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NBA ICYMI: Donovan Mitchell vs. Ben Simmons, a War of Word

How a leading rookie’s sweatshirt came to define the second-to-last night of the regular season. Plus, the Warriors may have won with their big loss, a 32-year-old rookie’s dreams come true in Los Angeles, and everything else you may have missed from Tuesday night’s action.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

All the need-to-know info from Tuesday’s slate.

The Takeaway

Beef. noun \ ˈbēf \

  1. an ox, cow, or bull in a full-grown or nearly full-grown state; especially: a steer or cow fattened for food
  2. what Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons have

The two top rookies in the league played on Tuesday, and though it wasn’t against each other, Mitchell and Simmons were the matchup of the night. Utah’s rising star wore this sweatshirt to Vivint Smart Home Arena—

—an obvious pointed finger at Simmons, who was drafted in 2016 but sat out his first season because of a foot injury. (Using fashion to further a rivalry—Russell Westbrook is so proud.) “Rookie,” the Adidas sweatshirt reads, “An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.” Simmons defenders were quick to point out that the very definition—specifically, the word playing—actually made the case for the Sixers point guard, who did not play last season. (Dammit, Adidas, haven’t you done enough to former Louisville players?)

Mitchell elaborated prior to the game why he felt the extra season gave Simmons an unfair advantage:

The Rookie of the Year debate turned personal Monday, when Simmons said he would “100 percent” pick himself for the award (expected); when asked which other rooks caught his eye, he answered “none.” Game on.

Simmons furthered his defense before the Sixers’ 121-113 win over the Hawks. Mitchell was averaging more points, yes, but was also taking more shots. The internet has been arguing both sides for months. And while we know your opinions, dear blog boys and girls of Twitter, let’s tally the score around the league:

Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma replied with a very profound “Lmaoooo.”

Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. liked Bleacher Report’s Instagram post of Mitchell in the sweatshirt. Simmons’s teammate Joel Embiid is just here to have a good time. MVP-lock James Harden extended his support with not one, not two, but six exclamation points.

(I think we’re good on that translation, Instagram.)

Simmons finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and two steals in the Sixers’ 15th straight win; Mitchell wound up with 22 points and the rookie record for 3-pointers made in a season with 186 (looking forward to seeing that printed on a dad hat) as Utah skinned the Warriors, 119-79.

The Cheat Sheet

  • Yes, Golden State lost by 40. It’s 10 points more than their previous worst loss this season, which also came against Utah. A four-second summary of the game:

The only Warriors to have good shooting nights were Kevon Looney and JaVale McGee, who finished with 12 and five points, respectively. But it might have been in Golden State’s best interest to brick every shot: The loss guarantees that the Warriors won’t face Utah or Oklahoma City in the first round, which are both matchups that Steve Kerr doesn’t want any part of with Steph Curry sidelined.

  • Kevin Durant will reportedly decline his player option and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. (That Jazz loss hit him hard, huh?) Kidding—the report says it’s just to restructure his contract.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute redislocated his shoulder midway through the second quarter against the Lakers on a drive to the basket. (This is nine days after Rockets coach Mike D’Antonio said “Being rested and playing bad is not going to be a good formula going into the playoffs.”) He suffered the same injury this season in December, which held him out for 15 games (almost five weeks). Should the recovery take a similar amount of time this go-round, Mbah a Moute could be sidelined until the Western Conference finals, a major blow to Houston’s defense in the meantime.
  • Only 13 seconds elapsed before Dario Saric left Sixers-Hawks for good. He chipped his front tooth and lacerated his upper lip after a John Collins elbow to the face. As if the two Ls weren’t enough, Saric was also called for a foul.
  • By beating Atlanta, Philadelphia held its position, keeping the stakes for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee the same. If the Sixers win, they will enter the playoffs as the 3-seed in the East.
  • Forget Simmons and Mitchell—the rookie of the night was 32-year-old Andre Ingram, the 6-foot-3 guard called up by the Lakers for his NBA debut after spending 10 years in the G League (during which he logged 384 total games). Ingram, who holds the G League record for made 3-pointers with 713, sunk a trey on his first NBA shot.

With Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma out, Ingram played 29 minutes off the bench, contributing 19 points, three rebounds, an assist, a steal, and three (!) blocks. His final shot was, of course, from behind the perimeter, a swish that brought the Lakers within three points with 51 seconds left. He finished 4-of-5 from the 3—even better than his career 46.1 percent in the G League. That’s one strong cup of coffee.

  • Charlotte, a team playing for nothing except for its vacations to start, ended the season with a 119-93 dub against the Victor Oladipo–less Pacers. Indiana was already the 5-seed before Tuesday’s contest, but the slate did factor into its potential opponents. If the Bucks can somehow beat the Sixers on Wednesday and the Cavaliers win, Dipo and Co. will face Philly on the road in the opening round.
  • In the latest submission of the season, Embiid tops the mask rankings:

Runner-up: Kyrie Irving.

  • Brad Stevens didn’t rest any starters in a 113-101 loss to the Wizards, even though Boston had nothing to play for, which Jaylen Brown seemed to appreciate. He dropped 21 points in the first quarter, his career high for any one quarter, while Washington as a whole scored 22 in the frame. Per ESPN Stats & Info, that’s the second time in 20 years for the franchise that a player scored 20 points or more in the first clip. Brown ended the game with 27 points, going 6-for-10 from deep.
  • John Wall dished out his 5,000th career assist [cozies up to Marcin Gortat] on his way to 12 total against the Celtics.
  • Washington now has the same 43-38 record as Miami, but will stay in the eighth seed as the Heat have the tiebreaker. That positioning could easily change the last night of the season. The Wizards are guaranteed, however, to face Toronto, Boston, or Philadelphia.

Play of the Night

Lance Stephenson’s job is done here:

Draymond must be a Simmons supporter.