After Popovich ejected, Becky Hammon becomes first woman to coach NBA team

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SAN ANTONIO — Becky Hammon would have preferred a victory over history after becoming the first woman to direct an NBA team.

The assistant coach took over the San Antonio Spurs in the second quarter after coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in a 121-107 loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

“I try not to think of the huge picture and huge aspect of it because it can be overwhelming,” Hammon said. “I really have had no time to reflect. I have not had time to look at my phone. So, I don’t know what’s going on outside the AT&T Center.”

Hammon and the Spurs already had a lot to contend with against the defending league champion Lakers.

James celebrated his 36th birthday with 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the Lakers’ third double-digit victory. The teams will complete the two-game set Friday night.

“(I was) trying to get the guys in the right spots,” Hammon said. “Trying to get them motivated. Obviously, it’s a learning situation for all of us, but I would have loved to have walked out there with a win with the guys.”

Popovich was ejected by official Tony Brown with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter. Popovich screamed at Brown and entered the court following a non-call on DeMar DeRozan‘s attempted layup and a subsequent attempted rebound by Drew Eubanks.

As he exited the court to applause from several of the team’s family members in attendance, Popovich pointed a finger at Hammon and had a succinct message.

“You got `em,” Hammon said. “See? He doesn’t treat us any differently than he does you guys.”

Hammon took over the team’s huddles during timeouts and walked the sideline following Popovich’s ejection. Hammon was the first full-time female assistant coach in league history.

“Well deserved,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I’ve talked to her before and she really knows her stuff and obviously she’s here for a reason. She’s equipped, intelligent (and the) guys have great respect for her. She’s going to be a great coach one day.”

A three-time All-American at Colorado State, Hammon played for the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars in the WNBA as well as overseas before retiring to join Popovich’s staff in 2014.

“Even in timeouts with Pop as head coach, she is quick on her feet,” DeRozan said. “She tells us about defensive assignments, offensive sets we should run. Seeing her in the forefront, it would have definitely been cool to have won for her.”

The Lakers contributed to Popovich’s frustration and the Spurs’ fortunes didn’t get much better after the veteran coach exited.

Dennis Schroder had 21 points, Anthony Davis had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers. Wesley Matthews was 6 for 6 on 3-pointers in scoring 18 points off the bench.

The Spurs opened with a 9-2 run, including an uncontested drive through the lane by Keldon Johnson for a two-handed slam. The Lakers responded with an 11-0 run that promoted a timeout by Popovich.

The Lakers took their first double-digit lead at 35-25 on Kyle Kuzma‘s 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter.

Dejounte Murray had a career-high 29 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

“At the end of the day, it don’t mean nothing, we lost,” Murray said.

DeRozan added 23 for the Spurs, who lost their second straight after opening the season with two consecutive wins.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.