Three things to know: Harris’ game winner to beat Lakers shows what’s right with 76ers

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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) Tobias Harris’ game-winner to beat Lakers shows what is right with 76ers

Alex Caruso, for all his grit, didn’t stand a chance.

He gives up four inches and some athleticism to Tobias Harris, plus Harris is a veteran bucket getter playing the best basketball of his career — Caruso couldn’t keep Harris from getting to his spot and nailing the game-winner to lift the 76ers past the Lakers 107-106.

That final play sums up what is different about this Philadelphia team and why they might be the class of the East: When the option to inbound the ball into Joel Embiid in the post wasn’t there, it was sharpshooter Seth Curry who popped out top off Embiid, not Ben Simmons (who was in the dunker’s spot). Doc Rivers has that option now and it matters: When Harris sets the pick for Curry, LeBron James has to switch off Harris onto Curry because Curry is a pure shooter that LeBron has to respect at the arc — Philly didn’t have that last season. That forced Caruso to switch onto Harris, and as noted before, Caruso will always give the effort but he wasn’t going to stop Harris.

Beating the Lakers in January does not make the Sixers title contenders, but there were plenty of good signs:

• The fact the 76ers controlled the game and led most of the way, including by double digits through much of the fourth quarter is a positive. However, they have work to do on closing games — Philadelphia started watching the clock and trying to run it out too early, rather than keeping its foot on the gas, and it almost cost them. We know the Lakers know how to close out games – they went on a 13-0 run — and they almost came back to win this.

• The fact that Ben Simmons put up a triple-double — 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists — and was aggressive early driving into and attacking the space LeBron gave him is a good sign. Doc Rivers praised Simmons’ defense after the game, although one can only do so much against LeBron, who scored 34 and continues to play at an MVP level.

“The numbers will say the offense, but the defense and all these other little things he did was unbelievable…” Rivers said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “The stuff he does for us, the winning things he does, it’s hard to put into numbers, and unfortunately we’re in this numbers generation where everything’s numbers. His brilliance sometimes is missed by a lot of people.”

• Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP-level to start the season and has grown, which is critical to the 76ers chances. Last season, Marc Gasol (then with Toronto) took Embiid out of his rhythm and forced him into an 0-of-11 shooting, scoreless night. Not this Embiid, who frustrated Gasol enough that the Laker big picked up a technical complaining about a call. Embiid faced up and went at Gasol, and the eventual double teams didn’t bother him. Embiid finished the night with 28 points and got to the foul line 13 times.

• Philadelphia has role players it can trust now. Danny Green had 14 points and made smart plays, Shake Milton scored nine off the bench, and Furkan Korkmaz added eight.

There are no statement games in January; we are months away from the East’s biggest tests. But Philadelphia at 13-6 sits atop the conference, has a top-five defense, and needs to be mentioned with Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and any other team people try to put on top of the East. This team looks different with shooting on the roster and Doc Rivers pulling the strings — players have accepted their roles, and the team is playing in concert.

Philadelphia looks like a legit contender. Beating the defending champs certainly doesn’t hurt the resume.

2) Can we get a Hawks vs. Nets matchup in the first round? Please?

When Brooklyn and Atlanta match up, it is just entertaining — two athletic, shot-making offenses, and neither team can be trusted to get a stop. It’s an old-fashioned shootout that Doug Moe would love, where the losing team has an offensive rating of 129.8.

On Wednesday these two teams went to overtime, where the Nets put up 16 to get the 132-128 win.

We need seven games of this in the postseason. Basketball gods, are you listening?

Brooklyn’s big three combined for 89 points, 24 assists, and 17 rebounds, with James Harden continuing to look more and more comfortable in the playmaking role, and being aggressive because of that.

Atlanta had a more balanced attack: Trae Young had 28 points (but on 7-of-22 shooting), but five other players were in double digits, including Cam Redish with 24 off the bench, and De’Andre Hunter and John Collins each scoring 21.

For the record, Brooklyn is 3-1 now in games that Durant, Harden, and Irving all play. It’s a long season and there are a lot of questions to answer — defensive issues haunted them again on Wednesday — but the Nets are undoubtedly elite.

3) Bradley Beal, you frustrated after scoring 47 in another loss? “Is the sky blue?”

The sharks — in the form of general managers of other NBA teams — continue to circle Bradley Beal and the Wizards. Waiting.

Wednesday night, Bradley Beal scored 47 points for Washington against New Orleans.

Despite that, New Orleans won 124-106. It wasn’t particularly close. Beal was asked after the game if that kind of night frustrates him.

“Is the sky blue?”

Beal now holds a dubious NBA record: He and the Wizards have lost 10 straight games in which he scored 40 points or more points (hat tip Chase Hughes at NBC Sports Washington).

Beal agreed with teammate Wesley Matthews that the 3-11 Wizards can’t let their early-season struggles — exacerbated by COVID-19 and the injury to Thomas Bryant — define them as a team. He continues to say the right things, play the right way, and be committed to Washington.

But the sharks are circling.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Stephen Curry, that is just not fair.

Hey LeBron, Curry is also now turning around on corner threes before they splash the net.

Damn, it’s fun to have Curry back.

LeBron, other NBA players react to Kyrie Irving trade to Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with LeBron James and one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.