Three Things to Know: Antetokounmpo passes Jordan on triple-double list

Washington Wizards v Milwaukee Bucks
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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) Giannis Antetokounmpo passes Jordan on triple-double list in Bucks win

The Bucks were embarrassed. They should have been losing by 36 at home to the Nuggets on Sunday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo did what great players do — he took it personally and didn’t let it happen again. Tuesday night, the Greek Freak had 33 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, his fourth triple-double this season and the 29th of his career, moving him past Michael Jordan to 18th on the all-time list (although triple-doubles weren’t really a thing when Jordan played, and the game’s pace was much slower then). The Bucks got the win over the Wizards 112-98.

“Obviously [the loss to Denver] was kind of embarrassing… We have to realize that in order for us to be great, we’ve got to play hard. We cannot expect that people are just going to hand us the game when we go out there,” Antetokounmpo said, via the Associated Press. “People are coming for us. People are hunting us right now. They get excited when they see, `Milwaukee Bucks, world champs.’ We’ve got to play every single night hard and build that habit.”

The Bucks slump — 6-8 in their last 14 games before Tuesday — combined with the recent strong play of centers Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid had hurt Antetokounmpo in the MVP race in some minds. While it didn’t help his narrative, Antetokounmpo is still playing at an MVP level — 28.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6 assists a game, shooting 53.6% overall, with elite defense and some of the best advanced stats in the league this season. He is still in the MVP mix with a few months left in the season.

Milwaukee led by 17 at one point early in the third quarter but Washington battled back to make it a game in the fourth, before Antetokounmpo and the Bucks flipped the switch and pulled away. Jrue Holiday scored 22 and Bobby Portis 17 added 17 points for the Bucks.

The Wizards will be without Bradley Beal for at least four games due to a wrist injury, and without him Kyle Kuzma stepped up again and scored 25, while Montrezl Harrell added 20.

2) Watch Devin Booker drop 35 as the Suns win 11th straight beating Nets

The Phoenix Suns are just steamrolling everyone right now.

Tuesday night it was the short-handed Brooklyn Nets — still no Kevin Durant — and it was Devin Booker’s turn to do the driving, scoring 35 as the Nets rolled to a 121-11 win. That’s 11 straight for the Suns, who went 13-1 in January.

Booker got help from Mikal Bridges, who had a season-high 27 while switching off between guarding Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Irving led the Nets with 26 points.

Chris Paul scored 20 and dished out 14 assists. The Suns are the best basketball team in the world right now and it doesn’t feel particularly close.

3) Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. have fifth straight 30+ point game in win

The hottest player in the league you’re not talking about? Gary Trent Jr.

On Tuesday, he scored 33 against the Bulls, shooting 6-of-10 from 3 as part of Toronto’s 110-106 win. That makes it five straight games he has scored at least 30, which ties the franchise streak owned by DeMar DeRozan, who happened to be back in the building with the Bulls to see it.

The Raptors have won three in a row and 5-of-7, including two wins over the Heat plus one over the red hot Hawks. At 26-23, they sit eighth in the East, but only two games out of sixth and avoiding the play-in. Something to watch going forward in a tight conference.

Highlight of the Night: DeMar DeRozan with the monster throw down

DeMar DeRozan does more than drain midrange jumpers. He threw down a dunk some of us didn’t know he still had in him.

Last night’s scores:

New Orleans 111, Detroit 101
Milwaukee 112, Washington 98
Toronto 110, Miami 106
Chicago 126, Orlando 115
Minnesota 130, Denver 115
Golden State 124, San Antonio 120
Phoenix 121, Brooklyn 111

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.

NBA plans for 2023-24 include in-season tournament (if approved)

2022 NBA Finals - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference
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The NBA is planning for the inaugural version of its in-season tournament – should it become reality – to begin early next season, according to a memo sent to teams.

If the tournament is approved, 80 regular-season games for each team would be announced in August, with two more games set to be scheduled depending on which eight teams make the tournament’s knockout stage. Those games would be added in-season to the schedule.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has pushed for the past several years for the in-season event to be added. Talks have gone on about it since at least 2016, and in 2019 the league even created a proposal in which teams would play eight divisional games in the group stage, followed by quarterfinals for the top eight clubs and then semifinals and finals at a neutral site in December.

That evidently remains the footprint. Teams, in Wednesday’s memo, were told to plan for tournament quarterfinal games in early December 2023 – again, the caveat being that the event has yet to be approved.

“It’s something that I remain excited about,” Silver said in September. “I think it continues to be an opportunity within the current footprint of our season to create some more meaningful games, games of consequence, during an otherwise long regular season. … I think fans might really ultimately enjoy another competition during the season, some sort of cup competition. Certainly not rising to the level of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, yet something else significant to play for.”

Silver has often compared the notion of an in-season tournament to what is commonly seen in European soccer.

“It’s all about fan interest,” Denver coach Michael Malone said Wednesday night. “I know they do this a lot in soccer around the world, these in-season tournaments. I don’t know how it’s going to work, the details of it. But if it’s good for the game and the league supports it, obviously all 30 teams and all 30 head coaches will be on board as well. ”

The scheduling process for next season starts with teams telling the league what dates their home arena is available. The NBA wants that list by Dec. 9; the process continues for the next several months.

Wednesday’s memo included clarity on several key dates for the 2023-24 season. Training camps will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 3 for most teams, except those participating in overseas preseason games; they can open camp on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The season begins Oct. 24 and ends April 14, 2024. The play-in tournament will be April 16-19, 2024, and that means that season’s playoffs would begin on April 20.