Seth Curry

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Three Things to Know: Luka Doncic makes game look easy in return, Dallas wins

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Luka Doncic makes the game look easy in return, Dallas wins. The best athletes make the game look easy. Roger Federer is graceful and makes tennis look effortless. Lionel Messi makes goal scoring look like something anyone can do, same with Mike Trout hitting a baseball 450 feet.

Luka Doncic returned from missing four games with a sprained ankle on Thursday night and looked rusty at points, winded late in the game, but also had moments where he reminded you just how easy the game can be for him.

Doncic finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists leading Dallas to a 102-98 win against San Antonio Thursday night. It wasn’t just him terrorizing guys like LaMarcus Aldridge on the pick-and-roll (which Doncic did a few times), it’s how he moves and understands spacing and when to make cuts that opens up the floor — and makes Seth Curry look like Pete Maravich.

The other key to this game? Dallas was 16-of-40 from three (40 percent). When Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are hitting from deep (both hit three from beyond the arc in this game) the Mavs are hard to beat.

The Mavericks stayed afloat going 2-2 in the four games Doncic missed. Dallas will be battling Houston (and maybe Utah) the rest of the way for the four seed and home court in the first round, so easing back into a win against the slow-footed Spurs was good for Doncic. Now the Mavs head out to the West Coast for a Warriors then Lakers back-to-back. We’ll see if the game still looks easy against the length of the Lakers.

2) Brooklyn has historically bad shooting night, Spencer Dinwiddie blames “too much eggnog.” Every team has games they just need to flush and move on from over the course of 82; there are just those nights where nothing works.

Brooklyn took that to a new level Thursday night — the Nets were “laughably bad” in the words of point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Consider the stats:

• The Nets 82 points were a new season low.

• Brooklyn shot 26.9 percent for the game (21-for-78), the worst any team has shot the ball in nearly eight years (January 2012)

• The Nets shot 13-of-50 from three, 26 percent.

• It was worse from two.

You got that right, Brooklyn made the fewest two pointers in a game in the shot clock era. And all that against a Knicks defense that has been bottom 10 in the league all season.

So Dinwiddie, how would you describe the night? Via Malika Andrews of ESPN:

“We were really, really bad. Like laughably bad. We shot really bad… Let’s go with too much eggnog. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

He was joking people, lighten up.

The Knicks took advantage behind 30 points from Julius Randle and cruised to a win.

3) It wasn’t pretty. At all. It was downright ugly at the end. But Minnesota finally won, snapping an 11-game losing streak. While in New York one team was being historically bad, the end of the game between the Kings and Timberwolves had both teams just playing terribly.

In the last 15 minutes of this game — the final five minutes of regulation plus the two overtimes — the Timberwolves and Kings combined to shoot 14-of-50 (28 percent) overall and 3-of-21 (14.3 percent) from three. And there were plays like this.

Eventually, Minnesota got a few buckets and held on for a 105-104 victory — the Timberwolves’ first win in December. Gorgui Dieng scored 21 points and Andrew Wiggins had 18 for Minnesota (playing without Karl-Anthony Towns due to a sprained left knee). It’s a win; they will take it.

But it wasn’t pretty.

Watch Seth Curry’s no-look pass to Luka Doncic for a dunk

Associated Press
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Luka Doncic is back on the court for Dallas after missing four games with a tweaked ankle.

Seth Curry welcomed him back with a no-look pass for a dunk — one Doncic loved.

Seth may not pass like his brother, but he has his moments.

The Mavericks and Spurs are locked in a close game midway through the third quarter.

 

Three Things to Know: Luka who? Dallas ends Milwaukee’s 18-game win streak

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Luka who? Dallas ends Milwaukee’s 18-game win streak despite 48 from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Maybe part of it was Mavericks players rallying for their first game without leading scorer Luka Doncic. Maybe no Doncic meant the Bucks mentally relaxed coming in. Maybe part of it was the Bucks looking ahead to the Lakers coming to town Thursday. Or, maybe it was just one of those games that happens to every team over the course of 82, a game the Bucks need to flush and move on from.

Whatever the reason or reasons, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Bucks Monday and ended the NBA’s longest winning streak at 18.

Giannis Antetokounmpo came to play and dropped 48, but it was not enough against a balanced Dallas attack led by Seth Curry and Kristaps Porzingis, each with 26 points. Dallas raced out to an early lead, held off several Bucks rallies, including one in the final minutes, and won 120-116.

The Greek Freak got little help. Bucks not named Antetokounmpo shot 35.1 percent on the night, with Brook Lopez 1-of-8, Khris Middleton 4-of-12, and Eric Bledsoe sidelined with an injury. As a whole, the Bucks shot 26.8 percent from three.

In contrast, Dallas was making shots from the start (well, not the very start, the Bucks got off to an 8-1 lead) and by the end of the first were up 36-22, a lead that swelled to 16 points in the second quarter.

Then, as was the story of the game, the Bucks came storming back and cut the lead to three at the half. To start the third, Antetokounmpo tried to take over and scored 11 straight, but he couldn’t do it on his own, the Mavericks got hot the rest of the way and stretched their lead out to 11 points and keeping it at double digits most of the fourth quarter… until the Bucks made another rally in the final minutes. Another one that just fell short.

For the Bucks, they need to shrug this game off and move on — the measuring stick game is Thursday when LeBron James and teammates come to town.

For the Mavericks (now 10-2 on the road this season), this is the kind of confidence-boosting win they needed. No Doncic for the next two weeks, through a difficult part of the schedule where little was expected. In a tight Western Conference, one stretch of a couple of bad weeks can bounce a team out of home court in the first round. Dallas got the kind of win it needs help keep them afloat while Doncic’s ankle heals.

Dallas also can look at it this way: The Bucks and Lakers have the two best records in the NBA, they sit on the top of their conferences, and it was the Mavericks that snapped each of their double-digit win streaks and handed them their most recent losses.

2) Night of the comebacks: Rockets rally from 25 down to beat Spurs, Thunder come back from 26 down to beat Bulls. This is the NBA. No lead is safe.

San Antonio got up by 25 on Houston late in the first half, but the Rockets opened the second half on a 15-3 run and it was game on from there. San Antonio’s 22-season playoff streak seems like it’s coming to an end, and the reason is the Spurs poor defense (19th in the league) — they could not slow James Harden (28 points, eight rebounds seven assists) or Russell Westbrook (31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists). Throw in a late corner three from P.J. Tucker and the Rockets win 109-107.

That loss dropped the Spurs two full games back of the Thunder for the eighth seed in the West — because the Thunder rallied from 26 down against the Bulls.

Chicago has made a habit of blowing big leads this season, but they outdid themselves on Monday night. Chicago led by 26 in the second quarter and by around 20 for the first part of the third until a 20-7 Oklahoma City run started to change things. Then Chris Paul took over in the fourth quarter.

The Thunder may be just 12-14, but in a surprisingly soft bottom of the West that has them in the playoffs if they started today. Sources around the league don’t expect that to change Oklahoma City’s mindset heading into the trade deadline — the Thunder are starting a rebuild and they know it — but it may make the price to pry a player away from them just a little higher.

3) G-League players to vote in coming week on forming a union. NBA players have a union, the body that negotiates the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the owners and sets the financial and other terms for the league. Compared to the NFL and other sports, NBA players have a powerful union that has gotten them a lot of advantages.

G-League players want the same thing.

Starting Thursday in Las Vegas is the G-League Showcase, an event where every G-League team comes to the desert for a series of games — a chance for NBA GMs and scouts to see every player in one place and get an idea who they might want to grab on 10-day contracts later this season. (It’s also when all those GMs start talking seriously about trades.)

While in Vegas, the National Basketball Players Association — the NBA players’ union — is going to speak to the G-League players about unionizing. The players will cast ballots at the end of the showcase (Sunday), and it’s expected the players will vote to unionize.

What do the players want? More money, of course (the base salary for a G-League player is $35,000 for the season, although players on two-way contracts get more, and players who went to team training camps also usually get a buyout bump for signing with that team’s G-League affiliate). But the players also want some freedom of movement and other perks (more money for travel or housing).

The league is not getting in the way of this. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“We support the players’ right to unionize,” G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim told The Athletic. “We view this as a positive thing and are looking to continue to grow our league for the players to develop and accomplish their dreams.”

This is going to happen — and at a time minor league baseball is at risk of contraction and is fighting with the major leagues, this is a good sign for the NBA.

G-League salaries are not going to see a serious increase unless, in the next CBA, a little of that NBA money starts flowing to G-League players. That’s down the line. For now it’s about the small gains. That’s a start.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 48 not enough, Mavericks snap Bucks’ 18-game win streak

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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks’ 18-game winning streak ended Monday night when Seth Curry and Kristaps Porzingis each scored 26 points to help the Dallas Mavericks hang on for a 120-116 victory even without star guard Luka Dončić.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 48 points and 14 rebounds, but got little support as Milwaukee lost for the first time since a 103-100 setback at Utah on Nov 8.

The winning streak was their longest since a franchise-record 20 consecutive victories by the 1970-71 championship team that featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, and Oscar Robertson.

Dallas led comfortably for most of the fourth quarter until the final half-minute. Tim Hardaway Jr. made the second of two free throws to make it 119-114 with 7.6 seconds left. Antetokounmpo scored on a layup and was fouled, but missed the free throw. Sterling Brown grabbed the offensive rebound, but his putback was blocked by Porzingis.

Dončić sat out with a sprained right ankle, while the Bucks were missing injured point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Milwaukee trailed 86-76 entering the fourth quarter and got no closer than seven until the final 23 seconds. Dallas was 16 of 41 from 3-point range, including four 3s each by Curry and Porzingis. The Bucks went 11 of 41 from beyond the arc.

Kyle Korver added a season-high 17 points for Milwaukee, going 5 of 7 on 3-pointers.

Milwaukee trailed 69-67 when Antetokounmpo went to the bench with 6:32 left in the third quarter, having scored all 11 of the Bucks’ points in the period. Dallas led 75-69 when Antetokounmpo returned after a two-minute breather, and the Mavericks pushed the margin to 80-69.

The Bucks, who trailed by 14 early in the second quarter, finished the first half with an 11-4 run to pull to 59-56 at the break. Antetokounmpo had 21 first-half points, but the remainder of the team was just 14 of 41 from the field.

Dallas was 7 of 13 beyond the arc in the first quarter en route to a 36-22 lead entering the second period.

Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid is having fun again, which was bad news for Boston

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Joel Embiid is having fun again, which was bad news for Boston. This is how special a player Joel Embiid is: After dropping 22 and 10 on Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Tuesday night in a Sixers win, Shaq and Charles Barkley (on TNT’s Inside the NBA) ripped Embiid for not being dominant enough.

This is how special a player Joel Embiid was Thursday night: Boston’s Enes Kanter had probably his best game as a Celtics’ big man, and he couldn’t even slow Embiid, who had 38 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists. Embiid was the best player on the floor and was having fun in a 115-109 Philadelphia win on the road.

Shaq and Barkley are right to a degree, and Embiid even admitted as much after the game — he can be more dominant than he has shown this season. “Maybe. I do think they are right. I do need to be more aggressive. Look to impose myself. Look to dominate,” Embiid said, via Noah Levine at NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think the whole season I haven’t done that and you can see the ways it’s affecting my efficiency and my stats. I guess I need to go back to having fun and just dominate. I get what they are saying. I think they are right and I gotta make a change.”

Of course, Shaq won his rings when he didn’t have to be that dominant every night because he had someone else who could step up and take over (Kobe, Dwyane Wade). Nobody is sure who that would be on the Sixers. Tobias Harris stepped up with 23 points in this game, but Ben Simmons just has not been the guy the Sixers need. He finished the night with 7 points on 2-of-6 shooting. Josh Richardson seems to have more pick-and-roll chemistry with Embiid than Simmons. Still, Simmons makes a few plays every game that shows what he can be.

Philly also won this game because their defense was impressive in the second half. Their length bothered Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who shot a combined 8-of-27.

When the Sixers defend like they did in the second half, and when Embiid is dominant like he was, Philadelphia looks like the second-best team in the East and a threat to Milwaukee. We just haven’t seen it consistently this season.

Boston has now lost back-to-back games to good East teams — Indiana and Philadelphia — and while it’s just December and far too early to panic, it also shows why Boston may want to be active around the trade deadline if they can find a good deal (but stop with the Kevin Love talk, that’s not happening).

2) Former NBA Commissioner David Stern suffers brain hemorrhage, has to undergo emergency surgery. David Stern collapsed at a Manhattan restaurant on Thursday and was raced to a hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage. That means bleeding in or around the brain, and that is as bad and life-threatening as it sounds.

The NBA released this statement.

“NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage earlier today for which he underwent emergency surgery.  Our thoughts and prayers are with David and his family.”

The reaction around the NBA was immediate.

Stern, 77, took over as NBA commissioner back when Finals games were shown on tape delay after midnight on major networks. Stern came along at the right time — first the Magic/Bird era and rivalry, then Michael Jordan — but he understood what an opportunity this was for the league and changed how it marketed itself, it became a league of stars. That remains to this day. He grew the NBA into one of the most dominant sports leagues on the planet.

Our thoughts are with him and his family.

3) Luka Doncic muy impresionante in Mexico City. There were “M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants in the Arena Ciudad de Mexico Thursday night — Mexico City loves Luka Doncic.

Doesn’t everyone right now?

Doncic did everything right Thursday, from addressing the crowd pregame in fluent Spanish (he played for Real Madrid in Spain before coming to the NBA) to dropping a 41-point triple-double on the Pistons to get the Mavericks another win, 122-111. Doncic finished the night with 41 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Seth Curry added 30 as the Pistons found out just how good that Dallas offense is. Kristaps Porzingis scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half and got Andre Drummond’s attention.

Dallas is 17-7 on the season and looks like a team that could have home court for the first round of the playoffs.