Three Things to Know: DeRozan looks like MVP with 37, game-winner for Bulls

NBA: FEB 24 Hawks at Bulls
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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) DeMar DeRozan DeRozan looks like MVP with 37, game-winner for Bulls

DeMar DeRozan was the hottest player in the NBA heading into the All-Star break.

Nothing has changed with a week off. He scored 37 points on  15-of-21 shooting — his eighth straight game of 35+ points on better than 50% shooting, an NBA record — and he saved his best for last, scoring 12 in the fourth quarter. That includes this and-1 game-winner over a double-team.

DeRozan may not win the MVP, but it’s going to be very difficult for voters to leave him off their top five ballot with his clutch play of late.

For those who like records, that’s nine straight 30+ point games for DeRozan, the second-longest streak in Bulls’ history (some guy named Jordan had 10 straight in 1990-91).

DeRozan got help from rookie Ayo Dosunmu, who was given the Trae Young defensive assignment and held the All-Star to 3-for-17 shooting.

The win has the Bulls atop the East (because the Heat had the night off).

2) Two Ukrainian NBA players condemn Russian invasion of their homeland

Russia invaded the neighboring nation of Ukraine on Thursday, striking on several fronts and is already approaching the capital of Kyiv.

President Joseph Biden condemned the attack and announced new, tougher sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Biden said.

There are currently two Ukrainian players in the NBA — the Sacramento Kings’ Alex Len and the Toronto Raptors’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — and they released a joint statement condemning the invasion.

“A great tragedy befell our dear homeland Ukraine. We categorically condemn the war. Ukraine is a peaceful, sovereign state inhabited by people who want to decide their own destiny. We pray for our families, friends, relatives and all the people who are in the territory of Ukraine.

“We hope for an end to this terrible war as soon as possible. Dear fellow Ukrainians, hold on! Our strength is in unity. We are with you!”

Before the Nuggets at Kings game, both teams came together for a moment of silence in solidarity with Len, Ukraine.

Our thoughts are with the families of Len and Mykhailiuk, and we hope they are safe.

3) Pistons want to have Cavaliers’ level success, take step by beating them

All-Star weekend, last year’s No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham talked about the inspiration he and the rebuilding Pistons take from teams such as the Cavaliers (and Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Suns) as a young core that stuck together and found success.

“Those are examples of rebuilds that were successful. That’s what we’re trying to be with the Pistons,” Cunningham said. “Seeing teams like that, how they done it, how they play — they play with a lot of energy they play fast — those are things we’re trying to do with the Pistons. Being able to watch those games and see how they’re having so much fun playing basketball, you can see a different joy in it. Those guys are in year three of their career or whatever and I can definitely see that in our future with the Pistons.”

That future was Thursday night against a shorthanded Cavaliers team (Darius Garland missed the first game after playing in the All-Star Game, which is mildly concerning, and Caris LeVert is out 1-2 weeks). The Pistons took control of the game with a 17-3 run early in the fourth quarter and held on for the win.

Hamidou Diallo led the Pistons with 21 off the bench, Cunningham added 17.

Highlight of the Night: Ja Morant is a walking highlight

It ended up being a rough night for Ja Morant at the end, but the man is still a walking highlight package and did this in the first half.

Morant went to the locker room in this one with a hip injury after a slip and awkward step, returned to the game later, but was not quite right and ultimately airballed a three with a chance to tie the game late. He wasn’t the same and the Timberwolves got a quality win.

But we could still turn this highlight space into a Ja Morant fan page and be good with it.

Yesterday’s scores:

Detroit 106, Cleveland 103
Boston 129, Brooklyn 106
Chicago 110, Atlanta 108
Minnesota 119, Memphis 114
Phoenix 124, Oklahoma City 104
Golden State 132, Portland 95
Denver 128, Sacramento 110