Raptors destroy Sixers with total team effort, take 3-2 series lead

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This game wasn’t the Battle of Winterfell, it was much more the Red Wedding.

From the opening tip, the Raptors were living up to their namesakes — hungry, aggressive, and defensively attacking in packs. On offense, Toronto drove to the basket in a way we had not seen consistently earlier in the series.

Philly’s defense retreated into more of a shell to stop those drives, which opened up kick-out passes for open Toronto threes. Which the Raptors knocked down (something they have not done consistently this series).

Then the rout was on.

Especially with Kawhi Leonard doing this.

Toronto outscored Philadelphia 37-17 in the second quarter to lead by 21 at the half, and they never were seriously challenged after that, going on to win 125-89.

The Raptors now lead the series 3-2 heading back to Philadelphia for Game 4 Thursday night.

It can’t be a worse night for the Sixers at home — this was an everything that could go wrong went wrong kind of game. Joel Embiid, who was a game-time decision with an upper respiratory issue, had 13 points and 8 turnovers, and was just not himself defensively. Ben Simmons disappeared into the background and had 7 points on the night. Jimmy Butler was the best of the Sixers and he finished with 22 points on 6-of-16 shooting, and when he went to the bench Philly fell apart.

“Forget about it,” Jimmy Butler said when asked how to bounce back from this showing for a must-win Game 6. “Hell, if I was the coach I wouldn’t even show the film. Move on. We got our a** kicked. Simple as that. No other way to put it. We know what we have to do and so we got to go do it at home.”

The big story in this game was that Leonard did not have to carry the Raptors offense.

Philadelphia kept throwing double-teams at him from different angles, and Leonard had 13 points on 3-of-9 shooting in the first half — he was not what we had seen earlier in this series where he had been an unstoppable force. However, all the attention he drew open things up for everyone else.

Pascal Siakam had 25 points and was back to his normal self, putting on a clinic at points. Kyle Lowry had 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Danny Green had 17 points and was 5-of-7 from three. Toronto had six players in double figures. Even Fred Van Vleet had his best game of the season.

To cap it all off, Leonard did this to Embiid.

This is not a game Philadelphia can take anything away from, other than they can’t play like this again on Thursday or the discussion will shift to where Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are playing next season.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.