Three Things to Know: Luka who? Dallas ends Milwaukee’s 18-game win streak

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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) Luka who? Dallas ends Milwaukee’s 18-game win streak despite 48 from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Maybe part of it was Mavericks players rallying for their first game without leading scorer Luka Doncic. Maybe no Doncic meant the Bucks mentally relaxed coming in. Maybe part of it was the Bucks looking ahead to the Lakers coming to town Thursday. Or, maybe it was just one of those games that happens to every team over the course of 82, a game the Bucks need to flush and move on from.

Whatever the reason or reasons, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Bucks Monday and ended the NBA’s longest winning streak at 18.

Giannis Antetokounmpo came to play and dropped 48, but it was not enough against a balanced Dallas attack led by Seth Curry and Kristaps Porzingis, each with 26 points. Dallas raced out to an early lead, held off several Bucks rallies, including one in the final minutes, and won 120-116.

The Greek Freak got little help. Bucks not named Antetokounmpo shot 35.1 percent on the night, with Brook Lopez 1-of-8, Khris Middleton 4-of-12, and Eric Bledsoe sidelined with an injury. As a whole, the Bucks shot 26.8 percent from three.

In contrast, Dallas was making shots from the start (well, not the very start, the Bucks got off to an 8-1 lead) and by the end of the first were up 36-22, a lead that swelled to 16 points in the second quarter.

Then, as was the story of the game, the Bucks came storming back and cut the lead to three at the half. To start the third, Antetokounmpo tried to take over and scored 11 straight, but he couldn’t do it on his own, the Mavericks got hot the rest of the way and stretched their lead out to 11 points and keeping it at double digits most of the fourth quarter… until the Bucks made another rally in the final minutes. Another one that just fell short.

For the Bucks, they need to shrug this game off and move on — the measuring stick game is Thursday when LeBron James and teammates come to town.

For the Mavericks (now 10-2 on the road this season), this is the kind of confidence-boosting win they needed. No Doncic for the next two weeks, through a difficult part of the schedule where little was expected. In a tight Western Conference, one stretch of a couple of bad weeks can bounce a team out of home court in the first round. Dallas got the kind of win it needs help keep them afloat while Doncic’s ankle heals.

Dallas also can look at it this way: The Bucks and Lakers have the two best records in the NBA, they sit on the top of their conferences, and it was the Mavericks that snapped each of their double-digit win streaks and handed them their most recent losses.

2) Night of the comebacks: Rockets rally from 25 down to beat Spurs, Thunder come back from 26 down to beat Bulls. This is the NBA. No lead is safe.

San Antonio got up by 25 on Houston late in the first half, but the Rockets opened the second half on a 15-3 run and it was game on from there. San Antonio’s 22-season playoff streak seems like it’s coming to an end, and the reason is the Spurs poor defense (19th in the league) — they could not slow James Harden (28 points, eight rebounds seven assists) or Russell Westbrook (31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists). Throw in a late corner three from P.J. Tucker and the Rockets win 109-107.

That loss dropped the Spurs two full games back of the Thunder for the eighth seed in the West — because the Thunder rallied from 26 down against the Bulls.

Chicago has made a habit of blowing big leads this season, but they outdid themselves on Monday night. Chicago led by 26 in the second quarter and by around 20 for the first part of the third until a 20-7 Oklahoma City run started to change things. Then Chris Paul took over in the fourth quarter.

The Thunder may be just 12-14, but in a surprisingly soft bottom of the West that has them in the playoffs if they started today. Sources around the league don’t expect that to change Oklahoma City’s mindset heading into the trade deadline — the Thunder are starting a rebuild and they know it — but it may make the price to pry a player away from them just a little higher.

3) G-League players to vote in coming week on forming a union. NBA players have a union, the body that negotiates the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the owners and sets the financial and other terms for the league. Compared to the NFL and other sports, NBA players have a powerful union that has gotten them a lot of advantages.

G-League players want the same thing.

Starting Thursday in Las Vegas is the G-League Showcase, an event where every G-League team comes to the desert for a series of games — a chance for NBA GMs and scouts to see every player in one place and get an idea who they might want to grab on 10-day contracts later this season. (It’s also when all those GMs start talking seriously about trades.)

While in Vegas, the National Basketball Players Association — the NBA players’ union — is going to speak to the G-League players about unionizing. The players will cast ballots at the end of the showcase (Sunday), and it’s expected the players will vote to unionize.

What do the players want? More money, of course (the base salary for a G-League player is $35,000 for the season, although players on two-way contracts get more, and players who went to team training camps also usually get a buyout bump for signing with that team’s G-League affiliate). But the players also want some freedom of movement and other perks (more money for travel or housing).

The league is not getting in the way of this. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“We support the players’ right to unionize,” G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim told The Athletic. “We view this as a positive thing and are looking to continue to grow our league for the players to develop and accomplish their dreams.”

This is going to happen — and at a time minor league baseball is at risk of contraction and is fighting with the major leagues, this is a good sign for the NBA.

G-League salaries are not going to see a serious increase unless, in the next CBA, a little of that NBA money starts flowing to G-League players. That’s down the line. For now it’s about the small gains. That’s a start.