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Three Things to Know: Giannis Antetokounmpo makes history while dominating Clippers

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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) Giannis Antetokounmpo makes history while dominating the Clippers. For at least one night, Giannis Antetokounmpo had the Midas touch on the basketball court — anything he touched was gold Jerry. Gold!

For example, Antetokounmpo has struggled with his shot this season, hitting 17.4 percent from three and 60 percent on free throws coming into Staples Center to take on the Clippers Monday. Then in L.A. he got red hot in the second half and ended up shooting 4-of-7 from three on the night — tying a career-high for most made threes — and hit 14-of-18 from the free-throw line.

He finished with 38 points, 16 rebounds, 9 assists in the Bucks 129-124 win — and made history in the process:

Antetokounmpo is the first NBA player ever to record 200 points, 100 rebounds, and 50 assists in the first 8 games of the season.

You want more history? Antetokounmpo is the sixth player to have at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in three straight games.

The Bucks needed all of Antetokounmpo’s MVP-level performance to hold off a feisty Clippers team that battled back and made it close late. Even without Kawhi Leonard (more on that later, just keep reading). It’s too early to talk MVP in a serious way, but if you’re going to list the players who put themselves in the conversation to start the season that list begins with Antetokounmpo.

This game, and Eric Bledsoe, also gave us the best blooper of the season.

2) How is anyone surprised Kawhi Leonard is already getting load management nights off? For the second time in a week, Kawhi Leonard sat out a nationally televised game (ESPN broadcast the Bucks/Clippers affair). There was not much comment when he didn’t play against the Jazz a week before, but when fans — and ESPN — were deprived of Leonard vs. Antetokounmpo the complaints came flooding in.

How does Leonard sitting out surprise anybody?

The Toronto Raptors played him 60 regular-season games a season ago — he sat out 27 percent of the season — then come the playoffs the rested Leonard was the best player on the planet and led the Raptors to the title. The road map has been laid out, did people think the Clippers were not going to follow it?

Leonard has a quadricep tendon issue in one leg, which has helped lead to a knee issue in his other leg because of compensation. That’s why the official designation here is “Load management, knee — injury” because in the eyes of the Clippers and the NBA this is about health. His knee is not up to playing back-to-back games, so he gets one half of those off.

The argument that it’s too early in the season to take nights off is shortsighted. Should he wait until his knee issue is severe enough he risks more serious injury and/or becomes a chronic pain that will linger all season? Preventative care helps players get through the season and extends their careers. Player health should be the priority, It doesn’t matter what week of the season it is.

The argument that he should have played against the Bucks and sat out against the Trail Blazers Thursday night — another nationally televised game, this time on TNT — is looking at it like a fan and not from the Clippers perspective. The game against Portland is more important to Los Angeles — a win in conference will matter more for seeding in the West and potential tie-breakers down the line. If he’s sitting out half of a back-to-back, which half is a no-brainer. (A lot of the complaining seemed to come from ESPN on-air personalities frustrated Clippers/Leonard chose to play in the TNT game over the one on their network.)

Next week the Clippers are expected to get Paul George back — and he is going to get a lot of load management nights off to make sure his shoulders are rested and right after off-season surgery on both of them. Hopefully, Doc Rivers staggers those nights off, but know they are coming. The Clippers are team load management this season — and that’s one of the reasons they are serious title contenders, too.

3) James Harden had his way and dropped 36 on the Warriors.
Houston has stumbled a little out of the gate this season, and while their defense has been the focus — and make no mistake, the Rockets’ defense is terrible — James Harden also just has not been able to get the three to fall for him this season. He was shooting 25.3 percent from three coming into Wednesday night.

The decimated Warriors provide the perfect chance to get things right. While Harden was not electric from deep — 6-of-16, 37.5 percent — he did drop 36 on Golden State.

The Rockets are going to get better this season — Harden and Eric Gordon will hit more threes (Gordon is at 23 percent from deep this season), and opposing teams will not keep shooting 40.3 percent from three against them (even against a not-great Rockets defense that number will drop). We can debate if they are contenders or not, but they are better than their 4-3 record to start the season.

Report: Bulls likely to keep Jim Boylen as coach for financial reasons

Bulls coach Jim Boylen
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Bulls appeared ready to fire Jim Boylen. After all, Chicago just hired a new team president in Arturas Karnisovas who’d want to pick his own coach. That was unlikely to be Boylen, whose tenure had been defined by players disliking him, ill-timed timeouts and losing.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

But as the Sun-Times learned this week, even if Karnisovas didn’t like what he would have seen from Boylen he would likely be handcuffed from making a change.

According to several sources, there is strong growing momentum that financial concerns the Reinsdorfs have about the 2020-21 NBA season will keep Boylen in his current seat, as well as most of the coaching staff.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has earned a reputation for his frugality. However, the economic downturn surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has caused many teams to tighten their belts. The financial consequences will likely continue into next season.

But this puts Chicago at a disadvantage.

Boylen has looked like one of the NBA’s worst coaches. Though Bulls ownership is more optimistic than most on Boylen and he could exceed expectations, it’s telling that Chicago probably wouldn’t have kept him based on merit. This is about saving money and hoping for the best.

That’s obviously great news for Boylen. He has improved significantly since taking over last season. More time on the job could allow him to grow into it. That said, improving from a near-mutiny in his early days doesn’t exactly mean he’s in an acceptable place now. Boylen still has a long way to go, and it could be more difficult if players are tired of him.

Nets fined $25K for injury-reporting violation

Brooklyn Nets
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Earlier this season, Kyrie Irving missed several weeks with a shoulder injury. Throughout the absence, the Nets provided few details and no clear timeline. Eventually, a report said Irving could miss 2-3 additional weeks with bursitis. The Nets denied it. Later, Irving confirmed he had bursitis then returned nearly three weeks after the report.

Finally, Brooklyn caught the league’s ire.

NBA release:

The NBA today announced that the Brooklyn Nets have been fined $25,000 for failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting.

It’s unclear what specifically caused this violation. Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Jamal Crawford and Rodions Kurucs have all appeared on the Nets’ injury report during the resumption. As 19-point underdog, Brooklyn pulled a historic upset of the Bucks. Remember, public injury disclosures are primarily about preserving gambling integrity.

For the NBA not to reveal even basic details while fining the Nets for their lack of transparency is ironic. It’s also ironic this fine comes amid a restart that featured the NBA being highly secretive about player heath.

The Clippers got fined $50,000 earlier this season for saying Kawhi Leonard was healthy. What did Brooklyn do that was less egregious but still worth of a fine?

LeBron James says Lakers have off-court issues, out vs. Rockets (groin)

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers’ offense has stumbled so far in the bubble.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.”

Mike Trudell of the Lakers:

Was LeBron referring to his groin injury? I wouldn’t call that an off-court issue, but maybe he would.

LeBron knows how to work the media. This subtle comment will draw attention and sets up LeBron to look better if he leads the Lakers through this mysterious issue.

Without more context, it’s easy for imaginations to wander – especially about a team with Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. The Lakers could be facing a major hurdle. Or a minor nuisance. Who knows? But the unknown is scary.

It’ll be difficult to detect the Lakers’ progress during remaining seeding games. The Lakers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and without a home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, there’s no reason to chase the NBA’s best overall record. That’s why LeBron missing tonight’s game against the Rockets could be mostly precautionary.

76ers: Ben Simmons suffered subluxation of knee cap, considering treatment options

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Ben Simmons injured his knee during the 76ers’ win over the Wizards yesterday.

The diagnosis is in, and the prognosis sounds worrisome.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

How quickly will Simmons recover? Once he recovers, will he face elevated risk of re-injury?

These questions now haunt Simmons and Philadelphia.

Simmons is a young star who’ll begin a max contract extension next season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons opened Philadelphia’s championship window, and now rain is drizzling through. Philadelphia can’t reach it ceiling without Simmons healthy and providing value.

Even more modest goals in a disjointed season will be more difficult to reach.

The 76ers were just adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward. Now, they must again re-configure their plan – maybe for a significant chunk of the remainder of the season.

Even more burden falls onto Embiid, who has been shouldering so much with this mismatched roster. Simmons plays across the positional spectrum, so any number of 76ers could fill in while he’s out. Many of those lesser players will complement Embiid more smoothly than Simmons did. But the talent deficit without Simmons can’t be offset.

That’s the scary issue for now – and maybe a while.