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5 NBA things to know for Dec. 9

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

Jeff Case, NBA.com

1. Bucks go for 15 in a row

The last time we saw the Bucks, they were busy making the Clippers look like a G League team in a blowout win Friday night. That put the Bucks’ win streak at 14 — the team’s longest since a 16-game run that spanned the 1972-73 and ’73-74 seasons. With a home game against the Magic (8 ET, NBA TV), they have a chance to extend the streak to 15. Throughout the run, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been stellar (31.9 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.3 spg) of course. But don’t overlook how much Donte DiVincenzo (9.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.9 spg) has become a valuable bench contributor and defensive game-changer for Milwaukee during this span.

2. Hayward ready to return tonight

Since Nov. 9, the Celtics have rolled up a 10-4 record, a mark that includes wins against the Mavericks, Nets, Heat and Nuggets. That Nov. 9 game is significant because that’s when Gordon Hayward was lost due to a hand injury. He’s back in the lineup against the Cavs tonight (7:30 ET, League Pass), two weeks ahead of schedule. He recently told Celtics.com that the injury is completely healed, but he’s still working to regain his full range of motion.

3. Important stretch begins for Indiana

Considering the injuries and so-so start to its season, Indiana is in the midst of a successful run. At 15-8, the Pacers are within striking distance of the No. 3 seed in the East and have won eight of their last 10. However, three of Indiana’s five losses have come against top-notch squads (Milwaukee, Houston and Philadelphia) and only one of those losses (vs. the Sixers on Nov. 30) was by five points or less. Indiana has its first test to prove its true might as the LA Clippers (7 ET, League Pass) visit. After that, four of the Pacers’ next seven games are against playoff-level squads.

4. Break up the Thunder?

A 1-4 start has given way to a respectable 10-12 current mark and, suddenly, Oklahoma City is a mere two games from .500. A showdown with the Jazz (9 ET, League Pass) awaits, and if Utah is to keep OKC at bay, it must account for reserve guard Dennis Schroder. He is averaging 17.5 ppg and shooting 47.7% over his last 15 games and was huge in last night’s road win in Portland.

5. Rookie showdown in California

If you’re a Kia Rookie of the Year fan, we have a great matchup for you. The Grizzlies visit the Warriors to close out tonight’s play (10:30 ET, League Pass) in a game that may feature the top two rookie scorers: Memphis’ Ja Morant (18.6 ppg) and Golden State’s Eric Paschall (17.1 ppg). While the Warriors are in a decided downturn this season, Paschall has been consistent over his last 10 games and has the look of a true building block for Golden State. As for Morant, he has missed the last four games because of back soreness and is probable tonight.

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