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6 NBA things to know for Dec. 6

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

Jeff Case, NBA.com

1. A gift for everyone

Yes, it’s the holiday season. But did you know that today is also Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 25th birthday? We don’t have a gift for him, but he and the Bucks have one for us in the form of tonight’s marquee showdown with the LA Clippers (8:30 ET, League Pass). Milwaukee is seeking its 14th (!!) straight win, the Clippers have wins against the Rockets, Celtics and Mavs in recent days and, of course, another round of the classic Kawhi Leonard-vs.-Giannis matchup looms here, too. Just watch this one already.

2. Getting down and dirty

Consistent defensive effort has been an issue for Denver all season. A look at the NBA’s team hustle stats leaders, however, shows the opposite in Boston. That means this showdown (8 ET, ESPN) could hinge on which team — to use a little coach-speak — wants the win (and hustle plays) more. Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic will, of course, be critical tonight, especially after he torched Boston for a triple-double in Denver’s win on Nov. 22 at Pepsi Center.

3. LeBron vs. Carmelo at Staples

The results from the Carmelo Anthony addition may be starting to bear fruit, as Portland is 4-1 over its last five games (after an 0-3 start when he came aboard). A game against the NBA-leading Lakers (10:30 ET, ESPN) will test the Blazers’ mettle as well as provide the latest chapter of LeBron James vs. Anthony, too. The pair has shared some classic moments and game-winners against each other and a chance to, if nothing else, go down memory lane makes this one worth ending the evening with.

4. On the rise in Orlando

The Magic’s schedule difficulty this month ranks around the middle of the pack in the East. Even though a difficult stretch lies ahead, Orlando is taking care of business against weaker foes and has won three straight as they visit the Cavs (7 ET, League Pass). Give this one a watch if for no other reason than to watch Mo Bamba, who has been sharp over his last seven games (8.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2 bpg, 54% overall, 60% on 3-pointers).

5. Big return for Sacramento?

Anything good (or bad) you want to say about the Kings’ 8-12 start must be tempered with the fact Marvin Bagley III has missed 19 of those games. The big man was cleared to return to contact drills yesterday and there’s some hope he might suit up tonight in San Antonio (8:30 ET, League Pass). Given the wild nature of the West standings and that San Antonio is struggling as much (if not more) than Sacramento this season, Bagley’s return could prove crucial.

6. The first time Kobe dropped 50

Nineteen years ago today, one of the NBA’s all-time great scorers got into a bucket battle with a future All-Star and journeyman. A Dec. 6, 2000 showdown between the Lakers and Warriors became a one-on-one battle of sorts between Kobe Bryant and Antawn Jamison. This game was Jamison’s second straight 50-point game, a notable feat. But more importantly, this was the first 50-point game of Kobe’s career — and it came in a 125-122 overtime loss.

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