Three Things to Know: Trae Young drops 48, Bojan Bogdanovic drains three to get teams wins

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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) Atlanta’s Trae Young drops 48 on Knicks, Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic drains buzzer-beating three, both help their teams rack up wins. It’s time to talk on-the-court basketball again. For much of the past few weeks, the eyes of the NBA world were on the transaction wire in the run-up to the NBA Trade Deadline — and we got a real show.

Now we can turn our focus back to the games… for like four days, then we get the All-Star break.

The best shot on Sunday looked like it was going to belong to P.J. Tucker draining a corner three with 1.6 seconds left to give Houston a two-point lead over the Jazz. Except then Quin Snyder drew up a play to free up Bojan Bogdanovic, a gutsy move considering he was 1-of-6 shooting on the night prior to that. Bogdanovic rewarded his coach’s faith with this shot over Tucker and James Harden.

Utah gets a needed win (its second straight after dropping five in a row). Jazz fans can thank (or Rockets fans can blame) Jordan Clarkson, who scored 30 points, and Donovan Mitchell who added 24 points, six assists and five rebounds. If the basketball gods want to give us a Utah/Houston series these playoffs, we’re good with that.

• Next, an overlooked game of East bottom feeders ended up being the most entertaining game of the day — not a well-played game, just entertaining — when it took double overtime for the Hawks to knock off the Knicks. Trae Young looked every bit the All-Star starter with 48 points — including six 3-pointers — and 13 assists.

Also of note, Dewayne Dedmon made his return to the Hawks and came off the bench for 10 points (4-of-12 shooing), eight rebounds, and five blocks in 33 minutes, before he fouled out. Also, John Collins had 32 points and 16 rebounds on the game.

• Finally, if you need a laugh, we bring you Marcus Smart‘s epic flop.

2) Spike Lee pays tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Oscars. Los Angeles is an industry town and Kobe Bryant was its best entertainer for nearly two decades. The rich and powerful of the entertainment industry that filled the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for the Oscars Sunday night are the same people that can be seen in the lower bowl and luxury suites of Lakers’ games, checking their phones.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of Kobe love at the Oscars.

Most notably, as an Oscar winner — for the animated short movieDear Basketball” — Kobe was part of the In Memorium portion of the show.

Then there was Matthew Cherry, an Oscar winner for the animated short “Hair Love,” dedicating his win to Kobe with the words, “May we all have a second act as great as his was.”

However, what you’re really going to remember is Spike Lee’s tux.

3) Why did Joel Embiid “shush” home crowd after draining a big three? “Just being a good a** h***.” It wasn’t exactly a “the Sixers are breaking out of their slump” performance, but Philly did get a home win over Chicago on Sunday — and Joel Embiid was key.

The All-Star big man had 28 points (on 17 shots), 12 rebounds, four blocks, and he stepped it up with 12 points in the fourth quarter. That included this late three — which was followed by a strange reaction.

Why exactly did Embiid “shush” the home Philly crowd? Boston’s Al Horford had done the same thing to Sixers fans a few days before, but the fans had booed him. Why did Embiid do it? Here’s answer, via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philly:

“Just talking to myself. I have not been playing up to my standards. Even tonight, you look at the night, I didn’t shoot the ball well and I didn’t play well. Just mad at myself. Just frustrated. Just got to keep trying to get better every single day.”

Um… what? You “shushed” the supportive home crowd to fire yourself up? Want to try that explanation again?

“I mean, I don’t care how it looks. I’m just playing basketball. Just getting back to myself, just being a good a–hole. Just playing basketball and just trying to dominate.”

Okay. Sure.

Block or charge: Alperen Sengun dunks on Zach Collins

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To borrow the catchphrase of the great Rex Chapman:

Block or charge?

The Rockets’ Alperen Sengun caught a body and threw one down on the Spurs’ Zach Collins but was called for the offensive foul.

NBA Twitter went nuts.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas challenged the call, but it was upheld (from my perspective, the replay officials are always looking to back the in-game officials if they at all can).

By the time Collins slid over and jumped, Sengun was already in the air — if anything that was a block. What the officials called was Sengun using his off-arm to create space.

I hate the call — that’s a dunk and an and-one. Not because it’s a great dunk — although it is that, too — but because Collins literally jumped into the path of an already airborne Sengun, Collins created all the contact. It’s on him. Under the spirit of the rules, Sengun’s off-arm is moot at that point — Collins illegally jumped in Sengun’s way and caused the collision.

Terrible call by the officials.

It was a good night for the Spurs, overall. San Antonio played its best defense in a while and Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs 11-game losing streak.

Three things to know: Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

This game felt like a 2019 playoff time capsule, with Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray trading blows in a dramatic game.

Lillard landed more of them, he finished with 40 points — and his final three were vintage Dame Time.

But Murray had the final word.

The final minutes of this game were insane.

It was a needed win for a Denver team that some nights look like they can compete with the best in the league, then turn around 48 hours later and mail in a loss to a tanking team. Nikola Jokic scored 33 against Portland (with 10 boards and nine assists) — he is again putting up numbers that will have him in the MVP conversation (even if it’s a longshot he wins it). However, the Nuggets’ bottom-five defense makes them inconsistent night to night.

Portland revamped their roster to get younger and more athletic around Lillard this past offseason, but one of the results of that is the inconsistency of youth. The Blazers don’t bring the same level of execution every night. If they don’t learn that lesson, they may be different in makeup but the results will be the same as many Portland teams of the last decade — an early playoff exit.

2) Brittney Griner is home on U.S.soil

After spending 10 months in Russian jails — including being convicted and sent to a penal colony — on trumped-up drug charges that made her a political pawn in a massive geo-political battle, Brittney Griner is finally home on U.S. soil, her plane landed in Texas overnight.

The Biden administration worked out a prisoner exchange with Russia that brings Griner home to be with her wife, family and friends — that is something to be celebrated.

Of course, there was some pushback online/in the media from people who care only about trying to score political points for their selfish ends. Fortunately, we had the family of Paul Whelan — a Michigan corporate security executive who has been behind bars in Russia since December 2018 on trumped-up espionage charges — who praised the president for bringing Griner home and making “the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”

An American citizen is home. She happens to be a WNBA star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but those things are not what matters most, and are secondary to her family who are just happy to hug her and tell her they love her again. We all hope that day comes soon for American political prisoners held around the globe (including Whelan), but we should celebrate the big victory of Griner being back on U.S. soil.

3) Spurs snap 11-game losing streak behind 32 from Johnson

Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs’ 11-game losing streak.

“This has been the first game in a while where we were clicking defensively,” Johnson told the Associated Press after the game. “You can tell when we get stops, get out and run and be able to get out front. If we can keep that mindset of defense first, get stops and we let the offense take care of itself, we’ll be in great shape.”

All of that is interesting, but the real debate of the night: Was this an offensive foul by Alperen Sengun, or a block by Zach Collins?

Sengun was in the air when Collins came over, but he also used his off hand to create space for the dunk. This is a bang-bang call and the challenge of the block/charge call — I think that’s a block by Collins, but that’s not how the referee or many others have seen it. How would you have called it?

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Bulls’ Zach LaVine not available via trade

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.