Three things to know: Anthony Davis cleared to practice, Celtics show why Lakers need him

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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) Anthony Davis cleared to practice, Celtics show why Lakers need him

The last time Anthony Davis stepped on an NBA court it was Valentines’ Day. After that, concerns about how he stepped anywhere — due to a calf strain and Achilles tendinosis — had the All-NBA big man on the sidelines for the last 28 games.

That will change soon — Davis has been cleared for full-contact practice, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. He also warned that Davis would be on a strict minutes limit to start.

“Whenever it is that he returns, it’s not going to be a full return to playing 30-something minutes a night…” Vogel said Thursday. “He’s going to have to use some games to try to get himself back in shape. So the first two games he’s back will likely be short-minute performances.”

There still is no timeline for LeBron James‘ return from a high ankle sprain, but the buzz around the team is it may be a couple more weeks.

The Lakers need their stars back and at 100% next month for the playoffs, and on Thursday night Boston showed why — Jaylen Brown scored 40 points on 17-of-20 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 121-113 win.

Boston led by 27 in the fourth quarter and dominated this game, showing how much the top-heavy Lakers roster needs its two stars against the best teams playing well (the Laker defense has remained strong without their stars, although Davis and LeBron provide versatility on that end; the L.A. offense has fallen apart without them). A 24-2 run by the Lakers bench — including 15 points in the fourth from Ben McLemore — made it interesting at the end, but the Celtics held on for the win. The Celtics are 3-0 on their current road trip through the West.

For the Lakers, help is on the way.

2) LaMarcus Aldridge abruptly retires due to health concerns

LaMarcus Aldridge put his health first — as he should.

Aldridge has had an impressive 15-year NBA career where he was the model of consistency and the prototype for what scoring power forward looks like — a five-time All-NBA player and a seven-time All-Star. He is one of the elite scoring big men of a generation. He’s a legend in Portland, and we all still look back at those Brandon Roy Blazers and wonder “what if?”

Aldridge had signed in Brooklyn during the buyout market to chase the ring that would cap his career, but said in a recent game he noticed something was off, he had an irregular heartbeat, he had it checked out, and decided to retire.

Aldridge had played with  Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome — which can cause an irregular heartbeat — since his rookie year, and it caught up with him. Aldridge made the mature choice to prioritize his health and time with his family.

The love for Aldridge poured in from around the NBA.

That was just a sampling of much more. Aldridge will be missed on the court and around the league.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo returns, Bucks pick up win over Hawks

He played a limited 25 minutes and had “just” 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but it was good for the Milwaukee Bucks to see their MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo back on the court Thursday. He had missed the previous six games with a sore knee.

It’s a good sign for Milwaukee as it starts to look ahead to the playoffs.

The Bucks didn’t need much out of Antetokounmpo Thursday night as Milwaukee had seven players in double figures, a balanced attack the Hawks had no answer for. Jrue Holiday led the way with 23 points.

The questions about how much Holiday makes the Bucks a better playoff team, and how much Mike Budenholzer is willing to adjust his system in the postseason, remain, but they would be moot without Antetokounmpo at 100%. With him back, those questions will linger and not really be answered until the second round of the playoffs (and a potential showdown there with Brooklyn), but the Bucks will have a chance to answer them.