Three Things to Know: Latest NBA championship, MVP odds

2021 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

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) Here’s the latest NBA championship, MVP odds

Everyone still fears the potential of the Brooklyn Nets.

Despite the recent slump (and Kevin Durant being out), despite Kyrie Irving being in and out of the lineup, despite the fact we have seen the “Big Three” for just two games, when it comes to betting on winning the championship, it’s still all about the Nets.

Let’s look at the latest championship odds via our official sports betting partner PointsBet.

Brooklyn Nets +250
Golden State Warriors +475
Phoenix Suns +650
Milwaukee Bucks +700
Utah Jazz +1000
Miami Heat +1400
Los Angeles Lakers +1600
Philadelphia 76ers +2000
Los Angeles Clippers +2200
Chicago Bulls +2500

The smart and safest bets right now would be the Suns and Bucks — Phoenix is the best team in the NBA right now, and the Bucks are putting together a run in the East that makes them the most likely to advance (at least in my eyes). Those two teams have proven they will be there in the end.

My favorite bet on the board is the Heat at +1400 — that is a team built for playoff basketball. They have the star who can get them there in Jimmy Butler, a versatile and athletic All-Star big in Bam Adebayo, the veteran point guard who has a ring in Kyle Lowry, plenty of shooting, and a large cast of versatile and outstanding role players that allows Erik Spoelstra to match up with anyone. With the Bucks and the Nets not blowing our doors off yet, the Heat look like a team with a legitimate shot to come out of the East and win it all.

If you’re thinking of betting on either Los Angeles team to win a title, donate that money to charity where it can do some good.

Let’s take a look at the latest MVP race odds, here are the top five:

Giannis Antetokounmpo +275
Stephen Curry +275
Joel Embiid +375
Nikola Jokic +400
Ja Morant +1600

Jokic at +400 seems a good bet among those if he and the Nuggets can win enough games to get voters — some of whom consider team wins a factor — to consider him for the top spot.

The best bet is not on that board: LeBron James is +4000. That seems high. It will be hard for him to win it with the Lakers hanging around .500, but if you’re in the Kevin Love “they can turn this around” camp then LeBron’s odds look very good because he has played at an MVP level.

If you want a chance to win free money, log into the NBC Sports Predictor app and play the NBA game for free: Answer six questions right about the Wednesday night NBA slate and you could win up to $50,000 — as someone did just a couple of weeks ago. Get in and play right now.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

2) Kevin Love makes his Sixth Man of the Year case against Knicks

Speaking of betting, the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love is a long shot at +8000 at Points Bet to win NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Those odds are too long, he has played himself into the conversation at the very least. (Tyler Herro is the runaway favorite at PontsBet at -601, and while he should be the betting favorite, he’s not running away with it to the point there are no other good options on the board).

Love made his case at Madison Square Garden scoring 20 — including nine straight in a 3-point barrage at one point — to lead the Cavaliers to a 95-93 win over the Knicks Monday night.

Runaway Rookie of the Year favorite Evan Mobley scored 15 points with 12 rebounds, and Isaac Okoro added 14 points for the Cavaliers. Don’t look now, but Cleveland is hot again and has won 7-of-8.

The Knicks were down by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, but rallied to make it a game and give themselves a chance with a Julius Randle long 3 at the buzzer, but it fell short.

3) Zach LaVine returns, Bulls hang on for win against Thunder

While there are legitimate concerns about the Bulls and their defense with Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball both out, there was good news Monday night:

Zach LaVine was back.

He scored 23 after missing five games with a bruised knee, and he looked comfortable out there.

Well, at least until the fourth quarter. LaVine was part of a late-game meltdown by the Bulls that made this a game late. The Thunder upped their defensive pressure and it was evident how much the Bulls missed Ball and Caruso as ball handlers (plus DeMar DeRozan had the night off for rest).

OKC had trailed by 28 in the third but got it to the point Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a chance to tie it in the final seconds with a 3 but missed the shot.

The Bulls had lost 6-of-7 and needed that win, and the spark LaVine brings.

Highlight of the Night: Javonte Green dunks over two Thunder defenders

This dunk by the Bull’s Javonte Green is impressive, but it’s Stacy King’s reaction on the broadcast that makes this awesome.

Last night’s scores:

Cavaliers 95, Knicks 92
New Orleans 117, Indiana 113
Chicago 111, Oklahoma City 110
Phoenix 115, Utah 109

LeBron James passes Magic Johnson for sixth all-time in assists

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Magic Johnson is one of the greatest, most creative passers the game has ever seen.

Friday night, LeBron James passed Magic for sixth all-time in assists in the NBA. For LeBron, doing that in a Lakers’ jersey like Magic wore was special.

It happened with 8:41 remaining left in the game, LeBron found Anthony Davis for a 3-pointer on the right wing.

LeBron finished the night with 11 assists and 28 points, which along with a monster 44-point night from Anthony Davis led the Lakers to an impressive win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.




Jimmy Butler returns, hits clutch shots to lift Heat past Celtics

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
Nick Grace/Getty Images

BOSTON (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored 28 points, Tyler Herro had 26 and the Miami Heat completed a split of two games in Boston, beating the Celtics 120-116 on Friday night after Jaylen Brown banked in a long 3-pointer to force overtime.

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and had 25 points in 36 minutes after missing the previous seven games with a sore right knee. He added 15 rebounds.

“Obviously having JB back is big time for us,” Herro said. “He helps us in so many different ways.”

Kyle Lowry chipped in with 20 points before fouling out in OT for the Heat, who sent Boston to just its second loss in 16 games.

“My team welcomed me back and let me do what I do,” Butler said. “It was a big `W’ for the team.”

Brown sent the game to overtime by banking in his long 3 with 1.7 seconds to play in regulation. He finished with 37 points.

“It felt good coming off my hand,” Brown said. “I know we wanted to get a shot up off the rim as fast as possible, just in case we missed we could get a rebound, a tip out.”

The Celtics had won 10 straight at TD Garden.

Boston star Jayson Tatum scored just 14 points on a cold shooting night, going 5 of 18 from the floor, including 0 of 7 on 3-point attempts. He had 49 points in the Celtics’ 134-121 victory on Wednesday night.

“That’s the biggest thing about the league; you’re not going to stop anybody from just scoring,” Adebayo said. “I feel like (we’re) making him take tough shots every time we play him and living with the result.”

Butler hit a clutch jumper over Al Horford, making it 110-107 with 5.1 seconds left in regulation before Brown took a pass near midcourt, dribbled to his right and nailed his shot.

In OT, the teams were tied twice before Butler nailed a foul-line jumper over Horford with 1:45 left, but Brown hit two free throws to tie it.

Adebayo nailed two free throws and, after Tatum misfired on a 3, Butler hit a jumper to seal it.

“Jimmy made two tough, tough baskets,” Brown said. “That’s just a credit to his work and his skill and his development. He gets going in games like this; on the road in a hostile environment. … Tonight, two shots that in our defensive scheme we could live with, but Jimmy a big-time player made both of them.”

Unlike Wednesday, when shots were open more and both teams were making them effectively (each shot over 50%), defense was tighter and it resembled more of the postseason matchup last season between the pair that went seven games before Boston captured the Eastern Conference title.

Anthony Davis scores 44, outduels Antetokounmpo (40) leading Lakers past Bucks


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James tore apart the NBA’s top-rated defense and gave Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee.

Davis scored a season-high 44 points and James passed Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list Friday night in the Lakers’ thrilling 133-129 victory over the Bucks.

It marked Ham’s first game in Milwaukee since taking over as Lakers coach after working as an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22.

Ham and Budenholzer shared a big hug before the game.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Ham, who also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.

It also was quite a night for Davis, a Green Bay Packers fan who delivered his big performance with Aaron Rodgers in the stands. Davis spoke with the Packers’ four-time MVP quarterback before and after the game.

“I saw him before the game and he said, `I need 30 tonight,”‘ Davis said. “I just saw him and he said, `I only said 30, not 40.’ It’s always good for him to come out and watch the Lakers play.”

James made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left and finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He upped his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.

“It means a lot, obviously,” James said. “The way Magic approached the game, it was very infectious. His teammates loved playing with him because of the joy he played with and the ability to pass the ball and get other guys involved. He was always excited about seeing his teammates be great. I always admired that in him. What’s even more humbling and super duper cool is the fact that I’m doing it in a Laker uniform and knowing how much Magic means to the Laker franchise.”

The Lakers had the highest point total and field-goal percentage (.536) the Bucks had allowed all season. Milwaukee entered Friday with the NBA’s top defensive rating.

“It was too easy, too easy, too easy,” Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “They were living in the paint. That’s not who we are.”

Los Angeles withstood a 40-point performance from Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers also spoiled the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

Milwaukee missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds.

After Davis missed a fadeaway jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the side of the rim.

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis made a clinching free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

“Grayson got a good look,” Budenholzer said. “Good execution. Good screening. We’ll live with that shot all the time. And Jrue, similar. We got the kick ahead, playing against a defense that’s not set. Jrue, kind of a good rhythm shot for him. It was contested, but Jrue was 6 of 12 tonight (from 3-point range). He was feeling it.”

Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks, and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.