Ugly or not, Bucks get much-needed 86-83 win, climb back into series with Nets

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The Bucks needed a win. Any kind of win. It didn’t have to be pretty.

It wasn’t. It was a grinding, ugly-to-watch, rock fight of a fourth quarter.

But the Bucks finished that fight on a 6-0 run, with Jrue Holiday taking advantage of no timeout call from the bench and a scrambling Nets defense to show off his spin move and hit the go-ahead bucket.

“To take the ball and get to the basket and finish with a scramble defense, we needed that,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game. “We needed that one play from him, and he made it. And it was big.”

Behind that shot and an improved night from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, Milwaukee got the Game 3 win that was beautiful to them, 86-83, making it a 2-1 series with Game 4 coming on Sunday.

How ugly was this game? The Bucks’ 89.6 offensive rating beat the Nets’ 85.6 rating. Both teams were not just scoring less than a point per possession, Brooklyn was 33.8 points per 100 possessions worse than their regular season average. (For comparison, the Thunder had the worst offense in the NBA this season at 103.9, all stats via Cleaning the Glass).

In the fourth quarter, the Bucks shot 7-of-26, the Nets 8-of-24.

Going into this game, Milwaukee needed bigger nights from their stars — and they got it. Not terribly efficient nights, but better. Middleton finished with 35 points and 15 rebounds, Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 14 boards.

What this game lacked in beauty, it made up for in drama.

Brooklyn started the night ice-cold, shooting 5-of-25 overall and 1-of-9 from three in the first quarter. All those misses allowed the Bucks to get out and run, leading to points in the paint as Antetokounmpo started playing downhill and got six shots at the rim in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the Bucks stars started hot — Antetokounmpo and Middleton each scoring 15 in the first quarter. The problem was no other Buck scored until a few minutes into the second quarter. Milwaukee led by as many as 21 points in the first, but all the trends that led to that lead seemed unsustainable.

They were. Brooklyn went on a 17-2 run to start the second quarter, going on to win the quarter 31-15. At the half, it was 45-42 Bucks, and we had a game.

The game stayed tight the rest of the way, and the fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair — with a lot of missed shots, but still close. At one point in the final six minutes, the teams combined to miss 10 consecutive shots.

A Durant jumper with 1:55 tied the game at 80-80, and the next possession down a Durant 3 had the Nets up 83-80 with 1:23 left, forcing the Bucks to take a timeout.

Milwaukee got its next bucket on a Middleton shot at the rim that was poor defense from the Nets. Then the Bucks got Holiday’s spinning basket to take the lead with 11.4 left. Meanwhile, the Nets’ next shots were a missed wide-open baseline jumper by Joe Harris, a missed Bruce Brown shot in the lane, and then another missed Brown shot at the rim.

In crunch time of a close game, the Bucks execution wasn’t spectacular, but it was better than the Nets, who couldn’t get the ball in the hands of their stars for a shot until Durant’s desperation three at the buzzer trying to tie it up.

Milwaukee got its win, but if the Bucks can’t build on that Sunday it will all be moot. Milwaukee is not digging out of a 3-1 hole against these Nets.

And hopefully Game 4 is a little more fluid, too.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.