Three Things to Know: Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell have historic nights and still lose

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with four playoff games every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

Opening day of the 2020 playoffs featured the game’s young stars throwing up historic numbers… then still losing.

1) Record-setting Luka Doncic needs more help — and the refs to let guys play

Luka Doncic dropped 42 points in his playoff debut — the most points ever scored in a player’s first playoff game. He did this at age 21. With guys like Paul George, Patrick Beverley, and Kawhi Leonard in his face all night. Let that sink in for a second. We don’t have the right words to describe Doncic.

What impressed Clippers coach Doc Rivers was Doncic’s passing and feel for the game.

“He’s amazing…” Rivers said postgame. “I thought what we did poorly, what shows his greatness, is every time we made a mistake on the weak side, he found that guy and that guy made a shot.”

“I mean, he’s great,” Leonard said more succinctly.

It wasn’t enough. Los Angeles came from behind 29 points from Kawhi Leonard, 27 from Paul George, and an important 19 from Marcus Morris (who may be one of the Clippers’ most critical players this postseason). The Clipper defense, while sloppy at points, was physical and wore down Doncic, who had 11 turnovers on the night.

Los Angeles got the 118-110 win and lead the series 1-0.

The Clippers also got some help from the referees.

Kristaps Porzingis was ejected three minutes into the third quarter after a couple of questionable technicals. The first one, in the first half, was the kind of thing that just hurts the NBA as an entertainment product. Porzingis got called for a foul on George on a play KP thought he had a clean block, so he punched the air with nobody around. It’s a quick emotional response in an emotional game, not an effort to show up a referee. It was silly at the time.

The second technical was not worthy of an ejection, but Porzingis gets some blame here. Early in the third, Doncic and Morris got tangled up battling for position in the post. Words were had. Porzingis came in and pushed Morris as the protector of Doncic (not that he was threatened, KP escalated the situation, just not that much). The refs gave Morris and Porzingis the double-technical, but that was two for Porzingis and he was ejected.

LeBron reacted for most of us.

Bottom line: Dallas led by five when Porzingis was ejected and lost by eight, a 13-point swing. This was not pure cause and effect, would the Mavericks have still lost if he played the rest of the way? Maybe, maybe not. But we should have found out, rather than debating it.

Let the players be emotional. It’s part of why we watch the game.

2) Donovan Mitchell poured in 57 points for Utah and that still wasn’t enough

With no Bojan Bogdanovic or Mike Conley, it was going to fall on Donovan Mitchell to carry the Utah Jazz offense. He did that and more — 57 points on the night. That’s more than Karl Malone ever scored in a playoff game. Or John Stockton. Or “pistol” Pete Maravich. Or Adrian Dantley. Or Deron Williams. Or Mark Eaton (okay, maybe that’s not the best example). Mitchell scored the most points in a game in Jazz playoff history.

Mitchell, however, shot his team in the foot late. Utah was up four with 1:54 left in the game, and Mitchell took the inbound pass and walked the ball up the court, trying to eat time off the clock and direct traffic in the frontcourt. Mitchell was too casual about bringing the ball up and got called for an eight-second violation.

Jamal Murray drained a three on the next possession — he finished with an impressive 36 points on the night — and it was a one-point game. The Jazz and Nuggets eventually went to overtime, where Denver got the win and the 1-0 series lead.

These are two evenly matched teams, and this looks like it is going seven.

3) Philadelphia misses Ben Simmons a lot. And they miss shooters.

Overall, the Sixers offensive numbers in this game were not bad — a 111 offensive rating with a 56 true shooting percentage — but it wasn’t pretty to watch.

Philadelphia lacks perimeter shot creation. They lack shooting. What they have is Joel Embiid being an absolute beast inside — 26 points and 16 rebounds — and hitting some threes.

But nothing else in the Sixers offense feels reliable. Throw in too many turnovers — Embiid had five of those — and the offense was just not enough. Coach Brett Brown will pay the price if the Sixers fall in this series, but their issues start with roster construction.

Philly’s other problem is they have nobody who can guard Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. The Sixers are loaded with good wing defenders and have Embiid in the paint, but the Celtics’ young stars are still a problem. A big problem.

The most important storyline out of this game may have been Gordon Hayward rolling his ankle and limping off the court in the fourth quarter. He left the arena in a boot and will have an MRI, but if he misses time the Celtics are a little less versatile and threatening on the wing.

Juancho Hernangomez missing Timberwolves workouts to film Adam Sandler movie

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez
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The Timberwolves, like the other seven teams not invited to the NBA’s restart at Disney World, are holding workouts.

Not in Minnesota: Forward Juancho Hernangomez.

Chris Hine of the StarTribune:

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia.

Netflix is producing the film, called “Hustle.”

And people thought LeBron James – also a producer of “Hustle,” which is about a basketball scout who finds talent oversees – prioritized Hollywood over hoops.

A Spain native, Hernangomez will be a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves can make him restricted.

But how could anyone want a player who doesn’t respect the sanctity of voluntary workouts occurring several months before next season (besides his 3-point shooting, rebounding and defensive versatility)?

Buddy Hield fuels 76ers trade rumor

Kings guard Buddy Hield vs. 76ers
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A rumor emerged about the Kings trading Buddy Hield to the 76ers. It didn’t seem particularly credible.

But then Hield himself liked this Instagram post promoting a potential trade and apparently made a pro-Philadelphia comment on Instagram:

Hield previously laid the groundwork for an offseason trade request. He seemed unhappy at times in Sacramento this season, losing his starting job and even riding the bench when the Kings needed a 3-pointer.

The 76ers could use more shooting – especially if they hire Mike D’Antoni. Hield would definitely add value. A lineup where Hield and Josh Richardson defend guards and Ben Simmons plays point guard offensively and defends a frontcourt player is intriguing.

Hield is set to earn $24,931,817 next season in the first year of a four-year extension. That’s in the range of Tobias Harris ($34,358,850) and Al Horford ($27,500,000).

However, Horford’s trade value is at rock bottom. Tobias Harris would add only so much value to Sacramento, which already has Harrison Barnes.

Kings fans can hope for Ben Simmons ($28,750,000) or Joel Embiid ($29,542,010). But those stars are FAR more valuable than Hield. Besides, the 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Simmons or Embiid (though it’s unclear who exactly is running the show in Philadelphia).

Regardless of whether the Kings and 76ers could connect on a trade, Hield making these public gestures is an issue in Sacramento. It’s on new Kings general manager Monte McNair to manage this. After years of supporting Daryl Morey with the Rockets, this is a new challenge – being in charge while a player makes waves – for McNair.

Relatedly, McNair must also handle Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s impending restricted free agency. These look like warning shots from Hield as Sacramento determines its priorities at shooting guard.

Report: Philadelphia ownership wants Mike D’Antoni as next coach

Mike D'Antoni 76ers
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Philadelphia 76ers ownership (led by Josh Harris) reportedly has been very hands-on in picking the team’s new coach — even if that means a new direction for the roster. That hands-on style reportedly why ownership likes Elton Brand as GM and may balk at bringing in a big-name president of basketball operations — that person would want total control of basketball decisions. Right now, ownership is pulling a lot of those levers.

And ownership wants Mike D’Antoni as the next head coach in Philadelphia, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sources have been saying since last week that the job is D’Antoni’s to turn down. They say he’s the guy the ownership group wants. One source even said the 69-year-old would have to bomb his interview with the Sixers owners not to be offered the job.

The problem is that Brand is supposed to have a huge input on the hire. The ownership is only supposed to approve or deny Brand’s suggestion. Now, word is leaking out that Brand is pushing hard for the Sixers to hire D’Antoni and that Joel Embiid gave his blessing. In addition, there are reports that the Sixers will make trades if D’Antoni is hired. The expectation is that he’ll have a say in picking players for his freewheeling style of play.

With Billy Donovan taking over in Chicago, the list of top candidates for the Philadelphia job seems down to two: Tyronn Lue and Mike D’Antoni. Lue would be the conventional choice, a guy who would try to make it work with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons together, along with Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford. Roster tweaks would be coming, but with Lue the idea would be making better use of the roster and style the 76ers have already built.

D’Antoni would be a radical change of direction — he is coming from a team that just started 6’7″ Robert Covington at center. The current 76ers roster would need changes to fit with D’Antoni’s freewheeling ways, and even then the coach would need to adapt what he wants to do. (No contract is untradeable, but moving the four-years, $147.2 million left on Harris’ deal, or the three years and $81 million on Horford’s contract, would require Philly to throw in a lot of sweeteners.)

D’Antoni would mean another change of direction in Philly, but that seems to be what ownership wants.

Bam Adebayo on injury: “I’m good,” expects to play in Game 5 Friday

Bam Adebayo injury
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In the final minutes of Miami’s Game 4 win, while Tyler Hero was knocking down shots and Jimmy Butler was getting to the line, Miami‘s Bam Adebayo was dealing with an injury, walking around holding his wrist, his arm dragging. He had gotten tangled up with Daniel Theis under the basket and clearly injured something.

The questions raised post game were about what happened, how serious it was, and could Adebayo be out for Game 5 on Friday? There was nothing official from the team but it looks like he will play, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press and Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

Adebayo had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4, and his play is critical to Miami’s game plan against Boston. His ability to protect the rim at one end, then come out high to set screens and pull Theis out of the paint on the other end, is at the heart of what the Heat want to do in this series. If he is even slowed in Game 5 it is an advantage for Boston.

This time of year, and with the Heat one game away from the NBA Finals, no chance he sits if he can at all play.