LOS ANGELES — 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 must-watch.
1) The Nets have won six straight but how good are they?
It’s time to take the Nets seriously… but how seriously?
Give Brooklyn its due, the team has won six in a row and is 12-3 since Kyrie Irving returned from his eight-game suspension. It has a top-10 offense and defense during that 15-game stretch. At the heart of what’s gone right, Brooklyn has gotten healthy, which means more minutes and contributions from Joe Harris, Markieff Morris, T.J. Warren, the impressive Yuta Watanabe and others (it also means fewer minutes for the inconsistent and inexperienced youth on the roster).
As the wins have piled up, the Nets have climbed to the No. 4 seed in the East and look like a solid playoff-bound team — and nobody wants to face Kevin Durant in the playoffs.
Yet skepticism abounds that the Nets are anything more than that — is this team really a contender?
Doubts linger about the Nets for two reasons. First, this run came against a soft part of the schedule. Case in point, they came back Sunday to beat the shorthanded Detroit Pistons 124-121. Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 81.
KD and Kyrie showed out in the Nets' comeback win 👀
KD: 43 PTS, 6 REB, 3 3PM
Kyrie: 38 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 5 3PM pic.twitter.com/y0BpDIa72J
— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2022
Again, give the Nets credit, they have beaten the teams in front of them, they have taken care of their business. They also haven’t had any signature wins in this stretch, and they are considered undersized on defense, which would get them into trouble in a playoff series against Philly, Boston or Milwaukee. Better tests for the Nets are coming up Friday and Monday against the Bucks and Cavaliers.
The second reason for skepticism: How long can Jacque Vaughn’s team remain drama free and focused? For the past few weeks the Nets have just played basketball and stayed distraction-free and out of the headlines. Does anyone want to bet that will continue? We could add “they need to stay healthy,” but that is true of every team. What is different with the Nets is the level of drama they can generate and the distraction that becomes. Everything is magnified and it always feels like the other shoe is going to drop with them.
Let’s be fair, under Jacque Vaughn, things have been steadier. So far. This team is good, but we’re not sold on them being more than a playoff team. Yet.
2) Jordan Poole steps up with Curry out, drops career-high 43
When their star player goes out for an extended period with an injury, most teams have to retool the offense and play differently to make up for the missing shooting and shot creation said star provides.
Not the Warriors. They can plug-and-play Jordan Poole in for the injured Stephen Curry. Not that Poole is Curry-lite, but he’s a similar style of player in critical ways, so the Warriors aren’t overhauling anything.
And Poole can have some Curry-like nights, as he did Sunday dropping a career-high 43 on the Raptors in Toronto.
A career night for Jordan Poole in the Golden State win.
43 PTS (career-high)
5 3PM pic.twitter.com/GkaSOCNuJO
— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2022
“Everybody needs to step up when one of our leaders goes down,” Poole said, via the Associated Press. “We did that tonight from the top to the bottom of the roster.”
Oh no, Draymond 😅 pic.twitter.com/jSafvFYSml
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 19, 2022
Toronto is a team reaching a crossroads. It continues to stumble through the season being inconsistent, there’s talent on the roster but it’s not winning, and even healthy there is no clear path to contention. Is it time to become sellers at the deadline? Other teams are watching.
3) Anthony Davis is going to be out indefinitely, can the Lakers survive it?
The Lakers are 1-0 without Anthony Davis in this stretch — but it took a fluky play in the final seconds of the game to beat a Wizards team that had lost nine in a row.
WILD SEQUENCE IN LA 🤯
LAKERS WIN 119-117 pic.twitter.com/bNeFb2JRL0
— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2022
LeBron said they knew the Wizards would double him on the ball (they had done so for several minutes before this play), but when he lost the ball, “I had to get it back,” feeling he had to make up for his mistake. He did and Thomas Bryant was all alone near the basket as the Wizards raced back upcourt.
That’s one win, but the Lakers will need a lot more without Davis. The Lakers are expected to make a formal statement on Davis’ foot injury Monday coach Darvin Ham said, but added that more doctors — specialists — were looking at him Sunday and the situation was still being evaluated. As a rule of thumb, when the specialists are brought in it’s not a good sign.
There are reports Davis could miss a month, but some sources hinted to NBC Sports it could be longer. The Lakers had a -4.6 net rating when Davis is off the court and now they will have to go without the guy LeBron called their “number one player” for an extended period. Davis had been playing at an All-NBA level averaging 27.4 points and 12.1 rebounds a game.
Sunday’s win moved the Lakers to 13-16 on the season, they still sit outside even the play-in in the West. While the Lakers have been actively looking for a trade that can improve their team, does not having Davis — and potentially falling out of the playoff picture — change the team’s calculus with trades?
“I don’t think so,” Ham said when asked that question. “I think with or without AD you’re constantly looking… to see different ways they can improve their team improve the roster. It’s a business of professional sports.”
Despite what Ham says, this injury might slow the Lakers’ roll with trades. GM Rob Pelinka and the front office may want to see where this team is at the end of January before making a move, especially in terms of throwing in a first-round pick. Do the Lakers want to spend a first-round pick to get a player that helps make the rotation better and deeper but doesn’t make them a contender? Or is it better to wait until the offseason and go for some bold moves?
It’s going to be an interesting next month in Los Angeles without Davis.