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 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.
Asked by @DanWoikeSports about concern over the poor 3-point shooting (10/40), LeBron was disarmingly candid: “To be completely honest, we’re not a team that’s constructed of great shooting. … It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team.” pic.twitter.com/uZubb4C1ap
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) October 19, 2022
“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.
The Jays are cookin' 🔥 pic.twitter.com/yBeOEC6m2a
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 19, 2022
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.
JAMES HARDEN HOW pic.twitter.com/UuORBNlz7E
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 19, 2022
Of course, Harden also did this, shimmying and then throwing up an airball.
The TNT Overtime angle of the Harden play is even better. pic.twitter.com/NDc0eZFACo
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) October 19, 2022
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.
Jaylen Brown speaks about what Bill Russell means to the Celtics, the NBA & the world 💚 pic.twitter.com/HBPkMJzVFE
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 18, 2022
After the game, Brown talked about how he came to that speech.
Jaylen Brown on his Bill Russell speech: "I wrote some stuff down & just (scrapped) the page. How do you figure out a group of words that encapsulates what Bill Russell’s legacy meant to me, meant to the city, & so many others…It was amazing to play in his honor."
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) October 19, 2022
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.