ballot barely over Thompson.)

• No media members I know are comfortable with these votes having an impact on player salaries. It makes us all uneasy, even as voters study and try to make the best choices. The NBA and players’ union need to come up with a better system in the next CBA. I’ve got a crazy idea, how about letting the teams decide who is worthy of being paid that much?

Brooklyn Nets like Kyrie Irving, but how much does he like them?

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Kyrie Irving is a popular guy. He has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant and rumors of them pairing up on the Knicks next season have been rampant all over the league this season. Irving also is hanging out with LeBron James in Los Angeles, and LBJ is reportedly up for the idea of getting the band back together (minus Kevin Love, and in Los Angeles this time). Boston has every intention of keeping Irving, and ideally pairing him with Anthony Davis who they would acquire via trade.

The Brooklyn Nets will be free agent players this summer and think they would be an excellent fit for Irving. The goal would be to pair him with All-Star D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

How seriously is Irving considering the Nets? A lot, according to Anthony Puccio of SNY in New York.

Sources tell SNY that Kyrie Irving and his camp are strongly considering Brooklyn if he decides to leave Boston. Irving’s camp has kept a close eye on the Nets as the season progressed and the team got better, with the playoffs only helping their case.

SNY also learned recently that the Nets would not shy away from signing Irving even if they re-sign point guard D’Angelo Russell. The ideal scenario would be to pair two max free agents, such as Kevin Durant and Irving, but sources say the Nets would be open to pairing Irving and Russell in the backcourt together.

The Nets, just like the Clippers, could be major players in free agency this summer (the Clippers are more focused on Kawhi Leonard, but if he chooses to stay in Toronto the Clippers will be a potential force in trades and on the free agent market). This is a young team that surprised everyone and made the playoffs this season, they have a good culture and good role players, they just need a star or two to take them over the top.

Irving could be that guy, or at least one of those guys, in Brooklyn.

Irving will have options and you can bet his decision is not yet made. He may be leaning one way or another, but circumstances with other players and time to think things over may (likely will) change his mind. Maybe a few times.

Where his mind is July 1 matters. It could be in Brooklyn then, but it could be a lot of places.