Three Things to Know: Doncic shreds Jazz pick-and-roll defense. A playoff preview?


Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out 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) Luka Doncic shreds Jazz pick-and-roll defense. Is that a playoff preview?

There is no good way to defend Luka Doncic in the pick-and-roll. Go under, and he steps back and drains threes. Switch and he blows by big men for layups. And the real problem starts if a team does a good job to slows Doncic — he is more dangerous as a passer out of the pick-and-roll than as a scorer.

A look at the Synergy stats — as Andy Larsen shows at the Salt Lake Tribune — says the best strategy is to have a defender fight over the pick while a big is in his path so there is no straight line drive to the rim, then have everyone else on high alert to cut off passes and rotate.

Here’s the problem for Utah — and one that could be a real issue come the postseason as right now this is the 4/5 playoff matchup in the West — the Jazz don’t really have a guy good at fighting over picks, and they can’t switch Rudy Gobert on him every play (it’s a good crunch-time strategy, though). Royce O’Neal is Utah’s best on-ball defender, but he’s not the small and agile type that fights over picks all that well.

Doncic carved up the Jazz for 35 points and grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds Monday night, leading the Mavericks to a 111-103 victory over the Jazz. The win puts the Mavericks just half-a-game back of the Jazz for the four seed and home court in the first round (Dallas has won five in a row).

Things got a little heated between Doncic and Gobert when Doncic drew a foul with a flop.

Gobert and his elite defense have caused the Mavericks problems in the past because he can stay back and protect the rim (or switch onto Doncic) and let the other defenders stay home on shooters. That didn’t work Monday as Dorian Finney-Smith scored 21, and recently acquired Spencer Dinwiddie added 23. Dallas shot 17-of-46 (37%) from 3, and when those fall they are tough to stop.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points for the Jazz, and Donovan Mitchell had 17 but needed 19 shots to get there.

The Jazz and Mavericks are not locked into the 4/5 first-round playoff game — the Nuggets could climb into the conversation, the slumping Warriors could fall back into it — but it is the likely outcome. Utah has a lot riding on this postseason and making a run, and Luka Doncic could throw a wrench in that. He and the Mavs are a tough matchup for the Jazz.

2) Victor Oladipo returns and the Heat look just a little bit better

Miami just got deeper, adding a 6’4″ combo guard who can impact the game on both ends of the floor. The Heat are going to be a real problem in the East.

Victor Oladipo made his return and scored 11 points in just 15 minutes, his first game action since a second surgery last April to repair a right quadriceps tendon issue. It was a long road back, but he made it in time to be part of the Heat’s playoff run.

Oladipo may make more of an impact on the defensive end, at least at first, and his first big play for the Heat on the night was drawing a charge. By the end of the game he had the Miami crowd roaring when he threw down a dunk.

Maimi beat Houston the night after Tyler Herro scored 21 of his 31 points in the second quarter. Jimmy Butler added 21.

Should the Heat be the favorite in an East with no single dominant team? Maybe. We know for sure that they got a little better on Monday night, which should worry the other teams in the conference.

3) Gregg Popovich ties Don Nelson for most regular-season wins by a coach

Gregg Popovich wouldn’t address it. Which isn’t a surprise. Him ignoring a personal achievement is about the most Popovich thing he can do.

But when the Spurs beat the shorthanded Lakers 117-110 on Monday, it was Popovichs’ 1,335th career regular-season win, tying him with Don Nelson for the most in NBA history. Popovich could pass Nelson Wednesday night when the Spurs host the Raptors.

Players said Popovich didn’t address it with the team, saying at shootaround he was more focused on getting the team to be more physical. Spurs All-Star Dejounte Murray had 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson each added 18 points.

This was a shorthanded Lakers team, without LeBron James due to a sore knee (he could miss multiple games) and Anthony Davis (still out for weeks). Talen Horton-Taylor led the Lakers with 18 points.

Highlight of the Night: Harden tied, passed Reggie Miller for made 3s

The suddenly healthy and motivated James Harden continued his hot streak on Monday night, and with this first quarter stepback 3, tied Reggie Miller for third on the all-time 3-pointers made list.

Of course, he passed Miller later. Harden is one of the great bucket getters the game has ever seen.

Yesterday’s scores:

Detroit 113, Atlanta 110 (OT)
Philadelphia 121, Chicago 106
Miami 123, Houston 106
Minnesota 124, Portland 81
Dallas 111, Utah 103
San Antonio 117, LA LAkers 110
Denver 131, Golden State 124
New York 131, Sacramento 115

Watch Victor Wembanyama highlights from French league playoffs


Give Victor Wembanyama and his handlers credit — they have got him out there playing. The management teams for a lot of future No. 1 picks would have their guy in bubble wrap by now, not doing anything but solo workouts in a gym, not wanting to risk any injury or risking his draft status.

Wembanyama — the 7’4″ prodigy on both ends of the floor — is on the court in the semi-finals of the French LNB league (the highest level of play in France). His team, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, is one win away from the LNB Finals. While they lost on Friday to Lyon-Villeurbanne (the best-of-five series is now 2-1 Boulogne-Levallois), Wembanyama put up some highlights worth watching.

The San Antonio Spurs will select Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft (June 22). San Antonio — and possibly Wembanyama — will make their Summer League debut at the California Classic Summer League in Sacramento in early July, before heading on to Las Vegas for the larger, official Summer League. While Wembanyama is playing for his French team in the playoffs, how much the Spurs will play him in the summer leagues — if at all — remains to be seen (top players have been on the court less and less at Summer League in recent years).

Spoestra’s biggest Heat adjustment for Game 2? Play with more ‘toughness and resolve’


DENVER — The days between NBA Finals are filled with talk of adjustments. After an ugly Game 1, much of that falls on the Heat — what can Erik Spoelstra draw up to get Jimmy Butler better lanes to attack? How must the Heat adjust their defense on Nikola Jokick?

Spoelstra sees it a little differently.

“Scheme is not going to save us,” he said.

His point is straightforward, the team’s best adjustment is simply to play better. More effort, more resolve. The trio of Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson must do better than 2-of-23 from 3. The Heat can’t settle for jumpers like they did in Game 1, they have to attack the rim and draw some fouls, getting to the line (the Heat had just two free throws in Game 1). Their halfcourt defensive decisions have to be sharper. Those are not scheme-related things.

The Heat saw some of that in the second half, but Spoelstra made it clear the better last 24 minutes (particularly the last 12) was more about effort than the adjustments they made (such as playing more Haywood Highsmith and putting him on Jokić for a while).

“I never point to the scheme. Scheme is not going to save us,” Spoelstra said. “It’s going to be the toughness and resolve, collective resolve. That’s us at our finest, when we rally around each other and commit to doing incredibly tough things. That’s what our group loves to do more than anything, to compete, to get out there and do things that people think can’t be done.

“The efforts made that work in the second half, but we’re proving that we can do that with our man defense, too.”

Among the things many people don’t think can be done is the Heat coming back in this series. But Spoelstra is right, proving people wrong is what the Heat have done all playoffs.


Phoenix Suns reportedly to hire Frank Vogel as new head coach


Frank Vogel won a title coaching two stars — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — in Los Angeles.

Now he will get the chance to coach two more stars with title aspirations, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in Phoenix. The Suns are finalizing a deal to make Vogel their new head coach, according to multiple reports. This is reportedly a five-year, $31 million deal.

New Suns owner Mat Ishbia — who took over in early February and immediately pushed for the Durant trade — reportedly has been the man at the helm of basketball operations since his arrival, making this primarily his choice. Doc Rivers and Suns assistant Kevin Young also were in the mix for the job.

Vogel may not be the sexiest hire on the board — and it’s fair to ask how much of an upgrade he is over Monty Williams — but it is a solid one. The Suns can win with.

Vogel is a defense-first coach who has had success in both Indiana — where he led the Paul George Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals twice — as well as with LeBron’s Lakers (Vogel struggled in Orlando, but that was more about the roster than coaching).

Vogel is a good coach for superstars because he is relatively egoless, low-key, and a strong communicator — this is not a big personality with a hard-line attitude. Instead, he works to get buy-in from his guys and gives his stars plenty of freedom on the offensive end. Durant and Booker will have their say in what the offense looks like, but Vogel will demand defensive accountability.

There is a “good chance” Kevin Young — the top assistant under Monty Williams who had the endorsement of Devin Booker for the head coaching job — will stay on as Vogel’s lead assistant, reports John Gambadoro, the well-connected host on 98.7 FM radio in Phoenix. If true, that be a coup for the Suns, who would keep a player favorite coach to be more of an offensive coordinator. It is also possible that Young and other assistant coaches (such as Jarrett Jack) will follow Williams to Detroit, where he was just hired (on a massive deal).

Nick Nurse doesn’t ‘vibrate on the frequency of the past,’ talks winning with 76ers, Harden


In his first day on the job, Nick Nurse didn’t shy away from the hard topics and high expectations — he embraced them.

Nurse is the new 76ers head coach — and Doc Rivers is out — because the team was bounced in the second round. Again. Nurse said at his introductory press conference that he doesn’t see the way past this is to ignore the problem (from NBC Sports Philadelphia).

“We’re going to hit that head-on,” he said… “We know we’re judged on how we play in the playoffs. It was the same in Toronto. We hadn’t played that well (in the playoffs) and certain players hadn’t played that well, and all those kinds of things. So the reality is that’s the truth. I would imagine that from Day 1, we’re going to talk about that and we’re going to try to attack that. We’re going to have to face it and we’re going to have to rise to it.”

Nurse stuck with that theme through multiple questions about the past and what he will do differently. Nurse talked about the players being open-minded to trying new things, some of which may not work, but the goal is to get a lot of different things on the table.

He also talked about this 76ers team being championship-level and not getting hung up on that past.

“My first thought on that is this team could be playing tonight (in the Finals), along with some others in the Eastern Conference that wish they were getting ready to throw the ball up tonight… And as far as the rest of it, I look at it this way: I don’t really vibrate on the frequency of the past. To me, when we get a chance to start and dig into this thing a little bit, it’s going to be only focused on what we’re trying to do going forward. … Whatever’s happened for the last however many years doesn’t matter to me.”

The other big question in the room is the future of potential free agent James Harden.

Harden has a $35.6 million player option for next season he is widely expected to opt out of, making him a free agent. While rumors of a Harden reunion in Houston run rampant across the league, the 76ers want to bring him back and Nurse said his sales pitch is winning.

“Listen, I think that winning is always the sell,” he said. “Can we be good enough to win it all? That’s got to be a goal of his. And if it is, then he should stay here and play for us, because I think there’s a possibility of that.”

Whatever the roster looks like around MVP Joel Embiid, the 76ers should be title contenders. Nurse has to start laying the groundwork this summer, but his ultimate tests will come next May, not before.