Three Things to Know: Sharp Celtics carve up flawed 76ers roster that looks defeated

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Day 3 of the NBA playoffs saw two series become even and two look like they will end quickly. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Sharp Celtics carve up flawed 76ers roster that looks defeated

It smells like the winds of change are about to blow through Philadelphia.

Philadelphia teases you with flashes of its potential. They did that Wednesday to open Game 2 against Boston. In the first quarter Joel Embiid owned the paint and had 15 points, Shake Milton couldn’t miss (3-of-3), and the huge contract players signed last summer — Al Horford and Tobias Harris — were a combined 3-of-5 shooting and making plays. The 76ers were up six after 12 minutes.

And as it has all season, reality set in as time wore on. The flaws in the Philadelphia roster were exposed.

Embiid shot 5-of-12 the rest of the way and looked worn down and beaten by the fourth quarter (although he did finish the game with a strong 34 and 10 line). Harris shot 2-of-11 in the final three quarters. Milton hit two more shots all game. Horford took just three shots all game. Rookie Matisse Thybulle tried, but right now nobody can slow down Jayson Tatum, who is playing like an MVP candidate. Ben Simmons is injured and out, and without him there isn’t a clear playmaker to step up. There isn’t enough shooting, Philly was 5-of-21 from three.

It was ugly, and it was a comfortable 128-101 Boston win.

This fan summed up the feelings in Philadelphia.

Boston took a commanding 2-0 lead in this first-round series. Philadelphia is not heading home to be lifted by its boisterous crowd, it is going to have to find something internal to turn this series around. And it’s hard to watch this team and think “they have what they need inside to fix this.”

The winds of change are blowing stronger and stronger each game.

Coach Brett Brown will pay the price for the 76ers shortcomings, and he’s far from blameless in the mess the 76ers have become. He doesn’t have the players believing this will work anymore. However, the bigger flaws are in the roster construction — GM Elton Brand and the front office bet big on size and defense last summer after Jimmy Butler left. Brand and company tried to zig while the league zagged toward more shooting, and going smaller with multiple ball handlers on the court.

The Celtics are an example of what shooting and multiple playmakers can do.

Boston watched Horford and Kyrie Irving bolt last summer and Danny Ainge retooled his roster to have versatility and shooting. The Celtics signed Kemba Walker to be their point guard, and trusted in the growth of Tatum and Jaylen Brown as playmakers and shooters on the wing. Those three combined for 75 points in this game. Tatum had 33 points and shot 8-of-12 from three on the night.

Boston’s bench outscored Philadelphia’s 41-20 in Game 2.

Philadelphia would be a better team with Simmons, their best playmaker and perimeter defender. However, he alone would not be the answer in this series, the way he was not the answer all season long. He doesn’t bring shooting and floor spacing to the table. He doesn’t bring enough to make this all work.

While watching the fourth quarter of Game 2, it was hard to envision how Philadelphia might turn this series around. Philly fans had even tuned out, some taking to Twitter to long for the days of Sam Hinkie.

The winds of change are blowing in Philadelphia.

2) The Clippers as title favorites? Not so fast. Luka and Mavs even series.

After the Lakers and Bucks lost their playoffs opener, the odds were changing in Las Vegas. These were the championship odds around Sin City before games tipped off Wednesday, and the Clippers were the new favorites.

• Clippers +220
• Bucks +340
• Lakers +350.

Then the Clippers went out and lost to Dallas 127-114 Wednesday night — and through two games the Mavericks have looked like the better team. So who is your title favorite now? (Maybe it should be Toronto, who has been the best team in the bubble and is now up 2-0 against Brooklyn, but that’s another story for another day.)

Luka Doncic and the Mavs ballhandlers beat the Clippers perimeter defenders one-on-one or off picks, then often got to the rim because the Clippers defensive rotations have been a step slow. The result was another monster game for Doncic, who had 28 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. The only player to ever score more points than Doncic through his first two playoff games (70 points) is George Mikan. Who played for the Lakers before they even moved to Los Angeles.

The Clippers offense is fine — Kawhi Leonard had 35 points and 10 rebounds, Lou Williams came off the bench to add 23 — but the defense needs to adjust. Dallas was the best offense in the NBA during the regular season, but the Clippers are loaded with wing defenders — Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley (who was out this game with a calf injury) — but through two games it has not shown the ability to slow Doncic. Doc Rivers is going to have to make adjustments.

Dallas is a good team with an elite offense and an MVP candidate player — they were never going quietly. The Mavericks drew blood, and now it’s on the Clippers to adapt and look like the championship team Vegas thinks they are.

3) Utah evens series with Denver; looks to be the better team

In Game 1, it was the Donovan Mitchell show for Utah, and while his 57 points forced overtime it was not enough. In Game 2, Mitchell still had 30 but the Jazz found space at the three-point line and let it rain — 20-of-44 from three as a team and it overwhelmed the Nuggets. Utah cruised to a 124-105 win.

The other big move in this game was Utah asking Royce O'Neale to guard Jamal Murray instead of veteran Joe Ingles, and it worked. Murray was not a factor in Game 2.

It’s up to Denver to adjust — and find a way to start playing good defense, something they have not done in the bubble — but through two games Utah has been the better team.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.