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) Injuries to stars keep coming with Harden, Leonard facing setbacks
Statistically, injuries always pile up during the second half of the NBA season — muscles get fatigued from the grind, travel catches up with players, and it all leads to bodies wearing down and, with that, injuries.
Throw in a compacted schedule and a short offseason for some, and injuries have altered the arc of this season from the MVP race to the championship chase.
And those injuries kept right on coming Tuesday.
James Harden had a setback in his rehab from his hamstring injury and is now out indefinitely, possibly until the playoffs start in a month (it’s hard to put a timeline on hamstring injuries).
Harden, Kevin Durant (still out and day-to-day with a thigh bruise), and Kyrie Irving have played in seven games and 186 minutes together — an incredibly small sample size. Not enough time to build real chemistry and see how they will play off each other in clutch situations. Maybe when all three are healthy it just doesn’t matter; their talent will overwhelm. But starting in the second round of the playoffs (when the Nets appear headed to face the Bucks, barring either team getting upset before that), Brooklyn will be put to the test, and we don’t know what this team will look like.
On the other coast, the Clippers announced that Kawhi Leonard will be out at least a week with a sore right foot. Tyronn Lue and the franchise tried to play it off as “precautionary” and not that serious, but Leonard has missed 5-of-6 for Los Angeles and now will miss more time. For a guy with a lengthy injury history, it’s still concerning no matter what the team is saying.
The Clippers keep right on winning without Leonard (skip ahead to No. 3 on our list today for more on that) but if they are going to beat the Lakers, Jazz and everyone else in the West the Clippers will need Finals MVP level Leonard.
The way this season has gone, it wouldn’t be a shock to see injuries alter and change the playoff landscape as well.
2) NBA players react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict
In a decision that was met around the NBA with a feeling of justice being served but also it being just the first step, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, for his role in the death of George Floyd.
Reactions poured in from players and teams around the NBA in the wake of the verdict, starting with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Players’ union Executive Director Michele Roberts releasing this joint statement:
“George Floyd’s murder was a flash point for how we look at race and justice in our country, and we are pleased that justice appears to have been served. But we also recognize that there is much work to be done and the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, together with our newly-formed Social Justice Coalition, will redouble our efforts to advocate for meaningful change in the areas of criminal justice and policing.”
Players also spoke out.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 20, 2021
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) April 20, 2021
Accountability….RIP George Floyd 🙏🏾
— 🏁 Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) April 20, 2021
But the fact we all saw what we saw last year, and STILL were nervous about if he would be held accountable, shows how far we have to go…
— 🏁 Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) April 20, 2021
🙏🏽🙏🏽 justice has been served, but this is only the beginning
— Robert Covington (@Holla_At_Rob33) April 20, 2021
3) Clippers keep right on winning, knock off Blazers 113-112
Since the All-Star break, the Clippers are 17-5 with the top-ranked offense and the fifth-ranked defense in the NBA (stats via Statmuse). That’s despite Paul George and Kawhi Leonard playing just five of their last 14 games together in that stretch, and Serge Ibaka being out for all of it.
A lot of fans are writing the Clippers off because, well, they’re the Clippers. There’s a long history of good reasons to write them off.
These Clippers may be different.
Just ask the Trail Blazers.
Paul George just gets buckets and did that down the stretch Tuesday night (including some clutch free throws), and Los Angeles got the 113-112 win. Portland can look at missed shots by CJ McCollum and Rodney Hood down the stretch, or the fact Damian Lillard was out (hamstring), and say “what if,” but it’s the Clippers who rack up another win.
Los Angeles keeps having enough bad losses to make you question them, and they are still not healthy, but this Clippers team is as hot as any team in the NBA right now. They’ll have to prove it in the playoffs, but this may be the best team in Los Angeles.