Three things to know: Bucks beat Nets, again, but 76ers may be big winner
The NBA regular season has two weeks remaining, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) Bucks beat Nets, again, but 76ers may be big winner
For the second straight game, the Milwaukee Bucks won a hard-fought, playoff-intensity contest against the Brooklyn Nets — and that makes it all the more likely these two teams will meet and play a best-of-seven in the second round of the playoffs. These wins can and should give the Bucks confidence heading into that postseason showdown.
However, the real winners of the sweep are the Philadelphia 76ers — Philly is now 1.5 games ahead of Brooklyn for the top seed in the East, two games up in the loss column with seven games left on the schedule. Oh, and about that schedule: The 76ers have a much easier one the rest of the way than the Nets. Philadelphia is in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the East, which means more games at home where it is 25-7, but more importantly, it puts the Nets and Bucks on a collision course on the other side of the bracket — the Sixers will only have to face one of them.
For Milwaukee, there are many positives to take away from these two wins when looking ahead.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had his 3-pointer working, hitting 4-of-8 in the first game and his first three attempts on Tuesday — when that shot is falling he (and, by extension, the Bucks) are much harder to guard.
Jrue Holiday has looked up to the task in these games. He had 23 points on 13 shots, plus 10 assists on Tuesday, and in both games he did as good a defensive job on Kyrie Irving as could be hoped for. Khris Middleton stepped up in the fourth quarter and shot 6-of-6 in the frame. The Bucks dominated the glass (55-39 in total rebounds). And, Milwaukee showed resiliency, using an 18-1 run to come from behind and get the win.
Yet, Brooklyn was without James Harden, and he changes everything.
After the game, Steve Nash and Kevin Durant admitted that the lack of time together to build chemistry — the big three of Harden, Irving, and Kevin Durant have played just seven games together — is a concern heading into the playoffs. Continuity matters, and the Bucks have all of it, and it showed in these two games.
But Harden changes everything. The looming playoff showdown between these teams (if neither stumbles in the first round) will be epic.
2) Lights go out Stephen Curry’s shooting — literally
My guess for what happened is Don Cheadle had a pretty big pinch and was able to blow the power to the whole block, and everyone was in Barney...
Or, maybe not. But the Pelicans found one way to stop Stephen Curry on Tuesday night, literally turning off the lights on his shot.
Curry finished with 37, but he didn’t get the same help in the second game of this set and the Pelicans got the win, 108-103. Lonzo Ball showed up big — 33 points, tying a career-high, and hitting seven threes — and the Pelicans showed some real grit and resolve on the second night of a back-to-back.
The win keeps the Pelicans slim hopes of making the play-in games alive, they are two back of the Spurs with six games left to play. But, San Antonio has the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, so that sliver of hope survives in New Orleans.
3) Young stars Haliburton, Gilgeous-Alexander done for season
This is what teams fear at the end of the season, but hopefully, both will be back next season.
Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton had a scary-looking non-contact knee injury a couple of nights ago.
The word out of that was as good as could be hoped for — an MRI showed “just” a hyperextension of the left knee, no ligament damage, and no need for surgery. That’s good news, but he is likely done for the season. Haliburton will make a lot of Rookie of the Year ballots, averaging 13 points and 5.3 assists a game, playing meaningful minutes for the Kings off the bench, and showing a real maturity for a player so young.
In Oklahoma City, point guard and franchise anchor Shai Gilgeous-Alexander suffered a “significant tear” in his plantar fascia, coach Mark Daigneault said. SGA is done for the season as well and hopefully can bounce back next season.
For this season, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.7 rebounds a game. He is a gifted playmaker and shooter who came to OKC in the Paul George trade, and he is the one anchor player that the rebuilding Thunder definitely want to keep and use as a franchise cornerstone going forward. The focus now is just letting his foot heal before next season.