Three Things to Know: Curry poised to set 3-point record in Madison Square Garden

0 Comments

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 will set 3-point record in Madison Square Garden

Would anyone be surprised if Tom Thibodeau’s defensive game plan is to put four guys on Stephen Curry 30 feet from the basket?

After Curry hit five 3-pointers in Indiana on Monday night, he needs just one more to tie Ray Allen for the most 3s made all time, and two to pass the Hall of Famer, cementing Curry’s legacy as the greatest shooter the game has ever seen.

That will happen Tuesday night on one of the league’s biggest stages: Madison Square Garden. Technically I should say “Curry is poised to set the record” but come on, Curry can get two 3s from the tunnel before the game. Whatever defense Thibodeau and the Knicks throw at Curry, it feels as if the basketball gods have willed this to happen in NYC.

Maybe those gods want to rub salt in the wounds of Knicks fans: Curry was selected seventh in the 2009 NBA Draft, one spot ahead of the Knicks, who were reportedly high on him (New York ended up with Jordan Hill instead.

But mostly, those gods understand New York is the right setting for a coronation. Which is what this is — we already know Curry is the GOAT shooter. This is more of a celebration of that fact, an appreciation of what Curry has become as the face of a basketball generation, an official crowning for what already is reality — Curry is going to pass Allen in 511 fewer games played.

Curry also became Curry in MSG: His 2013 game with 54 points and 11 three-pointers against the Knicks was his breakout game.

Curry gets credit because of his shooting range — which has changed the game and won the Warriors titles because of how it warps defenses — but what really sets him apart is he is equally deadly shooting 3s off the dribble or on the catch-and-shoot. His lightning-quick release factors in as well. Curry can walk the ball up the court, and if a defender doesn’t respect him Curry will pull up and drain the 3. Come out on him and Curry will pass the ball and get the offense in motion, but then he moves quickly off the ball, using screens, and all he needs is a sliver of space for the pass back to find him and for Curry to make the defense pay.

Ray Allen said he would try to be there for the moment, but he has commitments as a high school coach he will not break.

“I spoke with the people at the Warriors and I actually spoke with Steph a little bit, trying to help him navigate this whole process,” Allen said on the Dan Patrick Show last Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s an exciting time for him and I tried to give him what I was dealing with, you know, going into the game and everything that led up to it.

Curry is the inspiration of a generation — go to NBA games, or just walk the streets, and see whose jersey all the 13-year-olds are wearing. This is a night to celebrate and savor what he has become, the GOAT shooter and an inspiration.

2) Bulls games postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak

As the NBA ramped up testing and the number of COVID-19 cases rose, this felt inevitable.

With 10 players plus some staff in league health and safety protocols, the NBA postponed the next two Chicago Bulls games, Tuesday night against the Pistons and Thursday in Toronto. The Chicago Health and Safety Department reportedly had concerns about the Bulls continuing to play amid a workplace outbreak.

This is the right thing to do — put player safety first. Technically the Bulls likely could have suited up eight healthy bodies for Tuesday night’s game, but that would have led to both increased risk and just bad basketball.

Nikola Vucevic had the best idea to salvage the games.

People around the NBA quietly expect an uptick in cases: the Omicron variant is sweeping across the nation right as people will be gathering indoors more with family and friends for the holiday. That’s a recipe for more positive tests, and while the NBA may be 97% vaccinated (the percentage of players who got the jab), it’s not going to stop the virus from spreading (it should help keep the cases from being as severe, especially for the 60% of players who got the booster).

Let’s just hope there are no severe cases.

3) Why was Nikola Jokic ejected?

Nikola Jokic was hot. Spencer Dinwiddie had driven the lane, kneed and elbowed Jokic during the shot, and there was no call. Jokic can be a hot head and snapped at referee Eric Dalen as the teams went back up court. He deserved a tech for that.

But it was the fast second one for a word to Tony Brothers that came off as an official letting his ego get in the way.

Basketball is an emotional game and referees need to check their egos and the perception of being disrespected, let the players vent a little, and move on. Some lines can’t be crossed, but two technicals from two different officials for the same play is over the top.

We pay to see the stars play, let them stay on the court until they truly earn an ejection. This was not one of those cases.

Highlight of the Night: Kevin Love jumped in the Hot Tub Time Machine

Kevin Love jumped in the Hot Tub Time Machine at the half and brought the 2014 version of himself to 2022 as he scored 23 points in the second half, hitting 5-of-7 from 3, and sparking the feisty Cavaliers past the shorthanded Heat.

Last night’s scores:

Cleveland 105, Miami 94
Golden State 102, Indiana 100
Toronto 124, Sacramento 101
Houston 132, Atlanta 126
Boston 117, Milwaukee 103
Memphis 126, Philadelphia 91
Dallas 120, Charlotte 96
Denver 113, Washington 107
LA Clippers 111, Phoenix 95

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
0 Comments

Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
0 Comments

We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

0 Comments

Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.