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Three things to Know: Don’t look now but the Knicks have won six straight

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Michael Smith praises Damian Lillard's recent high-scoring performances, including when he scored 71 points vs. the Rockets, and explains why Lillard will always be respected in the NBA even without championship rings.

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) Don’t look now but the Knicks have won six straight

February was a good month for the Knicks.

While they were relatively quiet at the trade deadline, they went 9-2 on the court — with a +8.4 net rating that is third-best in the league in that stretch — and have now won six straight after beating the Celtics at Madison Square Garden Monday (with help from some ice cold Boston shooting). As Knicks fans will quickly point out, they are 6-0 in the Josh Hart era, although Hart himself says to stop that talk.

The February run means the Knicks are not only the fifth seed in the East, but they should also be able to hold that position — the stripped-down Nets are sixth (the Knicks play them next), the up-and-down Heat are seventh 2.5 games back, and after that are the Hawks four games back. The Knicks have control of a top-five seed in their own hands.

What kind of night was it Monday for the Knicks and Jayson Tatum?

All-Star Julius Randle continued his run of strong play with 23 points, which was matched by the hot shooting of Immanuel Quickley off the bench (he was 4-of-7 from 3). Then there was the floor general Jalen Brunson, who didn’t have his best night (4-of-12 shooting) but this team still needs him as a steadying force. Plus, he just makes plays.

Jaylen Brown was out for Boston and Tatum continued his stretch of rough play (outside the final six minutes Saturday), finishing with 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting before getting ejected in the fourth quarter for arguing a call. But the better sign of how off the Celtics were is that after Al Horford made the team’s first 3-point attempt of the night, Boston missed its next 17 shots from beyond the arc. Malcolm Brogdon led the Celtics with 22 points off the bench (in a season where nobody is running away with Sixth Man of the Year, he remains in the mix).

The loss drops the Celtics percentage points behind the red-hot Bucks for the top seed in the East. Things do not get easier with the Cavaliers up on Wednesday, then these Knicks again on Sunday (and then the Cavs again next Monday on a back-to-back).

2) LeBron reportedly could miss weeks with foot issue

The Lakers had their fans dreaming not only postseason but also a playoff run the way they had looked with their improved post-deadline roster in recent games.

Then came the news that took the wind out of their sails — LeBron James could miss “extended time” with his foot injury. As in weeks. There have been no details related by LeBron or the team, although NBC Sports has learned he is seeing (or saw yesterday) a foot/leg specialist in the Los Angeles area. The only sign we know things are not good is what LeBron posted to his Instagram story.

The Lakers, sitting 12th in the West despite the recent run of strong play, are not the same team without LeBron. He is averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. More importantly, the Lakers are 11.2 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court this season (and get outscored when he is off).

This injury has been building. LeBron played through a sore foot in his quest to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record — as soon as he set the record he sat out three games in a row. His foot was clearly bothering him while he scored 26 points Sunday against the Mavericks in a key Lakers win, then limped out of the arena after the game. He is officially out Tuesday vs. Memphis and there is nothing from the team yet beyond that.

This puts a lot more pressure on Anthony Davis, who has played brilliantly of late but is not a shot creator for others in the sense the Lakers can run the offense through him every time down. When D’Angelo Russell gets back more will fall on his shoulders, but he is not a ball-sharing floor general in the classic sense, which is one reason Minnesota was ready to move on from him.

The Lakers need to find a way to get wins while LeBron is out or their postseason dreams could be in jeopardy.

3) LaMelo Ball done for season with fractured ankle

The Charlotte Hornets have won five straight games, which not ideal for a team tanking for Wembanyama at this point, but this is also not how they wanted to slow down that hot streak.

LaMelo Ball fractured his ankle during the third quarter against the Pistons Monday on a non-contact play.

Ball left the game after that and the team soon announced the fracture. While there is no official timeline for his return, it’s hard to imagine he will set foot on the court again this season. There’s no point for Charlotte in bringing him back.

The team released no details on what kind of ankle fracture this is, if the injury is what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes suggests, it may not be the kind of situation that lingers deep into the summer and maybe next season (but we just don’t know for sure).

Ball has missed considerable time this season (26 games, primarily due to ankle issues) and is averaging 23.4 points per game, with 8.5 assists and 6.4 boards while shooting 36.7% from 3.

Bonus thing to see: A Cody Zeller chasedown block on Joel Embiid? A Cody Zeller chasedown block on Joel Embiid.