Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.
1) Pacers thought they were Born Ready, but Nets better with Irving
It’s obvious, but in Brooklyn it’s what they have decided mattered most:
The Nets are a better basketball team with Kyrie Irving. Even if it’s part-time.
There’s a legitimate debate to be had about whether the unvaccinated Irving should be on the court with the Nets — the same debate is playing out on the other side of the world with Novak Djokovich in Australia — but the on-the-court impact was never really a discussion worth having.
It took a half in his debut for Irving to get his legs under him and find his rhythm, but he scored 14 of his 22 points starting with a minute left in the third and through the fourth. Irving was getting to his midrange spots, making plays, and was a key reason the Nets came from 19 back to beat the Pacers.
It was a game where the Pacers took charge early because Lance Stephenson could not miss — 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the first quarter alone.
But having Irving allows Steve Nash some luxuries — he could spread out the minutes of his stars, keeping a couple of them on the court at all times. I’d say he could get his stars more rest, but Kevin Durant and James Harden each played more than 40 minutes.
The Nets crawled back into this from the middle of the third quarter on — from about when DeAndre' Bembry entered the game. He had been out of the rotation but got a chance, came in and scored 12 points. More importantly, he was a defensive force and a spark on that end of the court Brooklyn needed.
It all worked. The Nets won, snapping a three-game losing streak.
The Nets looked better, they were better with Irving on the court. It’s no surprise, and the Nets knew it to be true when they chose to let him be a part-time player. Maybe down the line — certainly during the playoffs — there are legitimate chemistry questions about having a part-time player. But for now, the Nets needed a shot in the arm and Irving gave it to them.
Brooklyn chose what was important to them as an organization, and we shouldn’t be surprised.
2) Dirk Nowitzki has jersey retired, Mavericks upset Warriors
Jason Kidd made the obligatory “hey, we’re giving out 10-day contracts” joke, but Wednesday night in Dallas was about looking back. About celebrating the greatest Dallas Maverick in franchise history, the man who brought them their lone title.
Dirk Nowitzki had his number retired by the Dallas Mavericks.
Mark Cuban also unveiled what the statue to Nowitzki in front of the American Airlines Arena will look like.
It was a worthy celebration of the greatest shooting big man to ever play the game, a player who revolutionized what role a 7-footer could play in the league.
It was also a night where the current Mavericks players took advantage of an ice-cold Stephen Curry — 5-of-24 overall, 1-of-9 from 3 — and kept the Warriors’ role players from stepping up. Luka Doncic had 26 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds, and the Mavericks picked up a 99-82 win. Dallas is starting to get healthy, find its footing, and now sits fifth in the West.
3) Jusuf Nurkic took a swing at Tyler Herro
Suspensions should be coming for this one.
It had been an emotional game, but one that was basically decided — Miami was up 10 with a minute to go — when Jusuf Nurkic set a hard screen on Tyler Herro and flattened him. An angry Herro got up, sprinted at Nurkic and shoved him. Nurkic responded by throwing a legitimate punch at Herro.
Both men earned their ejections for that display.
The random roulette wheel of NBA discipline will now spin and we will see where it lands, but both players deserve a suspension for this one.
The referees got that one right, but they got it very wrong earlier in the game with an ejection of Kyle Lowry because a referee was unaware the ball was being tossed to him. Officially, crew chief Derek Richardson said that “throwing the ball in a forceful manner” was part of Lowry getting a second technical, but it looked a lot more like a referee’s ego getting in the way.
Being an NBA referee is a thankless and challenging job, and it’s usually done at a high level around the league. But not in this case.
Highlight of the night: Kevin Porter Jr. returns with game-winner
Talent was never the question.
In Cleveland and Houston, Kevin Porter Jr. could make plays, it was everything off the court that has been an issue. But the talent is there, and with the game on the line Wednesday night, Porter Jr. had the ball in his hands — and he made the play.
I’d personally rather see a play run there rather than an isolation, but it’s a make-of-miss league and Porter Jr. made it.
Last night’s scores:
Charlotte 140, Detroit 111
Philadelphia 116, Orlando 106
Houston 114, Washington 111
San Antonio 99, Boston 97
Dallas 99, Golden State 82
Brooklyn 129, Indiana 121
Toronto 117, Milwaukee 111
Minnesota 98, Oklahoma City 90
Utah 115, Denver 109
Miami 115, Portland 109
Atlanta 108, Sacramento 102