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Three things to Know: Dončić, Irving combine for 82 points, beat 76ers

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The Warriors have been mediocre by their standards this season, yet are well in striking distance of home-court advantage in a first-round series. Vinnie Goodwill explains why the West is so wide open.

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) Dončić, Irving combine for 82 points, that’s enough to beat 76ers

This was a party — and exactly how the Dallas Mavericks are going to win games. They aren’t getting stops by playing defense on a string — they had a horrific 128.6 defensive rating Thursday night — they simply are going to win shootouts.

It was a scoring party in the American Airlines Arena as Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving combined for 82 points and the Mavericks put up a 133 spot, a number the 76ers couldn’t match (126).

“Luka was ready for the party,” Irving said, via the Associated Press. “I was ready for the party tonight. It was one of those games where we had some special performances. “

Dončić finished with 42 points and 12 assists, shooting 13-of-22 from the floor. Irving had 40 points and six assists, shooting 15-of-22.

Dallas led by 16 at a couple of different points in the fourth only to have it look like another blown lead/Philadelphia comeback as Joel Embiid dropped 35 and inspired his team. Philly showed some grit, but it just wasn’t to be. They couldn’t slow the Mavs duo down. With the win, the Mavericks jump into the West’s top six.

The silver lining for Philadelphia: Tyrese Maxey does look better as a starter. He has started the last two games for Doc Rivers, moving De’Anthony Melton to the bench. We may be seeing this rotation the rest of the way.

Melton was starting for defense (and he was knocking down shots), Maxey is the more dynamic offensive player but is not near the same defender. That showed on Thursday and once Dončić and Irving got rolling the game was over.

2) Curry near return; LeBron nowhere near return

The Warriors have gone 6-4 — including winning four straight — while Stephen Curry has been sidelined since Feb. 4 due to partial tears to his superior tibiofibular ligaments and interosseous membrane (where the shin connects to the knee).

The wait for his return may be over this weekend, reports Chris Haynes of TNT/Bleacher Report.

Steve Kerr did not confirm the news but made it sound possible, saying Curry has been scrimmaging.

Curry has played at an MVP level when on the court this season, averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors are 8.1 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. Golden State needs his return for the final 18 games of the season if this team is going to flip the switch and show a title-defending form we have only seen in brief flashes this season.

While the news was good in the Bay Area, it’s not so good for the team Curry would return against on Sunday.

The Lakers announced Thursday LeBron James will be re-evaluated in three weeks after suffering a foot tendon issue. The injury occurred against the Mavericks last weekend — LeBron said on the court he heard it “pop” — and has already sidelined him for a couple of games.

The Lakers’ odds of climbing into the play-in are long without him. Los Angeles is 6-10 in games LeBron misses this season, and adding to the team’s woes is the fact their other shot creator of note, D’Angelo Russell, also is out right now (sprained ankle). LeBron is playing at an All-NBA level this season, averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game.

A lot falls on the shoulders of Anthony Davis for the next few weeks to get the Lakers into the playoff mix.

3) Warriors don’t need Curry’s return to blow out Clippers

While waiting for Curry the Warriors have found a little groove and won their fourth straight game on Thursday night by dominating the second half and coming back to handily beat the Clippers 115-91.

The Warriors were down 11 at the half when Jordan Poole took over and scored 22 points in the third, knocking down four 3-pointers in the frame.

The Warriors won the third quarter 42-16, aided by the fact the Clippers went ice cold after halftime — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Norman Powell combined to shoot 0-of-17 in the second half. As a team, the Clippers were 3-of-22 from beyond the arc after halftime and the Warriors won the second half by 35 points.

The Clippers are now 0-4 since the All-Star break and are a team searching for their identity. Russell Westbrook is taking the brunt of the criticism, but that’s not totally fair, he had played well before this game (he was 3-of-12 shooting Thursday). Westbrook has just been himself, but his pace and style of play at the point are a dramatic departure from the slower, more measured Clippers team that was finding a rhythm with Terance Mann at the point for the 20 games before that trade. For management — at the urging of players led by George — to change point guards and styles of play after 61 games is to invite instability.

With this loss (and the Mavericks’ win) the Clippers fall to 33-32 and are now seventh in the West, in the play-in. Their fight in the remaining 17 games is to find a way into the top six, but that will require a level of play they have not been close to these last four games.