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5 NBA things to know for Dec. 11

Some key storylines and NBA tidbits to know for the day ahead

Jeff Case, NBA.com

1. Gearing up for a Sweet 16

If you’re not paying attention to the winning streak the Bucks have working right now, you’re missing out. If it can keep things rolling tonight in New Orleans (9:30 ET, ESPN), Milwaukee will tie the second-longest win streak in team history. It won’t be easy, though, as Giannis Antetokounmpo is missing the game because of soreness in his right quad. Doing so would perhaps also align the Bucks with a season to remember: 12 of the 27 teams that won 16 or more games in a season went on to win the NBA championship that season.

2. Welcome back, Kawhi

For the second time in as many seasons, Kawhi Leonard is returning to an old haunt. This time, he’s back in Toronto (7 ET, ESPN) and this should be a trip full of warm wishes and memories of the Raptors’ run to the 2019 championship. Aside from all the expected warm fuzzies and tributes, this is a true game worth watching as it pits two squads not that far removed from each other record-wise (Leonard’s Clippers are 18-7; the Raptors are 16-7). Leonard will also be looking to atone for his last performance against an East heavyweight, when he finished with 17 points on 5-for-14 shooting in last Friday’s blowout loss to the Bucks.

3. An encore in O-Town?

The last time we saw Anthony Davis, he was dropping an old school-flavored 50-piece on the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Magic play host to the Lakers (7 ET, League Pass) and defense in the paint may decide this one. Orlando has the league’s No. 1 shot blocker in Jonathan Issac (2.9 bpg) … who is just marginally ahead of Davis in that category (2.7 bpg). Davis also must deal with a fairly stout Magic defense, which ranks 9th in Defensive Rating and has allowed just one player — Bradley Beal — to score 40 or more against them this season.

4. Feats of strength in Indiana

Based purely on the standings, the Pacers (15-9) and Celtics (17-5) are only separated by three games. As they meet tonight (7 ET, League Pass), the chasm between them in terms of “quality” wins couldn’t be bigger. This is the first showdown between the teams since their 2019 first-round series, but Boston has recent wins against Miami, Denver and Brooklyn while Indiana has struggled to perform in marquee games. Adding to the woes for the Pacers is Gordon Hayward, who scored 14 in his return to the lineup Monday and who, at times, diced them up in the 2019 series.

5. Do the lower-seed shuffle

Did you have the Jazz as a preseason top-four seed out West and the Thunder, Wolves, Suns and Kings out of the playoff mix? Shows what you know. Tonight’s action could further jostle those preconceived notions as Utah heads to Minnesota (8 ET, League Pass), the Grizzlies visit the Suns (9 ET, League Pass) and the Kings host the Thunder (10 ET, League Pass). Those teams comprise the No. 6-10 slots out West and, by night’s end, we could have a very much changed picture there.

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