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Three things to Know: Nets only about basketball as win streak reaches nine

Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out 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) Nets only about basketball as win streak reaches nine

“When we step into the gym every single day it’s about basketball.” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn.

“To be honest, we’ve always been about basketball. The outside noise makes it seem like we don’t care about the game, but so many voices speak about our locker room who don’t have any idea what’s going on. We’ve always been about the game.” Kevin Durant

When there are no distractions and just hoop (and a little bit of health), the Brooklyn Nets are damn good. They have won nine in a row, 13-of-14, and have climbed up to third in the East following a 125-117 win over the Cavaliers on Monday night. The Nets are top 10 in offense and defense over that stretch and look like contenders, although the win against Cleveland was all about the offense — Brooklyn shot 18-of-30 (60%) from 3 on the night. Durant and Kyrie Irving both put up 32 to spark the victory.

Durant keeps making history, too. With a second quarter jumper right over the top of a solid defender (KD has done that a lot in his career), Durant passed San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan and moved into 15th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Durant is now at 26,516 points after this game. Before the end of the season Durant likely passes Dominique Wilkins (26,668), Oscar Robertson (26,710) and Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946), too.

Durant wasn’t the only one scoring, Darius Garland had 46 points and eight assists for the Cavaliers, it just wasn’t enough.

Brooklyn’s win streak started against a soft part of the schedule but this week — with wins over the Bucks and Cavaliers — has shown the Nets are more than taking advantage of a blip in the schedule. Jacque Vaughn has quieted the noise around this team and the focus is on basketball. Just basketball.

And the Nets are really good at it.

2) Clippers rally from 14 down in final 3 minutes, keep finding ways to win without stars

The advanced stats don’t love the Clippers. At a fundamental level they have a +0.2 net rating — they should be closer to a .500 team — with the 28th-ranked offense in the league.’s adjusted net rating (accounting for strength of schedule) is a good example, it has the Clippers ranked 22nd in the league.

Yet Los Angeles is 20-15 and keeps finding ways to win games without their stars. Monday night the Pistons went on a 13-0 run and led 126-112 with 3:34 remaining, but the Clippers followed that up with an insane rally to force overtime, where L.A. got the win — without Kawhi Leonard, who rested half of a back-to-back (he will play against his former team in Toronto Tuesday).

Call them lucky if you want, but give the Clippers credit for finding wins — they are fourth in the West and we still don’t have any idea how good this team really can be. We only see the potential of this team in glimpses. In a West where nobody is running away with anything, where no team is securely on the mountaintop, can we rule out the Clippers as a team that could make the Finals? The Clips have a +15.9 net rating when Leonard and George are on the floor together, and their preferred starting five — Reggie Jackson, George, Leonard, Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac — has a +4.3 net rating. When healthy, they feel like a threat. Maybe, if they can get enough time together on the courts and build a base of good habits before the playoffs, they can make a run in the West.

But until then, they keep just finding ways to rack up wins.

3) Kings’ Sabonis to play through fractured finger

Domantas Sabonis is at the heart of the Kings looking like a playoff team this season and he wants to be part of that — he has decided to play through an avulsion fracture on his right thumb, the team announced. He is officially questionable for tonight’s game against the Nuggets.

An avulsion fracture is when a strained ligament pulls a little bit of bone off where the two connect. It usually does not require surgery.

Whether Sabonis can play through this is a question of pain tolerance and if it starts to impact his game. As a big man not asked to do a lot of dribbling, it will affect his game less, but it will be worth watching his shooting numbers over the coming weeks.

Sabonis is averaging 17.9 points on 61.2% shooting plus pulling down 12.4 rebounds a game, playing at an All-Star level for the Kings, who are at 17-14, are tied with Utah for the No.6 seed (and avoiding the play-in games) in the West. The Kings are desperate to end their 16-year playoff drought and need Sabonis to do it.