Three Things to Know: Mavericks win, move past Warriors into No. 3 seed in West


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 that make the NBA great.

1) Mavericks win, move past slumping Warriors into No. 3 seed in West

The Golden State Warriors can claim a moral victory — if you think Draymond Green would actually allow such a thing — because Thursday they played their best game since Stephen Curry went out. It just still counts as a loss in the standings because they played the Suns, who remain the best team in basketball.

The Dallas Mavericks got the kind of win good teams do: They were sluggish on the second night of a back-to-back, but in the third quarter Luka Doncic found a place to attack the Cavaliers defense (sorry Kevin Love), and Dorian Finney-Smith was the beneficiary getting open looks from 3 that he buried. The Mavs dominated the third 39-22, and from there Dallas found a way to win.

With the Mavericks’ win and the Warriors’ loss, Dallas wakes up the No. 3 seed in the West. The Warriors slide back to No. 4.

Why does that matter? Everyone wants to be on the 2/3 side of the bracket out West to avoid the Suns as long as possible.

The Warriors could use that extra time away from Phoenix to get healthy — Stephen Curry is still not back in the lineup with a sprained foot — and to get their mojo back and flowing.

That mojo looked a lot better on Wednesday night when the Curryless Warriors hung with the Suns behind a better defense than we have seen from them recently and Jordan Poole tying his career-high with 38.

How much do the Warriors trust Poole right now? Watch Green lead the fast break, have an open Klay Thompson in the corner (at the bottom of the screen) and choose to give the rock to Poole for a 3. And Draymond chose wisely.

In the clutch, the Warriors made mistakes — Green traveled, Poole took a heave from halfcourt when he had time to get a better shot — and it feels like the Suns never do. Phoenix isn’t just the best team in the NBA, it is by far the best clutch team in the NBA. Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges each had 22 to lead the Suns.

For the Warriors, this felt like a moral victory, except as Green said after the game, “We don’t do moral victories around here.” That’s four straight losses and 7-of-8 for the Warriors.

Then Green added, “But I think tonight, we found ourselves. We found our competitive spirit, we found our defense, and that’s something that we can build on.”

It’s a start. The problem is Doncic and the Mavericks have already found all that, are playing their best basketball of the season, and right now are the better team. The standings reflect that.

2) CJ McCollum gets standing ovation in return to Portland

Portland fans love CJ McCollum — his game, his leadership, his work in the community — and they let him know it Wednesday night.

McCollum — traded to the Pelicans at the deadline — got a standing ovation from the Trail Blazers crowd.

McCollum then reminded Portland fans he can flat-out ball and dropped 25 on the home team.

The outcome of the game was no surprise. The Pelicans are playing to secure the No. 9 seed and get in the play-in, the Trail Blazers are tanking, and the result was a 117-107 New Orleans win. Brandon Ingram added 19 for the Pelicans, Devin Eubanks led the Blazers with 21.

3) Heat execute in clutch, hold on to first in East with win over Celtics

This felt like a playoff game. Not just the intensity but the physicality — the referees let this play like a playoff game.

Miami’s halfcourt offense — a big question for the Heat in the postseason when the games slow down — wasn’t great (90 net rating), but it was better than Boston’s (80.7) as Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry hit some big shots down the stretch. Miami has leaned too much on Tyler Herro late in games; on Wednesday, Lowry and Jimmy Buckets made plays in the halfcourt.

This was a good win for the Heat. Not just because it secured a playoff spot and put them one game up on the surging Bucks for the No. 1 seed, but because the Heat looked like a dangerous playoff team again. The execution late was a step in the right direction.

Boston’s halfcourt offense struggled in this one — the Celtics scored two points over the final 4:15 of the game. Miami is a top-five defensive team and in the clutch Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart all had turnovers and mistakes.

Grant Williams got the start with Robert Williams out, Daniel Theis did his best with 15 points, but the Heat exploited the Boston bigs in a way they could not have if the Time Lord were out there.

There is a very real chance that Miami and Boston are the second-round matchup, and if so it will be a bruising battle — and a fun one to watch, if this game was any indication.

Highlight of the Night: Jalen Green jumped out of the building to finish this alley-oop

We have not been showing enough Jalen Green highlights in this space. The Rockets’ wildly athletic rookie has been putting them up, nightly, it seems, and has played better basketball of late. He deserves some flowers for all of that.

Here is Green jumping out of the building to bring down an alley-oop on Wednesday night.

Green is not going to win Rookie of the Year like some of us predicted, but he is deserving of a spot on one of the All-Rookie teams.

Yesterday’s scores:

Mavericks 120, Cavaliers 112
Nuggets 125, Pacers 118
Wizards 127, Magic 110
Heat 106, Celtics 98
Hornets 125, Knicks 114
Raptors 125, Timberwolves 102
Kings 121, Rockets 118
Hawks 136, Thunder 118
Grizzlies 112, Spurs 111
Suns 107, Warriors 103
Pelicans 117, Trail Blazers 107

Lakers question coming in August: Extend Anthony Davis, or wait?

2023 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Anthony Davis had an incredible playoff run: 22.6 points and 14.1 rebounds a game while looking like the best defender in the league. It was a reminder of why he has a championship ring and what he is capable of when healthy.

Coming off that, should the Lakers offer him a contract extension?

Davis is under contract for $40.6 million next season, with an early termination option (essentially a player option) for the 2024-25 season for $43.2 million. Come August, the Lakers can offer Davis an extension of up to three years, $167 million (approximately, it would depend on the official salary cap numbers).

Should the Lakers? ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on Get Up that locking Davis up so he can’t test free agency in 2024 will be a priority and they will extend him. However, on Sedano and Kap on ESPNLA, ESPN’s Lakers beat writer Dave McMenamin was more cautious. (Hat tip Real GM.)

“Certainly, the Lakers’ thinking ever since they acquired Anthony Davis is that it’s an Anthony Davis, LeBron James combo deal. With LeBron James only under contract for sure for another year with a player option the following year., and with him openly contemplating retirement at this stage of his career… But you just don’t do it. You play out this year with him. You see where things stand with him and LeBron. Obviously, then you risk the second year he has left, he can opt-out and leave as a free agent…

“You hope Anthony Davis stays healthy and you get the best out of him next year. But I don’t think they’re going to be in a position to be interested in a long-term extension for him this summer.”

At its core, this comes down to LeBron James and his future. If he retires, leaves, or in whatever way is not on the Lakers after the summer of 2024, as great as Davis can be, he is not the No. 1 option the Lakers would want to rebuild around. At that point, the Lakers would want to move on, although trading Davis (or completing a sign-and-trade) would be the Lakers’ preferred option, bringing back pick and young players to help jumpstart whatever comes next.

If LeBron is still a Laker in 2024-25, the Lakers would want Davis on the roster.

It’s not an easy decision for the Lakers, but with an increasingly strict CBA looming, it’s understandable if the Lakers want to wait and see how this season plays out before committing to Davis.

James Harden reportedly “torn” over Philadelphia vs. Houston

2023 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Reports of James Harden strongly considering a Houston reunion have grown stronger throughout the season, with reporting on it here at NBC Sports and across the NBA media universe.

But would Harden really leave a contending team in Philadelphia to go to a rebuilding Houston team? He appears torn on his decision, Shams Charania of The Athletic said on The Ryen Russillo Podcast (hat tip Real GM).

“We’re less than a month out from free agency starting. I really think he’s torn with the prospect of staying in Philadelphia or moving on to Houston potentially and returning back to his home. That’s where his roots are and his family there of course. They’ve got upwards of $60 million [in cap space]. They can make even more money available. Close to $70 million in cap space. They’re going to have a ton of money and I think this is a team in Houston where I do believe they are going to be aggressive in the marketplace…

“My sense right now is this is someone that is torn. I think whichever way it goes, it’s going to be relatively close. That’s why as we get closer to July 1, June 30th, those conversations that he’s going to have, as he becomes a free agent, with Nick Nurse [the new 76ers coach] and with Daryl Morey, what their vision is for him, what their vision is for that team, what that offer ultimately is going to be versus comparing it to whatever Houston comes with on June 30th or July 1, those are all very important factors. This is a guy that you would assume would sit down with both teams. Philadelphia is going to have a window earlier, potentially going in and scheduling meetings. This is a situation now where we’re going to see which way it lands.”

Both league sources NBC Sports has spoken with and other media members traveling with the NBA Finals — Harden has been a topic of conversation over meals — think Houston is the frontrunner. There is almost an expectation in league circles that Harden will be a Rocket next season, though nobody feels anything is decided.

Is that the right move for the Rockets? They have an interesting young core with whoever they draft at No.4 plus Jalen Green, Alperen Şengün, Kevin Porter Jr., Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason and others, but it’s not got a group ready to win a lot of games on the NBA level yet. The Rockets have been through three years of a rebuild and the reports are ownership wants to start seeing wins and a playoffs trip. Harden gets them closer to that now, but at what cost to building a long-term winner and culture?

The ball is in Harden’s court. The only real questions are, has he decided, and how much would the Rockets offer? (The max is four years, $201 million, but do they want to pay him $50 million a season for four years with where his skills are currently and are trending?)

Miami thrives in adversity. How will Denver respond to adversity in Game 3?


MIAMI —We know how the Miami Heat handle adversity. Their ability to deal with it is why we’re still watching them play.

“We faced a lot of adversity during the season,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team evened the NBA Finals at 1-1. “We handled it the right way where you are not making excuses about it, the injuries, the changes lineups. Because of all that adversity and the 57 close games that happened, due to a lot of that, it hardened us. It steeled us and we developed some grit, which is what we all want.”

The question heading into Sunday is how will the Nuggets handle adversity? Denver was the No. 1 seed for most of the season, has been up in every series 2-0 entering Game 3, and only lost three games in the West playoffs. While Denver has faced challenges during the season it had a very different path to this point than Miami.

“What I know about our group is for years now we’ve handled adversity very well,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I have no doubt that tomorrow night will be a much more disciplined, urgent team for 48 minutes.”

“Discipline” was one of the buzzwords around the Nuggets on Tuesday, heading into Game 3. The Heat players sounded like themselves, focused but a little looser, a little more comfortable at home in a familiar environment.

“This is who we are,” Kevin Love said. “Obviously when it’s time to get down to business, our focus is all the way there during our prep, during our film session… But when we’re working we still like to have fun and keep it loose. It keeps us loose out there on the court starting the game and throughout 48 minutes. But it’s not without intention and the willingness to do whatever it takes.”

A change in tone was more evident among the Nuggets. To a man they talked about urgency, discipline and communication.

The Nuggets also had a straightforward, honest film session out of Game 2.

“I showed 17 clips this morning,” Malone said. “Every clip was a discipline clip, if you will, where our discipline, whether it was game plan, whether it was personnel, whether it was defending without fouling, whatever it may be, 17 clips added up to over 40 points in Game 2.

“That, to me, is staggering. What we can do better is just be a lot more disciplined in terms of the game plan, who I’m guarding. Most of that stems from communication.”

Actually, the Nuggets may need to watch their communication during the game.

“We probably could communicate a little bit better and also just be more aware of the actions they are running,” Michael Porter Jr. said. “But also they are playing off of our coverages, they are hearing what we are communicating to each other and they’re doing the opposite. If we say ‘switch,’ they are slipping out for open threes and if we don’t say ‘switch,’ they are actually going to set the screen.

“So they do a really good job of playing off of what our game plan is. So that’s what this film session was about this morning, fixing that. So hopefully they won’t get as many open shots.”

Malone called out his players after Game 2, although he was quick to say it was more them calling themselves out.

Denver has been challenged, by their coach and Miami. How will it respond to this adversity?

“Yeah, we’re probably going to see tomorrow, are we going to respond well or not,” Nikola Jokić said. “That’s the answer.”

Coach, front office updates from around NBA: Fizdale headed to Suns bench


Things continue to move and settle around the NBA as teams find coaches (well, except Toronto) and some front office personnel move around. Here is the latest around the league.

• Former Grizzlies and Knicks head coach David Fizdale, an associate general manager with the Jazz last season, is returning to the bench as an assistant on Frank Vogel’s staff in Phoenix, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Fizdale and Vogel are tight, remember Fizdale was in the bubble on Vogel’s staff when the Lakers won a ring. Give new owner Mat Ishbia credit for spending, he made Kevin Young the highest-paid assistant coach in the league to stay with the team and has now hired a former head coach to be a top assistant. That’s a lot of coaching firepower, now the Suns just need to fill out the roster with some firepower around Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

• If you want to become a general manager in the NBA, the best way is to be an assistant GM for Sam Presti in Oklahoma City. Apparently. Presti has had five different assistant GMs under him and now all five have gone on to be general managers elsewhere.

The latest is Will Dawkins, who will be the GM and No. 2 in the power structure in Washington under new team president (and former Clippers GM) Michael Winger, reports Josh Robbins and David Aldridge of The Athletic.

Also in the front office in Washington is former Hawks GM Travis Schlenk. That’s a lot of brain power and good hires. The question remains how much freedom owner Ted Leonsis — a guy who demanded his team do whatever it took just to make the playoffs every year — will give Winger, Dawkins and company. The team has big decisions this summer with Kyle Kuzma as a free agent and Kristaps Porzingis expected to opt out.

• The Milwaukee Bucks finally made the hiring of Adrian Griffin as their head coach official.

“Adrian is a widely-respected coach and former player, who brings great leadership and experience to our team,” Bucks General Manager Jon Horst said in a statement. “His championship-level coaching pedigree, character, basketball acumen and ability to connect with and develop players make him the ideal choice to lead our team. He has earned this opportunity.”