Three things to know: The Nets have won six straight but how good are they?

0 Comments

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.

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.

“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.”

Klay Thompson and Draymond Green each added 17, and Green also gave us one of the great bloopers of the season. To be fair, Nick Nurse was open.

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.

Sunday night, the Raptors got 27 from Pascal Siakam and 22 from Fred VanVleet but couldn’t get enough stops to make that meaningful.

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.

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.

Stephen Curry out “weeks” with knee injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
0 Comments

This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry will be out “weeks” with a knee injury suffered Saturday night against the Mavericks, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

0 Comments

This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

Watch Shai Gilgeous-Alexander go off for 42, Thunder blow out Rockets

0 Comments

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder took what coach Mark Daigneault called a “bloodthirsty mentality” into Saturday’s rematch with the Houston Rockets.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points to help the Thunder blow out Houston 153-121.

They were disappointed in losing at Houston on Wednesday and responded by setting an Oklahoma City record for points in a game, surpassing the 150 they scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.

“Just (wanted to) be the aggressors,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Play our style, our brand of basketball. I think we got away from that a little bit in Houston, and we just wanted to get back on track.”

Daigneault was most pleased that the approach was player-led.

“It wasn’t like I was giving motivational speeches,” he said. “But, you know, as a team, they kind of banded together and decided that they were going to come out and play the way they did. And they were impressive because of it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander set the tone by scoring 20 points in the first quarter.

“I thought tonight was, like, a pretty big leadership statement game for him,” Daigneault said. “I think when you need a response like we needed tonight coming out of the other night, you rely on your guys that are most experienced, who play the most minutes.”

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 from the field in the first matchup, but bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals on Saturday, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists for the Thunder, despite not playing in the fourth quarter because the Thunder led by 42 points at the end of the third.

Mike Muscala scored a season-high 19 points and Josh Giddey added 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City.

“We’re a team that’s growing in confidence, and I think our habits are growing,” Daigneault said. “And I think a lot of things are moving in the right direction.”

Josh Christopher and TyTy Washington each scored 20 points and Tari Eason added 18 for the Rockets.

The Rockets were playing without Eric Gordon (sore right knee) and Jae'Sean Tate (right ankle injury).

Rockets coach Stephen Silas didn’t want to hear it.

“You’ve got to step up in these situations, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We succumbed to back-to-back, three-in-four, no Eric, no Tate, all that stuff. … We succumbed to it. That’s not – we’re talking about winning habits. That’s not one.”

Oklahoma City led 79-53 at the break after shooting 55% from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points in the first two quarters, a career high for him in a first half.

The Thunder continued to roll in the third quarter, making 16 of 26 field goals in the period to go up 123-81 heading into the fourth.

Oklahoma City set the Thunder single-game scoring record on a 3-pointer by Darius Bazley that banked in during the final minute.

Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury, MRI Sunday

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
0 Comments

Warriors fans everywhere — not to mention coaching staff and players — are holding their breath.

Stephen Curry left the game against the Mavericks in the third quarter when he was defending Danny Green and the two collided, knocking knees. On the replay, Curry’s knee seems to bend slightly at an awkward angle.

Curry went to the Warriors’ bench, was looked at by the team medical staff, and soon went back to the locker room and did not return. X-rays taken of his knee were negative, but the MRI expected Sunday will be more telling.

Of extra concern is that this is the second injury to that leg in as many games, Curry was able to play through the first one.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game. Of larger concern, the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when Curry is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. At 27-26 the Warriors sit seventh in the West.

The defending champs have not lived up to that billing this season, never putting together a consistent run of high-level basketball to show us what we believe they are capable of. If Curry misses significant time (and potentially the All-Star Game) it will be longer before we get to see if these Warriors can pull it together.