Three Things to Know: Kevin Durant steals a little of Kobe’s thunder with game winner
LOS ANGELES — Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. We’re coming to you live from Staples Center with tonight’s three things.
1) Kobe Bryant gets his jersey retired, then Kevin Durant crushes Lakers’ fans dreams of perfect night with game winner. It was Kobe Bryant’s house one last time at Staples Center Monday. This building may not exists but for the energy Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal brought to the Lakers, and after a legendary 20-year career it was fitting that the Lakers retired both of his jerseys, 8 and 24.
Kobe finally answered wether he thought 8 or 24 had the better run.
“Eight will have something 24 will never, ever, ever, ever have — the ability to grown hair,” Bryant joked. “It’s really tough for me (to choose between 8 and 24), but 24 was tougher. And I tend to gravitate toward things that are harder to do.”
Then there was the actual game at Staples Center, where for the second time this year the Lakers pushed the Warriors to overtime. It was the second time the Lakers played one of their better games of the season — except at the free throw line, where they were 22-of-35 (62 percent) — while the Warriors took the Lakers lightly. This time the Warriors were also short-handed with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Shaun Livingston all out.
Kevin Durant was off, he started the game 4-of-20 from the floor. But KD has a little Kobe in him — when he’s not scoring his confidence never falters, and he keeps on firing. From the middle of the fourth quarter on he was 6-of-9 shooting including three from beyond the arc.
The biggest of those was the game winner in overtime to give Golden State a 116-114 win to take a little luster off Kobe’s big night. Durant got the matchup he wanted, isolated on Lonzo Ball, then went to work.
2) Pacers throw game away to Celtics — literally — and waste another great game from Victor Oladipo. Pacers’ GM Kevin Pritchard — who has won more than his share of trades in his career — looks smarter and smarter every day for getting Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis out of Oklahoma City in the Paul George trade. I wouldn’t say you “win” any trade where PG13 goes out the door, but he did better for the Pacers than most of us realized at the time.
Given another chance and the ball in his hands as a shot creator, Oladipo has exploded with an All-Star level season. That continued Monday night against the East-leading Celtics, where Oladipo had 38 points — 30 in the second half — to put the Pacers in a position to win it. Indiana was in control and the Celtics were fouling and jacking up threes trying to hang on in the final two minutes. Then Kyrie Irving hit a couple of big threes (he had 30 points on the night and was clutch), and with 9 seconds left the Pacers were up one, 111-110. Indiana called timeout to advance the ball to halfcourt, then inbounded the ball to Cory Joseph who was not instantly fouled and made a quick pass to Bojan Bogdanovic to kill more time. Smart play. Then Bogdanovic tried the same idea but executed it poorly, throwing a hanging, slow cross-court pass.
Terry Rozier from Boston stole the pass, tipping it forward to himself, then racing in for the game-winning layup.
Rough night, rough loss for a Pacers team that showed it belonged all night.
3) Larry Nance Jr. with Dunk of the Year candidate. For the third thing we could have gone with Jimmy Butler scoring 37 points than ranting about how he loves defense after the game. Russell Westbrook had 38 points in a one-point Thunder win over the Nuggets.
But how can we not go with Larry Nance’s Dunk of the Year candidate, throwing it down on Kevin Durant?
KD created his own problem here with an ill-advised look-ahead pass that led to a turnover and a Lakers’ transition chance, but even so nobody can expect to get destroyed like that. KD is the Warriors best rim protector and has played at an All-Defensive Team level this season, he stayed in to try to block the shot. But that was not happening. Nance has had big throwdowns before, but this was one for the ages.