Three things to know: Mavericks execute winning game plan vs. Jazz

Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith and Jazz center Rudy Gobert
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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) Mavericks beat Jazz, show Western Conference pecking order isn’t completely settled

The Jazz and Mavericks looked like similar-caliber teams entering the season.

Instead, Utah has been the NBA’s best team throughout the year. Dallas had been one of the biggest disappointments.

How wide is the gap actually now? The Jazz remain the better team, but the Mavericks are coming around – and made Utah look just a little vulnerable.

Luka Doncic (31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) led Dallas to a 111-103 victory over the Jazz yesterday. Even without Kristaps Porzingis (sprained right wrist), the Mavericks won their fifth straight game.

Utah center Rudy Gobert nominally defended Dallas forward Dorian Finney-Smith so Gobert – a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate – could protect the paint. But Finney-Smith capitalized on his open perimeter looks, scoring 23 points on 5-of-12 3-point shooting.

Finney-Smith finding his long-range stroke after a cold start has helped key the Mavericks’ turnaround. When the unreliable but capable shooter is hitting, Dallas’ floor-spacing and scoring are that much better.

Maybe the Jazz will just live with that risk. They shot just 27% to the Mavericks’ 47% on 3-pointers and lost by only eight. Make-or-miss league, etc.

But to make a deep playoff run, Utah will inevitably run into a team with even better shooters. How will Gobert defend then? He’s more capable of guarding on the perimeter than his detractors say. Still, that’s not playing to his strengths.

Don’t overreact to a single regular-season game. The Jazz have been biding their time to answer those postseason questions for a while. Utah had also just won nine straight entering the night.

But it seemed Finney-Smith, Doncic and Gobert cared about this game when they got into a tussle:

2) Nets star James Harden hurt again, but Kyrie Irving steps up against Knicks

At some point, it’d be nice if the Nets get their big three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie on the floor together again to develop chemistry before the playoffs. Especially now that Brooklyn has added LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffinoffensive-oriented former stars accustomed to big roles.

But Harden reinjured his hamstring in the Nets’ 114-112 win over the Knicks yesterday. So, even if Durant returns soon, Harden is back on the shelf.

Still, it’s tough to fret when Kyrie Irving (40 points and seven assists) is putting on this dazzling performance of shot-making:

Imagine if Brooklyn had more than one star against the Knicks’ big five.

3) Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. hits game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer

Does it bode well for the Raptors’ playoff hopes that they were trailing the lowly Wizards in the final seconds? No.

But results matter, and Toronto got what could prove to be a critical win with this awesome Gary Trent Jr. game-winner:

After losing 13 of 14, Toronto has demolished the Warriors and beaten the Wizards in a thriller. Maybe that’ll help chemistry.

The upcoming schedule is soft enough for the Raptors make a run – if they stop getting in their own way.