Three things to know: Lakers can’t shoot, Warriors can. Ballgame.


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 that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Lakers can’t shoot, Warriors can. Ballgame.

Forget about whether Russell Westbrook starts or comes off the bench (he started — and said his preseason hamstring tweak was due to coming off the bench). Forget about whether Anthony Davis is ready to be the Lakers’ No.1 option for an entire season or if LeBron James can outrun Father Time and make a whole ad campaign around it (with Jason Momoa as Father Time). None of those things is the Lakers’ biggest problem right now. The real issue:

The Lakers can’t shoot.

Los Angeles was 10-of-40 from 3 in their first game and 0-of-5 on shots outside the paint out to the arc. The Lakers were 3-of-23 on shots outside the paint in the first half. Sometimes a picture is worth 100 words, here is the Lakers’ shot chart from their opener:

This isn’t a one-off, the Lakers shot 28.6% from 3 and 39.8% overall in the preseason. LeBron was asked about it after the game and threw the blame where it belongs: Rob Pelinka and the Lakers’ brain trust.

“I think we’re getting great looks and I think there also could be teams giving us great looks. I mean, if you be completely honest, we’re not a team that’s constructed of great shooting, and that’s just what the truth of the matter is. It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team.”

Meanwhile, the Warriors are very good at shooting, which is why they won on ring night and are now 1-0 after cruising to a 123-109 win over the Lakers.

Stephen Curry led all scorers with 33 points, plus pitched in seven assists, six rebounds and four steals. Andrew Wiggins had 20 points, Klay Thompson 18, and while it wasn’t a hot shooting Warriors team, they were 16-of-45 from 3 (35.6%) and 10-of-15 from the midrange (outside the paint out to the arc).

Steve Kerr was able to go 11 deep into his roster in the first half and trust guys could make plays, which kept the Warriors fresh as they shook off the preseason rust. A 23-4 run in the third quarter by Golden State essentially ended the game.

LeBron played well, 31 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists. Anthony Davis had 27 points and was active on the defensive end. Westbrook scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and had 11 boards. The Lakers weren’t expected to beat the defending champs on the road, but how they lost is concerning.

How the Warriors won, without needing to go into high gears for extended stretches, is a reminder that they will win a lot of games this season.

2) Tatum, Brown pick up where they left off, scoring 70 in Celtics’ win

It’s just one game, but in that game the Celtics answered the “how will they respond to adversity” question for a night with a dominant performance from their stars.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 70 points. Tatum had 35 points on 13-of-20 shooting with 12 rebounds, while Brown got his 35 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Philadelphia had no defensive answers.

All that led to a 126-117 win over the 76ers on opening night. There were plenty of bright spots for the Boston faithful. Malcolm Brogdon came off the bench and scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, looking like he was still trying to fit in at points but providing the additional shot creation the Celtics need from him. Boston also controlled the pace and used their 24 fast break point to pull away from the 76ers.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers said after the game he liked the play from his starters, not so much the bench. Joel Embiid finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, but the Celtics doubled him to take the ball out of his hands, he made smart passes out of the doubles most of the time, but the other Sixers couldn’t take full advantage.

James Harden had a monster first half with 22 points and was +10, and he finished with 35 points on 9-of-14 shooting, plus he got to the line 12 times and had a team-high seven assists. He is clearly back from the hamstring that slowed him last season.

Of course, Harden also did this, shimmying and then throwing up an airball.

Harden struggled defensively, especially in transition, but there is a long line of 76ers players getting beat off the dribble in this game. That includes Tyrese Maxey, who finished with 21 points and had some strong stretches.

The revamped Sixers bench did not have a good night, with 11 points total on 4-of-13 shooting. Grant Williams alone had 15 off the Celtics’ bench.

3) Celtics opened the season with moving Bill Russell tribute

Before tip-off, the Celtics had a moving and powerful Bill Russell tribute.

One of the highlights was Brown talking about the impact and legacy of Russell.

After the game, Brown talked about how he came to that speech.

The Celtics had No.6 patches on their jerseys, which were special edition and included script lettering used at the Slade’s Bar and Grill restaurant that Russell owned. It was a nice touch and a reminder of a man who brought 11 championships to Boston but did far more with his civil rights work off the court than he ever did on it.

Magic send Jonathan Isaac to G-League for practice, rehabilitation

2022-2023 Orlando Magic Media Day
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

There was a time when it was thought Jonathan Isaac might be the Magic’s next big star.

However, he has not stepped on an NBA court since he was in the bubble (Feb. 8, 2020), then he tore his ACL in August of that year (which came on the heels of missing much of that season with an injury to the same knee). Last March he had a setback and another procedure, and at this point he has missed two full seasons plus the start of this one.

Isaac is still working toward recovery and the Magic have assigned him to the Lakeland Magic of the G-League to get in some practice.

Because NBA teams barely practice during the season — the schedule of games nearly every other day plus travel and recovery doesn’t permit more than film sessions and walk-throughs — these kinds of baseball-style minor league rehab assignments are more and more common.

The story from the Magic’s official website notes this will be the first time Isaac will play 5-on-5 with other players during his rehab, which is a significant step forward.

There is no timeline for his return, but the Magic have him under contract this season for $17.4 million and two more fully guaranteed years at the same price. There is no reason for the franchise to walk away, even if some around the league question if his knees will ever let him back on an NBA court again.

The Magic have found their next star in Paolo Banchero and have built a promising young core, something Isaac — an elite defender before his injuries — should fit in well with. If he can get healthy and back on the court.

Antetokounmpo talks about plans for his 28th birthday while holding Simpsons plush

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Happy birthday, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak turns 28 today.

After he dropped a casual (for him) 34-13-5 line in the Bucks’ win over the Magic last night, Antetokounmpo discussed his birthday plans. He’s not going out, maybe just dinner, playing with his kids, and once they are asleep… ya know.

I feel safe saying Antetokounmpo is the first NBA player to talk about birthday sex while holding a Homer J. Simpson plush doll.

If you’re asking, why the Simpson doll… why not? Bucks reserve forward Sandro Mamukelashvili won it at Universal Studios, brought it to the game, left it behind in the locker room and Antetokounmpo appropriated it.

In a world where most postgame press conferences are formulaic and filled with cliches it’s good to see a player willing just to be himself and have some fun behind the mic.

Watch Pacers rookie Nembhard drop 31, outduel Curry, lead Pacers past Warriors


SAN FRANCSICO — Rookie Andrew Nembhard outshined the Splash Brothers on their home court.

Nembhard scored a season-high 31 points and added 13 assists and eight rebounds to lead the undermanned Indiana Pacers to a 112-104 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.

A second-round draft pick, Nembhard made a key 3-pointer with 4:26 to go and another jumper less than two minutes later.

“He was masterful tonight … 31 and 13, those are high lottery numbers,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

Indiana played without starting point guard Tyrese Haliburton for a second straight game as he nurses soreness in his left groin.

Klay Thompson scored 28 points and made eight 3-pointers, moving up the NBA’s career 3-point list on the six-year anniversary of his 60-point masterpiece against the Pacers.

Thompson finished 9 of 23, but Stephen Curry was held to 12 points on 3-for-17 shooting. Jordan Poole scored 23 starting in place of Andrew Wiggins, who sat out with tightness of the adductor muscle in his right leg.

“No matter what we do, it’s going to be hard to guard these guys. We had some good fortune with them missing some shots they may normally make,” Carlisle said. “But our guys played with a lot of presence to start the game. We were switching a lot and everyone was tied together.”

Nembhard hit five 3s while Buddy Hield added 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Indiana snapped a three-game losing streak with just its second win in six games.

Nembhard and the Pacers hardly looked like a team playing the second game of a road back-to-back.

“He was hoopin’ and I think that starts in the first half for us,” Golden State’s Donte DiVincenzo said. “The guards have to get into it a little bit more.”

Golden State had its 10-game home winning streak snapped.

Curry went 1 of 7 in the first half, missing all four of his 3-point tries and was 2 for 10 from deep overall. Curry finally connected from long range with 5:13 left in the third after missing his first five.

The Pacers, missing six players with injuries or illness, jumped out to a 22-12 lead as Golden State started 5 for 17.

Thompson knocked down three straight 3-pointers – all from the right wing – to tie the game at 42 with 4:51 left in the second quarter before a Pacers timeout. Thompson also dished out an assist on Jonathan Kuminga‘s layup before his trio of 3s and nearly had another when Kuminga was fouled and made both free throws to cap a 20-2 run 3:40 before halftime.

Three things to know: On night of returns Harden rusty, Leonard hits game-winner

Philadelphia 76ers v Houston Rockets
Carmen Mandato/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 that make the NBA must-watch.

1) James Harden was rusty, Joel Embiid fouled out, 76ers fall to Rockets in 2OT

Philadelphia picked a soft landing spot for the return of James Harden, on the road against his young and struggling former Houston team, followed by coming home for seven in a row.

This was not what Doc Rivers and company pictured.

For example, remember Harden was going to be a minutes limit? Rivers had him out there for 38 minutes in a double-overtime game, throwing him back into the fire in the overtimes because he had little choice.

Harden made four 3-pointers but was understandably rusty after missing 14 games with a strained tendon in his right foot, and he was 0-8 inside the arc. He missed an open potential game-winner at the end of the first overtime. Still, he made some passes and a shot or two that reminded everyone what he can do when he gets his legs back under him — and why the 76ers need him.

Combine that with Joel Embiid feasting early on the undersized Rockets inside, and Sixers fans could see a path to a comfortable win.

However, the underlying problem that did them in was looming — Houston was attacking the rim, drawing fouls, and living at the line. The Rockets got 15 free throw attempts in the first quarter, a trend that would continue much of the night.

The Rockets hung around and hung around, getting 27 points from Jalen Green, while Kevin Porter Jr. added 24. And they kept drawing fouls, eventually fouling out Joel Embiid in the first overtime. When the Rockets hit a couple of 3-pointers to open the second OT, they took control and got the win, 132-123.

Harden’s return should eventually boost the 76ers bottom 10 offense, but what this team really needs is to get healthy (Tyrese Maxey remains out with a foot injury) and to string together a few wins. They start a seven-game homestead Friday against the Lakers (not the best time to catch Anthony Davis and company) and that would be a chance to right the ship. And get out of the play-in level they are at right now.

2) Kawhi Leonard looked rusty in his return, until the game was on the line

The Clippers followed the 76ers model for the return of their stars — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both returned to the lineup against an injury-plagued and struggling Hornets team. A nice soft landing spot…

That turned out not to be as soft as imagined.

As expected playing just his sixth game of the year, Leonard looked rusty in his return, starting the night 5-of-13 shooting, 0-3 from beyond the arc.

Then he hit two buckets in the final minute that got the Clippers the win.

The first was set up by an impressive hustle play from Paul George, who saved a ball going out of bounds to Leonard under the basket for a shot that tied the game.

Then, after a stop, the Clippers got the switch they wanted, cleared out the side and let Leonard go to work on the game-winner. That is vintage Leonard, using his strength to get to his spot and then calmly draining the shot.

If you’re looking for positives in Los Angeles, the Clippers showed some resilience and grit in getting the win. Leonard finished with 16 points and George looked sharper with 19 points on 8-of-15 from the floor. Clippers’ role players stepped up.

The Clippers need their stars to stay healthy and on the court, and to build some chemistry. Traditionally 20 games into the season we know who a team is, but this year’s Clippers are the exception to that rule. Their role players and a strong defense have kept the team’s head above water (14-11 on the season), but they need their stars back to turn around their 29th-ranked offense. Then we can see if they have the potential to be a threat in the West or not.

3) Pacers rookie Andrew Nembhard outduels Stephen Curry, Pacers win

Yes, you read that right.

While Bennedict Mathurin has been the Pacers’ rookie garnering most of the attention (and some early Rookie of the Year talk), Andrew Nembhard has been showing out of late. Monday night he had 31 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and hit some key shots late to fuel the Pacers’ 112-102 upset win over the Warriors.

With Tyrese Haliburton out (groin injury), Nembhard — the four-year college player from Gonzaga who was taken No.31 in last year’s draft — showed he knows how to run a team and knock down a 3 (he’s shooting 42.9% from deep this season).

The Pacers also won because it was just an off night for Stephen Curry: 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting overall and 2-of-10 from 3. It felt like a night where the Warriors looked at the Pacers’ inactive list for the game — Haliburton, Myles Turner, Chris Duarte, T.J. McConnell, Daniel Theis, James Johnson — and thought they would cruise to a win. Do that against NBA players and you pay the price.

Because guys like Andrew Nembhard can flat-out play.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Today is Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s 28th birthday. What does he want? What are his plans? And why is he doing his postgame media session with Homer J. Simpson? There are a lot of questions.