The NBA regular season is in its final week, 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) Russell Westbrook makes history, but Wizards take a step back
Monday night showed why Russell Westbrook has inspired so many with his play… and why he frustrates so many others.
And all of it impacted the Wizards’ play-in standing.
With a fourth quarter rebound on Monday night in Atlanta, Westbrook secured his 182nd triple-double, passing Hall of Famer to take over the NBA’s triple-double record.
— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) May 11, 2021
Call it a made-up stat if you want, but racking up double-digits in three categories in an NBA game is an accomplishment — doing it 182 times is ridiculous. It’s a testament to how Westbrook plays the game — no superstar plays harder night in and night out. That passion, that level of effort, is what we want from all professional athletes, and Westbrook embodies it. That needs to be celebrated.
Westbrook finished the game with 28 points, 21 assists, and 13 rebounds — and Washington needed every bit of it. Westbrook’s push — especially in the fourth quarter — helped erase a double-digit deficit to Atlanta and made it a game at the end.
Then Westbrook made a play that had his critics howling.
John Collins tried to put the Hawks up three late, driving into the paint with 6.9 seconds left, but Raul Neto strips him of the ball, and the Wizards get out in transition down one with the chance to win. That’s when Westbrook — a 31.5% 3-point shooter this season — pulled up from three rather than attack the rim, and he missed.
Russ nearly won the game at the buzzer. pic.twitter.com/45JgY49Gio
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 11, 2021
For his critics, the night perfectly encapsulated Westbrook: The Wizards would not have been in position to go for the win late without his efforts earlier, but Westbrook pulling up from three was a poor decision with the game on the line and it cost the Wizards.
Washington’s loss combined with Indiana beating tanking Cleveland moved the Pacers back ahead of the Wizards into the nine seed in the East. While the Pacers are just one game back of the Hornets for the eighth seed, it is far more likely that we are headed toward an Indiana vs. Washington 9/10 play-in game — where the loser goes home — and the only question is home court. Right now, Indiana has it.
2) Stephen Curry drains game-winner to keep Warriors in eighth seed in West
It wasn’t enough because Golden State has Stephen Curry, and he can do this.
STEPH FOR THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/Klv4a4xV7Y
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 11, 2021
The Warriors held on to beat the Jazz 119-116, which keeps Golden State half a game ahead of Memphis for the eighth seed in the West (the teams are tied in the loss column). The eighth seed matters: That team has to win just one of two play-in games to advance to the playoffs; the nine-seed has to win two in a row to advance.
The Utah loss gives hope to Phoenix that it can grab the top seed in the West. The Suns are 1.5 games back of the Jazz (one game in the loss column), and the Suns own the tiebreaker. Home court has yet to be decided.
The Warriors and Suns play Tuesday night.
3) Trail Blazers win big, keeping Portland the likely sixth seed in the West
Two other games had playoff seeding implications on Monday night.
Portland easily handled the tanking Rockets, 140-129, behind 34 points from Damian Lillard, who continues to be ridiculous.
Dame can slip and fall, and still make shots we can only dream of.#RipCity
— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) May 11, 2021
The Trail Blazers needed that win. They sit as the No. 6 seed in the West, 1.5 games up on the Lakers (one game in the loss column), but the Blazers close the season at Utah, at Phoenix, then hosting Denver. Three tough games. Meanwhile, things will get easier for the Lakers, who have a tough one with the Knicks on Tuesday but then close the season with the Rockets, Pacers, and Pelicans — and likely LeBron James back for a couple of those games.
Fivethirtyeight.com projects the Blazers and Lakers both finishing at 41-31 this season, but Portland has the tiebreaker, so it would get the sixth seed in that scenario.
Also on Monday, the Spurs surprised the Bucks 146-125. That leaves Milwaukee as the three seed in the East, a full game back of Brooklyn for the two seed (those teams seem destined for a second-round showdown). The win puts the No. 10 seed Spurs three up in the loss column on the Pelicans. It’s not official yet, but San Antonio appears a lock for the play-in.