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Three things to Know: Is it time to take the Clippers seriously as contenders?

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In this additional of Kurt's Korner, Helin and Corey Robinson preview NBA All-Star Weekend, including predictions for stacked challenges on Saturday.

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) Is it time to take the Clippers seriously as contenders?

“Then I’ll get on my knees and pray… We don’t get fooled again.”

It’s hard not to have the classic rock anthem by The Who running through your mind when thinking about the Clippers as a possible title threat, but they are starting to look like it.

The Clippers are 10-4 in their last 14 games with the best offense in the NBA over that stretch, with the latest of those wins coming Thursday night in the final game before the All-Star break, a 116-107 win over the still-shorthanded Suns, behind 26 a piece from Paul George and Terrence Mann. Kawhi Leonard added 16.

“We have everything we need. We have scorers, playmakers, and defensive stoppers,” Paul George said after the game. “We just have to bring that all together and find an identity to carry us throughout games. We plan to have a long postseason, so we plan to have an identity to carry us through that final stretch.”

The key to this Clippers run has been Kawhi Leonard being on the floor for 16 of the team’s last 19 games — he continues to play at an All-NBA level when he is out there. In his last 15 games he is averaging 27.1 points per game on 51.6% shooting, with 6.3 rebounds a night as well.

“I like how we look. I think we match up with anybody, but I think it’s gonna be a challenge regardless,” George said of the Clippers in a conference that just saw the Suns add Kevin Durant and the Mavericks add Kyrie Irving. “I think we have the group to really go out there and compete.”

The knock on the Clippers as contenders is that during this stretch of 15 games, they have the 19th-ranked defense in the league — that will not be good enough come the postseason. But the defense was not the problem most of the season (it is 12th in the league for the season, using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers to filter out garbage time), it was the offense. The other concern is that the Clippers have been one of the luckiest teams in the league, outperforming a net rating that suggests they are a .500ish team. Maybe that is changing, too.

“We still got to get better,” Leonard said. “I don’t think we’re playing at a championship level yet but we’re gradually getting better and we got to keep getting better.”

The Clippers sit as the No.4 seed in the West heading into the All-Star break, and despite the history they are a team to watch.

2) Bucks extend win streak to 12 but Antetokounmpo injures wrist

The storyline should be that the Bucks head into the All-Star break winning 12 in a row — beating the Bulls 112-100 on Thursday behind 33 points from Brook Lopez — and looking like legitimate title contenders.

Instead, it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo’s wrist, which he sprained in the second quarter falling into the stanchion, breaking his fall with his right hand, and he left the game not to return.

Coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game the X-rays were clean and this was just a sprain, and he sounded optimistic about Antetokounmpo’s recovery. However, whether he plays in Sunday’s All-Star Game, where he is a captain along with LeBron James, remains to be seen. The Bucks are not going to rush their star back.

3) Beal takes over late, scores 35 to cap off Wizards’ comeback over Timberwolves

Bradley Beal took over when it mattered, scoring 13 of his 35 points over the final 4:30 of the game to help the Wizards complete a 20-point comeback to beat the Timberwolves.

That’s the third time in four games Beal has scored 30+, and the Wizards got a boost from Corey Kispert off the bench with 15 points, knocking down 4-of-6 from 3.

While the Wizards have work to do over the season’s final third, they sit as the No.9 seed in the East and look like a postseason team. How big a threat they are in the postseason remains to be seen.