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4 NBA things to know for Dec. 18

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

1. Embiid set to return vs. Heat

Philadelphia was clearly missing center Joel Embiid in Sunday’s blowout road loss to the Nets. The good news is Embiid, who missed that game in Brooklyn because of an upper respiratory illness, is set to go against the Heat (7 ET, ESPN). If you like play on the interior, this one should be an interesting chess match: Embiid leads the NBA in total post ups and points off post ups while the Heat allow the sixth-fewest amount of shots from 6 feet or less.

2. Struggles continue in New Orleans

Bright spots have been hard to find for the Pelicans lately. One did emerge last night, as top executive David Griffin said rookie Zion Williamson is progressing nicely in his injury rehab — but his debut remains “a ways away.” That little tidbit came during a 108-101 loss, which was New Orleans’ 13th straight defeat (which extends the longest drought in team history). A trip to Minnesota is next (8 ET, League Pass) and the Pelicans could catch a break, perhaps, if Karl-Anthony Towns (sprained ankle) is unable to suit up.

3. Another upset win for Mavs?

In halting the Bucks’ 18-game win streak Monday, Dallas showed that — even sans Luka Doncic — it can hang with the NBA’s elite. The flip side, of course, is that upsets happen in the NBA and Milwaukee simply fell victim to that adage. Proof of contender-ship, though, could come through for Dallas should it win in Boston tonight (9:30 ET, ESPN). Kristaps Porzingis, who played hero vs. Milwaukee, could be looking for payback against Boston: he was 1-for-11 and had four points in a 116-106 loss to the Celtics on Nov. 11.

4. The immortalized Mamba

He’s got five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s the 33,570 points, third all time in NBA history. And there are 18 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA selections, four All-Star MVPs, two Finals MVPs and an NBA MVP. Back on Dec. 18, 2017, the Lakers raised Kobe Bryant’s jerseys — both the No. 8 and the No. 24 — in a ceremony befitting of a franchise and NBA legend.