The NBA season is into its second half, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) Anthony Edwards scores 34, says doubters can “kick rocks”
No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards has looked every bit like a rookie this season. There have been flashes of the athleticism and potential that made him the top pick in the draft — and we saw that again on Sunday.
ANTHONY EDWARDS. OH MY. 😳 pic.twitter.com/YcImkTjqqn
— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 15, 2021
There’s also been a steep learning curve for the rookie, who is averaging 15.8 points a game but struggling with his shot — hitting 38.1% overall this season (and 31.5% from three) — and his defense. With No. 3 pick LaMelo Ball looking like a franchise cornerstone in Charlotte and No. 2 pick James Wiseman scoring an efficient 12 a game and playing key minutes for a Warriors team that looks play-in/playoffs bound, there have been critics and doubters who said Edwards should not have been taken No. 1.
After dropping a career-best 34 on Portland Sunday, Edwards had words for those still debating him as the No. 1 pick:
Judging any draft midway through the players’ rookie season is premature. We will not fully know how these players develop until the end of the second, or even third, season (and maybe longer). So far this season, Tyrese Haliburton has looked more NBA ready than Edwards, he’s had a better rookie campaign (just nobody sees much of him playing in Sacramento), but Edwards is still developing and reaching his very high ceiling. Who will be the better player in a couple of years is up for debate.
Edwards may want the draft debate to go away, but ask Marvin Bagley III and Trae Young, and they will tell you it never really does. Fair or not, he was always be “former No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards.” And Edwards can be brash — this did not feel like a “tribute” when it happened — it felt mocking — and Carmelo Anthony is a future Hall of Famer that Ant should aspire to.
consider it a tribute pic.twitter.com/iBuR2uyi7S
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 15, 2021
Edwards will always carry the burden of being the No. 1 pick, of being drafted in a spot where fans — and team owners — expect a franchise cornerstone player. Especially with LaMelo both impacting winning and having an “it” factor nobody else in this class can match, Edwards has a lot of development and a lot of work to do to stop people from questioning his draft status.
But nights like Sunday — 34 points on 12-of-24 shooting, including 6-of-13 from three, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Timberwolves beat the Blazers — will answer some of those questions.
2) Kawhi Leonard joins the rest of us, is very concerned about Clippers’ consistency
There have been nights this season when the Clippers’ potential on paper comes to life on the court, and they look like a title contender and probably the best team in Los Angeles.
Then there are nights like Sunday.
Zion Williamson was in attack mode and scored 27, Brandon Ingram added 23 points, and the Pelicans bullied their way to a 135-115 blowout of the Clippers. What Jaxson Hayes did to Reggie Williams pretty much sums up the Clippers’ night.
JAXSON HAYES. POSTER. 😱 pic.twitter.com/TygqhKraJZ
— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 15, 2021
After the game, Leonard was honest about the lack of consistency for Los Angeles.
“It’s very concerning. If we want to have a chance at anything, you gotta be consistent,” Leonard said. “That’s what the great teams do, they’re consistent.”
“Until we show some toughness, until we show some willingness to play 1-on-1, I think it’s gonna be tough for us,” coach Tyronn Lue said, shooting down the idea the Clippers just haven’t had enough time together. “We didn’t do that tonight.”
The Clippers better find their defense on the plane from New Orleans to Dallas overnight because Luka Doncic awaits them on Monday.
Los Angeles has half a season to find some consistency — particularly in the clutch, where they have struggled on both ends of the court. If not, the new coach and improved locker room chemistry the Clippers have this season will lead down the same road we saw in the playoffs last year in the bubble.
3) Warriors, Stephen Curry run past Jazz for win
Utah’s half-court defense wasn’t great on Sunday, but Stephen Curry can make anyone look lost (despite Mike Conley actually doing a respectable job on him for stretches). Curry scored 32 points on his 33rd birthday (wearing colorways designed by his kids).
But the bigger problem was in transition — the Warriors started 19.2% of their possessions in transition and had a 152.6 net rating on those plays (stats via Cleaning the Glass).
Utah still sits on top of the West and has a cushion, but they have gone 2-4 in their last six with a league average defense in that stretch. It may be just a slump, it happens to every team, but a cross-country flight from San Francisco to Boston to take on the Celtics on Tuesday is a tough way to snap out of it.