Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Three Things to Know: On big stage, Durant steps up while Harden melts

Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson reveal the NBA's young stars they'd most like to build a franchise around, including Ja Morant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and LaMelo Ball.

Three Things 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 going that make the NBA great.

1) On big stage, Durant steps up while Harden melts

The real winners from this game: The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat. They look far more like deep, versatile, battle-tested, playoff-ready teams set to make deep runs than the flawed teams that took the court in Philadelphia Thursday.

That said, Thursday night in Philadelphia may not have been a playoff game but it felt like one.

Philadelphia fans filled the building with emotion — mostly anger at Ben Simmons, and they let him hear it early — and legends such as Allen Iverson and Dr. J showed up and sat courtside. The 76ers were 5-0 in games James Harden played since he was traded for Simmons, and with the Nets in town fans were eager for the honeymoon to continue.

Then a familiar big game/playoff game pattern returned:

Kevin Durant stepped up and was the best player on the floor — he has two Finals MVP trophies for a reason.

James Harden didn’t get the foul calls he is used to early, struggled against a pressure defense, and faded into the background shooting 3-of-17 on the night. It fits a career arc that has seen him struggle in big playoff moments.

The end result was a blowout 129-100 win for the Brooklyn Nets, who dominated the game from the opening tip.

Brooklyn threw out some exploitable defensive lineups early, but the Nets also played with playoff energy and physicality, something the 76ers could not match. Durant and the Nets were not backing down.

Durant and Kyrie Irving were putting up numbers — a combined 47 points on 52.9% shooting with 18 rebounds and 12 assists — but they got real help with Seth Curry and James Johnson stepping up with quality games.

Doc Rivers has some work to do. Joel Embiid is a good rim protector and the Sixers have Matisse Thybulle. Still, there are places to attack a team with James Harden on the court for heavy minutes, plus has to lean on DeAndre Jordan for backup minutes at center (or play Shake Milton and others). When Harden is on, the 76ers can overwhelm with offense, but his playoff history suggests the 76ers will need to find other ways to win games when it really matters.

The Nets just brought that message home.

2) Yes, Philadelphia fans did get a chance to boo Ben Simmons

Thursday’s game was the hottest ticket in Philadelphia in years because Sixers fans wanted to vent their anger and frustration at Ben Simmons. They were mad because he melted down last playoffs. They were angry because he held out this season saying he was not mentally ready to play while waiting for a trade. He was not playing on Thursday, but he was in the building and on the bench.

He could hear the “f*** Ben Simmons” chants from the crowd. Simmons also heard it when he came out and went through a light pregame warmup.

When Simmons dunked the ball — something he did not do in a critical moment against the Hawks in the playoffs a year ago — he got a Bronx cheer from the Sixers faithful.

The problem for the Sixers is Durant and Irving heard all those boos and chants, too, and they came out ready to have their teammate’s back. See item No. 1 on this story to see how that went.

3) Steve Kerr may have found closing lineup, Warriors beat Nuggets

It’s still some serious small sample size theater, but Steve Kerr may have found part of his closing lineup: The three-guard combo of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole have a +40.3 net rating when on the court together so far this season. Kerr used that trio — with Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins — to close out against the Nuggets Thursday, and Poole was up to the challenge.

Poole’s 3-pointers iced the game and the Warriors beat the Nuggets 113-102.

Stephen Curry had 34 points on the night, Poole finished with 21 off the bench.

Nikola Jokic continued to put up MVP numbers: 23 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists.

Unlike the earlier game Thursday, this one didn’t feel like a playoff game, mostly because of who was not suited up to play. Draymond Green, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. watched this one. These teams will look different come the playoffs (Green says he returns Monday, substitute him for Looney in the Warriors closing group and Kerr may have his new death lineup).

Still a quality win for the Warriors on the road.

Highlight of the Night: Bones Hyland leaves fellow rookie Kuminga in his dust

Bones Hyland, this is just nasty.

The steal, the behind the back, and then the move that left Jonathan Kuminga standing there looking lost.

Players noticed.

Yesterday’s scores:

Brooklyn 129, Philadelphia 100
Golden State 113, Denver 102