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Three Things to Know: Anthony Davis out at least two games after nasty fall

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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) Anthony Davis out at least two games after nasty fall, back injury. Anthony Davis left Staples Center Tuesday night laying down, stretched out in the back of motor carrier, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Davis said he was fine, because players always say that and think they’ll bounce back quickly, but he’s going to be out for a while.

Anthony Davis is not joining the Lakers on their upcoming two-game road trip — Dallas and Oklahoma City — and could miss more time after he injured his back on a nasty fall in the third quarter of the Lakers blowing out the Knicks. Davis went up to block a Julius Randle driving shot, the two had contact while in the air, and that spun Davis, who fell flat on his back.

Davis left the game, gingerly went back to the locker room for evaluation, and did not return. An MRI is set for Wednesday. The X-rays were negative and initial diagnosis is a sacral contusion. The sacral region is the fused bones at the bottom of the spine, what most of us consider the tailbone (doctors would say its the area just above the tailbone, to be technical).

This is something that will take time to heal, and it could be more than two games.

Davis is the Lakers’ leading scorer and rebounder, at 27.1 points and 9.4 rebounds a night. He’s also having the kind of season on the defensive end of the court that will get him consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. Which is to say he’ll be missed. The good news is: 1)The Lakers will still be a good team without Davis, they still have LeBron James; 2) the Lakers’ hot start to the season has built them a 4.5 game cushion for the top seed in the West, so a loss or two will not hurt them.

The Lakers just hope Davis is not going to be out a lot more than two games.

2) Chris Paul has been clutch for Oklahoma City this season. Chris Paul has 103 points in clutch minutes this season — the final five minutes of a game within five points — which is clear and away the most in the league. More importantly, he’s shooting an efficient 54.5 percent in those minutes and has dished out 11 assists as well. CP3 has been the best clutch player in the NBA this season.

He did it again on Tuesday night. Paul scored 20 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, lifting the Thunder to a 111-103 win against Brooklyn. This game was tied at 103-103 and CP3 broke that with consecutive jumpers (and the Thunder defense locked the Nets down the rest of the way.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 22 points for the Thunder and is the impressive young guard of the future for OKC. But Chris Paul is right now.

3) Carmelo Anthony caps 28-point night with game-winner in Toronto. Portland has continued to struggle since the arrival of Carmelo Anthony, going just 10-13 overall and in the last 10 games having a net rating of -2.1.

Then you watch him score a season-high 28 against Toronto, sparking a comeback from double-digits down in the fourth, then draining the game-winner, and you wonder how much worse it would have been if they didn’t pick him up.

Anthony has been what the Trail Blazers needed, a solid NBA player at the four, a position of need for them due to injuries. Still, Portland remains one of the most disappointing teams in the league this season at 16-22 — they had lost six-of-seven coming into this game — but in a soft bottom of the West that still has them just 1.5 games out of the playoffs. The question is, can Portland hang in the playoff race as they go through a brutal January schedule.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.