Three things to know: Nets, Bucks, 76ers all fall, but nobody loses like Clippers

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LOS ANGELES — The NBA season has returned, and so has the NBC Sports daily NBA roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed, every key moment from the night before in the Association in one place.

1)  Dallas makes history with 50-point halftime lead over Clippers, 51-point victory

This was a throwback Clippers loss, in the tradition of Michael Olowokandi, Eric Piatkowski, Benoit Benjamin, Bo Outlaw, and so many others.

Luka Doncic and the Mavericks showed up to Staples Center Sunday afternoon on a mission, desperate for a win, having dropped their first two games of the season (Suns then Lakers).

The Clippers physically showed up to Staples Center Sunday. They put on their uniforms. That was about it.

From the opening tip, Dallas was in charge. Paul George scored the first two points of the game with a stepback two, and then the Mavericks scored the next 10. George struggled to open the game (4-of-12 shooting in the first half), but he was on fire compared to his teammates — the other Clippers started 0-of-9 shooting, with the first non-George Clippers points coming with 2:13 left in the first quarter on an Ivica Zubac putback. By that point the score was already 27-9 Dallas. The non-George Clippers shot 5-of-25 in the first half. As a team, Los Angeles shot 1-of-19 from three in the first 24 minutes.

Tyronn Lue would call a timeout and you’d expect the Clippers to come out of that, shake the cobwebs out of their head, and get serious about the game, but no. The rout just continued. At the end of the first quarter it was 36-13 Dallas, and the Mavericks’ win probability was over 90%. The second quarter just saw more of the same.

Dallas led 77-27 at the half — the largest halftime lead any team had in the NBA in the shot clock era. So, essentially, since forever.

What happened? This was far worse than just Kawhi Leonard being out after Serge Ibaka’s inadvertent elbow to his jaw on Christmas Day.

Paul George’s explanation was the Clippers were on the road beating Denver on Christmas, so they came home and celebrated on Saturday.

“I take full responsibility…” George said. “I enjoyed my Christmas Day, and this game came up on me a little fast… I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas yesterday and that was the reason for a sluggish day.”

Meanwhile, Dallas was not about to take their foot off the gas against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs the year before, including a 43-point blowout in Game 5.

“I would be lying if I sat here and told you there wasn’t some [revenge to it],” Tim Hardaway Jr. said.

In the end Dallas won 124-73, Doncic scored or assisted on 44 Dallas points, outscoring all the Clippers starters with 41. Dallas led by at least 40 points for the game’s final 31 minutes, the longest stretch of being up 40+ the past 25 NBA seasons (both those stats via ESPN Stats and Info).

After the game, there was a sense from the Clippers that this was a one-off, a game they flush and move on. This team beat the Lakers and Nuggets their first two games; they want to focus on that end of their potential. They should.

But it’s going to be hard to get this taste out of their mouths for a while.

2) Nets, Bucks, 76ers all fall on upset Sunday in NBA

The Clippers did it with more style, but they were not the only top NBA team to take Sunday off (at least mentally).

Brooklyn looked invincible with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in their first two games, but then they went to Charlotte and ran into Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier and company. On the second night of a back-to-back, Charlotte played with more energy and focus, and they had Hayward drop 28 in the win. Brooklyn pushed back late and Durant had a fairly good look from the midrange to tie the game late and force OT, but it fell just short. It was that kind of day for the Nets, while Charlotte picked up its first win of the season.

Things were supposed to be different for the Sixers this season — a better, more balanced roster that could compete on the nights Joel Embiid sat. Or, maybe not. Embiid was out with back tightness and Philadelphia got rolled by Cleveland, 118-94. Without Embiid to check him, Andre Drummond had 24 points and 14 rebounds. Without Embiid as a backstop, the 76ers’ defense was worrisome.

The Bucks were flat Sunday at Madison Square Garden in the kind of way normally blamed on the New York nightlife… except there isn’t any right now with the city locked down. Julius Randle was the best big man on the court in a game with Giannis Antetokounmpo — Randle had 29 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists — and Mitchell Robinson handled the Bucks size well. Elfrid Payton Elfrid Payton gave the Knicks quality point guard play (at least for a night) with his 27-point, seven-assist performance.

The Knicks have played harder and smarter this season under Tom Thibodeau, showing real signs of an organization getting itself on track. There’s a long way and a lot of player development to go, but Knicks fans should be thrilled to see an organization run in a professional and smart way, headed in the right direction.

3) Stephen Curry reaches 2,500 threes, but it’s Damion Lee who drains game-winner

Reggie Miller. Ray Allen.

That was the entire list of guys who have made 2,500 threes in their career. At least that was the list until Sunday, when Stephen Curry joined the ranks with a first quarter three.

Curry had 36 points on the night, so when the Warriors had a sideline out of bounds play with :05 left in the game and down two, he was the primary target, or maybe Andrew Wiggins (he had 19 on the night), but just as Curry seemed to be curling open Damion Lee — who had played great off the bench all game — called his own number, inbounded the ball to Kevon Looney, took the dribble hand-off from him and curled into a good look three. Splash. Game-winner.

The Warriors needed that win after a couple of losses to elite teams (Milwaukee and Brooklyn) to start the season. Now we will see if Golden State can build on that.

Watch Simons puts up career-best 45, carry Portland past Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —  Anfernee Simons scored a career-high 45 points and blocked a potential 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 116-111 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

“I wanted to be aggressive and set the tone for my teammates,” Simons said. “Early on, let them know that we are in this game and I’m going to do whatever it takes for us to win it.”

The Jazz led 111-110 after Kelly Olynyk‘s twisting jumper and then had a chance to tie it at 114, but Simons swiped the ball from Jordan Clarkson as he rose for a 3-point attempt from the right angle.

“I just tried to catch him before he went up. … Kind of a risky play, but I’m glad I got it,” Simons said with a chuckle.

The Trail Blazers had lost seven of their last eight games before winning this thriller as Damian Lillard missed his seventh game with a lower right leg injury.

Portland’s Jerami Grant scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Jazz swarmed Simons.

Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points and 14 rebounds and Trendon Watford finished with a career-high 14 rebounds, too.

The Jazz held Simons to just one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, but he hit two free throws with 29.2 seconds to play, giving Portland a 112-111 lead. Grant added four free throws in the final 6.4 seconds for the final margin.

“Ant got it going early and we just kind of rode him, rode him, rode him. And then obviously Jerami was going,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said.

Clarkson had 24 points, and Lauri Markkanen added 21 for the Jazz, but committed two turnovers in the final 35.7 seconds. Collin Sexton scored 19 points and Jarred Vanderbilt had a season-high 16 for Utah.

Portland led 107-101 on Grant’s 3-pointer with 4:12 to play, but Sexton scored five quick points in 10-3 run that was highlighted by Markkanen’s block of Simon’s drive in the final minute.

Simons scored 23 points in the first quarter – a season high for Simons, as well as any Blazers player in any quarter. Simons had 22 in the third quarter against Denver on Oct. 24.

By halftime, Simons had 33 points and the Blazers led 69-60.

“You have to come out in the very beginning and try to set the tone. Doesn’t matter that it’s the second night of a back-to-back. They came out with an aggressiveness and a physicality that we didn’t (have),” Utah coach Will Hardy said.

Simons became the third Trail Blazer in the last decade to score 45 points, joining Lillard and CJ McCollum. He wanted more.

“In the back of my mind, I wanted 50. But there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for that. It’s all right, because we got the win,” Simons said.

Doncic’s 30, Mavericks’ 17-0 run lift them past Knicks at MSG

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NEW YORK (AP) — Luka Doncic had a game-high 30 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. chipped in 28 points against his former team, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the New York Knicks 121-100 on Saturday.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 17 points for Dallas, which outscored New York 69-41 in the second half for just its second win seven games.

“I think it’s great that everyone’s in the locker room smiling,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “Everybody saw the ball go in, we shared the ball, we played the right way. … We’re a team that lives or dies by the 3, and today we made them.”

Forward Julius Randle led the Knicks with 24 points, and Immanuel Quickly chipped in 23. Leading scorer Jalen Brunson had 13 points playing against Dallas for the first time since he signed with the Knicks on July 12, but New York fell for the sixth time in its past eight games.

“To be honest, not fun,” Brunson said when asked what it was like playing against his former team. “They played great tonight. You got to give them credit. No matter who is on the floor, my approach stays the same. But to see them after the game and shake their hands, that was pretty cool.”

Hardaway exacted revenge against his former team, with whom he played 254 games over parts of four seasons. Hardaway had 17 points in the third quarter, including five 3-pointers, during a 27-6 run. He credited familiarity in New York – and Dallas’ previous game in Detroit – as keys to his third straight 20-plus point game.

“This road trip, when you have family and friends in both cities, it lightens you and brings some positive vibes and some positive energy,” Hardaway said. “To come here, to Detroit and to New York, both places where I used to play college and professionally, was a great atmosphere. I was comfortable, and my teammates (were) keeping me positive.”

Doncic, the NBA’s leading scorer, had just 11 points on 3 of 11 shooting in the first half. But he took over in the third, scoring 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Dallas outscored New York 41-15 in the third quarter, turning a tight game into a rout.

“The first half I wasn’t really participating,” Doncic said. “It was a challenge to come out of the locker room with more energy.”

The Knicks shot 55% in the first half, including 63% from the field in the first quarter. Randle had 14 of his 21 first-half points in the first quarter, including seven on a 9-0 run that gave New York an early 14-5 advantage.

The Knicks led by as many as 15 in the second quarter, but Dallas turned up the defensive intensity and cut New York’s lead to seven, 59-52, at halftime.

“The start of the game, I thought we were pretty good,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We built the 15-point lead, then we sort of lost traction mid-second quarter.”

Ja Morant fined $35,000 for using ‘ inappropriate language’ toward referee

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A frustrated Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant must have used some special language near the end of the Grizzlies’ loss to the Timberwolves, because both were ejected within a matter of minutes near the end of the game Wednesday night.

The league fined Morant $35,000 for “confronting and directing inappropriate language toward a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection.”

Morant was not demonstrative at the time and was clearly surprised by the ejection. Before leaving the court he dapped up Anthony Edwards (who was shooting free throws) and a couple of other players before heading back to the locker room. Afterward Morant took to social media.

If the official said that to Morant, he should also be punished. The league can’t come down on players for not showing the referees respect if it’s not a two-way street.

It was an ugly loss for the Grizzlies, who fell to a Timberwolves team without Karl-Anthony Towns.

Teams reportedly watching to see if Bulls make stars available; Lakers had internal discussions on it

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It was a talking point going into the season: What teams we thought would be good will struggle, and then pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama in the lottery.

What about the 9-13 Chicago Bulls? They barely look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even at their best where do they fall in the East? Would they blow it up? With DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine, they have players that would interest other teams and could bring quality picks (or young players) back to Chicago. Other teams are watching, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

One of those teams: The Los Angeles Lakers.

That is according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe on the Lowe Post Podcast. He was discussing a potential trade floated by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons where the Lakers send Russell Westbrook and two future first-round picks (2027 and 2029) to the Bulls for DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

“The trade I saw on Twitter was Russ and both picks, one with light protections I think for DeRozan and Vucevic. I can tell you 100% for sure that the Lakers have had internal discussions about that very possibility, if it would ever come up. Not that they would do that. Let me be clear.”

None of this matters if the Bulls don’t decide to pivot, and they are not there yet. They may never get to that point. But the Lakers and other teams are surveying what teams might make game-changers available at the deadline, and the way the Bulls are stumbling has other teams keeping an eye on them. Expect the rumors to keep coming.

But for now, that’s all they are, rumors and speculation.