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 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

Watch Tatum scores 40, Brown 30, Celtics blow out Bucks (again) 140-99


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 40 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and the Boston Celtics steamrolled the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks 140-99 on Thursday night.

The Celtics (53-24) shot 22 of 43 from 3-point range and moved within two games of the Bucks (55-22) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics won the season series with the Bucks 2-1, which would give Boston the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record.

Boston’s performance in those three games with Milwaukee should give the Celtics plenty of confidence they could knock out the Bucks again if they meet in the postseason. The Celtics beat the Bucks in seven games in last season’s East semifinals.

The Celtics beat the Bucks 139-118 in Boston on Christmas Day and lost 131-125 in overtime on Feb. 14. The Celtics didn’t play Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart or Al Horford in that overtime loss.

Milwaukee took a hit on the floor as well as in the standings. Bucks forward Khris Middleton left the game midway through the third quarter after taking an elbow to the face from Brown. The play resulted in a charging foul on Brown and caused Middleton to receive stitches on his upper lip.

Boston built a 114-74 lead through three periods, causing most of the starters for both teams to sit out the entire fourth quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points.

This matched the Bucks’ most lopsided loss of the season. They fell 142-101 at Memphis on Dec. 15.

The Bucks were playing one night after a 149-136 victory at Indiana in which they shot a season-high 62.4% from the floor with Jrue Holiday scoring 51 points and Antetokounmpo having 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. This marked the first time an NBA team had one player score at least 50 points and another have a triple-double with at least 35 points in the same game.

Milwaukee found the going quite a bit tougher Thursday.

Antetokounmpo shot just 11 of 27, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range. Holiday started his night by sinking a 3-pointer, but went 1 of 7 the rest of the way and finished with just six points.

After the first 8½ minutes of the game featured nine lead changes and five ties, the Celtics seized control by going on a 29-9 over the last seven-plus minutes. Boston capped that spurt by scoring 13 straight points.

Boston didn’t let up the rest of the night.

Milwaukee’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo was ejected with 1:25 left for head-butting Boston’s Blake Griffin. The head-butting came after Griffin committed a flagrant-1 foul against Antetokounmpo.

Knicks’ Julius Randle out at least two weeks with sprained ankle

Miami Heat v New York Knicks
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

In just a little more than two weeks, April 15 or 16, the New York Knicks will open the playoffs, likely on the road in Cleveland.

They hope to have Julius Randle back for that game.

The Knicks’ All-Star forward and leading scorer, Randle suffered a sprained ankle against the Heat on Wednesday night and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, the team announced.

That timeline has him re-evaluated days before the playoffs tip-off. He will not play again this regular season.

Randle rolled his ankle leaping for a rebound and landing on Bam Adebayo‘s foot in the second quarter, and he left the game not to return. Friday night against those Cavaliers (in Cleveland) will be the first game Randle has missed all season.

Randle is playing at an All-NBA level again this season, averaging 25.1 points and 10 rebounds a game. The Knicks have five games remaining in the season and are almost locked in as the No.5 seed, four games back of the No. 4 Cavaliers and 2.5 games up on the No.6 seed (and stumbling) Nets.


Kevin Durant: ‘I don’t care about legacy… I used to… Nowadays, I truly, truly don’t care’

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In the neverending debate around sports, we become obsessed with a player’s legacy. What is LeBron James‘ legacy and does he need another ring in his GOAT battle with Michael Jordan? What will Damian Lillard‘s legacy be if he chooses to spend his entire career in Portland and doesn’t jump teams to chase a ring? What will Kevin Durant‘s legacy be with him getting ripped by some fans for going to Golden State and joining forces with Stephen Curry in the first place, then other fans ripping him for leaving that situation?

Durant doesn’t care.

That’s what he told Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“I don’t care about legacy,” Durant told The Athletic. “I used to. I used to want to carve out a lane or space in this game for myself that people can remember, but it’s become too much of a thing now. It just becomes too much of a focus on other people. What’s he done, what’s he done? Comparisons. Before, when we wasn’t doing all this debating, I cared about it … I’m about to be in the same breath as these top guys. It was big.

“Nowadays, I truly, truly don’t care. I truly just want to go out there and produce, be the best that I could be, go home, hang with my family, that’s it.”

Durant’s legacy as one of the great pure scorers the game has ever seen is unquestioned. If he walks away from the game right now, he goes down as likely a top 15 player of all-time (that may be low) and a lock first-ballot Hall of Famer. His ability to create a shot for himself, or just hit a jumper over his defender even if there isn’t a good look, may be unparalleled in league history.

Beyond that, it’s the eye of the beholder. Durant is back on the court in Phoenix trying to extend that legacy, however people choose to define it.

What you say about Durant’s years in Golden State — with a couple of rings and a couple of Finals MVPs — says more about what you want and expect from a superstar than it does Durant. He told Charania he saw no logic in what people said about him as he left Golden State, so he stopped worrying about it. He went to Brooklyn, which went worse than just about everyone expected, so he moved on and said he is ignoring the critics again. (Except the occasional foray into Twitter may suggest he cares more than he lets on.)

Durant has cast himself as a guy who just wants to hoop because, at his core, that’s who he is. This is a guy who loves the grind, the competition, he’s an ultimate process-over-results guy. He’s embraced that about himself, he sees that as his legacy even if others will pile more on top of it.

Durant can’t end the legacy debate around him. But he doesn’t have to care about it, either.


Rudy Gobert latest to rip referees, claims conspiracy against Wolves ‘It’s just so obvious’

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Devin Booker‘s 15 free throw attempts in the Suns’ win Wednesday was more than the 12 the entire Timberwolves team took.

That set Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert off on a tinfoil hat conspiracy theory that the referees wanted to help the Suns win. And the Kings the game before that. And the Warriors the game before that. Here’s the full quote (via Chris Hine) that will earn Gobert a healthy fine from the league:

“It’s bulls***. Bulls***. It’s really not fair. Every night. I’ve been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard for me to think [the referees] are not trying to help [Phoenix] win tonight. It’s hard for me to think they didn’t try to help the Warriors win the other night, or the Sacramento Kings the other night.

“It’s just so obvious. As a basketball player that’s been in this league for so long, it’s disrespectful, and it sucks, to be honest. We work so hard to be in a position to compete with the best, and we just get manipulated into those situations where it just impacts the game for the other team too much. They know how to do it. They do it a lot of different ways. Tonight was another way of doing it.

“But it’s all good. We understand that it’s also a business. Unfortunately. It’s sad, but it’s good also. It’s really good. But it’s true. We understand that we’re not the biggest of the markets, and we’re a team that … I think you want to see [Kevin Durant] in the playoffs, Steph [Curry] in the playoffs, you want to see LeBron [James] in the playoffs. The Timberwolves are not there yet. We got to keep putting our head down, keep playing through that, and it’s frustrating for sure, especially for me.”

For the record, the Timberwolves and Kings were very close in free throws attempted — 34 to 32 — in that Minnesota win. The Timberwolves had 25 free throws to the Warriors’ 17 in that Golden State win. Also, Sacramento fans will have a good laugh at the idea that they are lumped in with the big market, star-driven franchises that allegedly get all the breaks from the league.

It’s also amusing that Gobert is complaining about all the calls the Suns got when Phoenix coach Monty Williams was fined $20,000 after going off last week on how the referees are conspiring against the Suns. Maybe this is just Gobert taking a page out of Williams’ book? Gobert’s frustration is understandable on one level, Booker can be a frustrating player for defenders to go against. The Suns’ guard is a master of drawing contact (often initiating it) then getting the ball up looking for a shooting foul.

Two other quick thoughts. Suggesting that the number of free throws teams take in a game should be roughly even is flawed logic — aggressive teams attacking the rim get the calls. That is not always going to be even. Giannis Antetokounmpo gets calls because he is relentless in driving the lane, and nobody has another answer to stop him, and that is true of Joel Embiid, Luka Dončić, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the other guys who get to the line a lot.

Is the NBA a star-driven league? Duh. It has been since David Stern started selling Magic vs. Bird instead of the Lakers vs. Celtics. Do the game’s biggest stars get special treatment from the referees? It does feel like it, but those are also the players with the ball in their hands the most, attacking and creating shots for themselves and others, so they were naturally going to draw more fouls anyway.

Gobert is frustrated and I get that. But the Timberwolves have been one of the best teams in the NBA over the few weeks, and that driving their chance to make the top six and avoid the play-in should be the focus. This Minnesota team is finding its stride, and the referees will not take that away. Unless the Wolves let them.