Three Things to Know: Kevin Durant goes off for 51 but Kawhi Leonard, Raptors get win

Associated Press
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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) Kevin Durant goes off for 51, but Kawhi Leonard has 37 of his own, Raptors get the win on a big stage. This game may well be an NBA Finals preview…

In the sense that two teams wearing these uniforms could meet in June.

Beyond that, don’t go drawing broad conclusions. It’s November. There was no Stephen Curry, no Draymond Green, no DeMarcus Cousins, and besides that, every team making a deep playoff run is very different in May and June than it is in November. Teams evolve.

That said… I’ll take six or seven games of this in June if it’s going to be as close and entertaining as this one was.

Kevin Durant looked like the best scorer on the planet dropping 51 including a baseline fade-away late in regulation to cap an 18-point comeback and force overtime.

But these are not your fold-under-pressure Raptors, they have Kawhi Leonard — he scored 37 on the night — and in overtime they had Danny Green hitting a key three and fast-rising Pascal Siakam who had 7 of his 26 points in the extra frame.

Toronto won, 131-128 in one of the most entertaining games of the season.

In the past, this was a Toronto team that was a regular season beast but seemed to find a way to lose on the biggest stages. It’s just November, but this win felt different. Led by Leonard and Green — who come from a Spurs organization that just expected to find ways to win — this team did not role over after KD forced overtime, after they blew a lead, these Raptors came out and found a way to win.

There are no statement games in November. If this is a Finals preview there are no conclusions to draw about the matchup.

However, if it’s the kind of win that makes the Raptors genuinely start to believe in themselves and what they can do against the best teams on the big stages (Thursday night on TNT), then it can change the trajectory for one team. And that can matter come June.

2) Kevin Durant gave the shirt off his back to Drake. I would tell you that Drake was courtside in Toronto for this showdown, but even if you didn’t watch the game you probably would have just assumed that anyway.

Drake and KD go way back — the rapper even has a “35 Snipe” tattoo on his left arm in honor of Durant (he has a “30 Gifted” tattoo for Curry, too). When KD went to the locker room at the half he had a special greeting for Drake.

That probably left Drake wondering of KD, “Do you love me? Are you riding?”

After the game, one where Durant dropped 51 on Drake’s hometown crew, Drake asked for Durant’s jersey, and he got it straight off the All-Star’s back.

It’s good to be Drake.

3) LeBron James scores 38, takes over late in Lakers win over Pacers. Thursday afternoon, Magic Johnson went on the radio and denied that LeBron James was ignoring Luke Walton’s play calling, saying the Lakers move the ball on offense and it’s not a one-man show like that. Magic also said the Lakers were working hard to keep LeBron’s minutes down.

Did he watch the end of the Lakers’ win over the Pacers that night? LeBron had 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists, and with the game on the line in the second half of the fourth quarter he absolutely took over(12 points in the fourth) and did what he wanted — and got his team the win. He also played 38 minutes on the night.

This is why the Lakers got LeBron — he is once again playing at an MVP level. He takes over games late. You want the ball in his hands and him making decisions when it matters.

The question has always been what other Lakers can perform at that level with him (and, what other star players can he help recruit to make this team a contender). While with think we have some answers — Josh Hart knows how to finish and fits very well — this is still a work in progress. A process, if you will. LeBron admitted after the game that when to defer to teammates and when to just take over is something he is struggling with this season. It’s not an easy balancing act for anyone. But this was always the plan, and it was always going to be a season of learning more than contending.

For now Lakers’ fans, savor watching LeBron be LeBron. Players like this don’t come around often.