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

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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.

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.