Three things to Know: Can Lakers still make playoffs despite LeBron’s injury?


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out 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) Can Lakers still make playoffs despite LeBron’s injury?

This photo strikes at the heart of Lakers fans.

After the trade deadline, the new-look Lakers with their improved roster were hitting their stride. However, there was always a lot of work to do to climb back into the playoffs, there was not much margin for error.

Then came the word LeBron James would be out weeks with a foot injury. News of the injury led to a lot of “the Lakers are done” talk around the league.

But are they?

“The mission has not changed for us,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said, via the Associated Press.

It is possible the 12th-seed Lakers could push through the coming weeks, playing well enough to give LeBron reason to come back as quickly as he can for a postseason run — the Lakers remain just one game out of the 10 seed. However, to get there the Lakers need wins — instead, they racked up a loss against the Grizzlies Tuesday night. The Lakers had no answer for Ja Morant, who scored 28 in the third quarter alone on his way to 39 points and a triple-double for the game, and the Grizzlies picked up a 121-109 win.

The Grizzlies had struggled since their last loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers, and their social media team knew how to celebrate this win.

The Lakers are now 5-10 without LeBron this season, getting outscored by 7.9 points per 100 possessions when he is off the floor. Most of those losses came before this new lineup — they are now 1-2 without LeBron with this roster, the one win being against the Warriors — but there is a path to them picking up enough wins to hang around.

It requires Anthony Davis to continue to play like “bubble Davis” — he did that against the Grizzlies with 28 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks. It requires D'Angelo Russell to come back soon from his ankle injury and then be the shot creator for others and floor general he was not in Minnesota for most of this season. It requires other role players to step up nightly — Malik Beasley, Dennis Schroder, Austin Reaves, whoever — and pick up the slack.

The Lakers have the advantage of both New Orleans and Utah — the current ninth and 10th seeds — struggling and falling back towards them. However, the Lakers need enough wins to climb over both just to make the bottom of the play-in, that’s because a motivated Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are the 11 seed and are fighting to get into the postseason themselves.

Also know, the Lakers are not going to rush LeBron back — and where they are in the standings when he gets close will play a role in if and when he comes back to the court.

“As an organization, we’re going to make sure we kick the tires and look at everything that needs to be looked at,” Ham said. “Never in a hundred million years will we put a guy out there that has a risk of further damaging what’s going on. That’s not just with LeBron. That’s with any of our players.”

The Lakers can make the postseason, but their margin for error is now completely gone. They need a lot of things to go right just to make it to the part of the play-in where they need to win two games to get the No. 8 seed.

But it is possible.

2) Dallas loses again, this time at home to struggling Pacers

The Dallas Mavericks are now 1-4 since Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić both joined the lineup.

Once again on Tuesday night the offense was not the problem, the Mavericks had an outstanding 121 offensive rating behind 39 points and nine rebounds for Luka Dončić.

However, the Pacers had a 126.5 offensive rating against a struggling Mavs defense. Tyrese Haliburton had 32 points on his birthday, while Myles Turner pitched in 24. The Pacers are just two games out of the play-in and have not given up hope.

Over those last five games with Irving and Dončić the Mavericks have a 121.6 offensive rating, fourth best in the league over that stretch. They also have a 120 defensive rating (25th in the league). That’s a positive net rating and maybe they should be more like 3-2 over those five, but when a team doesn’t get stops, this happens.

The offense should get smoother over the coming games, and the return of Maxi Kleber to the lineup Tuesday should help the defense a little, but Dallas does not have the personnel to be a good defensive team and there is only so much coach Jason Kidd can do.

3) Spurs snap 16-game losing streak

Maybe Gregg Popovich did his best Kyrie Irving impression and walked around Vivint Arena burning sage before Tuesday’s game. Or, perhaps he just sat in his office in the arena and drank a lovely Pinot, but whatever he did, it worked.

The Spurs snapped their 16-game winning streak, beating a seemingly disinterested Jazz team 102-94. Utah shot 35% for the night and didn’t score. In the final three minutes of the game.

Keldon Johnson led the way for San Antonio with 25 points, while Doug McDermott added 19.

It’s the first road win for the Spurs since December.

It’s good to see for San Antonio. While their focus is the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, that much losing is just rough on any organization.

Bonus thing to know: Quin Snyder loses opener as Hawks coach. Snyder is a good hire by the Hawks, someone who can build the organizational culture ownership craves.

He won’t be able to do much to turn this campaign around more than 60 games into the season. As evidence we present his opening game, a 119-116 loss to the Washington Wizards at home. It’s going to be a work in progress in Atlanta.

As expected, Alabama’s Brandon Miller says he will enter NBA Draft

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 24 Div I Men's Championship - San Diego State vs Alabama
Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is far from a surprise, but it’s now official.

Brandon Miller, the Alabama wing projected as likely top-three pick, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski he would enter this June’s NBA Draft.

Miller, a 6’9″ sharpshooting wing, has climbed draft boards over the course of this season as he has shown off more aspects of this game. He has good size, impressive athleticism and projects as a three or four in the NBA (two high-value positions). His skill set starts with being an elite shooter (39.9% on 3-pointers this season) who has the size to shoot over the top of many defenders, but this season showed off improved finishing at the rim and playmaking off the bounce.

The development and growth of Miller’s game (while Scoot Henderson played well but missed a lot of 3s in the G-League) put Miller in the mix for the No.2 pick (Victor Wembanyama remains the clear No.1). Most teams likely still lean toward Henderson and his otherworldly athleticism, but whoever the basketball lottery gods gift the No.2 pick will have a conversation.

Miller made more headlines this season for his off-the-court troubles than his play on it. Tuscaloosa police say he brought a gun to former Alabama teammate Darius Miles, who allegedly used it to shoot and kill Jamea Jonae Harris. Miller was never charged with a crime and multiple front office sources told NBC Sports that unless something changes and he is, this will not impact his draft status.

Watch Tatum score 40, Brown 30, Celtics blow out Bucks (again) 140-99


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 40 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and the Boston Celtics steamrolled the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks 140-99 on Thursday night.

The Celtics (53-24) shot 22 of 43 from 3-point range and moved within two games of the Bucks (55-22) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics won the season series with the Bucks 2-1, which would give Boston the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record.

Boston’s performance in those three games with Milwaukee should give the Celtics plenty of confidence they could knock out the Bucks again if they meet in the postseason. The Celtics beat the Bucks in seven games in last season’s East semifinals.

The Celtics beat the Bucks 139-118 in Boston on Christmas Day and lost 131-125 in overtime on Feb. 14. The Celtics didn’t play Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart or Al Horford in that overtime loss.

Milwaukee took a hit on the floor as well as in the standings. Bucks forward Khris Middleton left the game midway through the third quarter after taking an elbow to the face from Brown. The play resulted in a charging foul on Brown and caused Middleton to receive stitches on his upper lip.

Boston built a 114-74 lead through three periods, causing most of the starters for both teams to sit out the entire fourth quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points.

This matched the Bucks’ most lopsided loss of the season. They fell 142-101 at Memphis on Dec. 15.

The Bucks were playing one night after a 149-136 victory at Indiana in which they shot a season-high 62.4% from the floor with Jrue Holiday scoring 51 points and Antetokounmpo having 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. This marked the first time an NBA team had one player score at least 50 points and another have a triple-double with at least 35 points in the same game.

Milwaukee found the going quite a bit tougher Thursday.

Antetokounmpo shot just 11 of 27, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range. Holiday started his night by sinking a 3-pointer, but went 1 of 7 the rest of the way and finished with just six points.

After the first 8½ minutes of the game featured nine lead changes and five ties, the Celtics seized control by going on a 29-9 over the last seven-plus minutes. Boston capped that spurt by scoring 13 straight points.

Boston didn’t let up the rest of the night.

Milwaukee’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo was ejected with 1:25 left for head-butting Boston’s Blake Griffin. The head-butting came after Griffin committed a flagrant-1 foul against Antetokounmpo.

Knicks’ Julius Randle out at least two weeks with sprained ankle

Miami Heat v New York Knicks
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

In just a little more than two weeks, April 15 or 16, the New York Knicks will open the playoffs, likely on the road in Cleveland.

They hope to have Julius Randle back for that game.

The Knicks’ All-Star forward and leading scorer, Randle suffered a sprained ankle against the Heat on Wednesday night and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, the team announced.

That timeline has him re-evaluated days before the playoffs tip-off. He will not play again this regular season.

Randle rolled his ankle leaping for a rebound and landing on Bam Adebayo‘s foot in the second quarter, and he left the game not to return. Friday night against those Cavaliers (in Cleveland) will be the first game Randle has missed all season.

Randle is playing at an All-NBA level again this season, averaging 25.1 points and 10 rebounds a game. The Knicks have five games remaining in the season and are almost locked in as the No.5 seed, four games back of the No. 4 Cavaliers and 2.5 games up on the No.6 seed (and stumbling) Nets.


Kevin Durant: ‘I don’t care about legacy… I used to… Nowadays, I truly, truly don’t care’

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In the neverending debate around sports, we become obsessed with a player’s legacy. What is LeBron James‘ legacy and does he need another ring in his GOAT battle with Michael Jordan? What will Damian Lillard‘s legacy be if he chooses to spend his entire career in Portland and doesn’t jump teams to chase a ring? What will Kevin Durant‘s legacy be with him getting ripped by some fans for going to Golden State and joining forces with Stephen Curry in the first place, then other fans ripping him for leaving that situation?

Durant doesn’t care.

That’s what he told Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“I don’t care about legacy,” Durant told The Athletic. “I used to. I used to want to carve out a lane or space in this game for myself that people can remember, but it’s become too much of a thing now. It just becomes too much of a focus on other people. What’s he done, what’s he done? Comparisons. Before, when we wasn’t doing all this debating, I cared about it … I’m about to be in the same breath as these top guys. It was big.

“Nowadays, I truly, truly don’t care. I truly just want to go out there and produce, be the best that I could be, go home, hang with my family, that’s it.”

Durant’s legacy as one of the great pure scorers the game has ever seen is unquestioned. If he walks away from the game right now, he goes down as likely a top 15 player of all-time (that may be low) and a lock first-ballot Hall of Famer. His ability to create a shot for himself, or just hit a jumper over his defender even if there isn’t a good look, may be unparalleled in league history.

Beyond that, it’s the eye of the beholder. Durant is back on the court in Phoenix trying to extend that legacy, however people choose to define it.

What you say about Durant’s years in Golden State — with a couple of rings and a couple of Finals MVPs — says more about what you want and expect from a superstar than it does Durant. He told Charania he saw no logic in what people said about him as he left Golden State, so he stopped worrying about it. He went to Brooklyn, which went worse than just about everyone expected, so he moved on and said he is ignoring the critics again. (Except the occasional foray into Twitter may suggest he cares more than he lets on.)

Durant has cast himself as a guy who just wants to hoop because, at his core, that’s who he is. This is a guy who loves the grind, the competition, he’s an ultimate process-over-results guy. He’s embraced that about himself, he sees that as his legacy even if others will pile more on top of it.

Durant can’t end the legacy debate around him. But he doesn’t have to care about it, either.