Basketball

Durant is still very good at basketball, for the Nets it’s not enough

Durant is still very good at basketball, for the Nets it's not enough

LOS ANGELES— Three Things is NBC’s five-day-a-week roundup of the previous night in the NBA. To verify NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before, plus the gossip, drama, and dunks the NBA is famous for.

1) Kevin Durant is still very good at basketball, for the Nets it’s not enough to win

Kevin Durant has a reputation for impressive injury comebacks. The man tore his Achilles tendon, missed a year, but in the first 12 games of his comeback, he averaged 31.3 points per game. He did the same last season, missing a few months and then coming back scoring over 26 points per game and shooting better than 50% on 3 in his first twelve games.

Friday night, his first game back after missing 21 games with a sprained knee, Durant lost 31 on the league’s fifth-best defense. There was some rust, Durant was 2 out of 7 out of 3, but not much. Durant came back in the gate ready to lead this Nets team.

For these shorthanded Nets, that’s not enough.

Not against the East-leading Heat, who have the poise to both defend the Nets and exploit Brooklyn’s defense. The Nets focused on knocking out the Heat’s 3-pointers — Miami took six shy of their average — but it gave Bam Adebayo space to operate inside and he finished with a team-high 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting, plus 11 boards downed.

Tyler Herro added 27 for the Heat, which was the second straight night after a heartbreaking loss to the Bucks.

Perhaps the big turning point was when Erik Spoelstra leaned into using a zone defense — Brooklyn couldn’t solve it consistently. The Heat don’t zone much, but they played it well and the Nets didn’t have an answer.

It wasn’t a playoff preview – no Jimmy Butler for Miami, no Kyrie Irving Where Ben Simmons for the Nets. These teams could meet in the first round – Miami as the No. 1 or 2 seed, Brooklyn as the No. 7 or 8 – and they will both be very different.

Part of that is that Durant will have found his groove by then. The question is whether he’ll get enough help – the Nets’ potential has been discussed by everyone all season, but can they ever come close?

2) Give the Clippers their due after sweeping the Lakers’ season streak

“It’s a better team.”

It was james lebron‘ candid and accurate assessment of the Clippers after choking LeBron and his Lakers 132-111, led by Reggie Jackson starting for 36. With the win, the Clippers swept the season series with the Lakers 4-0.

It was another heartbreaking loss for a broken Lakers team. However, we’re not going to write another story about what’s wrong with the Lakers and whether to blame Pelinka/Vogel/LeBron/Westbrook/’Melo/Buss/Kareem/West/Mikan or whoever. Instead, we’ll let Flea sum up the mood of Lakers fans.

We have to spend a minute praising the Los Angeles team that respects the game – the Clippers.

No Kawhi Leonard Where Paul George Where Norman Powell. Yet when the Clippers face adversity — like when the Lakers closed the first half with a 14-0 run — the team digs in and responds. The Clippers responded to the Lakers by opening third on a 19-2 run that turned into a 32-6 sprint, and in the end the Clippers were down 40 to the Lakers this quarter. It was the ball game.

It was Reggie Jackson’s game as he scored 36 and clowned around Russell Westbrook as part of their long-standing feud and rivalry. The point guard has become the Clippers’ clutch player this season and the guy they lean on to trigger them, he did in the third.

What did Tyronn Lue say at halftime that fired the team for this third quarter?

“T-Lue just sort of comes calm, smiles and he goes, ‘Hey, we’re in a great place,'” Jackson said. “‘If we stop returning the ball, we’re in a good position.'”

Lue won’t win Coach of the Year with his eighth-seeded side in a season with impressive contenders for the award, but he’s worth mentioning. Through all the absences and setbacks the team faced, he focused and prepared the Clippers every night, executed them, got them into roles, and the Clippers respect the game and play hard. It’s not nothing. The Clippers could have folded this season by more than a few points; instead, they’ve won five in a row, are three games over .500, and are 5.5 games ahead of this team down the hall.

It’s a real contrast to what we see of LA’s most legendary and star-studded team.

3) Luka Doncic drops 41, chases Curry to rub it during Mavs win

Luka Doncic likes to go straight to the other team’s star late in the game. A few nights ago, he intentionally chased LeBron in the fourth when the Mavs beat the Lakers.

Thursday was Stephen Curryit’s the turn.

Doncic chased Curry like a Cavs/Warriors Finals game of the past decade. Doncic finished with 41 points and was one assist away from a triple-double in the Mavericks’ 122-113 victory.

The Warriors miss the secondary game and the defense of Draymond Green wrong — they’re not threatening the Suns or arguing for a ring without him 100 percent. Dallas focused on not letting Curry beat them — he didn’t even have a shot from the field in the fourth — and no one else interfered. Green wasn’t there to set them up.

Dallas is going to be a problem in the playoffs the way Doncic plays

Highlight of the evening: Ja Morant is just ridiculous

I’ve said it all season and I’m going to double down now: Ja Morant is the most entertaining player in the NBA right now.

Yesterday’s scores:

Atlanta 130, Chicago 124
Boston 120, Memphis 107
Miami 113, Brooklyn 107
Detroit 108, Toronto 106
Dallas 122, Golden State 113
Sacramento 115, San Antonio 112
LA Clippers 132, LA Lakers 111