Three things to Know: Dončić, Irving now 0-2 as teammates, have work to do
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 now 0-2 as teammates, have things to figure out
“Great players figure it out.” That’s the mantra around the league whenever two elite players whose games wouldn’t seem to mesh naturally join forces. Chris Paul and James Harden figured it out in Houston, for example.
Luka Dončić and Kyrie will figure it out. But there is work to do to get there, and it is evident in their first couple of games together. The Mavs are 0-2 in those games after falling to the Timberwolves on Monday, 124-121.
Right now, the offense is Dončić and Irving playing next to each other — for too much of the first three quarters Monday night Irving was basically a decoy in the corner. Or, if Irving was running the offense Dončić was standing still (or, a couple of times, ignoring the play altogether to argue with the referee). Irving took over in the fourth quarter Monday and scored 26 in the final frame, it was just not enough to make up the ground (Dallas entered the fourth down 18). Dončić wasn’t exactly helpful off the ball during this run, but he did stay out of the way and let the guy with the hot hand have the rock.
It’s just two games. Irving and Dončić will figure it out this season, but both of them are going to have to make sacrifices they are not right now. The Mavs have shooting around their star duo and the offense will click eventually. Remember it took LeBron James and Dwyane Wade a season and a half to figure things out in Miami, hopefully it doesn’t take that long in Dallas.
That still leaves two big questions.
The first is defense. Minnesota had a 131 offensive rating in the win Monday, in the game before that Sacramento had a 126 (for comparison, Denver has the best offense in the NBA this season at 118.2). Minnesota scored 40 points in the paint in the first half (65 total points in the first 24 minutes). Again, we need to give Jason Kidd a little time, but this was a bottom-10 defense before the trade and they sent away their best on-ball defender in Dorian Finney-Smith. The Mavericks must get the offense clicking because they will win games by outscoring teams.
The other big question: Will Irving stick around after the season? He sounds open to it but was understandably non-committal at this point.
“What the future holds is really only going to be dictated on what I do right now, and how I prepare for those next steps, and that’s being the best teammate that I can in that locker room and a great leader out here, I think within the Dallas community….” Irving said, via the Associated Press. “So we’re just putting that to bed and just focus on what we have ahead as a team.”
What they have as a team has a lot of potential, but there is work to do.
2) Curry talks about return, he hopes soon after All-Star Break
Stephen Curry spoke with reporters about the leg injury that has him out through the All-Star break and beyond. He hoped to return quickly after the All-Star break ends in a couple of weeks.
“At first it felt like it was a normal contusion, just a real serious one, that’s why I went to the bench and thought I could kind of just shake it off, then I got up from the bench and felt something different and was like `Nah, that’s not right,”’ Curry said, via the Associated Press “I knew it was something more than just a normal contusion because I couldn’t put any weight on it and was hobbling around. Thankfully there weren’t any broken bones or anything.”
The Warriors are 2-2 so far in this stretch without Curry, including a win over the Wizards on Monday night.
That puts them at 29-28 on the season, sitting ninth in the West. Everyone is waiting for the Warriors to flip the switch and look like the championship team of a season ago, but if they do, it will come with Curry back in the lineup. So everyone waits.
3) Jalen Brunson drops 40 on Nets, Knicks pick up key win
The Nets aren’t going to fall out of the postseason with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving gone, they have too big a cushion (seven games) and the players they got back in those trades are quality NBA role players who can help them win a few games. The question is how many teams can pass the No.5 seed Nets, secure a slot in the top six, and avoid the play-in.
The Knicks are one of those teams, so their win over the Nets Monday matters. Jalen Brunson dropped 40 points, while Josh Hart added a season-high 27 in his second game with his new team. It led to a 124-106 Knicks victory Monday night.
Julius Randle added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who beat the Nets for the first time in three years.
The seventh-place Knicks are now within two games of the Nets for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.