Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com 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) Stephen Curry continues to put on a show, Warriors continue to win
These Cavaliers are no pushover. After a few seasons of rebuilding, this season’s Cavaliers are a legitimate 9-8 fueled by a top-10 defense and Darius Garland, a resurgent Ricky Rubio, and the early Rookie of the Year frontrunner in Evan Mobley (who is out for a few weeks with a sprained elbow). Teams have to work for their wins in Cleveland now.
The Warriors found that out the hard way, trailing by 13 entering the fourth quarter Thursday night.
Then Stephen Curry happened.
Curry dropped 20 of his 40 points on the night in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors closed the game on a 38-6 run to pick up a 104-89 win in Cleveland.
Per Elias: It's been six years (Pistons, Nov 2015) since an NBA team entered Q4 trailing by at least 13 and won by at least 15.
The Warriors in Cleveland tonight accomplished that feat for the first time in franchise history.
— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) November 19, 2021
While Curry gets the headlines, the Warriors defense held the Cavaliers under a point per possession (97.8 net rating), and it is that end of the floor that has the Warriors at a league-best 13-2 to start the season. Draymond Green gets the credit for the defense, but if you want to give Curry Defensive Player of the Year consideration he will take it.
The Warriors are the best show in the NBA right now. It’s one thing to be that before Thanksgiving and another to do it in May and June, but Curry and the Warriors know what it takes to win on that big stage, too.
2) Rudy Gay makes Jazz debut and scores 20
Mention the Utah Jazz as contenders to come out of the West — they absolutely are — and the response is a dismissive “just wait until they fold in the playoffs again.” Dropping four straight games to the small-ball Clippers without Kawhi Leonard ended belief in the Jazz.
What would change their playoff fortunes? Having a healthy Mike Conley (he missed most of the Clippers series) and Donovan Mitchell (he was playing on one leg in that series) would make the Jazz a far more dangerous playoff team.
So would Rudy Gay off the bench.
Gay missed the start of the season due to a heel injury but made his debut Thursday night against the Raptors and scored 20 points, hitting 5-of-6 from 3 in 18 minutes.
The conventional wisdom on the Jazz is right in one sense: Nothing they do in the regular season matters in how we will judge them this season. Utah is 10-5 and that undersells how well they have played — the Jazz have a top-five offense and defense and a +9.3 net rating that is second only to the Warriors. All that merits is a shrug and questions about how they defend a five-out offense.
But get to the playoffs, when the rotations tighten, and the Jazz will bring Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson and his scoring, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gay off the bench. That’s a good group, and Gay gives the Jazz the ability to match up better with small ball teams.
Do not sleep on the Jazz — they can legitimately win the West.
But we can pick that conversation up again in May.
3) LeBron “50/50” to make return against Boston Friday
The Lakers need LeBron James back.
The team has gone 3-5 while he has been out with an abdominal strain and has a dreadful -12.7 net rating over their last seven games. This season, the Lakers have outscored opponents by 3.4 points per 100 possessions when LeBron is on the court and been outscored by 5.3 per 100 when he is out.
LeBron is officially questionable to play Friday night in Boston, with Dave McMenamin of ESPN reporting he is 50/50 to play. If not then, the Lakers play next in Detroit on Sunday.
Los Angeles sits at 8-8 to start the season, not the fast start it wanted against the second softest schedule in the NBA so far (Phoenix has the softest, but it has rattled off 10 wins in a row to take advantage of it.
The Lakers have looked pretty pedestrian so far, but we’ve all seen LeBron teams start the season looking average then flip the switch and become title contenders. These Lakers can follow that pattern (Russell Westbrook has played better the second half of the last couple of seasons). However, there is legitimate reason for concern around the Lakers, their defense just isn’t that good and their halfcourt offense is a mess.
Which is why they need LeBron James back.
Highlight of the night: Spurs’ Devin Vassell dunks on Timberwolves ball guy
Life comes at you fast when you’re a ball guy in the NBA.
A Minnesota ball guy was mopping sweat off the floor in the key when the Spurs’ Devin Vassell and Lonie Walker IV trapped the Wolves’ Jordan McLaughlin at halfcourt. McLaughlin turned the ball over, Walker threw it ahead, and Vassell had a breakaway dunk — except for the guy with the mop.
Turned up out of the blue uninvited. But Dev couldn’t stay away, he had to dunk it 😂 pic.twitter.com/yafhj3bSwL
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) November 19, 2021
Other angles showed the ball guy had dropped a towel and stopped to pick it up, which led to the unfortunate situation.
— Internet #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) November 19, 2021
Last night’s scores:
Golden State 104, Cleveland 89
Miami 112, Washington 97
Memphis 120, LA Clippers 108
Minnesota 115, Spurs 90
Philadelphia 103, Denver 89
Utah 119, Toronto 103