Three Things to Know: That is the Nets team that strikes fear in the rest of the NBA
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1) That is the Nets team that strikes fear in the rest of the NBA
The Nets were the betting favorite and the choice of most pundits to win the NBA title before the season tipped off because everyone envisioned nights like this:
Kevin Durant had 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting, plus nine assists. James Harden had 25 points and 16 assists. Patty Mills, back in his comfortable sixth man role, scored 21. Blake Griffin was diving on the floor for loose balls and was +34 on the night.
Brooklyn went into Chicago Wednesday night and routed the East-leading Bulls, 138-112.
Never read too much into a regular-season NBA game when trying to project a potential playoff match-up. There are always too many variables to say that is an apples-to-apples comparison (for example, Alex Caruso is out for the Bulls due to health and safety protocols).
However, this is the version of the Nets team that makes the team so scary — a team that can put up a 146.8 offensive rating on a night Kyrie Irving plays but looks just okay (maybe it’s the ankle issue that kept him out last game). Down two at the half, the Nets put on a statement in a third quarter that included a 30-8 run. Brooklyn’s stars were elite, their role players stepped up, and there was nothing the Bulls could do.
We could list everything that went right for the Nets, from the play of their rookies through a solid defense, but you get the point.
The Nets have their big three intact, and on nights like this they look inevitable.
2) Another frustrating night for LeBron, Lakers
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: LeBron James had another strong game, the kind that gets you on MVP ballots, and scored 34 points. However, he didn’t get enough help, Los Angeles’ defense was a mess, and the Lakers lost to a team that had dropped five straight coming in and wouldn’t even make the play-in if the postseason started today.
Sacramento 125, Los Angeles Lakers 116
The Lakers are 21-21, and only five of those wins have come against teams over .500. There’s still a feeling around the team they can figure it out and flip the switch — ala the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — but watch them on the court and there’s little evidence the Lakers know where the switch is.
De’Aaron Fox had 29 points and Harrison Barnes 23 to lead the Kings.
Both the Lakers and Kings will be interesting to watch at the trade deadline.
The Lakers need to make plays for guys who could change their season — Jerami Grant of the Pistons would be a perfect fit — but they really only have one trade option, some combination of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and a 2027-28 first-round pick. That may not be enough to get it done.
The Kings have finally put everyone up on the trade block, including Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. However, while the Lakers need to think short-term with a 37-year-old LeBron on the team, the Kings need to think bigger picture and longer term. They need to build something that works, because what they have does not.
3) Damian Lillard is having abdominal surgery and is out indefinitely
Damian Lillard has not been himself this season, even dating back to the Tokyo Olympics. He’s suffering from lower abdominal tendinopathy, and he has tried rest, playing through it, and a cortisone shot. Nothing worked.
Now he goes under the knife — Lillard will have surgery to repair his abdominal issue and will be re-evaluated in a couple of months. At that point it will be March, and the currently 16-24 Trail Blazers will have to ask if it’s worth it for him to return so they can make a play-in push.
Hopefully for Lillard, this fixes the issue and next time he does step on a court, whenever that is, we get to see the dynamic top-10 in the league player again. We all miss watching that Lillard.
The question now is what does this mean for the Trail Blazers heading into the trade deadline? Will interim GM Joe Cronin be aggressive in retooling the team and trade CJ McCollum or Jusuf Nurkic? Does he have the backing of ownership to be that aggressive, or is he more of a caretaker until a new GM is hired? Nobody knows the answers to those questions outside Portland, and everyone is watching to see what they do.
Highlight of the Night: Tyler Herro was one second away from triple-double
Miami continued to show off its depth and strength of culture, going into Atlanta and thrashing the Hawks 115-91 despite no Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo.
Tyler Herro continued his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with a team-high 21 points off the bench, plus 11 assists and nine rebounds. Herro wanted the triple-double, and if there had been just one more second on the clock…
Last night’s scores:
Boston 119, Indiana 100
Charlotte 109, Philadelphia 100
Washington 112, Orlando 106
Miami 115, Atlanta 91
New York 108, Dallas 85
Houston 128, San Antonio 124
Cleveland 111, Utah 91
Brooklyn 138, Chicago 112
Sacramento 125, LA Lakers 116