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) The Lakers lost a big game to the Clippers. With a chance to gain ground on the team they were chasing for the playoffs, the Lakers had all their usual problems – shooting, defense, injury – in a loss to the Clippers last night. Kurt Helin was there and wrote about it.
The fact this was a big game is a tribute to LeBron James.
This loss has the Lakers’ postseason pursuit nearly completely unraveled. But they were barely hanging on by a thread, anyway. They’re now 5.5 games and two teams out of playoff position with 18 games remaining. They’re as close in the standings to the 14th-place Grizzlies as the eight-place Spurs. Most struggling teams get written off even before last night’s loss.
But LeBron demands attention and respect. Look at the Cavaliers team he carried to the NBA Finals last year. It was tough to rule out the possibility he’d drag these Lakers at least to the playoffs. Somehow, someway.
That he almost certainly won’t is a huge blow to the NBA. The league’s premier teams – Lakers and Knicks – are now each going on six straight years without making the playoffs. That leaves a lot of revenue on the table.
It seemed LeBron would be the antidote to Los Angeles’ struggles. That hasn’t happened as quickly as hoped.
Maybe Kevin Durant will straighten out New York next year.
Ben Golliver of The Washington Post:
Jovan Buha of The Athletic:
The Clippers are in transition. They’ve kept their books clean to chase stars like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant next summer. They traded their best player, Tobias Harris, shortly before the trade deadline for primarily draft picks. They owe the Celtics a first-round pick if they make the playoffs.
But this starless team has remained competitive. The Clippers feisty and take advantage of their depth by always playing hard.
Credit owner Steve Ballmer, who set the tone for a playoff push amid directional uncertainty. Credit Doc Rivers for getting a team full of players on expiring contracts to pull the same direction. And credit these players – including Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and Beverley – for being tougher, harder-working and just plain better than so many of their opponents.
3) Dwyane Wade brought a new element to his jersey swaps – surprise. In his final season, Wade has swapped jerseys with an opponent after most games. Usually, these photo-ops seem pre-arranged. Wade has already picked and informed the opposing player before the game.
But after the Heat’s win over the Hawks last night, Wade swapped jerseys with rookie Kevin Huerter, who wears No. 3 because of Wade. Both Wade and Huerter said the Atlanta guard had no idea in advance, and Huerter looked thrilled. It was an especially fun moment: