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Three Things to Know: Lakers now 4-0 on second night of back-to-back thanks to defense

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LOS ANGELES — 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) Lakers now 4-0 on the second night of back-to-backs, thanks to win against Mavericks. Los Angeles can thank its defense for its 26th win of the season.

Dallas came into Staples Center with the best offense in the NBA and statistically one of the best offenses in NBA history — an offensive rating of 115.3 is better than the Durant/Curry Warriors or the Showtime Lakers or any other team over the course of a season.

The Lakers held them to less than a point per possession — a 94.1 offensive rating.

That led to a comfortable 108-95 win for Los Angeles Sunday night, making the Lakers 4-0 on the second night of a back-to-backs this season. The reason for the record is their defense — the Lakers have a 98.5 defensive rating in those games (104.8 is their rating for the season, eighth-best in the league).

“I was proud of our defensive effort and competitive spirit,” Frank Vogel said after the game. “I thought we just competed whatever defense we were in.”

The Lakers did a good job containing Luka Doncic — who still had 19 points on 5-of-14 shooting — but LeBron James added there was a real focus on the Dallas bench.

“We know not only the season that Luka’s having, but they’ve been successful because of their bench as well,” LeBron said. “Their bench gives them so much of a push. Luka comes out, [Kristaps Porzingis] comes out, their starters come out and their bench seems to rise to the occasion.”

Dallas still had 42 points off the bench, which is right at their season average of 42.8 per game (fifth-best in the league). However, the Mavericks bench could not take over the game the way they have in the past, and the Lakers were able to maintain a comfortable lead with their bench (who scored 46 on the night).

What does the 4-0 back-to-back record tell us about the Lakers? Nothing, frankly. It’s an incredibly small sample size and it’s not predictive because there are no back-to-backs in the playoffs. It’s just an interesting little fact.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 23, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 19 off the bench.

This game happened the day before LeBron turns 35, and he was reflective talking about reaching that milestone.

“When you grow up in the inner city, around a lot of things you don’t want your kids to see, to be able to get to this point, an age where the statistics are stacked up against you, that’s a blessing,” LeBron said. “It’s more of a blessing to be able to do what I love to do every day, and be able to let my family reap the benefits of that.”

Does he have any birthday wishes?

“I don’t really have birthday wishes. I’m not a birthday wish guy,” he said.

Party?

“Yea, I’m going to have one of those,” LeBron laughed. “That’s not a wish, I don’t wish to have one of those, because I’ve got to pay for it. I got to pay for my own damn birthday party… this one is going to be mild. Forty, that’s going to be a party.

2) LeBron James logs 9,000th career assist. LeBron James has taken on the point guard/playmaking duties with the Lakers this season and having a career-best year in assists, averaging a league-leading 10.8 per game.

That made it fitting he picked up his 9,000th career assist Sunday night on a look-ahead to his favorite target, Anthony Davis.

LeBron is ninth on the all-time assist list and will move up to eighth in the coming weeks when he moves past Isaiah Thomas.

“It’s something that was instilled in me when I first picked up a basketball,” LeBron said of his love of playmaking and assists. “Little league coach Frank Walker always talked about it. It’s the greatest part of basketball to be able to see the ball move from side to side, to be able to attract the defense and get your teammates an open shot. When I was a little kid, I was somewhat better than some of my teammates, it was much more of a greater reward to see some of the teammates who can’t dribble or can’t score for themselves, to get them an open look…

“I knew that was the way I wanted to play. Been that way all my life.”

And he’s been one of the best at it his entire career.

3) Lonzo Ball’s seven threes, near triple-double, sparks 41-19 fourth quarter for Pelicans, who beat very shorthanded Rockets. James Harden was out with a sprained toe. Russell Westbrook had the night off for load management. Clint Capela is sidelined with a right shoulder issue.

That made it Lonzo Ball’s night — 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and 7-of-12 from three — in a 127-112 Pelicans win.

Ball said postgame he knew it would take time for his new shot form to pay off, but that he’s starting to feel more comfortable with it. With him in a contract year, if Ball can find that shot consistently the second half of the season, his value — and his contract size — will go up.

E’Twaun Moore scored 14 of his 25 in the fourth quarter to help the Pelicans dominate that quarter. New Orleans has looked much better with Derrick Favors in the lineup and healthy, they have won four in a row and 5-of-6. Keep playing this way, get Zion Williamson back in the next month, and things will start to look a lot sunnier in the Big Easy.

Colorado junior forward Tyler Bey declares for NBA Draft

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University of Colorado forward Tyler Bey has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The junior averaged 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for the Buffaloes. Bey shot 53% from the field overall and 74.3% at the free throw line.

Bey also extended his range a bit in his third year at Colorado. He knocked down 13-of-31 three-pointers (41.9%) on the season. At just six-foot-seven, he’ll need to be able to score from behind the arc to find a place in the NBA.

Most draft analysts have Bey pegged as an early second-round pick. Some thought he could play his way into the back-end of the first-round with strong pre-draft workouts. With the pre-draft process up in the air, NBA front offices may have to make their decisions based on what they’ve already seen in person and on tape.

Stephon Marbury has arrangement to procure 10 million medical masks for New York

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Former NBA player Stephon Marbury told The New York Post that he’s arranged a deal to deliver 10 million N95 medical masks to New York. These masks are much-needed among healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marbury is having the masks produced at cost in China, where he played the last seven years of his career.

Although Marbury currently lives in Beijing, China, he said “At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn. This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

While growing up, Marbury starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and on New York City’s famed playgrounds. After one year at Georgia Tech, Marbury left for the NBA. The high-scoring guard played for five teams during his 13-year NBA career, including his hometown New York Knicks.

After sitting out for two seasons, Marbury signed to play for the Beijing Ducks in 2011. The move was initially seen as a way for Marbury to prove he could still play at an NBA level. Instead, Beijing became home-away-from home for the New Yorker.

Marbury averaged 21.6 points per game in 271 contests spread over seven seasons with the Ducks.

Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung told ESPN Jonathan Givony that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

McClung first came to national prominence when his high school highlights blew up on YouTube:

In his second season at Georgetown, McClung averaged 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. A foot injury in late-January kept McClung out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned for one game in late-February, but played just eight minutes off the Hoyas’ bench.

The six-foot-two guard is known for his deep shooting range and his highlight dunks. McClung’s shot is inconsistent however, as he shot under 40% in each of his first two seasons at Georgetown. McClung’s defense also needs work.

McClung projects to be a point guard in the NBA, due to his size. To make it as a lead guard, he’ll need to work on his ballhandling and playmaking. With those question marks, McClung is seen as a stretch to be drafted in the second round.

McClung stated he’s signing with an NBA/NCAA approved agent. That will allow him to keep his college eligibility as he goes through the pre-draft process.

Report: NBA Together asks players who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating plasma

Jazz stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert
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Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that the NBA Together initiative is asking NBA players who have recovered from coronavirus to consider donating plasma:

NBA Together was created in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, as the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season.

One of the efforts NBA Together is supporting is the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. This project has brought together top medical specialists to determine if plasma donations could help in treating coronavirus.

Several NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19. This group includes Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons. All players reported either feeling no symptoms or have recovered from the affliction.