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) LeBron James makes history and helps cement his legacy, gets triple-double, leads Cavaliers to needed win. When LeBron James hangs up his Nike’s some day, the debate will rage about where he falls in the pantheon of all-time greats. First things first, he belongs up on that Mount Rushmore with the greatest of all time, no question. His combination of abilities to score, defend, pass, have handles, and play with a high IQ is almost unmatched in league history. Anyone arguing he’s not one of the greats is a sports talk radio host willing saying anything to make a name for himself, or he/she just doesn’t know the game. Probably both.
Tuesday night, LeBron helped cement his legacy as he became the first player ever with at least 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 8,000 assists in his career. He is the most well-rounded NBA superstar ever.
LeBron wasn’t done on the night, picking up a triple-double against the Nets with 31 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists (with that we’ll overlook his off defensive night). LeBron averaged a triple-double for the month of February.
The good news for Cleveland is LeBron got some help for a night (which is why they won, unlike over the weekend). George Hill broke out of a mini-slump with 26 points on 17 shots as he looked like the guy Cleveland hoped to get. Rodney Hood was getting buckets. Cleveland ran plays for Kyle Korver and he was 4-of-7 from three. Granted, all this came against a scrappy but not good Nets team, still the Cavaliers will take the positives anywhere they can get them. And there were plenty on Tuesday.
2) Dwyane Wade turns back the hands of time, scores 15 in the fourth and drains the game-winner. Father Time has been winning the race with Dwyane Wade this season. For the season he is averaging 10.9 points per game on 50.4 true shooting percentage, with a PER of 14.9 — all career lows. And all those numbers are worse since he was traded to Miami. He’s not sure if he will play next season.
However, every once in a while he can hop in the hot tub time machine and still take over a game — he did that in the fourth quarter Tuesday with 15 points, including draining the game-winner against the Sixers.
That’s a big win for the Heat, keeping them 3.5 games clear of Detroit and in the playoffs.
3) Paul Millsap returns for Denver (it just wasn’t enough Tuesday). This is huge news for a Nuggets team trying to earn a playoff slot — Paul Millsap is back. The former All-Star forward has been out since before Thanksgiving following surgery to repair a ligament in his wrist. Denver needs him for the stretch run. He’s a strong defender at the four, can space the floor and hit threes, and fits well with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray on offense. Millsap can help get the Nuggets into the postseason, and the fans in Denver know that and welcomed him back with a standing ovation.
Millsap showed some rust and didn’t help enough on Tuesday in a game the Nuggets and Clippers both needed. He was part of a bench unit that struggled as the Nuggets blew a 19-point third quarter lead — Denver had no answer for the Lou Williams/Boban Marjanovic pick-and-roll — and lost to the Clippers. With that, the Clippers are in and the Nuggets have fallen to the nine seed and out of the playoffs (by percentage points to the Clippers). Denver needs wins down the stretch. It’s something Millsap should eventually bring, just not Tuesday when he had some fourth quarter turnovers. Give him some time to shake off the rust. This is still a team more likely to make the playoffs than not.