Three things to know: Bucks beat Nets, again, but 76ers may be big winner


The NBA regular season has two weeks remaining, 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) Bucks beat Nets, again, but 76ers may be big winner

For the second straight game, the Milwaukee Bucks won a hard-fought, playoff-intensity contest against the Brooklyn Nets — and that makes it all the more likely these two teams will meet and play a best-of-seven in the second round of the playoffs. These wins can and should give the Bucks confidence heading into that postseason showdown.

However, the real winners of the sweep are the Philadelphia 76ers — Philly is now 1.5 games ahead of Brooklyn for the top seed in the East, two games up in the loss column with seven games left on the schedule. Oh, and about that schedule: The 76ers have a much easier one the rest of the way than the Nets. Philadelphia is in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the East, which means more games at home where it is 25-7, but more importantly, it puts the Nets and Bucks on a collision course on the other side of the bracket — the Sixers will only have to face one of them.

For Milwaukee, there are many positives to take away from these two wins when looking ahead.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had his 3-pointer working, hitting 4-of-8 in the first game and his first three attempts on Tuesday — when that shot is falling he (and, by extension, the Bucks) are much harder to guard.

Jrue Holiday has looked up to the task in these games. He had 23 points on 13 shots, plus 10 assists on Tuesday, and in both games he did as good a defensive job on Kyrie Irving as could be hoped for. Khris Middleton stepped up in the fourth quarter and shot 6-of-6 in the frame. The Bucks dominated the glass (55-39 in total rebounds). And, Milwaukee showed resiliency, using an 18-1 run to come from behind and get the win.

Yet, Brooklyn was without James Harden, and he changes everything.

After the game, Steve Nash and Kevin Durant admitted that the lack of time together to build chemistry — the big three of Harden, Irving, and Kevin Durant have played just seven games together — is a concern heading into the playoffs. Continuity matters, and the Bucks have all of it, and it showed in these two games.

But Harden changes everything. The looming playoff showdown between these teams (if neither stumbles in the first round) will be epic.

2) Lights go out Stephen Curry‘s shooting — literally

My guess for what happened is Don Cheadle had a pretty big pinch and was able to blow the power to the whole block, and everyone was in Barney…

Or, maybe not. But the Pelicans found one way to stop Stephen Curry on Tuesday night, literally turning off the lights on his shot.

Curry finished with 37, but he didn’t get the same help in the second game of this set and the Pelicans got the win, 108-103. Lonzo Ball showed up big — 33 points, tying a career-high, and hitting seven threes — and the Pelicans showed some real grit and resolve on the second night of a back-to-back.

The win keeps the Pelicans slim hopes of making the play-in games alive, they are two back of the Spurs with six games left to play. But, San Antonio has the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, so that sliver of hope survives in New Orleans.

3) Young stars Haliburton, Gilgeous-Alexander done for season

This is what teams fear at the end of the season, but hopefully, both will be back next season.

Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton had a scary-looking non-contact knee injury a couple of nights ago.

The word out of that was as good as could be hoped for — an MRI showed “just” a hyperextension of the left knee, no ligament damage, and no need for surgery. That’s good news, but he is likely done for the season. Haliburton will make a lot of Rookie of the Year ballots, averaging 13 points and 5.3 assists a game, playing meaningful minutes for the Kings off the bench, and showing a real maturity for a player so young.

In Oklahoma City, point guard and franchise anchor Shai Gilgeous-Alexander suffered a “significant tear” in his plantar fascia, coach Mark Daigneault said. SGA is done for the season as well and hopefully can bounce back next season.

For this season, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.7 rebounds a game. He is a gifted playmaker and shooter who came to OKC in the Paul George trade, and he is the one anchor player that the rebuilding Thunder definitely want to keep and use as a franchise cornerstone going forward. The focus now is just letting his foot heal before next season.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets
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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.

Reprots: Luka Doncic day-to-day with “mild” ankle sprain

Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks
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While there are grades of ankle sprains, ask anyone trying to walk around on one if there is a “mild” version.

Yet that’s what Mavericks sources say about Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain suffered against the Suns on Thursday night. He is “day-to-day” with the injury, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by others).

Doncic has been playing through ankle soreness in recent weeks and it’s fair to expect the Mavericks to give him a few games off. However, it can’t be too many for a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Mavs are 0-5 in games Doncic has rested this season and have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions this season when he sits (although they did beat the Suns largely without him Thursday). Doncic is an All-Star starter averaging 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game.

Dallas plays next on Saturday against the Jazz. It would be a surprise to see Doncic suit up for that game.

Boban? Crowder? Holmgren? Exploring player votes for All-Star starters

CrawsOver Pro-Am
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Four NBA players — not one as a joke, but four… as a joke — voted for injured Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren to start the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA All-Star Game starters were announced Thursday, chosen from a weighted vote of fans (50%), media (25%) and current players (25%).

While most NBA players may take their All-Star Game starter votes seriously, some do not — they vote for friends, college teammates, guys with the same agent, or just whoever they feel like.

Which is comedy gold once we comb through the public vote (Note: names are not attached to who cast a vote, but we do see who got votes). This season, that list of players getting at least one vote to be an All-Star starter include:

Bol Bol (Orlando Magic, he got six votes)
Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans, he got five votes)
Juancho Hernangomez (Toronto Raptors, he got three votes)
Omer Yurtseven (Miami Heat, he got three votes)
Georges Niang (Philadelphia 76ers, he got five votes)
Ochai Agbaji (Utah Jazz, he got four votes)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Oklahoma City Thunder, he got three votes)
Bismack Biyombo (Phoenix Suns, he got three votes)
Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns, he got two votes)
Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat, he got two votes)
Blake Griffin (Boston Celtics)
Boban Marjanovic (Houston Rockets)
Kemba Walker (Dallas Mavericks)
Kendrick Nunn (Los Angeles Lakers)
Ish Smith (Denver Nuggets)
Torrey Craig (Phoenix Suns)
Luka Garza (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings)
Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia 76ers)
R.J. Hampton (Orlando Magic)
Johnny Davis (Washington Wizards)
Cedi Osman (Cleveland Cavaliers)
MarJon Beauchamp (Milwaukee Bucks)
Paul Reed (Philadelphia 76ers)

That is just a fraction of the entire list.