The NBA season is into its second half, 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) Andre Drummond‘s debut sums up Lakers’ season of late
The basketball gods are not giving the Lakers a break.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James may be out for at least a couple more weeks, but the pair’s recruiting skills — especially LeBron’s — landed the franchise someone to stop the bleeding in Andre Drummond. How much he could help in the playoffs is both up for debate and somewhat irrelevant, he could help the Lakers get some wins now and stop the slide down the Western Conference standings. That play-in game in the West looks uncomfortably close for L.A. (right now, they have a four-game cushion).
Drummond’s debut against the Bucks started solidly, with him getting the rock inside, the defense having to respect him, and Drummond getting a couple of buckets despite heavy use of his inconsistent face-up game.
What really sparked the Lakers in the first quarter was the Lakers shooters, who started the game 8-of-13 from three. That eventually regressed to the mean and then some — Los Angeles went 2-of-23 from deep from that point on.
The real story was Bucks big man Brook Lopez inadvertently stepped on the big toe on Drummond’s right foot, and that led to problems. Officially Drummond suffered a bruised right toe, but he described the issue more clearly postgame.
Andre Drummond said Brook Lopez stepped on his toe in the first quarter. When he took off his sock at halftime, he said, "My whole toenail was gone!"
— Bill Oram (@billoram) April 1, 2021
Drummond tried to play in the third quarter, but he was hobbled by the pain, and he was out. He finished the game with 4 points in 14 minutes of action.
At that point, the Lakers were out, too. The Bucks starting five looked dominant. Jrue Holiday scored 28 on 16 shots while Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 25 on 13 shots — and got to see his brothers. The Bucks pulled away for the 112-97 win.
That game pretty much summed up the recent weeks for the Lakers, who just cannot stay healthy. It’s unclear right now if and how much time Drummond will miss (he is day-to-day, the X-rays were negative), but the Lakers now have seven in a row on the road (one is against the Clippers on Easter Sunday in an empty gym in downtown Los Angeles) as their backloaded schedule gets tougher.
For Lakers fans, it’s just an impatient waiting game. Until their stars get healthy, the basketball gods are not giving them any joy.
2) Nets win puts them in first place in East
That the Brooklyn Nets — with two-thirds of their Big Three on the court — beat the smoldering embers of the Houston Rockets’ season Wednesday is no surprise. That doesn’t diminish the clutch night from Joe Harris, who had 28 points and shot 7-of-12 from three.
Kyrie Irving had 31 for the Nets,
The real story here is the win pushes the Brooklyn Nets back into first place in the East, just half a game in front of the banged-up 76ers and 2.5 games up on the Bucks. Those 76ers are expected to get Embiid back on the court Saturday, they have been an impressive 6-3 without their one-time MVP candidate (he’s missed too many games to win it now), and the 76ers have the easiest schedule of the three the rest of the way.
Why the race for No. 1 in the East matters: Three teams — the Nets, 76ers, and Bucks — have set themselves apart from the rest of the conference. Those look like the only teams that could come out of the conference. While the Celtics and Heat have aspirations of being on that level, neither has come close this season and as we speak Charlotte is the four seed in the East. Whichever team finishes with the No. 1 seed will put the other two contenders on the other side of the bracket and create an easier path to the Finals, having to face only one of the big three teams in the East. The second and third seeds will have to face each other in the second round.
3) Watch Devin Booker go off and drop 45
The new-look Bulls came to the Valley of the Sun, and newest Bull Nikola Vucevic did his thing getting 24 points. But without Zach LaVine (sprained ankle), Thaddeus Young was Chicago’s second-leading scorer (19).
Meanwhile, the Suns had Devin Booker, who shot 17-of-24 overall, hit a couple of threes, and put up 45 points.
There’s a lot of basketball left to play this season, but Phoenix seems to be settling in as the West’s two seed. They are currently two games ahead of the third-seeded and inconsistent (and, to be fair, banged up) Clippers. Everyone seems to look past Phoenix come the playoffs — has anyone come off their “the Lakers will come out of the West” predictions from before the season? — but they do so at their own peril. This is a good Suns team. Untested in the playoffs? Yes. But the Suns still must be reckoned with.