Three things to know: Curry drops 50 yet Warriors still winless on road


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 must-watch.

1) Curry drops 50 yet Warriors still winless on road


The Warriors have a defensive rating this season of 113.6, 25th in the NBA.

The Warriors’ winless road record and the fact they can’t get a stop go hand-in-hand — and not even a 50-spot from Stephen Curry can change that.

That was Curry’s 11th 50-point game.

Curry was epic, but the Suns put up 130 at home and not even Curry’s greatness could match that. Phoenix is without two starters — Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson — but is doing what elite teams do: trust their depth and find wins. Cameron Payne had 29 points including six 3-pointers filling in for CP3, Devin Booker added a smooth 27, and the Suns shot 21-of-40 from 3 as a team to pick up the win.

A frustrated Steve Kerr referred to the team’s play as a pickup game — code for individual play and no commitment to defense. Kerr didn’t hold back after the loss.

“If somebody helps on a rotation, crack back and help on the big guy. If things aren’t going well, somebody call the group into the foul line, get everybody together and motivate the group.

“All that stuff is missing right now. I saw a lot of hanging heads tonight. I think we’re feeling sorry for ourselves. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. Everyone can’t wait to play us and kick our ass. We’ve had a lot of success and a lot of fun, a lot of joy beating people over the years and teams don’t forget that. So they’re having their fun now, as they should.

“I’ve always felt the game rewards you if you commit to the game. If you really compete together, shots go in, calls go your way, breaks fall your way. We’re not earning any of that stuff. That’s why we’re winless on the road. It’s a pickup game.”

Most of the Warriors’ struggles have been in the half-court defensively, where they are bottom 10 in the league (via Cleaning the Glass), but the offensive struggles are letting teams run on them more than the Warriors might like as well. However, as Kerr noted, the larger issue is the commitment in the half-court right now.

There are other concerns in Golden State, such as the inconsistent play of Jordan Poole (0-of-5 against the Suns) and Klay Thompson still trying to find his shot (6-of-17). But the Warriors’ four rings are built on an elite defense — last season they entered the playoffs with the best defense in the NBA. If the Warriors have dreams of a repeat — or just winning a game on the road — it has to start on the defensive end of the floor.

2) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drains stepback game-winner against Wizards

We wrote a few days ago that we’re not talking enough about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

We’re talking about him today after he drained a game-winning stepback 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to cap off a career-high 42-point night, lifting the Thunder past the Wizards 121-120.

Bradley Beal looked like he might have hit the game-winner with his midrange jumper with 6.1 seconds left, putting the Wizards up 120-118 on the road. But that left enough time for Gilgeous-Alexander to get one last chance.

Beal finished with 25 points in his first game back after missing five (three when in the league’s health and safety protocols), while Kristaps Porzingis added 27. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 of his points in the second half.

Gilgeous-Alexander is playing at an All-NBA/bottom of the MVP ballot level this season, and we’ll be talking a lot about him and the 7-8 Thunder.

3) Celtics win streak up to 8, Cavaliers losing streak reaches 5

The streaks for two of the East’s top teams continue: The Celtics upped their win streak to eight, while the Cavaliers dropped their fifth straight.

Boston got a comfortable 126-101 win over the Hawks. The Celtics won this one with depth. Jayson Tatum (19 points) and Jaylen Brown (22) had off shooting nights, and the Celtics were already without Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon.

So the role players stepped up: Grant Williams had 18 points with four 3-pointers, Derrick White finished 16 points and 10 assists, Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet each had 15 points, while Payton Pritchard chipped in with 14 points. That balanced scoring was too much for the Hawks.

For Cleveland, no Jarrett Allen (sore left ankle) and this team continues to struggle when all its stars are not on the court. Evan Mobley could not slow Brook Lopez (29 points, including seven 3-pointers), Giannis Antetokounmpo was getting anywhere he wanted to go, and it was all too easy for the Bucks.

Allen is the defensive lynchpin for the Cavaliers and without him they’re not near the same team on that end.

On the bright side for the Cavaliers, Mobley had a better, more fluid offensive game with 20 points — he has struggled to find his offensive fit playing with Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell (both guards and 23 in this game).

Next up for the Cavaliers is the injury-riddled Charlotte Hornets. Cleveland needs to break its streak there because things get tough after that (Hawks and Heat back-to-back).

Edwards, Brunson, Reaves reportedly among commitments to play for USA at World Cup

2023 NBA Playoffs - Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks
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Steve Kerr will be coaching a roster filled with some of the most engaging young stars of the NBA at the World Cup this summer.

Names are starting to leak out of who has accepted invitations to play for USA Basketball this August and September, and it feels like a who’s who of the best young players in the league: Anthony Edwards, Jalen Brunson, Tyrese Haliburton, Mikal Bridges, Austin Reaves and Bobby Portis.

This is just the start of the roster, but it is a young and athletic group that can shoot, move the ball and play at pace — deep wells of athleticism have long been one of the USA’s biggest strengths in international competitions.

The World Cup will feature 32 teams around the globe in an almost three-week competition. The USA is in Group C with Greece and Giannis Antetokounmpo (assuming he plays), New Zealand (Steven Adams, if he plays) and Jordan.

The USA will be coached in this World Cup by Kerr, Erik Spoelstra of Miami, Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mark Few of Gonzaga. The USA will meet for a camp in Las Vegas and play Puerto Rico there as a tuneup before heading to Abu Dhabi and eventually on to the World Cup in the Philippines. The World Cup starts Aug. 25 and continues through Sept. 10, and the U.S. will play all of its games in Manila.

The World Cup is the primary qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics (the USA does not automatically qualify as the reigning gold medalist). USA Basketball President Grant Hill has said that playing in the World Cup is not a prerequisite for playing in the Olympics.

Phil Knight says he still wants to buy Trail Blazers, still waiting for team to be available

Phil Knight Legacy Tournament - Mens Championship: Duke v Purdue
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Phil Knight — not a man known for his patience — is waiting.

The Nike founder still wants the chance to buy the Portland Trail Blazers to ensure they stay in Portland, reports Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal. However, the team remains unavailable. More than a year ago Knight and Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky reportedly offered more than $2 billion to buy the Trail Blazers. Jody Allen, who currently runs the team on behalf of her late brother Paul Allen’s estate, said there is no plan to sell the team right now, and it could be years.

Knight continues to try and buy the team, the Journal reports.

So Knight and Smolinisky tried again, according to a person familiar with their plans. On numerous occasions, including earlier this year, they made it clear to Jody Allen that they still wanted to make a deal. They indicated that they realized the price had gone up and that they were willing to pay more than their initial offer, this person said. Again, Knight’s calls to Jody Allen were diverted to Kolde [Bert Kolde is the Executive Vice President of Sports Strategy at Vulcan Inc., which owns the Blazers and Seahawks], and nothing came of the brief discussions.

A few months ago, Smolinisky even sent a handwritten letter to Jody Allen seeking common ground and saying he and Knight would love to discuss the Blazers with her, according to a person familiar with the matter. In response, Smolinisky received an email from someone replying on Jody Allen’s behalf with a familiar message: Paul Allen’s sports teams aren’t on the market.

Paul Allen died of cancer in 2018 and some reports say his will requires the Trail Blazers — as well as the NFL’s Seahawks — must be sold within 10 years of that date, with the money from the sales going to a variety of charitable causes. We are halfway into that window.

In the case of the Trail Blazers, it would be wise to wait until the new national broadcast rights deal — which is expected to double, at least, the league’s television revenue — is locked in, raising the franchise value. Values have already gone up, with the Phoenix Suns being valued at $4 billion when Mat Ishbia bought them last December.

In the short term, the Trail Blazers and their fans are focused on the NBA Draft, where they have the No. 3 pick but are reportedly open to trading that for the right veteran to put next to Damian Lillard.

Coaching updates from around NBA: Stotts to Bucks, Young paid to stay with Suns

2021 NBA Playoffs - Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets
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In the 24 hours since the last time we put together a list of coaching updates from around the NBA a lot of things transpired, some expected, some not.

Here’s an update on the NBA coaching carousel.

• As was rumored to be coming, former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts will join Adrian Griffin’s staff with the Milwaukee Bucks. This is a smart hire, putting an experienced coach known for creative offense next to the rookie coach on a contending team. With the Bucks getting older and more expensive quickly — 35-year-old Brook Lopez is a free agent this summer — the Bucks don’t have time for a rookie coach to figure things out on the job.

• Kevin Young will stay in Phoenix on Frank Vogel’s staff after new owner Mat Ishbia made him the highest-paid assistant in the league at $2 million a year, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Devin Booker reportedly backed Young to get the head coaching job, although how hard Booker pushed is up for debate. Keeping Young on staff — likely in an offensive coordinator role — next to the defensive-minded Vogel could be a good fit.

• Former Hornets coach James Borrego was in the mix for several jobs but has settled in New Orleans, where he will be on Willie Green’s staff. This team is stacked with offensive talent — Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum — if they can just stay on the court.

• There is now just one head coaching vacancy open around the league, the Toronto Raptors, and they are entering the final interview stages, reports Josh Lewenberg of TSN. Among the finalists for the job are Kings assistant coach Jordi Fernandez and highly-respected European coach Sergio Scariolo (the head coach of the Spanish national team and Virtus Bologna of the Italian league).

• The makeover of the Celtics coaching staff could go even deeper than expected because Ben Sullivan, Mike Moser and Garrett Jackson are all leaving Boston to join Ime Udoka‘s staff in Houston, reports Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

• Former Pacers player Shayne Whittington is now a part of Rick Carlisle’s coaching staff in Indiana.

Hawks’ Trae Young plans to shoot more 3s… is that a good thing?

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six
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Quin Snyder wants his teams to shoot 3-pointers. A lot of them. In his final season as coach of the Utah Jazz, they took 10 more 3-pointers a game than his new Atlanta Hawks team did last season after he took over.

Trae Young has heard his coach and is ready to get up more than the 6.3 attempts a game he took last season.

That’s a good thing… but only if they are “good shots.” It’s good only if Young hits more than the 33.5% he shot from 3 last season.

While he has a reputation as a 3-point marksman, Young is a career 35.1% shooter from 3 and has been below that 35% number in three of his five NBA seasons. (Also concerning for the Hawks and Young’s fit with Dejonte Murray, he shot just 20% on the less than one catch-and-shoot 3 he took a game last season.)

Young has had better years, he shot 38.2% in 2021-22 and he is an offensive force as a creator capable of doing that again. That is the Young Snyder needs.

He also needs Young to buy into his system of ball and player movement more. Last season, 45% of Young’s shots came after he had at least seven dribbles — he pounded the ball into the ground and jacked up a shot without getting teammates involved far too often (77.9% of his shots came after at least three dribbles). Young shot 33.3% on the 3s he took after those seven dribbles, and less than that percentage on 3-pointers taken after three dribbles or more, which were the majority of his attempts.

This coming season will be an important one for Young, who has proven he is an All-Star who can put up numbers and drive an offense — he’s made an All-NBA team for a reason. The question facing him is whether he will fit into a team system that balances multiple shot creators, off-ball movement, willing passers and selflessness — what you can see in the two teams playing in the NBA Finals. Snyder will call pick-and-rolls, he wants his team to hunt mismatches at times, but there has to be more of a flow to what is happening. There can’t be many shots after seven dribbles (and that’s not touching on the defensive concerns around Young).

The Hawks will evolve over the next couple of seasons under Snyder. Where Young fits in that will be something to watch.

But we will see more 3-pointers.