The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) Collin Sexton highlights question for Brooklyn Big Three
After a week of waiting, the Brooklyn Nets rolled out their Goliath, their unstoppable Big Three — Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. They lived up to the billing. Together, the trio combined for 96 points on 49.3% shooting with 24 rebounds and 23 assists. They took turns making unstoppable play after unstoppable play, showing just how much talent is on that roster.
Collin Sexton played the role of David.
His 42 points — including the three with Irving’s hand in his face to force double overtime — highlighted Brooklyn’s weakness and knocked them out. Cleveland spoiled the debut of the big three with a 147-135 double-overtime win.
Sexton had help. Cedi Osman poured in 25 points, Taurean Prince added 17 points off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. scored. Cleveland had a 125 offensive rating for the night as it was able to score with Brooklyn’s All-Everything lineup.
It’s one game out of 72, and some of the “you take a turn then I take a turn” kinks of the Brooklyn offense can be smoothed out. This was their first game together and still the numbers are stunning: Durant led the team with 38 points, Irving added 37, while Harden scored 21 points but added a triple-double of 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Brooklyn will score its way to a lot of wins because nobody can defend all of them.
Brooklyn’s defense is a genuine issue.
The question becomes: Can this team get a stop when it has to? Not on a random Wednesday in January, but a big Sunday day game in June when the playoffs are in full swing?
Since the trade, the Nets have given up 115, 123, and now 147 points (113 in regulation). No team has had less than a 112 offensive rating in those games, which would firmly put the Nets in the bottom 10 in the league.
To make it out of the East come the playoffs, the Nets are going to have to get stops against better players than Sexton. They had no answer late against the Cavs, and while Sexton had it going, just a glance around the top of the East — Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid — shows other players who can hit that gear. And higher ones. Can Brooklyn get enough stops when the games turn serious?
It’s too early to call it Brooklyn’s fatal flaw, but it could become that. Right now, the Nets’ defense is just something to watch as the season moves forward,
2) Watch Cole Anthony drain ridiculous game-winner
The Orlando Magic really miss Markelle Fultz. Which is not a sentence I thought I would type a couple of years ago, but Fultz has developed into a respectable rotational NBA point guard that a coach can trust on the court. When he’s healthy enough to be on the court, that is. He’s not again (torn left ACL).
That thrust rookie Cole Anthony into the starting point guard role and he has struggled for Orlando, but with flashes of why he was such a high recruit out of high school and a first-round draft pick.
Flashes like this game-winner to beat Minnesota Wednesday.
That’s the kind of confidence booster the rookie could use. It’s the kind of win Orlando needs to stay in the playoff chase in the East this season.
3) Kobe Bryant stories you have never heard
In the year since his tragic and shocking death, we have talked about the many sides of Kobe Bean Bryant: Kobe the prodigy. Kobe the young buck. Kobe the champion. Kobe and the mamba mentality. Kobe the mentor. Kobe the girl dad.
Still, there are stories you probably have not heard, and some of them have been collected in the latest episode of the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports — which drops today. Stories from Kobe’s Lower Merion High School head coach Gregg Downer, NBA opponent Shane Battier, teammate Brian Shaw, friend to him and Gigi mentor Sabrina Ionescu, and Olympic gold medalists Usain Bolt and April Ross.
Then there is this one from Marc Spears, now of The Undefeated at ESPN. He talked about how Kobe’s preparation was not just about basketball, it was about every aspect of his life. Spears describes how Kobe got a “scouting report” on a 7-year-old named Cameron with a speech impediment that he met after a game at Staples Center.
“Kobe comes out the locker room and yells, ‘Where’s Cameron at? Where’s Cameron at?’ Cameron sheepishly puts his hand up like, here I am. Goes up to him, Cameron’s like frozen, his friends are frozen. He hugs Cameron, and he hugged like his two friends. And then he asked them how they’re doing at school and asks them if they play basketball and gives them some basketball motivational words.”
Kobe impacted Cameron’s life in ways he may not have ever realized.
“So all of a sudden, it went across the school, that Cameron knew Kobe. And the big kid, the shy kid who had dealt with this speech impediment when he was a child, all sudden the whole school was wanting to be his friend. Just cause he knew Kobe Bryant.”
Check out the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports, and remember Kobe, one of the great personalities in sport.