Three things to know: Bucks big winners in P.J. Tucker trade
The NBA season is into its second half, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) Bucks big winners in P.J. Tucker trade
With an overtime win against the 76ers Wednesday — behind 32 points and 15 boards from Giannis Antetokounmpo — the Bucks remain red hot on the court, winners of five in a row and 10-of-11.
Earlier in the day, the Bucks got maybe a bigger win in a trade for P.J. Tucker from Houston.
The Rockets had been shopping Tucker since the minute James Harden went to Brooklyn, but it was Milwaukee that won the day with this trade:
• Milwaukee gets: Tucker, Rodions Kurucs, the return of their own 2022 first-round pick
• Houston gets: D.J. Augustin, D.J. Wilson, Milwaukee’s 2023 first-round pick unprotected, the right to swap picks in 2021
Milwaukee wins this, although Houston does fairly well for itself.
First, the Bucks get Tucker, a proven high-level, switchable defender that gives them more defensive versatility in the playoffs. One of the Bucks’ postseason flaws the past couple of years was they had a set base defense — Brook Lopez dropping back off the pick-and-roll to defend the rim and paint — and not much ability to switch out of it. Go up against a good team that could make them pay for that defensive style (with threes or an elite mid-range shooter) and the Bucks were in trouble. The Bucks have switched more on defense this season (not a lot, but they are working on it) and Tucker is exactly the kind of defender they need for that style of play.
The big question is this: Is Tucker still lights out on corner threes? He felt automatic from there the past couple of postseasons, but this season, at age 35, Tucker is shooting just 36.6% overall, 31.4% on threes, and 35% on corner threes. A lot of teams felt — and the Bucks are betting on it — that the real difference was no Harden (or Russell Westbrook, or Chris Paul before that) setting him up, so the looks were not as good. With Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday, the Bucks will get Tucker good looks on corner threes, but will he hit them?
Even if Father Time has won the race with Tucker, the Bucks got other wins in this deal — they have more financial freedom now.
Before this trade, the Bucks were within half-a-million dollars of the hard cap they triggered over the summer. But now, after moving on from Wilson, Augustin, and trading Torrey Craig to Phoenix, the Bucks are $3.5 million below the hard cap and have a couple of roster spots open. Milwaukee can sign a couple of players to the veteran league minimum contracts off the buyout market (or just as free agents). That is to say, the Bucks are not done tweaking the roster.
Will that be enough against a stacked Brooklyn team or a Philadelphia side with Joel Embiid? Ask again in June. But this trade set Milwaukee up with a better chance to succeed in those series than they where they stood 24 hours ago. That’s a win for a Bucks team that will see anything short of the NBA Finals as a failure this season.
2) Antetokounmpo angered 76ers players with his sit down OT celebration
When Antetokounmpo hit a little 10-foot jumper in the lane to put Milwaukee up seven with just 1:11 left in overtime Wednesday — a shot that felt like a dagger to the 76ers — he celebrated by running up the court, then sitting down in the middle of it.
That pissed off a few Philadelphia players — Dwight Howard said he wanted to give Antetokounmpo the “Stone Cold Stunner” for that move.
My reading of the rules is that a Stone Cold Stunner will get you a flagrant 2 foul, but not until the officials spent 10 minutes huddled around a screen reviewing the play.
3) Stephen Curry leaves game with a bruised tailbone, status up in air
It was an innocent enough play, Stephen Curry using his handles to create space and hit a three as the Warriors were handling what is left of the Rockets.
That fall led to a bruised tailbone and Curry going out for the rest of the game.
Stephen Curry (tailbone contusion) will not return to tonight's game.— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) March 18, 2021
Steve Kerr said postgame he had no idea if Curry could play Friday and Saturday in an upcoming back-to-back against Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. The Warriors, sitting as the nine seed in the West right now, cannot afford to be without Curry for any extended period — the Warriors’ offense is 11.2 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. When he sits, the Warriors’ offense is league-worst level.
BONUS THING TO KNOW: Sit back and enjoy some basketball purity. Watch Luka Doncic drop 42 on the Clippers, leading Dallas to the 105-89 win.