Three things to know: No LeBron, Davis tweaks ankle, Westbrook steps up for LA

Los Angeles Lakers  v San Antonio Spurs
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) With LeBron out, Davis tweaks ankle, Lakers get enough from Westbrook

This is why LeBron James and the Lakers wanted Russell Westbrook.

Through three quarters in San Antonio, the Lakers were down 12. LeBron James was out with ankle soreness after the Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane was knocked into LeBron’s leg last game. With all the injuries, coach Frank Vogel was left with odd rotations and was just throwing lineups against a wall hoping that something stuck. He was giving Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook big minutes — on the first night of a back-to-back and just the fourth game of the season — because he had no other good options.

The Lakers could have folded, but instead outscored the Spurs 40-24 in the 4th quarter overtime to win, 125-121. Anthony Davis continued his MVP-level play with 35 points and four blocks — he was the best Laker on both ends of the court, even playing through a tweaked ankle that rolled on a shot attempt in the fourth quarter.

Russell Westbrook stepped up with his best game as a Laker when it mattered, scoring 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the fourth quarter and OT and relentlessly attacking the rim. Westbrook finished with 33 and was the player the Lakers needed in crunch time.

Malik Monk started in place of LeBron, scored 17, and was a team-best +31 in a game the Lakers won by four.

For the Spurs, missed free throws will haunt their nightmares. The Spurs shot 12-of-22 from the stripe overall, and late in the fourth Jakob Poeltl and Devin Vassell combine to miss four straight free throws. Poeltl continues to quietly impress in San Antonio with 27 points and 14 rebounds, plus some strong defense in the paint against Los Angeles. Just ask Davis.

The concerns about the 2-2 Lakers are not going away: Their two wins are against expected borderline playoff teams (the Grizzlies and Spurs) and required big minutes and games from their stars to get there (LeBron played 40 minutes against Memphis, through his ankle issue). It’s just four games, but the Lakers’ offense and defense are in the middle of the pack statistically. They are finding ways to win as they figure things out, but it’s not pretty.

The Lakers just need to stay healthy, and these last couple of games show how fragile that can be in Los Angeles.

2) Nikola Jokic leaves with bruised knee, Utah pulls away to remain undefeated

Don’t forget about the Utah Jazz — they are 3-0 and with the best net rating in the NBA to start the season at +16.4 (that’s once you filter out garbage time, as Cleaning the Glass does). While there is understandably a “sure, but let’s see what they do in the playoffs” attitude about the Jazz from fans and pundits, it doesn’t make them any less of a regular season force — nobody should blink if they have the best record in the regular season.

That record got better Tuesday when they pulled away to beat the Nuggets, 122-110. This game turned on two things.

First was Nikola Jokic going down with a knee injury in the second quarter and not returning to the game.

Jokic had been a force up to that point: 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting with six boards and six assists. The injury was just unlucky. Jokic was guard Rudy Gobert on the block, Gobert faced up and tried to drive baseline, and the two men banged knees. Jokic got the worst of it, and while he can out and tested his leg during second-half warmups, the Nuggets wisely decided to play it safe.

Denver is not the same without the reigning MVP on the court: In his 118 minutes played this season, the Nuggets are +37; in the 74 minutes he is out they are -43. This is still a team without star point guard Jamal Murray, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

The good news is Nuggets coach Michal Malone said after the game Jokic’s knee injury doesn’t appear to be anything serious. He wouldn’t guess at a timeline, but it doesn’t sound structural or something that will sideline Jokic for an extended period. Which is a relief, considering how much pain he was in at the time.

The biggest difference between the Nuggets and Jazz Tuesday was the bench units: Utah dominated those minutes. Every Nuggets bench player — Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers — were negative double digits in +/- for the game, while Jordan Clarkson scored 19 and Joe Ingles 13 off a dominant Utah bench.

Things could look different if a healthy Nuggets team meets the Jazz in the postseason, but that is months away. Right now, the Jazz bring continuity to the table that no other NBA team can match.

3) New York fans chant “where’s Ben Simmons” as Knicks beat 76ers

Knicks fans were loving it — Madison Square Garden was on its feet as New York outscored Philly 39-16 in the second quarter and pulled away for a comfortable 112-99 win.

Knicks fans even rubbed some salt in the wound with some “where’s Ben Simmons” chants.

This was a very Tom Thibodeau win — New York just played harder and with more focus than the 76ers. The Knicks played solid defense and had a balanced offense — Kemba Walker was the high scorer with 19. In addition, Obi Toppin was an energy force off the bench who helped change the dynamic of the game.

The biggest difference with the Knicks this season is they are draining 3-pointers at a Warriors-like rate. New York was 16-of-37 from beyond the arc Tuesday, which gives them 70 3-pointers through four games, tied for the most ever through four games of the season (last year’s Bucks, that stat courtesy ESPN Stats and info).

The threat of Kemba Walker or Evan Fournier shooting a three off the pick-and-roll just opens up the Knicks’ offense in a way it was not last season.

Highlight of the night:

Back to San Antonio, where Russell Westbrook’s slam in overtime fired up the Lakers and reminded us there are no other athletes like Westbrook.

Last night’s scores:

New York 112, Philadelphia 99
Golden State 106, Oklahoma City 98
Dallas 116, Houston 106
L.A. Lakers 125, San Antonio 121 (OT)
Utah 122, Denver 110

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game, when will it be more?

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SEATTLE (AP) — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
Jun Sato/WireImage

The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension


Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.