Three things to know: 76ers take control of first place in East — and likely will keep it


The NBA season is deep 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) 76ers take control of first place in East — and likely will keep it

DeAndre Jordan had gotten five straight DNP-CD’s recently, but this matchup is why he is still important to Brooklyn’s playoff plans — he’s their best matchup against Joel Embiid.

Which is why Wednesday night was not a promising sign. Jordan started the game playing back off Embiid, daring him to shoot, and Embiid said fine and on the game took six 3-point shots — and hit half of them. Playing back off Embiid just allowed him to do things like this.

To Jordan’s credit, he had some physical possessions and moments, but he didn’t really slow Embiid, who put up 39 points on 13 rebounds for the game. Pretty much everything Embiid put up seemed to go in.

Brooklyn got 37 from Kyrie Irving, and credit Bruce Brown and the Nets’ bench for sparking a fourth-quarter come back to make the ending interesting, but Philadelphia had too much Embiid and got the win 123-117.

Here’s why this game doesn’t matter: This is not what Brooklyn will look like come the playoffs. Wednesday night was not a playoff preview. When (if?) they get all three stars back on the court, this is a different and far more dangerous Brooklyn team. Philadelphia will evolve and grow over the final month of the season as well.

Here’s why this Sixers win matters a lot: It puts Philadelphia alone atop the Eastern Conference — and they are likely to stay there. While both teams have 17 games left, Brooklyn has a much tougher schedule and is less healthy; it is unlikely they will make up any ground and pass the 76ers. With Giannis Antetokounmpo still sidelined in Milwaukee, things line up for Philadelphia to win the East.

That matters. There are three elite teams in the East this season, every other team is a step or two back. The second round of the playoffs will see the 2/3 seeds face off — Brooklyn vs. Milwaukee, barring an upset — while the top-seeded team will take on the winner of the 4/5 matchup (right now that feels like it would be an improving Boston team, but maybe Miami or someone else sneaks in). A top seed Philly has a much easier route to the conference finals and only has to take on one of the other two top three teams. Brooklyn and Milwaukee would have to face each other then Philly to get through the conference.

Brooklyn is still the favorite to do that because of their star power, but their road got tougher and Philly’s got easier on Wednesday night.

2) Luka Doncic. Are. You. Kidding. Me.

If Luka Doncic wants to avoid the play-in game (his team owner certainly does), what would help is winning more games.

Doncic got the Mavericks a critical win with the most impressive game-winner you will see this season, splitting a double-team and throwing up an off-balance, leaning 3-pointer.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

I was not the only one stunned by that.

3) Stephen Curry drills 11 3-pointers, drops 42 on OKC

Stephen Curry wants the record for most 3-pointers in a game (14) back from Klay Thompson.

With Thompson still sidelined for the season, Curry is going after it hard. He knocked down 11 3s on his way to 42 points in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder Wednesday.

That gives Curry 29 made 3-pointers over his last three games, an NBA record.

Next up for Curry, Thompson’s record.