Three things to know: LaVine, Bulls bounce back to snap Celtics win streak

Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls
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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) LaVine, Bulls bounce back to snap Celtics win streak

The Boston Celtics came into Monday night having won nine in a row and looking every bit the best team in the league.

The Chicago Bulls entered the game having lost four in a row and having star player Zach LaVine benched for the final 3:43 of their most recent loss following a 1-of-14 shooting night.

Monday night the tables flipped. Chicago played with desperation and couldn’t seem to miss from 3 (LaVine and DeMar DeRozan combined to go 8-of-13 from deep), while the Celtics seemed flat. The Bulls’ offense was just flowing on Monday night.

The result was a 121-107 Chicago win that the Celtics can shake off and call a bad night, but something the Bulls needed.

It was just that kind of night. The Celtics followed the playbook that has worked for a lot of teams, such as dropping off Patrick Williams and Alex Caruso and daring that duo to shoot 3-pointers. They combined to hit 5-of-8 from deep. It was just that kind of night.

Important for Chicago, Zach LaVine had a bounce-back night scoring 22 and looking active on both ends of the floor. It appears benching him for the closing stretch against Orlando worked, both firing him up and sending a message to the team.

One other note out of this game: Jaylen Brown addressed his Tweet around Kyrie Irving‘s return to Brooklyn saying he did not endorse the protestors.

Those protestors bringing “energy” were members of Israel United in Christ, a group that endorses many of the things in the movie Irving Tweeted about that got him in hot water in the first place. They distributed flyers to people walking into Sunday’s game called “The Truth About Anti-Semitism” and “The Truth about Slavery.”

Brown addressed the issue, courtesy of Jamal Collier of ESPN.

“I saw a large group of our people from our community showing support for [Kyrie] and his return,” Brown said Monday. “Me being proud of that support and being proud of our community for doing that does not mean I endorse or celebrate some of the things that were being done or being said.

“My instinct when I saw this was I didn’t notice which group it was. I just noticed the support, and that’s what I commented on. I reemphasize that I don’t think that everything that is said or being done or being said is something I endorse or represent.”

Both Irving and Brown are on the players’ union executive committee.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates, drops 37 in Bucks win

In a season with a lot of stars having incredible years — Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum and others — somehow Giannis Antetokounmpo gets taken for granted. He’s the best player in the world but he doesn’t even make everyone’s top-five MVP ballot.

As a reminder, Antetokounmpo dominated and dropped 37 on 16-of-24 shooting to lead the Bucks past the Trail Blazers 119-111.

Milwaukee is 12-4 on the season playing without their best ball handler in the halfcourt, Khris Middleton, plus starter Pat Connaughton. Antetokounmpo averages 30.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists a game, and if you’re knocking him because his two-point shooting has fallen to 57% this season, that seems like hunting a reason to go against him.

It’s far, far too early to have a serious MVP conversation, but if you have it Antetokounmpo has to be in the mix.

3) For second time this season, Warriors sit stars in New Orleans

Imagine you live in New Orleans and you decide you want to see your team take on Stephen Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors. You would have had two chances, Curry and company came to town on Nov. 4 and Nov. 21.

Except Nov. 4 was the second night of a back-to-back and the final game of a five-game road trip for the Warriors, so Steve Kerr rested Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins. Anthony Lamb started and played 36 minutes for the Warriors, and the Pelicans won.

Monday night was the second time the Warriors came to town — and again it was the second night of a back-to-back the third game in four days and Kerr rested all his stars (Lamb played 34 minutes). The Pelicans cruised to an easy 128-83 win behind 34 points from Brandon Ingram.

This is bad for the fans in New Orleans. It’s not Steve Kerr’s fault, he has to do what’s best for the long-term health of his team, they are title contenders (despite the slow start to the season) and he has to look at schedule-maker losses and get his guys some rest.

The league has to do better by cities. By fans. Unquestionably there are going to be nights where players get rested at the end of a long road trip and it will disappoint fans, there is simply no way around it (you could lessen the impact by playing fewer than 82 games, but good luck going down that road). But the NBA can’t give a city two of these games, essentially telling fans “you’re not going to get to see the best version of the defending champs because we’re got a schedule to keep and money to make.”

It’s not fair to the fans in New Orleans and many other cities hoping to see the best players in the world.

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

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
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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
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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
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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.