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5 NBA things to know for March 4

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

Jeff Case, NBA.com

1. It’s Zion-vs.-Luka time (maybe)!

When the current stars of the NBA fade from the spotlight one day, perhaps Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson will take their place there. A look at the Kia MVP chase shows we’re a while away from either scenario, but a glimpse of the league’s future will surely be on display tonight in Dallas (9:30 ET, ESPN). (Of course, it’s worth noting that Williamson has not played in back-to-back games since his debut on Jan. 22 — and this game marks precisely that for the Pelicans.) Aside from assessing NBA futures, this game has serious playoff implications tied to it. Williamson’s squad is just trying to get into the West picture, while Doncic’s Mavs hope a stretch of upcoming home games helps them rise the playoff ranks a bit.

2. Pacers struggling vs. East elites

A 37-24 mark and the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference is nothing for any team to sneeze at, least of all the injury-plagued Indiana Pacers. They head to Milwaukee next (7 ET, ESPN) and need to show some improvement against the East’s upper crust as the season wanes. The Pacers are a combined 3-7 against the Bucks, Raptors, Celtics and Heat — which are the four teams above Indiana in the standings. Post play could be of interest in this one if the last month’s stats are of any indication: the Bucks rank No. 2 in post-ups per game (14.4) since Feb. 1, while the Pacers are 10th (11.1). Additionally, Victor Oladipo missed the Pacers’ last game with right knee soreness, but he practiced Tuesday and may be on the mend.

3. A potential first-round series preview?

The Heat are four games out from the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and have a remaining strength of schedule of .476. The Magic are 1/2 game behind the Nets for the No. 7 seed and have a .511 remaining strength of schedule. Anything is possible, standings-wise, down the stretch of 2019-20, as is a possible Heat-Magic first-round series come mid-April. Miami hosts Orlando next (7:30 ET, League Pass) in what will be the first game between dunking phenoms Derrick Jones Jr. of the Heat and Aaron Gordon of the Magic since their exciting AT&T Slam Dunk contest showdown. Don’t sleep on what could be a good budding “rivalry” game in the East.

4. Next step awaits Curry, Warriors

Golden State fans haven’t had much to get excited about lately, but perhaps that is about to change. Former Kia MVP winner Stephen Curry is seemingly on the fast track to play for the first time since Oct. 30 after Warriors coach Steve Kerr all but said as much on Tuesday. Kerr, Curry and Warriors director of sports medicine Dr. Rick [Celebrini are expected to talk today about whether or not Curry will suit up Thursday against the Raptors (10:30 ET, TNT).

5. How will fans respond in New York?

Knicks superfan and Oscar-winning writer-director Spike Lee made headlines Tuesday when he swore off going to games at MSG this season because of a disagreement he had with team officials on Monday. The Knicks are hosting the Jazz next (7:30 ET, League Pass), which, on paper is a decided mismatch in Utah’s favor. However, this one is worth watching just to see if Lee keeps his word, who (if anyone) fills his seat and how the New York crowd reacts tonight to anything else in the wake of this latest news.

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