Three things to know: 76ers block Bulls comeback at the rim, pick up quality win


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.

1) 76ers block Bulls comeback at the rim, pick up quality win

Elite teams find ways to win when they are shorthanded. Elite teams find ways to win when their stars have an off night shooting the ball.

Wednesday night, Philadelphia was unquestionably shorthanded. The 76ers were without Tobias Harris (health and safety protocols, and Doc Rivers said he is experiencing symptoms and will miss some time), Danny Green (hamstring), and Ben Simmons (mentally not ready to play).

Philadelphia’s star and anchor Joel Embiid was held in relative check Wednesday by Chicago big man Nikola Vucevic, shooting 3-of-9 in the first half and finishing the night with 18 points on 18 shot attempts, although Embiid added nine rebounds and seven assists.

Despite all that, the 76ers found a way to win, beating a hot Bulls team to improve to 6-2 on the season. This is what elite teams do, they find ways to win (Philly is doing it with more small ball) and maybe last season’s No. 1 seed in the East needs to be considered on that level — they have the third-best net rating in the NBA so far, +9.3 (using Cleaning the Glass‘ numbers to filter out garbage time).

Seth Curry stepped up with 22 points and was clutch late in the game.

Georges Niang added 18 points off the bench for Philly. Tyrese Maxey had 14 points and six assists. Guys found a way to get it done.

Then, in the end, Embiid was there to shut down DeMar DeRozan at the rim with a block that sealed the win (Bulls fans would like you to know they think that was clearly a foul, but the review gave Embiid the clean block and the Sixers the win).

Chicago got 37 from DeRozan (his second game in a row with that total) and Zach LaVine added 27. The rest of the Bulls outside those two shot 38.9% on the night and 4-of-13 from 3. Chicago falls to 6-2, still an impressive start, and they are 2-2 against the better teams in the East (after a soft schedule to start the season). It’s early, but Chicago looks like a top-six playoff team in the East.

Philadelphia was left out of the elite teams in the East conversation before the season — Brooklyn and Milwaukee got those nods — mostly because nobody was sure what to make of the Simmons situation and how it would impact the team. The reality is Joel Embiid is the kind of star who can lift the guys around him, make an impact in areas outside just his points total, and help a team win. Shorthanded Philly is doing that so far, and while there are Simmons-related questions to answer still, maybe this team shouldn’t be left out of the conversation about the elite in the East.

2) Boston has players-only meeting, but what helps more is playing Orlando

Following an ugly 39-11 fourth quarter collapse and loss to the Bulls — after which Marcus Smart called out young Celtics’ stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for not getting their teammates involved enough — the Celtics conducted a players-only meeting.

Here’s the dirty little secret about players-only meetings — they are overrated. More often than not, they do not get to the core issues holding a team back or change much of anything. Even the reporting out of this Celtics’ meeting was it got emotional but was not terribly productive.

What helps more? A win against a bad team. A chance to gain some confidence, see the ball go through the basket, execute a game plan against a weaker opponent and pick up a needed W.

Enter the Orlando Magic.

The Celtics held the Magic to 32.1% shooting Wednesday night and cruised to a 92-79 win. Jaylen Brown had 28 points to lead a balanced Boston offense.

Boston improved to 3-5, but the real test comes tonight (Thursday) against a Miami team playing better than anyone in the NBA right now.

3) Jordon Poole, Gary Payton II step up on off-night for Curry, Warriors win

What did we say in item No. 1 on our three things today? Elite teams find ways to win when their stars have an off night shooting the ball.

Stephen Curry shot 3-of-11 from 3 and had 15 points on 15 shots against Charlotte Wednesday. He looked, dare I say, human (although he had key shots in the fourth to help seal the win).

Jordan Poole stepped up with 31 points and was playing so well the Hornets started trapping him to get the ball out of his hands — despite Curry being on the court.

Gary Payton II had 14 points off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting, plus he had three steals that helped spark the Warriors’ defense.

The Warriors are winning with defense — the best defense in the NBA this season (they passed the Heat with this win, using Basketball-Reference numbers). And they are winning with strength in numbers as they wait for some injured vital players to get back in the lineup.

Highlights of the night:

Ja Morant is impossible to take your eyes off — for my money, he is the most dynamic, entertaining player in the league right now. Against the Nuggets Wednesday, he pulled off an in-game 360 layup that was audacious even to try.

Memphis picked up a 108-106 win over a good Denver team (despite 34 and 11 from Nikola Jokic).

Last night’s scores:

Cleveland 107, Portland 104
Indiana 111, New York 98
Boston 92, Orlando 79
Philadelphia 103, Chicago 98
Toronto 109, Washington 100
Brooklyn 117, Atlanta 108
Memphis 108, Denver 106
L.A. Clippers 126, Minnesota 115
Dallas 109, San Antonio 108
Golden State 114, Charlotte 92
Sacramento 112, New Orleans 99

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.


Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’


While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’


Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.

Hall of Famer, Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80


Willis Reed, the legendary Knicks’ center whose dramatic entrance onto the Madison Square Garden floor minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals sparked the team to its first title, has died at the age of 80.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced Reed’s passing. While no cause of death was announced, it was known Reed had been in poor health for some time.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed had an amazing career — highlighted by the two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus being a seven-time All-Star — but he is best remembered for a legendary 1969-70 season. That year he became the first player to sweep the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals MVP awards.

However, it was him walking out on the court for Game 7 of the Finals in 1970 — after he suffered a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain without him — that became the moment of legend. Reed scored four early points that game, and while he was limited the rest of the way he sparked the team to its first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 assists had something to do with the win, too).

Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in the state through college, leading Grambling State to the 1961 NAIA title. Considered an undersized center at 6’9 “, teams quickly learned he played much bigger than that as he went on to win the 1965 Rookie of the Year award.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.