Three Things To Know 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) Three takeaways from Lakers’ 27-point comeback win over Mavericks
As if they needed it, this is the kind of win that is going to have Lakers nation exuberantly high on their remodeled team.
After starting ice cold from the floor — while the Mavs were blisteringly hot — and getting down by 27, the Lakers climbed back to beat the Mavericks 111-118. It was an affirming comeback for the Lakers, who did it despite shooting 6-of-34 from 3 on the night — they did it with defense and physicality, with some help from the Mavericks. For Dallas, this was a reminder of how far they have to go to live up to the promise of the Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving pairing.
Here are three quick takeaways from the game
1) This is the Anthony Davis the Lakers must have to win
“This is not going to work without AD… it’s going to be invaluable. He’s the centerpiece to that championship table we’re trying to build.”
That was Lakers coach Darvin Ham before the season and we agreed with him — these Lakers needed bubble Anthony Davis to be any kind of a threat in the West. That is the Davis the Lakers got on Sunday (and have gotten recently) as he finished with 30 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots.
AD (30 PTS) and LeBron (26 PTS) fueled the @Lakers 27-PT comeback win in Dallas 🔥 pic.twitter.com/h63Fnph1La
— NBA (@NBA) February 27, 2023
If Davis can stay healthy and keep performing near this level, the Lakers will make the playoffs and be a team nobody wants to see in the first round.
2) The post-deadline Lakers bring much more size to the court
The consensus after GM Rob Pelinka’s moves at the trade deadline was “he finally put some shooting around LeBron James and Davis again.” And that’s true to a degree, Michael Beasley and D'Angelo Russell are big steps up in that department for Los Angeles (even if it didn’t show against the Mavs).
However, the Lakers also got bigger — Rui Hachimura at 6’8″, Jarred Vanderbilt at 6’9″, Mo Bamba at 7-foot, and both Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell are 6’4″ guards. That size has helped the Lakers’ defense and rebounding since the trade.
Vanderbilt was an essential addition and is a much better fit with his size and skill set — patricianly as a point of attack defender, he did well on Luka Dončić — next to Anthony Davis than he was in Utah, where he didn’t fit as naturally with rookie emerging center Walker Kessler. Vanderbilt is a natural five next to AD, who plays more of a four.
3) The Mavericks’ defense is a mess
Jason Kidd was a bit frustrated postgame, but he knows his player must figure this out, he can only do so much.
“I’m not the savior here… I’m watching, I’m not playing, I’m watching just like you guys. Us as a team we have to mature… We have to grow up if we want to win a championship.”
Part of the reason the Mavericks blew this game was that Luke Dončić and Kyrie Irving did not have the kind of offensive nights we expect from them, especially in the second half. But this team also struggles to get stops — they were bottom 10 in the league defensively before sending their best on-ball defender away to get Irving. Over their last four games, the Maverick’s non-garbage time defense is 2.7 points per 100 possessions worse than their season average. When they needed stops against the Lakers, they couldn’t get them.
Dallas can outscore teams, but that’s not a model for playoff success.
2) Damian Lillard goes off for 71 points in win
It was Damian Lillard’s night — he set both the Trail Blazers franchise high and a career-best dropping 71 points and hitting 13 3-pointers against the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. Lillard is now tied with Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell for the most points in a game this season.
2nd-most 3PM in a game in NBA history (13)
8th player to score 70+ PTS in a single game (71)
The first player in NBA history with 70+ PTS, 5+ REB, 5+ AST and 10+ 3PM in a single game…
What a night for Damian Lillard 🔥 pic.twitter.com/8MMHxePNUu
— NBA (@NBA) February 27, 2023
“I enjoy those moments in the game when I’m just going after people,” Lillard said postgame, via the Associated Press, “when I’m in attack mode.”
With that big night, the Trail Blazers picked up a needed 131-114 victory over the Rockets. Portland remains half a game out of the final play-in spot in the West, with the surging Lakers right behind them.
3) Hawks hire new coach, Trae Young celebrates with game-winner
What had been expected became official on Sunday: Quin Snyder will take over as the new head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, likely starting this week.
Snyder replaces the fired Nate McMillan (with Joe Prunty as a brief interim) and one of his first orders of business is to establish a strong relationship with Trae Young. It will not be easy (ask the last two Hawks coaches), and Young has not always bought into the system those coaches have wanted him to play. Young should like Snyder’s system (once it gets installed fully next season), which will feature a lot more 3-pointers but also ball and player movement, not Young pounding the ball into the floor out top for 10 seconds. There is going to be a spotlight on Young after this move.
Young thrived in that spotlight on Sunday, capping off a 31-point night with a pull-up game-winner from the elbow (with a nice pump fake thrown in) to beat Brooklyn.
Trae Young pulls up for the #TissotBuzzerBeater to give the @ATLHawks the win! #TimingEmotions pic.twitter.com/E1I1mUfl2O
— NBA (@NBA) February 26, 2023
The win moves the Hawks a game above .500 as the eighth seed in the East. While the goal should be climbing up to the top six in the final weeks of the season, making up that 3.5 games on the Knicks or Nets won’t be easy, it’s vital they at least hold on to the 7 or 8 seeds, meaning one win in the play-in gets them to the postseason.