Three things to know: Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson have Lakers, Warriors winning

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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.

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.

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.

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.

But the 22 points on 11-of-13 shooting from Ben Simmons really sparked the Nets’ 127-115 win over the shorthanded Grizzlies (no Ja Morant or Desmond Bane due to injuries).

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.

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.

LeBron James passes Magic Johnson for sixth all-time in assists

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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Magic Johnson is one of the greatest, most creative passers the game has ever seen.

Friday night, LeBron James passed Magic for sixth all-time in assists in the NBA. For LeBron, doing that in a Lakers’ jersey like Magic wore was special.

It happened with 8:41 remaining left in the game, LeBron found Anthony Davis for a 3-pointer on the right wing.

LeBron finished the night with 11 assists and 28 points, which along with a monster 44-point night from Anthony Davis led the Lakers to an impressive win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.

 

 

 

Jimmy Butler returns, hits clutch shots to lift Heat past Celtics

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
Nick Grace/Getty Images
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BOSTON (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored 28 points, Tyler Herro had 26 and the Miami Heat completed a split of two games in Boston, beating the Celtics 120-116 on Friday night after Jaylen Brown banked in a long 3-pointer to force overtime.

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and had 25 points in 36 minutes after missing the previous seven games with a sore right knee. He added 15 rebounds.

“Obviously having JB back is big time for us,” Herro said. “He helps us in so many different ways.”

Kyle Lowry chipped in with 20 points before fouling out in OT for the Heat, who sent Boston to just its second loss in 16 games.

“My team welcomed me back and let me do what I do,” Butler said. “It was a big `W’ for the team.”

Brown sent the game to overtime by banking in his long 3 with 1.7 seconds to play in regulation. He finished with 37 points.

“It felt good coming off my hand,” Brown said. “I know we wanted to get a shot up off the rim as fast as possible, just in case we missed we could get a rebound, a tip out.”

The Celtics had won 10 straight at TD Garden.

Boston star Jayson Tatum scored just 14 points on a cold shooting night, going 5 of 18 from the floor, including 0 of 7 on 3-point attempts. He had 49 points in the Celtics’ 134-121 victory on Wednesday night.

“That’s the biggest thing about the league; you’re not going to stop anybody from just scoring,” Adebayo said. “I feel like (we’re) making him take tough shots every time we play him and living with the result.”

Butler hit a clutch jumper over Al Horford, making it 110-107 with 5.1 seconds left in regulation before Brown took a pass near midcourt, dribbled to his right and nailed his shot.

In OT, the teams were tied twice before Butler nailed a foul-line jumper over Horford with 1:45 left, but Brown hit two free throws to tie it.

Adebayo nailed two free throws and, after Tatum misfired on a 3, Butler hit a jumper to seal it.

“Jimmy made two tough, tough baskets,” Brown said. “That’s just a credit to his work and his skill and his development. He gets going in games like this; on the road in a hostile environment. … Tonight, two shots that in our defensive scheme we could live with, but Jimmy a big-time player made both of them.”

Unlike Wednesday, when shots were open more and both teams were making them effectively (each shot over 50%), defense was tighter and it resembled more of the postseason matchup last season between the pair that went seven games before Boston captured the Eastern Conference title.

Anthony Davis scores 44, outduels Antetokounmpo (40) leading Lakers past Bucks

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James tore apart the NBA’s top-rated defense and gave Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee.

Davis scored a season-high 44 points and James passed Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list Friday night in the Lakers’ thrilling 133-129 victory over the Bucks.

It marked Ham’s first game in Milwaukee since taking over as Lakers coach after working as an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22.

Ham and Budenholzer shared a big hug before the game.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Ham, who also played for the Bucks from 1999-2002.

It also was quite a night for Davis, a Green Bay Packers fan who delivered his big performance with Aaron Rodgers in the stands. Davis spoke with the Packers’ four-time MVP quarterback before and after the game.

“I saw him before the game and he said, `I need 30 tonight,”‘ Davis said. “I just saw him and he said, `I only said 30, not 40.’ It’s always good for him to come out and watch the Lakers play.”

James made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:22 left and finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He upped his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.

“It means a lot, obviously,” James said. “The way Magic approached the game, it was very infectious. His teammates loved playing with him because of the joy he played with and the ability to pass the ball and get other guys involved. He was always excited about seeing his teammates be great. I always admired that in him. What’s even more humbling and super duper cool is the fact that I’m doing it in a Laker uniform and knowing how much Magic means to the Laker franchise.”

The Lakers had the highest point total and field-goal percentage (.536) the Bucks had allowed all season. Milwaukee entered Friday with the NBA’s top defensive rating.

“It was too easy, too easy, too easy,” Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “They were living in the paint. That’s not who we are.”

Los Angeles withstood a 40-point performance from Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers also spoiled the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

Milwaukee missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds.

After Davis missed a fadeaway jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the side of the rim.

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, but Jrue Holiday couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis made a clinching free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

“Grayson got a good look,” Budenholzer said. “Good execution. Good screening. We’ll live with that shot all the time. And Jrue, similar. We got the kick ahead, playing against a defense that’s not set. Jrue, kind of a good rhythm shot for him. It was contested, but Jrue was 6 of 12 tonight (from 3-point range). He was feeling it.”

Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks, and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.