Though Golden State had the game in hand (really, unlike Game 2) by the time the players were ejected, the techs were a much bigger deal for the Warriors. Durant will stick around the playoffs long enough there’s a real risk of him getting seven technical fouls and automatic ejection.
That concern was heightened in the Warriors’ Game 3 win last night when Durant and JaMychal Green received double techs.
The NBA playoffs are underway and there can be a lot to unpack in a series of intense games, to help out we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Ben Simmons drives right to basket, into the heart of Brooklyn, leads Sixers to a road win.Jared Dudley has become enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia for saying out loud what has been in every scouting report on the 76ers all season:
Jared Dudley dropping gems at media availability: "Ben Simmons is a great player in transition. And once you get him into halfcourt, he's average."
Ben Simmons answered that with his best game of the playoffs Thursday night, driving to get to his right hand at the rim all night long, and the Nets could do nothing to stop him. Simmons was 9-of-10 from inside eight feet of the rim, took just one shot outside the paint all night (an 11-foot hook shot he banked in), scored 31 points and led Philadelphia to a 131-115 win in a game Joel Embiid sat out to rest his knee.
Simmons made his statement and won the argument with Dudley…
Whatever it took to get this aggressive Simmons, this is the guy Philadelphia needed. He did have help — Tobias Harris was 6-of-6 from three and had 29 points, while J.J. Redick added 26 — but with Embiid out Simmons has to be the catalyst.
D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert each had 26 to lead Brooklyn.
With the win the Sixers are now up 2-1 and in control of the series, making Saturday’s Game 4 basically must-win for the Nets.
Brooklyn could use to be a little more efficient on offense — 8-of-39 from three, as they did Thursday, is not good enough — but the more significant issue is defensive. Brooklyn has to find a way to slow the Sixers, and that starts with keeping Simmons from getting the shots he wants going to his right hand. If Simmons is still attacking and getting his shots, this series will be over soon.
2) Kevin Durant reminds everyone exactly who he is, scores 38 in Warriors blowout win. Doc Rivers was prophetic before his Clippers took on the Warriors in Game 3 Thursday night. Just not in a way he wanted.
“If we get down 31 again, it’s not going to turn out well,” Rivers said.
They did and it didn’t.
Golden State went up by 31 with 7:10 in the third quarter Thursday night. That score and game time was very similar to when the Clippers came back from that record deficit to even the series on Tuesday. However, this time the Warriors did not lose focus, they did not take their foot off the gas and let the Clippers back in the game. Golden State held on to win 132-105, and it wasn’t that close.
The Warriors now lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 on Easter in Los Angeles.
Through 12 quarters of play, the Warriors have completely dominated 10 of them so far. They have been much the better side in this series.
Thursday was Kevin Durant’s turn to dominate as he finished with 38 points. The Warriors made some adjustments on how they attacked the Clippers’ “top lock” defense, leading to a lot of shots at the rim. Durant got more touches where he could isolate and shoot over the smaller Patrick Beverley, although though when Clippers switched up to a taller defender Durant torched them, too. It was just his night.
The Clippers also need to find some offensive outlets. The Warriors did a good job making life hard for Lou Williams (4-of-11 shooting) and Los Angeles struggled to get consistent buckets, shooting 37.2 percent as a team for the game, including going 7-of-32 from three.
The Warriors are in control of this series, they have been all along when they didn’t get bored. These Clippers do not quit, they will be feisty again on Sunday, but that alone will not be enough. Los Angeles needs to find some offense and a way to slow down Kevin Durant. Good luck with that.
3) Derrick White puts Spurs in control of series with Nuggets. Derrick White is a vintage Spurs story. What received zero Division I scholarship offers out of high school, so he played three years of Division II ball, but impressed enough that he transferred to Colorado for his senior season. After impressing there, the Spurs picked him 27th in the 2017 NBA draft in one of those “that could be a good fit,” picks San Antonio always seems to make.
Two years later, White “came out of nowhere” to score 36 points, be +30, outplay Kentucky product Jamal Murray, and lead the Spurs to a Game 3 win. Even Denver coach Mike Malone was impressed.
Denver’s defensive strategy the first couple of games this series was, basically, to not cover White — he was the guy they helped off of, and they dared him to shoot from the outside. On Thursday the Spurs and White attacked that strategy having him cut to the basket or, when the ball swung to him, drive into that space and get buckets. The Spurs also used White as a pick-and-roll ball handler to get the switch because Nikola Jokic isn’t quick enough to stop White in space. It all worked brilliantly.
Now the adjustments fall to Malone and the Denver staff, who already have to scheme for LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan and their midrange games. What it also means is Murray is going to have to step up his game and start winning the battles with White. Denver’s starters need to do better, they cannot get outplayed like they did in Game 3.
If they do, or if White goes off again, the Nuggets will be in too big a hole to climb out of it. A first round exit for the No. 2 seed would be a disappointment.
Stephen Curry’s 38 points lead Warriors to Game 1 win over Clippers
OAKLAND, Calif. —Stephen Curry scored 38 points and made eight 3-pointers to give him the most in postseason history, and the top-seeded Golden State Warriors began their quest for a three-peat by running away from the frustrated Los Angeles Clippers for a 121-104 victory in their playoff opener Saturday on a night tempers flared.
Kevin Durant and Patrick Beverley were ejected with 4:41 to go, just 19 seconds after they received double-technicals when Durant stripped Beverley and the Clippers guard fell into the scorer’s table. They both became enraged again and official Ed Malloy immediately sent them both to the locker room. Durant high-fived fans as he exited and the home crowd went into chants of “Beat L.A.!”
Curry shot 8 for 12 from deep to pass Ray Allen (385) for career postseason 3s with 386, had a postseason career-high 15 rebounds, seven assists and the 31st 30-point postseason performance of his career.
Perhaps this old, heated rivalry still has all the testiness of years past – just with new faces all around.
These teams are meeting for just the second time in the postseason after the Clippers took a seven-game, first-round series in 2014 when the California franchises had a deep dislike for each other.
Game 2 is Monday night back at Oracle Arena.
Draymond Green got Golden State going by making all five of his shots in the first quarter on the way to 17 points to go with seven assists and seven rebounds, while Durant scored 23 points as the Warriors ran their postseason winning streak to seven games.
On one of his marvelous 3s, the two-time MVP knocked one down from way back late in the third, nearly did the splits in the air and landed on his behind – still smiling all the while.
Montrezl Harrell scored 26 points and fellow reserve Lou Williams contributed 25 points and nine assists as Los Angeles returned to the playoffs after missing last season following six straight appearances.
Beverley, who missed last Sunday’s 131-104 loss at Oracle because of a right hip pointer and was booed during pregame introductions, didn’t score in the first half and wound up with three points on 1-for-7 shooting, seven assists and seven rebounds.
He and Durant received double-technicals with 5 minutes left before they got into it again.
The Clippers lost their cool on a couple of occasions, and that hurt playing in an already difficult road arena.
Danilo Gallinari‘s technical in the final minute of the second only further fueled the home crowd, and Curry capitalized as the Warriors ran to a 69-56 halftime advantage.
Los Angeles played in the final regular-season game at Oracle, then the first playoff game of the last postseason run before the Warriors move to San Francisco and new Chase Center later this year.
Three Things to Know: James Harden, Chris Paul combine for 60 to lead rout of Clippers
We all know the Rockets can score, but that was not the most impressive part of this win — their switching defense threw off the Clipper pick-and-roll heavy offense and smothered it.
The Clippers had an offensive net rating of 101 (points per 100 possessions) through the competitive portion of this game, that is 11.4 below their season average (stats via Cleaning the Glass). This is not something Houston just did in Los Angeles, in its last 10 games the Rockets have the second-best defense in the NBA. Houston is back to looking more like the Rockets of last season, the team that was up at halftime of Game 7 against the Warriors.
That was too much for Los Angeles.
The Clippers (who were without Patrick Beverley, for rest) are not going to be intimidated, they are not going to let one regular season game be a statement on a potential playoff matchup. This team plays too hard and is too well coached to just roll over.
However, when the Rockets play like this, they are contenders. And they are in a different class than the Clippers.
2) Orlando wins and is in, Miami loses and is out in the East. For now. The best race going in the NBA is for the final playoff spots in the East, and it got shaken up Wednesday night.
The Orlando Magic won, beating the Knicks 114-110, while Miami, Detroit, and Brooklyn all lost. That had the effect of moving Orlando past Miami into the final playoff spot in the East by half a game, tied with Brooklyn for the 7/8 seeds. Detroit is just half a game ahead of those two, Miami just half a game behind.
Nothing is set. That said Miami has the longest odds — fivethirtyeight.com has it at a 29 percent chance to make the playoffs — because it has the toughest schedule. The Heat play at the Timberwolves, then closes out with three playoff teams: at Toronto, Philadelphia, at Brooklyn. Orlando, by contrast, has surging Atlanta, is at Boston, then closes at Charlotte (just one playoff team in there). The more likely team to slide out of the playoffs and let Miami in is Brooklyn, which closes at Milwaukee, at Indiana, and then plays the Heat in what could be a huge game on the final night of the season.
The wild card in all this is rest — if when the Magic play the Celtics does Kyrie Irving or Al Horford get the night off for rest? When Brooklyn takes on Milwaukee will Giannis Antetokounmpo play? Those kinds of things could have huge swings in the race, and they are unpredictable.
It’s going to be a fun final week.
3) Gregg Popovich gets tossed 63 seconds into Spurs eventual loss to Nuggets. There was another potential first-round playoff matchup in the West Wednesday night, when the Denver Nuggets took on the San Antonio Spurs.
Gregg Popovich didn’t want to stick around and see it. Down 5-0 just 63 seconds into the game, Popovich called a timeout to argue some calls and got tossed for his trouble.
This isn’t a stat the NBA tracks, but it is believed to be the fastest ejection of a coach in NBA history (Flip Saunders did it in 66 seconds once).
If this ends up being a first-round matchup, it should worry the Spurs. Nikola Jokic led Denver with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists, the Nuggets had a season-high 41 assists, and the game was never in doubt as Denver won 113-85. Denver took all its frustrations from a tough night on Tuesday against Golden State out on San Antonio.
Giannis Antetokounmpo aggravates ankle, leaves game vs. Clippers (VIDEO)
MILWAUKEE —Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to fight through a right ankle injury that has hampered him over the last two weeks.
But the Milwaukee Bucks forward may need some rest to get fully healthy before the playoffs start in mid-April. And his status was of prime concern after the Bucks’ 128-118 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
Giannis limped to the Bucks bench with an apparent lower leg injury after stepping on Garrett Temple's foot in the 4th quarter. He remained on the bench, but did not return to the game. pic.twitter.com/2XV7zfeVVw
Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds before aggravating his ankle injury in the fourth quarter as the Bucks snapped Los Angeles’ six-game winning streak. Milwaukee (57-19) reduced its magic number to two for clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Antetokounmpo went to the floor and held his right ankle after dunking with 7:46 left in the game, and he immediately went to the bench and didn’t return. He missed two games last week with a sprain to the same ankle, initially suffered on March 17 vs. Philadelphia.
“I’m definitely working on it, trying to get it healthy, stronger,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m trying to get my mobility back. It’s not going to be easy.
“Usually when you sprain your ankle, you stay out for two, three, four games. But I don’t like missing games. I’ve got to work through it while playing. I’ll be ready to play until coach (Mike Budenholzer) tells me not to play.”
The Bucks open a three-game trip in Atlanta on Sunday before finishing the season with three home games.
“I think we all are hoping he can push through and be healthy going forward,” Budenholzer said. “We’ll see how he’s feeling after tonight and either bring out the bubble wrap or keep playing.”
Khris Middleton had a season-high 39 points with eight rebounds and five assists as Milwaukee won its fourth straight. Eric Bledsoe added 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and Sterling Brown finished with 15 points.
Middleton hit 16 of 24 shots from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
“I’m feeling good,” Middleton said. “The Houston game was just a dud. I had a lot of great shots and air-balled most of them, I felt like (on Tuesday in the Bucks’ victory). Tonight, I came out with the same mentality, just being aggressive and pick my spots. I was just trying to find a rhythm.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was impressed with Antetokounmpo’s play and joked that the Bucks star and Houston’s James Harden should share the MVP award so “everybody in the world is happy.”
“The thing I like about Giannis the most is his temperament,” Rivers said. “He is not messing around. He is not there to put on a show. Every game is a competition for him. I love that. For me, of all the things he does, that is the No. 1 thing that stands out with me.”
The Bucks led 67-46 at halftime as Antetokounmpo had 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Middleton added 15 points and Brown 10 as Milwaukee shot 55.8 percent from the field (24 of 43).
“I think the second quarter stood out,” Budenholzer said after his team outscored the Clippers 39-21, in the period. “We were able to get quite a bit of separation and weather the storm in the second half.”
Los Angeles went on an 8-1 run to open the second half, cutting its deficit to 14 and forcing Budenholzer to call a timeout.
The Bucks led 79-69 before going on a 9-2 run capped by a 3-pointer by Pat Connaughton, putting them ahead 88-71 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Middleton completed a four-point play late in the quarter and had 13 points in the period as the Bucks took a 100-77 lead entering the fourth.