Three Things to Know: C.J. McCollum drops 50 in three quarters, then drops mic

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) C.J. McCollum drops 50 in three quarters, then drops the mic. I, for one, welcome our new C.J. McCollum overlord…

On the second night of a back-to-back, C.J. McCollum had one of the most impressive offensive nights in Trail Blazer history. It started from the opening tip — he scored 28 points in the first quarter alone on 11-of-14 shooting.

He didn’t slow down from there, he was hitting everything and finished the night making 18-of-25 from the field and averaging 1.71 points per shot attempt. He was hitting from everywhere, check out this shot chart.


When it was all over McCollum had 50 points in three quarters, then didn’t play in the fourth because the Trail Blazers were so far ahead of the Bulls and went on to win 124-108. McCollum joins Klay Thompson as the only player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in three quarters. Here’s one more look at his insane night.



2) Cavaliers pick up a win over Heat to hold on to the third spot in East.

It’s been a long January for the Miami Heat, they were 5-8 in the month, had just lost Kevin Love to a hand injury that requires surgery, trade rumors were (and are) swirling around the team, and they were only half-a-game ahead of the Heat for the three seed in the East.

Then on the final night of the month, Cleveland held on for a win over the Heat that helps them hold on to that three seed, 91-89. For now.

This was a close game at the end, the kind of game the Heat have been winning all season — they have 22 wins in games within five points in the final five minutes in the NBA, most in the league — but when you live in close games the scales tend to balance out over time. In this one the Heat remained ice cold from three all night, hitting just 3-of-28 from beyond the arc, and that included a clean Tyler Johnson look to tie late. Miami also had the chance to tie the game in the final seconds: Down 2 with 7 seconds left after a missed Kyle Korver free throw, James Johnson drove the length of the court and went right at LeBron James, expecting to draw other defenders and kick out, but when LeBron did a great job staying in front of him and the other Cavaliers defenders covered Heat shooters, Johnson got near the rim, picked up his dribble, and had nothing. He didn’t even get a shot off before the buzzer. It was ugly.

Which fit, because it was a sloppy game from both teams, but right now the Cavaliers will take a sloppy win. They will take any win. The schedule doesn’t ease up on them in February, the Houston Rockets are up next, but Cleveland could use to string together a few wins, get back on a roll, and look like the team we all came into the season expecting to be the team to beat in the East. Cleveland may still have that team in them, but it hasn’t looked like it for a while now. Especially on defense. Some wins could change that perception.

3) RIP Rasual Butler. One of the best-liked players in the NBA during his 13-year career, passed away late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in a single-car accident in the Studio City area of Los Angeles.

Butler reportedly lost control of his SUV at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, the car flipped and hit a wall, and he and his wife — R&B singer Leah LaBelle, who many may remember from American Idol in 2004 — died in the accident.

The NBA world was shaken.

Butler was the definition of hard-working and professional. He was a playground legend in Philly as a youth, then went on to play four years at LaSalle University. He was drafted in the second round by the Miami Heat back in 2004, and while most guys drafted where he was don’t pan out Butler — thanks to his work ethic and ability to mold into different systems — went on to play 13 NBA seasons (for the Heat, Hornets, Clippers, Bulls, Raptors, Wizards, Pacers, and most recently in 2015-16 for the Spurs). He was a swingman who could defend, hit threes, play within the system and be solid every night. Last season he played in Ice Cube’s Big3 league.

More importantly, he was one of the best-liked guys in the league. He was real. Butler was trusted by coaches, beloved in the locker room, and, at least in my interactions with him, was both professional and smart, the kind of guy you’d want to sit down and have a beer with.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest

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We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 4 at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken in New Orleans. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the record fall when LeBron returns to Los Angeles on Feb. 7 or Feb. 9.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

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It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.

LeBron livid over no foul call at end of regulation, Lakers fall to Celtics in OT

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“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.

LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.

After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:

There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.

These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.

“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.

The other Lakers were a little more direct.

Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.

There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.