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

Watch LeBron’s big night: Moves into fourth in assists, triple-double, win over Knicks


LeBron James always saves something special for Madison Square Garden.

LeBron had a triple-double of 28 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds — he became the first player in NBA history to have a triple-double in his 20th season.

That wasn’t the only bit of history, with those 11 dimes he moved past both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash into fourth on the NBA’s career assists list. And if that wasn’t enough, the 28 points moved him within 89 points of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA all-time scoring record: Abdul-Jabbar has 38,387, LeBron is now at 38,299.

For LeBron, however, what mattered most was the win — 129-123 in overtime, giving a Lakers team starved for wins its first on this road trip out East.

“I didn’t get to this point in my career by thinking about records or how many points I have, whatever the case might be,” LeBron said, via the Associated Press. “I just play the game the right way. I approach the game every night only trying to be a triple threat by scoring, rebounding, assisting, defending, and may the chips fall where they may.”

LeBron had help, with Anthony Davis adding 27 points and nine rebounds. The Knicks got 37 from Jalen Brunson, and Julius Randle had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

LeBron needed that help as he wasn’t the sharpest he had been this season, starting 2-of-8 from the floor, then missing a couple of long jumpers in the game’s final minutes when the Lakers had the chance to seal the win. But he was good enough and put on a show for the sold-out crowd in New York.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker


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?

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,299

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks
Feb. 11 at Warriors

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. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, although that would be by one point, so Feb. 9 against Milwaukee is certainly a possibility.

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

• LeBron had his first triple-double of the season — and became the first player ever with one in his 20th season — scoring 28 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists — to help lead the Lakers past the Knicks in overtime on Tuesday night. With those 11 assits LeBron moved past both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to be fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists list.

• LeBron James did suit up to play Tuesday night against the Knicks (in Madison Square Garden on national television, that shouldn’t have been a surprise). Anthony Davis was cleared to play as well.

• After sitting out against the Nets on Monday, LeBron is officially questionable to play Tuesday in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks and will be a game-time decision. Lakers coach Darvin Ham said LeBron has “really significant soreness” in his left foot (after playing 44 minutes against Boston). LeBron and the medical staff will speak after LeBron starts to warm up Tuesday to determine if LeBron can play in Madison Square Garden, a game he hates to miss because he loves playing in that venue.

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Arena.

• 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.”

Paolo Banchero, Scoot Henderson highlight player pool for Rising Stars during All-Star weekend

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat
Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The big winner in last year’s All-Star Friday night Rising Stars game was the new format (and Cade Cunningham). The new setup saw players onto four teams of seven, with those four teams going into a tournament bracket. The games were not timed, but players competed to a target score — something that actually had the young stars defending and playing hard. Things too often lacking All-Star weekend.

That format is back, and an impressive crop of players is involved: Rookie of the Year favorite Paolo Banchero, last year’s ROY Scottie Barnes, and expected No.2 pick in the upcoming draft Scoot Henderson of the G-League Ignite. Here is a complete list of the players competing (the rookies and sophomores will be drafted into three teams of seven players each, and the G-League players will make up their own team).


Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic)
Jalen Duren (Detroit Pistons)
AJ Griffin (Atlanta Hawks)
Jaden Ivey (Detroit Pistons)
Walker Kessler (Utah Jazz)
Bennedict Mathurin (Indiana Pacers)
Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings)
Andrew Nembhard (Indiana Pacers)
Jabari Smith Jr. (Houston Rockets)
Jeremy Sochan (San Antonio Spurs)
Jalen Williams (Oklahoma City Thunder)


Jose Alvarado (New Orleans Pelicans)
Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors)
Josh Giddey (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jalen Green (Houston Rockets)
Quentin Grimes (New York Knicks)
Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets)
Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Trey Murphy III (New Orleans Pelicans)
Alperen Sengun (Houston Rockets)
Franz Wagner (Orlando Magic)

The G-League team will consist of:

Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite)
Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite)
Mojave King (G League Ignite)
Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Memphis Hustle)
Mac McClung (Deleware Blue Coats)
Leonard Miller (G League Ignite)
Scotty Pippen Jr. (South Bay Lakers)

There are former NBA stars to coach each of the teams: Former All-Stars Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will coach the three Rising Stars teams, while former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

There will be three games Friday night during the Rising Stars challenge, with each game played to a target score of 40. If it’s anything like last year, it’s worth tuning in.

Needing defense, Kings reportedly eyeing 76ers Thybulle for trade

Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

At 28-21, the Sacramento Kings sit as the No.3 seed in the West with the second-best offense in the league — they seemed destined to break their 16-year playoff drought and very well could even host a first-round playoff series.

However, their 23rd-ranked defense (using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers) will undo them come the playoffs.

That has the Kings looking for some defensive help and they are eyeing Sixers wing Matisse Thybullereports Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter.

Sacramento is said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle as the Kings, unexpectedly holding the West’s No. 3 seed after a league-record 16 consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, ponder the pursuit of a more defensive-minded option on the perimeter.

Thybulle has lived in the rumor mill for a while, this is nothing new. However, those rumors carry more weight because Thybulle’s role in Philadelphia has shrunk considerably with the additions of De'Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker as defensive-minded forwards who can provide more offense than Thybulle. Doc Rivers also leans into Georges Niang more off the bench because of his shooting.

Thybulle is in the final year of his contract and is headed for restricted free agency, the Kings might be interested in re-signing him (depending on the price and his fit with the roster). The Kings can match salaries easily enough with Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis or Alex Len, the question is who will the 76ers want back, and will the Kings need to throw in a second-round pick?

There’s some logic to this trade getting done in some form, it’s worth keeping an eye on.