Three Things to Know: Mavericks win, move past Warriors into No. 3 seed in West

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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 that make the NBA great.

1) Mavericks win, move past slumping Warriors into No. 3 seed in West

The Golden State Warriors can claim a moral victory — if you think Draymond Green would actually allow such a thing — because Thursday they played their best game since Stephen Curry went out. It just still counts as a loss in the standings because they played the Suns, who remain the best team in basketball.

The Dallas Mavericks got the kind of win good teams do: They were sluggish on the second night of a back-to-back, but in the third quarter Luka Doncic found a place to attack the Cavaliers defense (sorry Kevin Love), and Dorian Finney-Smith was the beneficiary getting open looks from 3 that he buried. The Mavs dominated the third 39-22, and from there Dallas found a way to win.

With the Mavericks’ win and the Warriors’ loss, Dallas wakes up the No. 3 seed in the West. The Warriors slide back to No. 4.

Why does that matter? Everyone wants to be on the 2/3 side of the bracket out West to avoid the Suns as long as possible.

The Warriors could use that extra time away from Phoenix to get healthy — Stephen Curry is still not back in the lineup with a sprained foot — and to get their mojo back and flowing.

That mojo looked a lot better on Wednesday night when the Curryless Warriors hung with the Suns behind a better defense than we have seen from them recently and Jordan Poole tying his career-high with 38.

How much do the Warriors trust Poole right now? Watch Green lead the fast break, have an open Klay Thompson in the corner (at the bottom of the screen) and choose to give the rock to Poole for a 3. And Draymond chose wisely.

In the clutch, the Warriors made mistakes — Green traveled, Poole took a heave from halfcourt when he had time to get a better shot — and it feels like the Suns never do. Phoenix isn’t just the best team in the NBA, it is by far the best clutch team in the NBA. Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges each had 22 to lead the Suns.

For the Warriors, this felt like a moral victory, except as Green said after the game, “We don’t do moral victories around here.” That’s four straight losses and 7-of-8 for the Warriors.

Then Green added, “But I think tonight, we found ourselves. We found our competitive spirit, we found our defense, and that’s something that we can build on.”

It’s a start. The problem is Doncic and the Mavericks have already found all that, are playing their best basketball of the season, and right now are the better team. The standings reflect that.

2) CJ McCollum gets standing ovation in return to Portland

Portland fans love CJ McCollum — his game, his leadership, his work in the community — and they let him know it Wednesday night.

McCollum — traded to the Pelicans at the deadline — got a standing ovation from the Trail Blazers crowd.

McCollum then reminded Portland fans he can flat-out ball and dropped 25 on the home team.

The outcome of the game was no surprise. The Pelicans are playing to secure the No. 9 seed and get in the play-in, the Trail Blazers are tanking, and the result was a 117-107 New Orleans win. Brandon Ingram added 19 for the Pelicans, Devin Eubanks led the Blazers with 21.

3) Heat execute in clutch, hold on to first in East with win over Celtics

This felt like a playoff game. Not just the intensity but the physicality — the referees let this play like a playoff game.

Miami’s halfcourt offense — a big question for the Heat in the postseason when the games slow down — wasn’t great (90 net rating), but it was better than Boston’s (80.7) as Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry hit some big shots down the stretch. Miami has leaned too much on Tyler Herro late in games; on Wednesday, Lowry and Jimmy Buckets made plays in the halfcourt.

This was a good win for the Heat. Not just because it secured a playoff spot and put them one game up on the surging Bucks for the No. 1 seed, but because the Heat looked like a dangerous playoff team again. The execution late was a step in the right direction.

Boston’s halfcourt offense struggled in this one — the Celtics scored two points over the final 4:15 of the game. Miami is a top-five defensive team and in the clutch Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart all had turnovers and mistakes.

Grant Williams got the start with Robert Williams out, Daniel Theis did his best with 15 points, but the Heat exploited the Boston bigs in a way they could not have if the Time Lord were out there.

There is a very real chance that Miami and Boston are the second-round matchup, and if so it will be a bruising battle — and a fun one to watch, if this game was any indication.

Highlight of the Night: Jalen Green jumped out of the building to finish this alley-oop

We have not been showing enough Jalen Green highlights in this space. The Rockets’ wildly athletic rookie has been putting them up, nightly, it seems, and has played better basketball of late. He deserves some flowers for all of that.

Here is Green jumping out of the building to bring down an alley-oop on Wednesday night.

Green is not going to win Rookie of the Year like some of us predicted, but he is deserving of a spot on one of the All-Rookie teams.

Yesterday’s scores:

Mavericks 120, Cavaliers 112
Nuggets 125, Pacers 118
Wizards 127, Magic 110
Heat 106, Celtics 98
Hornets 125, Knicks 114
Raptors 125, Timberwolves 102
Kings 121, Rockets 118
Hawks 136, Thunder 118
Grizzlies 112, Spurs 111
Suns 107, Warriors 103
Pelicans 117, Trail Blazers 107