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Three Things to know: Russell Westbrook has thoughtful response to Stephen A. Smith

Michael Holley and Michael Smith discuss Russell Westbrook's historic triple-double against the Pacers, how he's become vital to the Wizards' success and where he ranks in NBA history.

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) Russell Westbrook has thoughtful response to Stephen A. Smith

Monday night, Russell Westbrook set the Washington Wizards franchise record for triple-doubles with 16, doing it in just 38 games.

Tuesday morning, ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith did his job — have loud, attention-grabbing opinions that draw viewers — and hammered Westbrook, saying, “Where is the chip to show for it?” He said all Westbrook’s stats have not added up to winning and how that tarnished Westbrook’s legacy.

Tuesday afternoon, Westbrook’s wife Nina Westbrook defended her husband in an Instagram story.

“Russell is the happiest he’s ever been. Not having a championship does not ‘hurt him a lot.’ You know nothing about him. If you did, you’d know he’s way way more than a championship. He is a champion of life, a champion of his people. He doesn’t care about YOUR championship, and certainly not your opinion. He cares about his people, his community, and trying to make the world a better place.”

Tuesday night — after Westbrook racked up another triple-double, but in another Wizards loss (this one to the Hornets) — Westbrook echoed his wife’s sentiments saying that he is happy and doing the things that are really important in life. Here is Westbrook’s long and thoughtful response, via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“That’s how my life’s been since Day 1. I’ve been playing basketball for my whole life. Like my wife mentioned [on Instagram], it’s important that you don’t let people deter you from your goal, deter you from your plan, deter you from the things you have destined in this world. A prime example is I watch these college games and these kids and these announcers, man, they get on the TV and say anything about a kid. They don’t know him, they don’t know his family, they don’t know where he’s from. They don’t know his struggles, they don’t know his pain; they don’t know anything about the kid. But one thing said on TV can determine how you perceive this kid on TV,” Westbrook said…

“I sit back, I don’t say much. I don’t like to go back and forth about people. But one thing I won’t allow to happen anymore is let people create narratives and constantly talking s*** for no reason about me because I lay it on the line every night. And I use my platform to be able to help people all across the world. Nobody can take that away from me. I’ve been blessed to be able to have a platform to do it. A championship won’t change my life. I’m happy. I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. I grew up in the streets. I’m a champion. I don’t have to be an NBA champion,” he said.

“My legacy, like I’ve mentioned before, is not based on what I do on this court. I’m not going to play basketball my whole life. My legacy is what I do off the floor, how many people I’m able to impact and inspire along my journey. That’s how I keep my head down and keep it pushing because it’s very important that you don’t let the negativity seep in. It’s been like that my whole career, honestly. There’s no other player that takes heat that I take constantly. But it’s a positive, I’m doing something right if people are talking about me. That’s how I feel and I put my best foot forward, stay prayful, keep my family close and keep it like that.”

2) Denver looks good in blowing out Philadelphia

It’s tough to read much into Denver easily handling a Philadelphia: The Nuggets are hot and feeling the bump of adding Aaron Gordon to the lineup, while the 76ers are still without Joel Embiid. Denver probably should win that game going away.

But the Nuggets looked good doing it — this is a team on a roll.

Gordon may have only had six points, but he fit in comfortably — he was a team-best +19 on the night — and he brings an above-the-rim game Denver needed more of.

The other guy providing verticality in Denver is Michael Porter Jr., and he had 27 points on the night, and Jamal Murray added 30.

There’s a lot of regular season left before we get to the playoffs, and there are many questions to answer and tests ahead for Denver. But this team looks more and more like a threat in the West.

3) Magic close game on 17-3 run to come back, beat Clippers

Write something about how the Clippers look like they might be putting everything together as contenders, and they come out and remind you why everyone has doubts about them.

Los Angeles hosted an Orlando team that gutted its roster at the trade deadline — which was both bold and the right move — and this game played out much like expected for two and a half quarters, with the Clippers holding a comfortable lead and making plays.

But among the little-discussed flaws with Los Angeles this season is they have struggled in the clutch, especially defensively. That showed itself again on Tuesday night as Orlando closed the game on a 17-3 run, and Michael Carter Williams sealed the win.

On some level it’s easy to dismiss this loss for Los Angeles: No Paul George, no Serge Ibaka, no Patrick Beverley, no Rajon Rondo, just an eight-man rotation that had to deal with foul trouble. But the Clippers could not make shots, as a team they do not get to the free throw line, and got dragged down in a slog of a game and lost. Every time we say something nice about them, this happens.

Good win for the Magic, and Chuma Okeke had a quality outing that impressed.