There were big games in the NBA Thursday — the top seed Lakers and Bucks evened their series, and Houston is playing strong defense and looks like a force — but the most important things happened off the court. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
1) This aggressive Anthony Davis is one league should fear
For Lakers’ fans, all is right with the world again… well, at least on the basketball court. (The world is still a quarantined mess, the Lakers can’t fix that.)
Los Angeles dominated the Portland Thursday, tying their first-round series 1-1, despite the fact LeBron James had just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Two things sparked the impressive Lakers’ win. First, Los Angeles played dominant defense (something it has done in six of the eight quarters in this series), holding the Blazers to 88 points total and way less than a point per possession on offense.
The second thing: The Anthony Davis the rest of the league fears showed up.
Davis was aggressive, attacking the rim and not settling for jumpers, and as a result he and finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and seemed to be everywhere defensively — he was the best player on the court and it wasn’t close.
Davis did a lot of his damage while playing center in this game, and while he may not want to be known as a five, the Lakers are at their best when he slides into that role.
Davis very well may be the First Team All-NBA center this season despite the fact he spent the majority of his time on the court at the four (60%), with JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard at center. He was the first-team center on my awards ballot and I know I wasn’t alone among voters. One reason for this was simply to get the five best players on the first team.
Another part of it is Davis is the best center in the league, he just doesn’t want to play there full time. Davis scored 22 of his points Thursday while playing center and the Lakers were +15 in those minutes. Davis at the five is one of those weapons coach Frank Vogel doesn’t go to first, but when he does it decimates other teams.
It did Portland, a team that now has to ask questions of itself and make adjustments for Game 3.
One question the Blazers will not have to answer is, “how do we win without Damian Lillard?” Which is good because there is no real answer to that.
Lillard left Game 2 after dislocating his left index finger trying to steal the ball from Anthony Davis.
Damian Lillard appears to injure left index finger, heads back to locker room. pic.twitter.com/xZJvSx9QmO
— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) August 21, 2020
The X-rays were negative, and Lillard said postgame he would play in Game 3. This is not his shooting hand, so expect to see him out there Saturday in what will be a pivotal game.
2) Minnesota lands No. 1 pick in NBA Draft… does that change anything?
The Minnesota Timberwolves won the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and the rights to select… someone. Maybe Anthony Edwards. Maybe LaMelo Ball. Maybe James Wiseman. Maybe someone else. There is no consensus top pick in this draft.
Here is the bigger question (one posed by NBC’s Dan Feldman on our draft lottery podcast):
Does this change the trajectory or perception of the Timberwolves?
The Timberwolves already have a core of Karl-Anthony Towns at center (a true potential superstar) and D'Angelo Russell at the point (an All-Star level player). This is an unimpressive draft at the top, there is not another superstar in the mix, and it feels like the Timberwolves will be drafting their No. 3 or 4 option with the No. 1 pick.
Edwards and Ball are on top of most draft boards, but both are disinterested defenders considered a liability on that end of the court — it’s going to be very difficult to build a good defensive around Towns, Russell, and either Ball or Edwards considering none of them are strong defenders. It’s an issue team president Gersson Rosas and the Timberwolves have to consider.
Here are the results of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and the order of picks through the lottery:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
2. Golden State Warriors
3. Charlotte Hornets
4. Chicago Bulls
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Detroit Pistons
8. New York Knicks
9. Washington Wizards
10. Phoenix Suns
11. San Antonio Spurs
12. Sacramento Kings
13. New Orleans Pelicans
14. Boston Celtics (via Memphis)
3) Toronto’s Masai Uriri releases powerful statement following release of video
Bodycam video released this week showed Toronto’s Masai Ujiri was telling the truth and the sheriff’s deputy — who sued Ujiri in federal court seeking damages for emotional and physical distress — had lied. Ujiri was trying to get to the court after the Raptors won the title at Oracle to celebrate with his team and the deputy was the aggressor and instigated the physicality.
Masai Ujiri's legal team has released body camera footage of his encounter with a security worker at Oracle Arena after the Raptors won the NBA championship. pic.twitter.com/56XWMpZy0P
— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) August 19, 2020
Thursday, Masai Ujiri released a powerful statement about the incident.
“Thank you to everybody who expressed disappointment and concern regarding the video that was recently released. My family and I are deeply grateful for your care and consideration.
“The video sadly demonstrates how horribly I was treated by a law enforcement officer last year in the midst of my team, the Toronto Raptors, winning its first world championship. It was an exhilarating moment of achievement for our organization, for our players, for our city, four our country, and for me personally, given my long-tenured professional journey in the NBA. Yet, unfortunately, I was reminded in that moment that despite all of my hard work and success, there are some people, including those who are supposed to protect us, who will always and only see me as something that is unworthy of respectful engagement. And, there’s only one indisputable reason why that is the case — because I am Black.
“What saddens me most about this ordeal is that the only reason why I am getting the justice I deserve in this moment is because of my success. Because I’m the President of a NBA team, I had access to resources that ensured I could demand and fight for my justice. So many of my brothers and sisters haven’t had, don’t have, and won’t have the same access to resources that assured my justice. And that’s why Black Lives Matter.
“And that’s why it’s important for all of us to keep demanding justice. Justice for George. Justice for Breonna. Justice for Elijah. Justice for far too many Black lives that mattered. And justice for Black people around the world, who need our voice and our compassion to save their lives.
“Those are the ties that bind us.
“With love and determination, Masai Ujiri.”