Three Things to Know: Durant drops 53, Nets becoming playoff team no top seed wants
Three Things 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 going that make the NBA great.
1) Durant drops 53, Nets becoming playoff team no top seed wants
The Brooklyn Nets’ path through the playoffs will be brutal. Even with a solid end to the season, they are almost certainly locked into the play-in (3.5 games back of the No. 6 seed Cavaliers and avoiding the play-in, with 14 games to play). That means needing to win one of two extra games just to get into the playoffs as the No. 7 or No. 8 seed — the reward for that is starting on the road against one of the Heat, 76ers, or Bucks. Brooklyn would start every series on the road and face a brutal path (maybe red hot Boston in the second round). It would be a gauntlet.
Then you watch the Nets over the weekend and think, “if any team….”
They are absolutely the team the top seeds want to avoid in the first round.
Friday night, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sent a message to James Harden — and, by extension, new teammate Ben Simmons — in thrashing the 76ers. It was a game where Brooklyn and two-thirds of its stars reminded everyone why they were the clear title favorites preseason.
Then on Sunday — with Irving watching courtside, maskless, but unable to play — Durant took over and dropped 53 on the cross-town rival Knicks, including draining the tiebreaking 3-pointer in the final minute that put the Nets up for good.
Durant also had nine assists and six rebounds. That was the 60th time in Durant’s NBA career he scored 40+ points in a game.
There are still so many questions about these Nets — too many to consider them among the top title contenders right now. When will Ben Simmons play and how will he fit in? Will Kyrie Irving be able to play home games? Is their defense anywhere near good enough in matchups with elite teams? Do the Nets have the roster and scheme versatility to win a playoff series against the best teams, let alone multiple of them?
It’s asking a lot.
But if any team could…
2) Celtics retire Kevin Garnett’s No. 5 jersey
Kevin Garnett’s resume from his six seasons in Celtics Green is impressive: Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA First Team, five-time All-Star, four-time All-Defensive Team member.
However, the most important thing is Boston does not come close to winning the 2008 NBA title without him.
Garnett deserved to have his No. 5 jersey retired, and that’s what happened on Sunday in an emotional ceremony.
The ceremony’s highlight was the big three from that 2008 title team — Ray Allen, Paul Peirce and Garnett — moving past the bitterness of how it all ended and hugging it out.
Garnett made sure the Celtics fans knew what he thought of them.
It was a moving and fitting ceremony and tribute to a Celtics great.
3) Video of LeBron James watching, not trying, on defense becomes a thing
There wasn’t much positive for Los Angeles in a 29-point blowout loss to the Suns Sunday, but the highlight the Lakers and LeBron James would like you to take away from the game is him getting his 10,000th career assist.
That is NOT the video everyone is talking about.
Instead, it’s this one of LeBron James not putting in any effort — not even getting back into the screen on a trip down the court — on multiple possessions in a row to open this game.
That’s in the first quarter and LeBron is already disengaged. To be fair, LeBron did challenge a shot at the rim in that first possession, and he got down to the offensive end. But still, we all see it.
LeBron had a couple of monster 50 point games last week. But watch the Lakers regularly and you see LeBron has largely checked out on defense in recent weeks. He’s got as high a hoops IQ as anyone in the game, and with that he knows what this Lakers team is and is not. They are not a match for a contender like the Suns (even without Chris Paul on Sunday). That knowledge seems to impact LeBron on the court at times.
LeBron isn’t alone. Plenty of Los Angeles fans have disengaged from this team as well, turning their focus to the Dodgers now that the Rams season has ended. Lakers Nation is talking more about offseason changes than play-in possibilities.
Highlight of the Night: Watch Trae Young drop 47 on Pacers
The Hawks have not lived up to expectations this season — but Trae Young has. The fourth-year guard has had his best and most efficient season, getting better in almost every aspect of his game. He should be an All-NBA guard this season (which team can be debated, but he makes the cut).
The latest evidence? Watch him drop 47 on the Pacers Sunday in a Hawks win
Brooklyn 110, New York 107
LA Clippers 106, Detroit 102
Dallas 95, Boston 92
Philadelphia 116, Orlando 114 (OT)
Atlanta 131, Indiana 128
New Orleans 130, Houston 105
Memphis 125, Oklahoma City 118
Phoenix 140, LA Lakers 111