Three Things to Know: How happy is Curry to have Draymond Green back?

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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) How happy is Stephen Curry to have Draymond Green back?

Draymond Green walks through the door with a level of swagger the Warriors have been missing — an attitude they need if the Warriors are going to add another banner to the rafters.

“Whether we’re two seed or three seed, we’re going to win a championship, so it don’t really matter,” Green said after the game.

Nobody was happier to see Green back than Curry. For all the talk about Green’s defense — and he was leading the Defensive Player of the Year race when he got injured — his ball movement and offensive creation and just as critical to the Warriors. Green’s first play upon his return was a pass to Curry for a triple — and look at the smile on Curry’s face afterward.

Curry was smiling a lot as he dropped 47 points on his birthday, breaking out of any slump he was in — not so coincidentally when Green returned to the team.

Curry was playing so well Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tried to get him to sub out late.

Green is the beating heart of the Warriors and it showed in a comfortable Warriors win, 126-112 over the Wizards. It’s not just his play on the court — although that makes everything else possible — it’s his emotion, his swagger that feeds Warriors basketball. The Warriors played with an energy, a vitality, a fire they had lacked for a couple of months while Green was out with a back issue.

The Warriors looked like contenders again on Monday. Green is right, they can win another ring with him back on the court.

2) MVP frontrunners Embiid, Jokic go head-to-head, Bones Hyland comes out winner

On a night where Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic went head-to-head for the first time since 2019, on a night where the two frontrunners could make an MVP statement for that award, the race didn’t change at all.

Embiid did his thing with 34 points on 20 shots, got to the line nine times and pulled down nine rebounds. Jokic also did what he does, 23 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. The dimes were jaw-dropping.

In the horserace for MVP, this was not game changing any voters’ minds. (Also, if a voter is going to cast their ballot for a season-long award based on one game out of 82, maybe that voter needs to step back and rethink their process.)

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon’s hot take was the best of the night.

A clear dig at James Harden (who had 24 and 11 on the night). But Denver’s supporting cast was overall better, and that’s why they got the win.

Specifically, it was rookie Bones Hyland who showed out. On a night more than 600 family and friends (by his own estimation) came out to watch the Delaware kid play, he scored 21 and hit four 3-pointers in the fourth to fuel the Nuggets win.

After a fast start against weaker teams, the Harden/Embiid 76ers again looked vulnerable against a good team. Once again, the biggest problem for Philly was transition defense. Denver had 29 fast-break points to Philadelphia’s 11, and the Nuggets had a 138.9 offensive rating in transition for the night (stat via Cleaning the Glass).

Philly has some work to do. Both Embiid and Jokic have work to do, too, if they want to secure the MVP trophy at the end of the season.

3) Karl-Anthony Towns scores NBA season-high 60

Karl-Anthony Towns declared himself the greatest shooting big man of All-Time after winning the All-Star weekend 3-point Shooting Contest.

He looked like that guy on Monday night, hitting 11-of-14 shots at the rim, he was 6-of-10 shooting straight-on 3-pointers from the top of the arc, and he was 15-of-16 at the free throw line.

Towns took over the game with 32 points in the third quarter alone on his way to a 60-point night.

That 60 is the most scored in an NBA game this season (topping both LeBron James and Trae Young, who each had a 56-point night).

Towns finished the night shooting 19-of-31 plus pulled down 17 rebounds. Minnesota got the win over the Spurs, improving to 40-30 on the season.

Highlight of the Night: Evan Mobley shuts down Zubac at the rim

When Evan Mobley wins Rookie of the Year, don’t simply compare stat lines with Cade Cunningham and Scottie Barnes. Remember the defensive impact Mobley has made with the Cavaliers since Day 1.

On this play Monday night, Mobley contests the shot of the Clippers’ Amir Coffey, then recovers and blocks Ivica Zubac‘s dunk.

Mobley is going to be a special player in this league.

Yesterday’s scores:

Cleveland 120, LA Clippers 111 (OT)
Atlanta 122, Portland 113
Denver 114, Philadelphia 110
Charlotte 134, Oklahoma City 116
Minnesota 149, San Antonio 139
Golden State 126, Washington 112
Sacramento 112, Chicago 103
Milwaukee 117, Utah 111
Toronto 114, LA Lakers 103

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

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
Nick Grace/Getty Images
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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

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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
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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.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.