Three Things to Know: Lakers at least try but Doncic, Mavericks too clutch, too much

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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) Lakers actually try but Doncic, Mavericks too clutch, too much

Give LeBron James and the Lakers credit, they at least showed some fight. Which is more than could be said of their outing Sunday against the Pelicans, or even much of the first half Tuesday night against the Mavericks. Dallas put up 71 points in the first half and Luka Doncic was dunking all over Dwight Howard.

But the Lakers found some defense in the third — Dallas scored just 14 on 31.6% shooting — and LeBron was shooting it like the third Splash Brother to spark the comeback.

The Lakers led for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, but Dallas took the lead on a Dwight Powell dunk with 5:11 left and never looked back. One reason Doncic and the Mavericks have been racking up wins is they have become a quality clutch team.

How confident was Doncic? On a couple of possessions late in the game he called for the player LeBron was defending to set the pick and force the switch — he wanted to go right at LeBron in isolation. And then he got the bucket.

Dallas hung on for the 109-104 win. The Mavericks are the better team and they are hot. On paper, this was a game they should win.

The silver lining for Lakers fans is that their team showed some pride and made the Mavs work for it. After the game, LeBron shot down rumors he might shut it down as his team struggles, he says he is all in for the rest of the season wherever it goes. Where it likely goes is the play-in, but the Lakers need to pick up some wins along the way to hold onto that spot because the Pelicans and Spurs are coming fast to close the season (and the Lakers have a tough schedule the rest of the way).

2) Jaylen Brown sprains ankle, forced to leave Celtics’ latest victoy

Just three minutes into the Celtics game against the Hawks, the Boston Garden held its collective breath as Jaylen Brown went down injured.

It turned out to be a sprained ankle and Brown did not return to the game — but he wanted to, coach Ime Udoka said after the game. That’s a good sign. From NBC Sports Boston:

“He tried to give it a go in the back and wanted to try to get out there to play, but thought better of it,” Udoka said. “Big picture with where we’re at in the season, it’d be wise to take it off. We’ll see how it is over the next few days.”

That’s good news, the Celtics can’t afford to be without Brown for an extended period of time.

Boston still got the win against Atlanta, fighting back from 17 down and showing some heart. Jayson Tatum stepped up with 33 points, and newcomer Derrick White added 18 points, including 7 in a row in one minute during the third quarter.

As for the mood around the No. 10 seed Hawks, who fell three games below .500 and are nowhere near their expectations for the season?

3) Karl-Anthony Towns outduels Stephen Curry, Timberwolves win

Stephen Curry brought it in Minnesota, dropping 34 points on the Timberwolves Tuesday.

Karl-Anthony Towns one-upped Curry — actually, five-upped up him, scoring 39 points.

The Timberwolves have won 5-of-7, including victories over the Grizzlies, Cavaliers, and now Warriors. Minnesota seems destined for the No. 7 seed and the top spot in the play-in, followed by a trip to the playoffs. That would be a welcome step forward for the franchise.

Highlight of the Night: Cade Cunningham shows no mercy to fellow rookie

Cade Cunningham looks a little better, a little more comfortable each game, and it shows. Don’t take my word for it, ask Wizards rookie Corey Kispert — Cunningham did some rookie on rookie crime on Tuesday night.

Yesterday’s scores:

Washington 116, Detroit 113
Boston 107, Atlanta 98
Toronto 109, Brooklyn 108
LA Clippers 113, Houston 100
Minnesota 129, Golden State 114
Dallas 109, LA Lakers 104