Three Things to Know: Warriors offensive slump continues in loss to Pacers

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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) Warriors offensive slump continues in loss to Pacers

Over their last 10 games, the Golden State Warriors have the second-worst offense in the NBA, with a 104.2 net rating.

For some context, the Warriors offensive rating for November was 114.8. The team with MVP candidate Stephen Curry, with Klay Thompson back in the lineup, is losing because they can’t score enough.

That was the case Thursday against a shorthanded Pacers team (no Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner, four of their regular starters). The Warriors scored 117 in the overtime game but had a 105.4 offensive rating for the night. Steve Kerr said the Pacers’ defense sped them up, leading to a 9-of-42 night from 3 for the team, he said the team’s execution was off and blamed himself.

Curry scored 39 points, but none in overtime.

The Warriors are without Draymond Green, whose role as a secondary playmaker who keeps the ball moving and finds open guys is underrated on the offensive end (his minutes have gone to rookie Jonathan Kuminga). Klay Thompson understandably is still trying to find his shot after more than two seasons away from the game (6-of-17 against the Pacers, he is shooting 37.2% overall and 30.2% from 3 since his return).

Plus, even the best teams go through slumps. It’s part of the marathon of an NBA season. It’s not a reason for panic in the Bay Area, but it’s something to watch for a team that just looks a little tired.

Credit to the Pacers, who won both ends of a tough West Coast back-to-back, coming from behind to beat the Lakers then toppling the Warriors the next night. Rookie Chris Duarte had 27 points and continues to impress.

2) Suns top Mavericks in meeting of NBA’s hottest teams

Luka Doncic can just break an opponent, he’s done it a few times during this Mavericks’ hot streak, and he tried with a brilliant final seconds of the first half against the Suns.

Phoenix, however, does not break.

They dominated the fourth quarter 35-19 and swept a five-game road trip by beating Dallas 109-101 Thursday. Devin Booker scored 28 points, but Chris Paul took over late and scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. CP3 also finished with 11 assists with no turnovers.

It’s January, not June, but the Suns are the best team in basketball right now. Those slumping Warriors have some work ahead of them to get to Phoenix’s level.

3) All-Star starters largely set after latest voting returns

The latest returns from the fan voting for All-Star are in and, to be honest, we have a pretty good idea who most of the All-Star starters will be.

First, we know LeBron James will be a captain and one of the starters (the two captains are the players with the most fan votes from each conference). It looks like Kevin Durant will be the other captain out of the East, even though it’s questionable at best if he will play in the game (if not him, Giannis Antetokounmpo will get the captain nod).

We also know basically who the starters will be, but first a reminder: These fan votes account for 50% of the total for a player. Another 25% comes from votes from NBA players, and the final 25% from votes of select media members.

• The East frontcourt of Durant, Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid is locked in. The fans voted them in and the players and media will follow suit. They were an easy call.

• The East backcourt will likely stay as the fans voted it in, with Trae Young and DeMar DeRozan. It is possible the players and media could slot James Harden above Young, but more than likely Harden’s slow start to the season means Young gets the nod. (And yes, DeRozan gets the start in the backcourt despite only playing the three and four for the Bulls this season, he deserves to start, and he’s listed as a guard on the ballot. We can debate how the All-Star selections should be positionless, let’s just get the best players out there, but we have to play by the NBA’s rules here.)

• The West backcourt has one lock in Stephen Curry. The fans have slid Ja Morant into second over Luka Doncic, with Klay Thompson somehow fourth. Some media and player voters may want to recognize Devin Booker (fifth in fan voting) or more likely Chris Paul (seventh), but they are both too deep in the fan voting to vault into the top two. Doncic’s slow start to the season (by his standards) will keep him from being a starter.

• Two-thirds of the West frontcourt is set, LeBron and Nikola Jokic have the most fan votes, and they will get the backing of the players and media. However, the fans have Andrew Wiggins in third, and he’s not going to get a lot of fans or media votes. Paul George is fourth and Anthony Davis is fifth in fan voting, but both are injured and will not get the player/media support to jump into the top three. The most likely guy to move up is Daymond Green (sixth in fan voting), although Rudy Gobert (ninth) has an outside chance (his play has earned it).

Highlight of the Night: Gary Payton II does George Bitadze wrong

This is just nasty, and the staredown makes it.

Last night’s scores:

Phoenix 109, Dallas 101
New Orleans 102, New York 91
Indiana 121, Golden State 117 (OT)

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.