Three Things to Know: Suns “kicking a**,” have little trouble picking apart Lakers

Charlotte Hornets v Phoenix Suns
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — 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) Suns “kicking ass,” have little trouble picking apart Lakers

“They’re kicking ass.”

That was Lakers’ acting coach David Fizdale’s assessment of the Suns. It’s spot on.

“The way we’re playing, I believe this team is better than the team last year that went to the Finals, to be honest with you.” Suns’ center Deandre Ayton said postgame.

Everything that propelled the Suns with the best record in the NBA — versatility, depth, balance, guys selflessly playing for one another — were things the Lakers could not match Tuesday night in a nationally televised game. After a rough shooting first half, Phoenix stuck with its plan and pulled away in the second half, picking up a comfortable 108-90 win over Los Angeles.

We could use this space to pick apart the .500 Lakers — LeBron James played well, scoring 34 and getting downhill, but that’s about it for positives, and the AD-less Lakers defense is hard to watch — but this game was more a picture of what the Suns are doing right.

The Lakers (like a lot of teams) have been hampered by injuries (Anthony Davis‘ knee) and by COVID protocols (Malik Monk, Avery Bradley, Austin Reaves). The Suns were there, too — they just got Devin Booker back after a seven-game absence due to a hamstring strain, but a deep and balanced Phoenix roster went 5-2 without him.

“I think a big part of it comes down to our team culture, how guys step into situations and we remain ourselves,” Cameron Johnson said. “You can see our identity on the court when we have everybody. It’s a group of guys that likes playing together and we play for each other.”

Before the game, Suns’ coach Monty Williams said his team needed to establish themselves in the paint early. Enter Deandre Ayton, who scored 11 of the first 13 Suns points, 12 in paint.

This is where the Suns’ versatility comes in — seven minutes into the game Fizdale went small, sitting DeAndre Jordan and using LeBron or Carmelo Anthony at center lineups. That doesn’t play Ayton off the floor — the Suns’ big man can switch onto LeBron or Russell Westbrook on the perimeter and hold his own defensively. On offense, the Suns set picks off the ball to force a switch and get a guard on Ayton (or JaVale McGee), then lob it into him for an easy bucket.

The Suns also have a balance — the floor is always spread, guys are always in the correct position. On offense, that allowed them to swing the ball to open shooters. This game might have been a blowout much earlier if Phoenix didn’t start the game shooting 0-of-9 then 3-of-20 from 3. Monty Williams’ message to his team was to stay true to who they are as a team and keep shooting — and the Suns hit eight of their next 16.

That balance also means there are always defenders back and in position, taking away easy transition buckets. The Lakers need those to thrive, but they started just 16.5% of their possessions in transition and had 15 fast break points on the night.

Phoenix stayed true to who they were Tuesday and the Lakers ultimately crumbled. Saturday comes the real test for Phoenix: Golden State on Christmas Day. A showdown of the NBA’s two best teams this season. The Warriors will challenge the Suns in a way these Lakers right now cannot.

2) Adam Silver makes it clear “No plans right now to pause the season”

The NHL extended its traditional holiday break for a few days to try and get ahead of the latest COVID-19 surge.

The NBA will not be following suit.

Adam Silver was clear about that on ESPN’s NBA Today.

This is not a surprise to regular readers of “Three Things,” we reported sources told us the same thing a few days ago. As Silver said, it’s not logical to think that if the league sends players home they will stay in and quarantine — players will go to the same indoor holiday parties, go to the same restaurants and clubs, and have the same exposure. And it’s not like in a week the virus will go away. (Yes, players are already going to those parties/clubs, but there is testing and structure now.)

The NBA will increase testing and bring back mask mandates after Christmas, although the COVID protocol/G-League shuffle teams have been engaged in the past few days is likely with us for a while as the league just powers through this.

But that’s the plan; the league will power through this.

3) Kemba Walker racked up some highlights during Knicks’ win

Kemba Walker wants more run, although I don’t know that scoring 21 points on 21 shots against the lowly Pistons is changed Tom Thibodeau’s mind.

But as the Knicks racked up a win, Walker racked up some highlights. There was the crossover and oop to Mitchell Robinson (who had an impressive game, 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, plus 14 boards).

Then midway through the fourth, Walker drained a three and did a little shimmy.

Walker is getting run because the Knicks, like every other team, is battling COVID. But he’s making his case to get on the court a little more.

Highlight of the Night: Udonis Haslem gets standing “O,” then drains three

A Udonis Haslem sighting is snow leopard rare. The Heat legend has played 24 minutes across five games this season.

So when he entered Tuesday night’s blowout win over the Pacers, Heat fans gave him a standing ovation.

But that was nothing compared to the reaction when the 41-year-old drained a corner 3.

Miami was having fun with its blowout of Indiana

Last night’s scores:

Miami 125, Indiana 96
New York 105, Detroit 91
New Orleans 111, Portland 97
Dallas 114, Minnesota 102
Phoenix 108, LA Lakers 90
Washington at Brooklyn, postponed

Watch Curry score 39, spark Warriors rally from 20 down to beat Pelicans


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Draymond Green yelled at the other bench, his own team and even his coach, and this time those intense emotions absolutely made the difference.

Steve Kerr loved it.

“We need his fire,” Golden State’s coach said.

“It was perfect, right, perfectly executed,” Green said with a grin.

Stephen Curry had 39 points with eight 3-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists, Jordan Poole added 21 points with consecutive layups that gave Golden State the lead early in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors rallied past the New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday night in a testy, playoff-like matchup in late March.

Klay Thompson scored 17 and hit five 3s to set a new single-season career high of 278, which leads the NBA.

The Warriors moved up a spot into sixth place in the crowded Western Conference standings, a half-game up on Minnesota and 1 1/2 games ahead of New Orleans. Golden State lost 99-96 at home to the Timberwolves on Sunday, so coming back from 20 down to win this one was key as the defending champions try to avoid the play-in round. The top six teams are guaranteed playoff berths.

“We lost a heartbreaker the other night. We knew we had to bounce back,” Kerr said.

Brandon Ingram had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Trey Murphy III scored 21 points and CJ McCollum added 15 for the Pelicans, who came in riding a five-game winning streak.

Green chirped and pushed the emotions and physicality all game, then threw an alley-oop to Jonathan Kuminga for a dunk with 7:09 left for one of his 13 assists and a 101-98 advantage.

“Draymond willed us to victory tonight,” Kerr said. “His frustration early with the way we were playing. Mad at the world. Yelling at everybody, their bench, our bench, me, and frankly we all deserved it.”

Green was whistled for a double technical for tussling with Ingram late in the second quarter – and Green’s foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1. He already served a one-game suspension March 17 at Atlanta for his 16th technical.

Green committed an offensive foul moments later and players for both sides tangled, Green’s feet getting caught up with Herbert Jones’ head. A replay showed no additional infractions but Kerr briefly took Green out with tensions running high because of his “extreme energy” in that moment.

“We looked dead those first 18 minutes of the game,” Kerr said. “We had to find some energy somewhere. I knew it wasn’t just going to come.”

Three straight 3-pointers by Curry late in the third got Golden State within 89-83. Poole then stole the ball from Ingram and dunked on the other end as the Warriors trailed 89-85 going into the final 12 minutes.

Golden State started the third on an 8-0 burst fueled by Donte DiVincezo. He made a putback dunk over Ingram early in the second half then a three-point play before Thompson’s 3 at 10:44 made it 63-54.

McCollum’s 3 with 1:40 left before halftime put the Pelicans up 60-43, then Ingram made it a 20-point game with a 3 New Orleans’ next time down.

The Pelicans, coached by former Warriors assistant Willie Green and longtime Golden State assistant Jarron Collins on his staff, had won five straight after a 124-90 romp at Portland on Monday night.

The Warriors’ victory prevented the Sacramento Kings, coached by former top assistant Mike Brown, their first playoff berth since 2006 that would end the worst drought in NBA history at 16 years.

Nowitzki, Wade, Gasol, Popovich reportedly headline Hall of Fame class


It will not become official until Saturday, but this is shaping up to be a legendary Hall of Fame class.

Dwyane Wade. Dirk Nowitzki. Gregg Popovich. Pau Gasol. Tony Parker. Becky Hammon. They are all in, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a deep class, and there was no question about any of those players’ Hall of Fame credentials.

Wade is one of the (arguably THE) greatest shooting guard in the history of the game, winning three rings as a member of the Miami Heat, plus making eight All-NBA teams and 13 trips to the All-Star game. Nowitzki is the greatest Maverick ever and the greatest European player in NBA history, an NBA champion and Finals MVP, plus he won the regular season MVP in 2007.

Popovich, the legendary coach of the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs — a team that won 50+ games 18-straight seasons with him at the helm, plus he coached Team USA to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Parker was the point guard for much of that Spurs run, is a four-time NBA champion and was Finals MVP in 2007. Gasol is a two-time NBA champion, four-time All-NBA,and led Spain to the FIBA World Championship in 2006 and won three Olympic medals.

The Hall of Fame class will officially be announced on Saturday.


Draymond Green is good with facing Kings in first round — because of the travel


If the NBA playoffs started today, the Golden State Warriors would be in the play-in and host the Pelicans in the 7/8 game. Win that and they would hop on a more than three-hour flight to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies.

Draymond Green said on his podcast he is hoping the Warriors finish as the No.6 seed and dodge the play-in, then face the Kings to open the playoffs (which is how the standings stood 24 hours ago). Why? It’s a 90-mile drive to Sacramento.

“The reason why I said Sac is simply just because of the travel. That’s a lot on your body. If we can bus ride an hour and 10 minutes up the way, I just think that’s much better for us. At the end of the day, I don’t really care who we play in the playoffs, I think we can win.”

Green is not wrong about the travel.

While some teams may have looked at the top four in the West (Nuggets, Grizzlies, Kings, and Suns) and seen Sacramento as the obvious target, that plan could backfire. The Kings’ offense is diverse and elite, and they have the Clutch Player of the Year in De'Aaron Fox, and their building will be rocking like no other after the franchise has not been in the playoffs since 2006. In a West filled with flawed teams, the Kings winning a couple of rounds is well within the realm of possibility.

This could be the first year since the Kings moved to Sacramento that all four California teams make the playoffs (it is likely that all four at least make the play-in). The Kings are all but locked in to be the No.3 seed, while the Warriors, Lakers and Clippers are in the crowded field at the bottom of the playoff bracket where three games separate the No.5 and 11 seeds.

Bradley Beal reportedly under investigation after confrontation with fan who lost gambling

Washington Wizards v Orlando Magic
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

On March 21, Bradley Beal had an off game — 16 points on 4-of-15 shooting — as the Wizards fell to the Magic in Orlando.

Walking off the court, Beal got into a confrontation with a couple of fans, one of whom blamed him for a gambling loss. The next day that incident became a complaint filed with the Orlando Police Department by the fan. David Purdum of ESPN summarized the police report this way:

Beal and the Wizards were exiting the court and in the visitors’ tunnel, headed to the locker room, when, according to the police report, an unidentified man remarked to Beal, “You made me lose $1,300, you f***.”

Beal, according to the report, turned around and walked toward a friend of the man who made the comment and swatted his right hand toward him, knocking the man’s hat off and contacting the left side of his head.

Police reviewed video footage of the altercation and heard Beal say this is his job and he takes it seriously, and the man is heard apologizing, implying he did not intend to offend him, according to the report.

At this point, no charges have been filed against Beal. According to TMZ, Beal told the heckler, “Keep it a buck. I don’t give a f*** about none of your bets or your parlays, bro. That ain’t why I play the game.” The entire incident lasted less than a minute.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, “We are aware of the report and are in the process of gathering more information.”

Sports betting is not currently legal in the state of Florida.

While there is nothing official from the team, speculation abounds that the Wizards have shut down Beal and Kyle Kuzma for the season.