The NBA season has about 10 games to go for most teams, 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) No play-in for Brooklyn, Nets win locks them in top six spot
There are numerous questions the Brooklyn Nets will need to answer come the playoffs — Are they, and can they stay, healthy? Will their untested chemistry hold up in the pressure of the postseason? — but at least they won’t have to answer any of them during a play-in series.
The Nets took care of business against Toronto on Tuesday, comfortably beating the Raptors 116-103 behind 22 points from Jeff Green and 17 from Kevin Durant, who was back in the starting lineup and sunk the dagger in the Raptors.
That win clinched the Nets a top-six seed in the West, although the goal remains to keep the top seed (and push the 76ers and Bucks to the other side of the bracket — make them face each other in the second round). The 76ers have an easier schedule the rest of the way, but the Nets seem to be rounding into form with the return of Durant — he just makes the offense flow.
Tuesday was another Nets win with two-thirds of their big three on the court as James Harden remains out and likely will be so until right before, or even after, the start of the playoffs. The Nets had hoped to get all their stars together for this 10-game stretch run to build some chemistry, but head coach Steve Nash said they have accepted that is not going to happen for them. Here’s Nash’s quote, via the Associated Press:
“We recognize now that we’re not going to have the luxury of a run of games with everyone available, and we may not have that to start the playoffs,” Nash said. “It’s been like an avalanche of relentless injuries, games and travel and it’s just part of the challenge for this team.”
One can argue the Nets veterans understand how to win titles — they just haven’t done it together yet. These Nets have an established pecking order among their stars, with Durant the go-to scorer and Harden the ball-handling facilitator. It remains to be seen if these Nets are more the 2008 Celtics — where the veterans came together quickly and won a ring — or more the 2011 Heat, the first year with LeBron in Miami, where the talent was unquestioned but the true chemistry (and a title) didn’t come until the next season.
That’s a question that only can be answered in the playoffs. At least that will not include any play-in games for Brooklyn.
2) The Celtics were playing better, then the Thunder came to town
Can someone please explain the Boston Celtics this season?
They had won 7-of-8, Kemba Walker looked healthy, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were rounding into playoff form… and then they dropped three straight. A loss to Brooklyn is understandable, but the following losses to shorthanded Charlotte, then on Tuesday to tanking Oklahoma City, is much harder to explain.
The Thunder snapped a 14-game losing streak against the Celtics Tuesday night. Kendrick Perkins called it the ugliest Boston loss of the season.
Boston sits tied for the six seed with Miami — both teams are looking to avoid the play-in games. The Celtics have an easier schedule the rest of the way (although not dramatically), but after Boston dropped games to Charlotte and OKC, it needs to look more at getting its own house in order and not counting on the schedule for help.
With two games separating the four seed Knicks and the seven seed Heat, it’s going to be an interesting 10-game sprint to the finish in the middle of the East.
3) Golden State gets thrashed by Luka Doncic, Dallas
Well, that was ugly if you’re a Warriors fan.
Even Mavericks fans were flipping over to This is Us before this game was over.
Luka Doncic led the way 39 points, Dallas led big early and was up by 43 at one point, going on to beat Golden State 133-103 on Tuesday night. The Warriors had dreams of winning this game then making a push for the sixth seed in the West, but now they are 3.5 games back of Dallas for that spot with 10 games to play.
Stephen Curry scored 27 points and hit five 3-pointers, increasing his NBA record for threes in a month to 90.
Aside from that, the highlight of this game may have been watching Steve Kerr get a technical when he exploded at the officials for missing a double-dribble by Dorian Finney-Smith (Kerr was right about this).
The Warriors are a threat in the play-in game, but they are not getting out of it.