Three things to know: “Washed” DeRozan and Bulls sweep through Los Angeles

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers
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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com 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) “Washed” DeRozan and Bulls sweep through Los Angeles, beat Lakers

The game was billed as the “hey, maybe we should have paid to keep this guyAlex Caruso homecoming game, and he had a very Caruso game — defended hard, grabbed boards, was a playmaker in transition and finished +28. He just made a difference.

Or, it could be seen as the Lonzo Ball revenge game: 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 7-of-10 from 3, eight assists and a +25 on the night.

But mostly it was the “who called me washed?DeMar DeRozan return to Los Angeles weekend. The L.A. native and former USC Trojan dropped 35 as the Bulls beat the Clippers on Sunday night, then on Monday scored 38 on efficient 15-of-23 shooting against a flat and tired-looking Lakers team as the Bulls picked up a comfortable win, 121-103.

“I can go down the list of just being counted out, being looked over,” DeRozan said after the game. “So many chips that’s on my shoulder that I carry.”

The Bulls ran some DeRozan and Zach LaVine pick-and-rolls, and the Lakers had zero answers for that. We need more of this.

Chicago is now 10-4 on the season and just swept through Los Angeles, beating both teams on a road back-to-back. It doesn’t matter that LeBron James couldn’t play; these are still two teams with Paul George, Anthony Davis, and a lot of quality veteran role players — and Chicago handled them. Easily. Plus, the Bulls handled them with Nikola Vucevic being out (health and safety protocols).

The statistical mark of a contender is traditionally a top 10 offense and defense — and right now the Bulls have that. A lot of pundits thought this team would struggle on defense (*raises hand*), but some gritty play from guys like Caruso and a lot of traditionally not strong defenders just playing the system is working for them. And no doubt this team can score — LaVine had a “quiet” 26 hitting 6-of-13 3-pointers.

Chicago is legit, and DeRozan averaging 26.9 points a game on 51% shooting is a big part of that.

Once again, as they did two nights before losing to Minnesota, the Lakers looked tired, the result of an older roster playing its fifth game in seven days. The best sign the Lakers’ legs weren’t under them: they shot 6-for-32 (18.8%) from 3. The young legs of Talen Horton-Tucker led the way with 28 points.

Also, Anthony Davis got ejected in the third on what was far too quick a whistle.

The only good news for the Lakers: LeBron should return “soon.”

2) Don’t look now, but the Suns have won nine in a row

After looking like they had a Finals hangover to start the season — Deandre Ayton struggled, Chris Paul looked like he was pacing himself — the Phoenix Suns got to a soft part of the schedule and used that to right the ship.

On Monday night, Phoenix won its ninth game in a row, taking down the Timberwolves 99-96 when CP3 went off for 19 points in the fourth quarter. Devin Booker led the way with 29 for Phoenix.

Minnesota was in this late, but rather than get the ball to a hot Karl-Anthony Towns — 35 points on 10-of-19 shooting on the night, plus 13 boards — D'Angelo Russell had the ball in his hands and decided to keep it. That would be 7-of-21 shooting, 1-of-10 from 3 Russell. Despite all the poor decisions in crunch time, the Timberwolves had a chance to tie late, and after a Russell miss (good play and he got a clean look), the ball bounced to Anthony Edwards, who decided rather than go up for the game-tying two to step back and drain the three for the win, except he fumbled the ball away.

The Suns get the win. They are 10-3 on the season and second only to the red-hot Warriors in the West. However, the easy part of the schedule now ends for Phoenix as they have a two-game set against Dallas, then play Denver, then head out of the road for four.

The Suns did what they had to do — beat the teams they should beat and use that to find their rhythm again. After that slow start, the Suns now look more like contenders in the West again.

3) Sacramento beats Pistons, which is a good thing for Luke Walton

The Sacramento Kings have been playing a little better than their record indicates, but when the goal is to break a 15-year playoff drought those kinds of paper victories fall flat. The Kings had lost four straight and needed a win.

Enter the Detroit Pistons.

All five Kings’ starters scored in double digits, Buddy Hield led everyone with 22 off the bench, and the Kings picked up a comfortable 129-107 win in Detroit.

Luke Walton needed that. A report earlier in the day said Walton’s seat was getting warm and if the losing streak continued much longer his job could be in jeopardy. Such is the pressure to make the playoffs for the Kings.

To be fair, the problems with the Kings are not all on Walton. He didn’t draft Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Instead, he was asked to get more out of the same imbalanced core of a roster that went 31-41 last season. Throw in De'Aaron Fox struggling to start the season (41.1% shooting overall and 23.1% on 3-pointers) and him not stepping up to be the All-Star level heart of the offense player they need, and Walton had a lot to overcome. Not that Walton is blameless in all this, not even close, but the systemic issues are bigger than the coach.

The bright spot for Detroit in the loss: No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham had 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists — he seems to be getting his legs under him and has strung together some quality games.

Highlight of the night: Bol Bol has serious skills

Bol Bol got a season-high in minutes (11) against Dallas Monday night and took advantage with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting, including the driving scoop lay-up and-1 that nobody thought he had in his bag.

Last night’s scores:

Boston 98, Cleveland 92
Sacramento 129, Detroit 107
Washington 105, New Orleans 100
Atlanta 126, Orlando 109
New York 92, Indiana 84
Dallas 111, Denver 101
Memphis 136, Houston 102
Phoenix 99, Minnesota 96
Miami 103, Oklahoma City 90
Portland 118, Toronto 113
Chicago 121, LA Lakers 103