LOS ANGELES — 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) Anthony Davis has third straight 30+ game, Lakers win third without LeBron
Darvin Ham preached this at his introductory press conference, he said it to Anthony Davis when they had dinner just after Ham took the Lakers’ coaching job, and he was preaching it before Sunday night’s game against the Spurs:
The Lakers’ success starts with an aggressive Davis.
“It’s just the way we have to play, regardless of who we’re playing…” Ham said. “Playing through him is the main key.”
For the third straight game, Ham got his wish. And for the third consecutive game, the Lakers picked up a win.
Anthony Davis last 3 games:
38 PTS | 16 REB | 62.5 FG%
37 PTS | 18 REB | 60.0 FG%
30 PTS | 18 REB | 63.1 FG%
Leading the Lakers in PTS, REB, STL and BLK. pic.twitter.com/CDHy1ERMRR
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 21, 2022
The Lakers had little trouble dispatching the Spurs Sunday night, 123-92.
The Lakers will take the wins — and the strong play from Davis — wherever they can find them. The fact the wins came against the 6-12 Spurs (playing their fifth game in seven nights on the road and without their starting center), the 3-14 Pistons (without Cade Cunningham or Isaiah Stewart) and a Nets team where Kevin Durant himself pointed out the flaws in the lineup, does not matter. In the NBA, you have to beat the teams in front of you, and the Lakers have done that for the past week.
And they have done it without LeBron James, who remains sidelined with a groin injury and missed his fourth straight game Friday. Ham said LeBron is progressing but would not put a timeline on his return.
Davis has taken advantage of facing teams forced to go small because of injuries — the Spurs were without center Jakob Poeltl (knee), the Pistons without Stewart, and the Nets are just small. The question is can he build on that momentum and carry it forward when they face the Suns, Trail Blazers and Pacers in the next couple of weeks — all teams with legit centers?
One highlight for the Lakers during this streak has been the play of Austin Reaves in more of a point guard/shot creator role, running the pick-and-roll — he’s good at it. Reaves has 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the win Sunday.
“The thing that I think he’s grown the most is just playmaking,” Davis said of Reaves. “He’s making the right reads, he’s getting in the paint, he’s using his shot fake, he’s finding the right guys. So he has definitely taken a big step from last year to this year.”
That leaves Ham with a little bit of a dilemma — when LeBron returns Reaves would return to the bench units, where Russell Westbrook dominates the ball in his new role (where he is playing better). Can Ham find a way to keep Reaves on the court next to LeBron more as a secondary playmaker?
For the Lakers, that’s a nice problem to have. They have two games against these same Spurs just after Thanksgiving, win both of those and suddenly things will look brighter in Lakers Nation. It’s a start.
2) Vintage Klay Thompson arrives, drops 41 in Warriors’ first road win
All the Warriors needed to win a road game was a throw-back Klay Thompson performance. And to play the Rockets.
Thompson dropped 20 points in the first quarter on his way to 41 in the game.
Klay came out HOT in the first quarter 🔥 pic.twitter.com/v5BEFNEpg8
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 21, 2022
Postgame Thompson said it was good to take some of the load off Stephen Curry‘s shoulders. Which is a nice sentiment, but Curry still had 33 points, 15 assists, and stuck a ridiculous dagger in the Rockets.
Look at the Rockets’ coach on the bench 😂 pic.twitter.com/oTqbMZVb9c
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 21, 2022
It’s a victory that may have been more work than Steve Kerr hoped; once again the Warriors’ bench units gave up an early lead and the team had to work hard for a win. Still, there are silver linings, and Thompson finding his footing — even for a night, recovery is never linear — is a good place to start.
It’s a long season but this is a good step in the right direction for Golden State.
3) Kyrie Irving returns, but on court Ben Simmons stole the show
Kyrie Irving hadn’t taken an NBA court since Nov. 1, missing eight games after Tweeting out a link to an antisemitic movie and “conduct detrimental to the team.”
He was back on Sunday, but ended up with a relatively quiet night of 14 points and five assists. Kevin Durant pitched in 26.
Simmons isn’t changing his game or spreading the floor — 12 of his 13 shot attempts were in the paint, and the one that wasn’t was just outside it. What matters to coach Jacque Vaughn is Simmons is playing with force, attacking, looking for his shot and no longer being hesitant. That Simmons is closer to the All-Star the Nets thought they were trading for.
Next up for Simmons: A return trip to Philadelphia on Tuesday. It’s going to be ugly. He says he’s prepared for it, which will only fire up 76ers fans more. That will be some must-watch basketball.
BONUS THING TO KNOW: An odd sequence before and after halftime led the Nuggets — without Nikola Jokic or Jamal Murray — to beat the Mavericks.
With the buzzer about to sound for the half, Luka Doncic drained a very Luka 3-pointer. The clock expired and both teams went to the locker room. However, when the referees reviewed the play, Doncic had stepped out of bounds before the shot. Rather than bring the teams out of the locker rooms to play the final two seconds of the half over, they instead replayed those two seconds before the start of the second half. That’s when Doncic’s Slovenian teammate Vlatko Cancar drained a half-court buzzer-beater 3.
The Mavs-Nuggets had to replay the final 2 seconds from the first half after Luka Doncic stepped out of bounds before his buzzer-beating 3.
The result: Vlatko Cancar swishes it from halfcourt 😱pic.twitter.com/Do345rSOit
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 21, 2022
Denver went on to beat Dallas 98-97. One point.
That’s a brutal loss for the Mavericks, dropping to a Nuggets team without its two best players. This shot is just frosting on the cake.