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) Stephen Curry explodes for 51 points in three quarters. Sorry Wizards. There are nights there is nothing anyone can do. Bradley Beal suggested you could “probably foul the s—- out of him” but that just might make him angry. And you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Stephen Curry drained 11 threes on his way to 51 points Wednesday — and he rested the entire fourth quarter. Curry had 23 points in the first quarter, and was 15-of-24 shooting overall.
It was the kind of night where even a blown lob to Kevin Durant became a Curry three.
By the way, Kevin Durant had a “quiet” 30 points on the night. If you think Curry and the Warriors are ruining the game, well, he has a Jordan shrug for you.
Curry is red hot to start the season, hitting 33-of-63 from three through five games. We’re just five games into the season, it is far, far too early to be talking MVP race, but Curry is playing like a guy who wants to be in the middle of that conversation again.
2) Lakers earn first win of the LeBron James era, knock off Suns. All season long, for LeBron James it has been more about setting up teammates and getting the offense in a flow in Los Angles rather than just taking over and winning games by himself. That was the case Wednesday night again in Phoenix, when LeBron had 19 points and 10 assists — JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson each scored more than he did — and the Lakers picked up their first win of the season, 131-113 over the Suns.
The Lakers needed that win after three straight losses where playoff teams of a year ago out-executed Los Angeles when it mattered.
Luke Walton started the night with something fans (and smart watchers) have been calling for: Josh Hart in the starting lineup and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming off the bench (KCP has had a slow start to the season, Hart has been a ball of energy and threes). Actually, Walton did more than that — he unloaded on the team’s poor defense in the morning shootaround to try to get their focus back. It seemed to work in the sense the Lakers had their best defensive outing of the season, holding the Suns to a 108.7 net rating (close to the league average, which is way better than any other Laker game where opponents had a rating of 114 or higher).
Still without Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers pulled away in a second quarter where Stephenson was hot early (he finished with 23 points, plus 8 assists and rebounds each), and Hart and Lonzo Ball were knocking down shots. The Lakers coasted through the second half to get the kind of comfortable win and confidence boost they needed after three tough losses.
It doesn’t get easier for L.A. — the Lakers return home for a back-to-back against red-hot Denver on Thursday night. At least the blowout win helped get LeBron and others get some rest in the fourth.
3) David Stern takes a swing at Pelicans GM in interview. Pelicans push back. Former NBA Commissioner — officially currently “commissioner emeritus” — doesn’t like the narrative that he blocked Chris Paul from going to the Lakers because it was right after the lockout and a bunch of small market owners called him yelling “we just locked out to stop things like this.” Stern believes as the acting owner (George Shin had sold the team back to the league at the time) he did the right thing for the franchise — “basketball reasons” — getting the then-Hornets/now Pelicans a better deal.
Stern told SI the reason it didn’t work out was that Dell Demps — the GM who orchestrated that trade and who is still the GM in the Big Easy — sucks at his job.
“But Dell Demps is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis.”
Ouch. Plenty of Pelicans fans were quick to say “he’s right” but that’s still a heck of a thing for a league official to say about a sitting GM. The Pelicans fired back.
Stern is the outspoken, bombastic (especially behind closed doors) counter to Adam Silver’s modern, consensus-building style. Stern played a huge role in where the NBA is today, and he is still a great interview, but you can see why there were plenty of people who thought it was time to move on.