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) Does it matter Nets “big three” have had so little time together?
Seven games. Fewer than 400 total possessions.
Brooklyn’s “big three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden have remained largely a theoretical juggernaut because they have barely played together. That trend will continue tonight when Durant returns to the court against the Pelicans after missing 23 games with a hamstring issue, but it comes just as the news came down that Harden will miss at least the next 10 days with his own hamstring issue.
MEDICAL UPDATE: James Harden underwent an MRI earlier today which revealed a right hamstring strain. Harden will continue to rehab the hamstring and will be re-evaluated in approximately 10 days. pic.twitter.com/Up1TXYaahQ
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 6, 2021
It’s not what Nets management pictured, but does it even matter?
It hasn’t so far.
The Nets are tied atop the East with the 76ers (the Bucks are 2.5 games back). Brooklyn has won 7-of-10 with Durant out, and Irving missed three of those games — they have not fallen apart yet and are not likely to now with Durant returning to the court (he has played at an MVP-level when healthy this season).
Two things should matter to Brooklyn from here on out:
1) Getting the top seed in the East.
2) Getting the big three enough time on the court together over the final 21 games to build some chemistry.
Getting the No. 1 seed in the East will have a real impact for the Nets (or 76ers, or Bucks) — there are three contenders in the East and the top seed only has to face one of them. If Brooklyn gets the top seed, then Philadelphia and Milwaukee are lined up to face each other in the second round while Philly would take on a team like Atlanta or Miami or New York — lesser teams not playing at a contending level. It’s an easier path.
The Nets want to avoid what the Clippers faced last season in the bubble: Heath concerns kept Kawhi Leonard and Paul George from developing chemistry with each other and their teammates, issues that became unsolvable against Denver. Other concerns had the chemistry off with the Clippers last season, but this was a team that played well through the season and thought it could flip the switch to a higher gear in the postseason. Except, having not been tested enough during the season, they couldn’t even find the switch. Brooklyn needs to build chemistry and know where that switch is located.
The Nets are the favorite to win the title, according to odds provided by our partner Points Bet. They should be, their talent has the potential to be overwhelming, and unlike the Lakers they have kept winning through injuries.
But at some point it’s going to take all three of Durant, Harden, and Irving playing as a unit — not just individuals — to win a title. At that point, deep into June, it will matter if the big three don’t get more time together.
2) Joel Embiid is back, does any team in the East have an answer for him?
If Philadelphia is going to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since Allen Iverson was stepping over Tyronn Lue, it will be because no other team in the East has an answer for Joel Embiid.
Embiid — in just his second game back from a bone bruise in his left knee — dropped 35 points on a Boston team that could not slow him. Embiid got to the free-throw line 20 times as Boston’s defense resorted to fouling to slow him.
Everything's just so easy for Joel, isn't it? pic.twitter.com/zDBPoD6LpO
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 6, 2021
“I’m not all the way there, but tonight is a big step,” Embiid said after the game. If he gets all the way there, h
3) Stephen Curry scores 41, Andrew Wiggins saves Warriors win with a block
When Stephen Curry is on the court, the Golden State Warriors’ offense is good — not great, but a little above average — and when he sits it is as bad as any offense in the league. Tuesday night, it took a full 41 points from Curry to get the Warriors past a Milwaukee Bucks team sitting Giannis Antetokounmpo for the night.
Even with Curry going off, it took an Andrew Wiggins block to save the game.
For the Warriors, this is the kind of win they need to hold off the Pelicans for the final play-in spot. Even better news long term, this was maybe James Wiseman‘s best game of the season as he scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.