Three things to know: Bulls, Warriors handed first losses of season


Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

Bulls are Back? While they lose game, they look legit in first real test

Last season, we learned the Knicks are back — and they are better this season, with a deeper roster and honest-to-god 3-point shooters to fear.

This season, the Bulls are back… maybe.

Chicago still has a lot to prove, but Thursday night was a step in the right direction. In the Bulls’ first real test, New York came into the United Center and outplayed Chicago much of the night in front of Joakim Noah (he was honored at the game). The Knicks led the majority of the second half comfortably — the Bulls shot 7-of-24 (29.2%) in the third quarter —.and New York took a 104-91 lead on a Julius Randle bunny with just under three minutes left in the game.

Then came the furious comeback, a 12-0 late run that gave Chicago a chance to steal a win on a DeMar DeRozan midrange jumper at the buzzer. Which hit nothing. (Watch the play, it was clearly designed for Zach LaVine to inbound the ball to DeRozan then get the ball back on a dribble hand-off, except DeRozan kept it and drove, but with Nikola Vucevic in that strong-side corner the Knicks had plenty of defenders to contest DeRozan’s shot.)

New York held on for the 104-103 win, and the Bulls got handed their first loss of the season. Both teams are now 4-1.

Zach LaVine finished with 25 points on 7-of-17 shooting in his first game playing with a thumb injury on his non-shooting hand, saying after the game, “It wasn’t pleasant, but it’s doable.” Vucevic added an efficient 22 points and DeRozan had 20. The Knicks’ size and physicality were a challenge for Chicago, which struggled to get to the rim much of the night. Also, Patrick Williams went out with a sprained wrist. Still, the Bulls did not go away, a good sign.

One of the highlights of the night: Bulls fans showed their love for their own, with MVP chants for Derrick Rose (who had a dozen points off the bench).

Chicago lost but looked like they belonged in the end, a good sign for a team trying to show they are back and one of the top teams in the East. Exactly where they stand in the conference is something we will have a better sense of in a couple of weeks as they work through a gauntlet of an upcoming schedule: undefeated Utah, Boston, two against Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Dallas, then a West Coast road trip.

2) Play-in history repeats itself: Memphis goes into Golden State, wins in OT

We’ve seen this movie before.

It felt like a remake of last season’s play-in game, because some things were different, but it ended the same way, with an up-and-coming Grizzlies team going into the Warriors building and beating Stephen Curry and company in overtime, 104-101. It was Golden State’s first loss of the season.

The Warriors go as Curry goes, and through three quarters he racked up 36 points and was his usual walking highlight show (scroll down to the Highlight of the Night for his best shot).

But Curry went scoreless in the fourth quarter and overtime, shooting 0-of-6 from 3 in that stretch.

These Grizzlies are feisty. On the second night of a road back-to-back, they got 30 points in 42 minutes out of Ja Morant (who had a key bucket in overtime), plus they played some of their best defense of the season down the stretch. Desmond Bane added 19 points and was 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.

That defense had the Warriors playing more isolation and simple basketball in the second half, getting away from the player and ball movement that have been back with them this season (and has them looking more like the championship Golden State teams). These are not the peak Warriors in the sense they don’t have the personnel or the margin for error to get away from that ball movement, and when they did the Grizzlies took advantage and handed the Warriors a loss.

Just don’t expect a lot of cold Curry fourth quarters this season.

3) The Wizards are 4-1 and can thank the Russell Westbrook trade for that

It’s far too early to judge the Russell Westbrook trade accurately — he and the Lakers are still finding their fit, but if/when he does next to LeBron James that team will be a contender.

However, so far, that trade has worked out for the Wizards. Thursday night Montrezl Harrell had a monster game off the bench — 25 points, 13 rebounds — and sparked a 122-111 win over a good Hawks team. Washington is now 4-1.

Certainly, all things Washington start with Bradley Beal, and he had 27 points in the win and had the play of the night dunking all over John Collins.

But it’s the three key players the Wizards added in the Westbrook trade — Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Harrell — who made the difference in this game and Washington’s season. Those three had 66 points against Atlanta, and for the season average 45.4 points a game. The trio also provides depth and versatility that Washington has lacked in previous years.

Don’t leave Spencer Dinwiddie off the list of big changes in Washington — he’s been exceptional, averaging 19.8 points and 4.5 assists a game — but it’s what came back in the Westbrook trade that has set the stage for a potentially impressive season in the nation’s capital.

Highlights of the night:

Come on Curry. This isn’t even fair. A one-legged running three?

The reactions to the shot are the best.

Last night’s scores:

Philadelphia 110, Detroit 102
Washington 122, Atlanta 111
New York 103 Chicago 103
Utah 122, Houston 91
Dallas 104, San Antonio 99
Memphis 104, Golden State 101 (OT)

Jokic scores 31 points with 11 assists, leads Nuggets past Bucks 129-106


DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 31 points and 11 assists, Jamal Murray finished with 26 points and nine assists, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 129-106 on Saturday night in a late-season showdown of the NBA’s conference leaders.

Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 points for West-leading Denver (50-24), which outscored East-leading Milwaukee 68-40 in the second half.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points — just seven in the second half — and grabbed nine rebounds for the Bucks (53-20).

“It’s better to win games, but our goal is to do something in a playoffs,” Jokic said.

The battle of the top teams in each conference — and two strong MVP candidates — was more competitive than the teams’ first meeting, won by the Bucks 107-99. Then, the Nuggets held out four starters — Jokic, Murray, Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — in the game in Milwaukee on Jan. 25. Denver had played the night before in New Orleans and opted to rest its stars.

The circumstances were reversed, with the Bucks having played in Utah on Friday night.

“We still play, still got to be better, there’s no excuses about that,” Khris Middleton said. “But I’m sure for a lot of fans, a lot of people out there, they’d love to see healthy teams, or not coming off back to backs.”

Antetokounmpo scored 24 points on 11-for-14 shooting in the first half, with all but one of those field goals coming at the rim. Murray (20 points) and Jokic (17 points) kept Denver within three at the break, and then the Nuggets outscored Milwaukee 34-19 in the third quarter to take a 97-85 lead.

Jeff Green dunked on Antetokounmpo to open the fourth as the Nuggets’ lead swelled to 15 points. Grayson Allen hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 103-91 with 9:54 left, but Milwaukee went scoreless for 4:10 while Denver built a 111-91 lead.

“It was an amazing dunk,” Jokic said of Green’s dunk. “I didn’t think he was going to do it. He almost fell down, so it was a really nice dunk.”

Antetokounmpo went to the bench with 5:54 left and didn’t return.

The Bucks lost some composure in the third quarter. Bobby Portis Jr. was called for a take foul on Jokic and, immediately after, a technical. Denver hit both free throws and Bruce Brown hit a 3-pointer for a 84-76 lead. Minutes later, Brook Lopez got a technical while sitting on the bench.

Antetokounmpo picked up Milwaukee’s third technical with 6:41 left in the game.

“It was a night where we were grumpy, and it happens,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Denver coach Michael Malone got a technical late in the first quarter, and it was to prevent Jokic from getting one. Jokic was frustrated by the physical play, so during a timeout Malone told him he would get the technical.

“I can get kicked out, he can’t. I understand the pecking order here,” Malone said.

Watch Trae Young get ejected for launching ball at referee


Trae Young screwed up and he knew it.

“It’s just a play he can’t make,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said via the Associated Press after the game. “I told him that. He knows it.”

With the score tied at 84 in the third quarter, Young had a 3-pointer disallowed and an offensive foul called on him for tripping the Pacers’ Aaron Nesmith. A frustrated Young picked up a technical foul for something he said.

Then walking back to the bench, Young turned and launched the ball at the referee with two hands. It was an instant ejection.


“There wasn’t a single part of him that tried to rationalize what happened,” Snyder said.

Young can expect a fine for this. It also was his 15th technical of the season, one more and he will get an automatic one-game suspension.

The Hawks went on to win 143-130, improving Atlanta to .500 at 37-37 and keeping them solidly as the No. 8 seed in the East.

Report: ‘Strong optimism’ Anthony Edwards could return to Timberwolves Sunday

Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves
Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

What looked so bad when it happened may only cost Anthony Edwards three games.

Edwards rolled his ankle last week but could be back Sunday when the Timberwolves travel to Golden State, reports Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports.

Edwards is averaging 24.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this season, and he has stepped up to become the team’s primary shot-creator with Karl-Anthony Towns out for much of the season. The Timberwolves have been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions when Edwards is off the court this season.

Towns returned to action a couple of games ago, and with Edwards on Sunday it will be the first time since November the Timberwolves will have their entire core on the court — now with Mike Conley at the point. With the Timberwolves tied for the No.7 seed in an incredibly tight West (they are 1.5 games out of sixth but also one game out of missing the postseason entirely) it couldn’t come at a better time. It’s also not much time to develop of fit and chemistry the team will need in the play-in, and maybe the playoffs.

Nets announce Ben Simmons diagnosed with nerve impingement in back, out indefinitely

NBA: FEB 24 Nets at Bulls
Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ben Simmons — who has been in and out of the Nets’ lineup all season and often struggled when on the court — is out indefinitely due to a nerve impingement in his back, the team announced Friday.

A nerve impingement — sometimes called a pinched nerve — is when a bone or other tissue compresses a nerve. Simmons has a history of back issues going back to his time in Philadelphia, and he had a microdiscectomy about a year ago, after he was traded to Brooklyn.

With two weeks and nine games left in the season, logic would suggest Simmons is done for the season. Coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday that Simmons has done some individual workouts but nothing with teammates, however, he would not say Simmons is shut down for the season or would not participate in the postseason with Brooklyn.

Simmons had not played since the All-Star break when he got PRP injections to help deal with ongoing knee soreness. When he has played this season offense has been a struggle, he has been hesitant to shoot outside a few feet from the basket and is averaging 6.9 points a game. Vaughn used him mainly as a backup center.

Simmons has two fully guaranteed years and $78 million remaining on his contract after this season. While Nets fans may want Simmons traded, his injury history and that contract will make it very difficult to do so this summer (Brooklyn would have to add so many sweeteners it wouldn’t be worth it).

The Nets have slid to the No.7 seed in the West — part of the play-in — and have a critical game with the Heat on Saturday night.