Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
1) James Dolan’s Knicks still don’t know how to pick their battles. Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” is technically a military book, but in reality it is a 2,000-year-old treatise on how to win at conflict. Within its pages is a lot of wisdom on how to get the upper hand in conflicts by outsmarting an opponent, about how to win the war on the home front and not just on a battlefield. Ideally, it’s better to win without a costly battle rather than charging headlong into a fight. One of the book’s biggest lessons is simple:
Choose your battles wisely.
James Dolan and the Knicks never seem to do that. The Knicks owner and his organization charge headlong into the next unwise fight, time and time again.
The latest is the kerfuffle with Knicks superfan Spike Lee, who says he is done with the team for this season (not that he is missing much). We could get into the details of the back-and-forth between the sides from Tuesday, the potentially staged photograph and all the rest, but that misses the larger point.
Dolan, an unpopular owner, and his organization picked a fight with the public face of Knicks’ fandom — a battle Dolan and the Knicks cannot win on the PR front. Lee does not shy away from confrontation or publicity, did the Knicks even consider this as they put out a press release that they likely though ended the conversation but really just escalated it?
Dolan lost this battle before it started.
And over what? Which entrance to the arena Lee uses? That’s the hill the Knicks want to die on? Celebrity customers bend the rules in every walk of life (fair or not), and the reaction of business owners is usually “the customer is always right.” If a behavior needs to be addressed, it’s done out of the spotlight – and kept out of the spotlight, no matter what — to help everyone save face. It’s basic business. It’s putting the customer first.
Not at Madison Square Garden. On a night the Knicks got their best win of the season — knocking off the red-hot Rockets, with RJ Barrett putting up 27 points — nobody is talking about that because Dolan’s ego and the Knicks PR “machine” got involved. Dolan and the Knicks didn’t pick their battles. Again.
Hope you’re enjoying your first week on the job, Leon Rose.
2) Caris LeVert drops 51, leads Nets from 17 down in the fourth quarter to knock off Celtics in overtime. There are plenty of excuses lined up if Boston wants them: Jayson Tatum was out, Kemba Walker was on a minutes limit, then Gordon Hayward’s knee bruise and Jaylen Brown’s hamstring had them missing key minutes down the stretch.
It doesn’t matter. If Boston is really the second-best team in the East, it has to find a way to win a game against a banged-up sub-.500 team the Celtics led by 17 to start the fourth quarter.
Enter Caris LeVert. Brooklyn’s athletic wing scored 26 points in the fourth quarter, all 11 of his team’s points in overtime, and sparked the Nets comeback from 21 down in the second half to beat the Celtics 129-120 in overtime.
It’s one of the best wins of the season for the Nets, who will make the playoffs as the seven or eight seed in the East. Brooklyn put up a franchise-record 51 points in the fourth to complete the comeback.
It was the worst loss of the season for the Celtics. Marcus Smart wanted to blame the officials — his foul on LeVert with 0.2 in regulation allowed overtime to happen — and had to be held back and taken off the court after the game so he didn’t go after them.
Smart can be pissed at the officiating, but this loss is on the guys in the Boston locker room, not the refs. The Celtics surrendered a 51-point quarter, Brad Stevens didn’t make many adjustments as the walls crumbled, and a team that has been “next man up” all season long wasn’t in this game, the bench struggled.
The priority for Boston has to be getting Hayward, Tatum (illness) and everyone healthy — the Celtics don’t want these things to linger through the final six weeks of the season. That said, the Celtics are currently the three seed in the East and are now one game back in the loss column from the Raptors for the two seed. Boston has lost two in a row and heads to Cleveland, where the Celtics need to right the ship.
3) Anthony Davis scores 37, the Lakers keep on winning and the 76ers keep on stumbling. The Lakers were not caught looking ahead. They have big tests coming up — the Bucks on Friday night, the Clippers on Sunday — but first Anthony Davis and LeBron James made sure they took care of business against Philly.
Davis led the way with 37 points (he had a red-hot second quarter), while LeBron had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds during a 120-107 win against a 76ers team still without Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons due to injury (plus Josh Richardson missed the game due to a concussion).
Philly fell to 9-23 on the road and they sit as the six seed in the East currently. Tobias Harris was aggressive early, and finished with 18 points in the game, but foul trouble limited him. Al Horford looked a step slow next to Anthony Davis (or, really, anyone). Glen Robinson III did have 25 to lead the Sixers.
This was another quality win for the Lakers, the kind they have consistently gotten all season to stay on top of the West. They look every bit the title contenders, but the real tests on that front come this weekend.