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) 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.
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.
11 points (4-7 FG), 4 assists and 2 charges drawn in 15 minutes of play.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 8, 2022
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.
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.
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