Three things to Know: Mikal Bridges scores 15 straight, 45 for game, Nets beat Heat
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) Mikal Bridges scores 15 straight, 45 for game, Nets beat Heat
Mikal Bridges came in second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season and that is his calling card — elite point of attack wing defense. He could score a little, too, 14.2 points a game last season, but his value comes because he is a defensive stopper.
At least before he got to Brooklyn — Bridges scored 15 straight Nets points in the fourth quarter to blow a close game wide open Wednesday, and he finished with a career-best 45 points on the night.
“I just had it going and my teammates found me every time,” Bridges said, via the Associated Press.
This game had weight — Brooklyn sits fifth in the East, Miami came into the game sixth, and the conventional wisdom is that the Durant-less Nets would slide into the play-in while the Heat and Knicks would move into the top six and avoid the play-in. Instead, Bridges went off, Jimmy Butler played as if he was mentally on vacation already (13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and he just seemed to coast through the game), Brooklyn did a good job taking away things Bam Adebayo wanted to do, and the Heat missed Tyler Herro (left knee contusion).
The result was a 116-105 Nets win, giving them a little cushion, and with the Knicks win Wednesday New York moves up to sixth and Miami slides to seventh. Brooklyn made a statement they are not just rolling over and falling out of the top six in the East, while Miami had another disappointing loss in a season full of them. This Heat team should be better than it is, but 59 games into the season this is who they are.
Miami could use a shot in the arm, such as maybe…
2) Kevin Love working on buyout from Cavaliers; Heat frontrunners
The Cavaliers and veteran forward Kevin Love are close to a buyout deal that will make him one of the more coveted free agents on the market, reports Shams Charania and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.
They say the Heat — a team in search of help at the four, where they have started Caleb Martin much of the season — may be the frontrunners to land Love. He makes a lot of sense for them, but Love will also have other options. (Miami has its bi-annual exception and some mid-level exception money left to offer more than the minimum, if they want to be serious and land him.)
Love, a 15-year NBA veteran, is averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a game, is shooting 35.4% from 3, and is known for his rebounding and outlet passing. He is not the player he once was, but he could help a team on the court and as a solid veteran in the locker room.
3) Lakers pick up needed win against Pelicans heading into break
We are not about to do the “this is the win that turns the Lakers season around” thing. They are 59 games into the season, this is who they are.
But the best version of the Lakers — with LeBron James and Anthony Davis healthy, and with an improved supporting cast around them after the trade deadline — is absolutely a threat to climb up into the play-in and maybe be a problem for a team in the postseason. (Lakers fans, chill out on the top six and deep run ideas, your team is still five games below .500, they have a lot to prove just to make the playoffs.)
That best version of the Lakers got a much-needed win over a stumbling Pelicans team on Wednesday night, 120-102, the kind of closeout before the All-Star break they needed. The Lakers new starting five — LeBron and Davis with three guys picked up at the trade deadline in D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt — outplayed the Pelicans’ Zion-less starting five and controlled the game. Davis led the Lakers with 28 points and 10 boards, while both LeBron and Russell scored 21.
The Lakers were moving the ball (12 assists on their first 12 buckets) and playing with some pace and energy. They defended reasonably well. It was a good sign and a good win against a team above them in the standings (albeit one that has fallen hard due to injuries and has yet to find its footing consistently again).
In a bunched-up West, the Lakers don’t appear far out of anything (two games from the play-in, 3.5 from the top six), but they need to string together a consistent series of wins before anyone gets too excited. Consistency has not exactly been the hallmark of this team this season, and there are teams above them in the standings — Golden state, Dallas, the team down the hall at crypto.com arena — who are saying the same thing about just needing a few wins in a row. It’s one step at a time for all those teams, but the Lakers took a nice first step on Wednesday.