Three things to Know: Let the scoring continue, Giannis drops 55 on Wizards

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Three Things To Know 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) Let the scoring continue, “boring” Giannis drops 55 on Wizards

There have been 14 50+ point games in the NBA this season, and the league is on pace to have about 34-35 such games this season — the most since the early 1960s, when Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor were warping NBA record books (they both had 50+ in the same game once).

The latest contributor to the fun? Giannis Antetokounmpo drove and dunked his way to a career-high 55 Tuesday on what had been a red-hot Wizards team (winners of five straight before this).

“I want to get in a position … that my game is boring,” Antetokounmpo said after the game, via the Associated Press. “I just do what I do and people don’t talk about it because it becomes boring – I do it every single night. That’s what I want to do. I want other people to feel like my game is boring. But I don’t get bored. The greats – the best players – never get bored. They go out there and they always give their best any given night.”

Antetokounmpo has been boring to the tune of three straight 40+, 10+ rebound, 5+ assist games in a row. The only other players to have three straight or more of those games are the aforementioned Chamberlain and Baylor, as well as Russell Westbrook back in 2016.

It’s a quality win for a Bucks team that — even with Antetokounmpo playing at a level that has him in the MVP conversation — has gone 15-13 after a hot 9-0 start. Injuries have played a role in that (Khris Middleton is out again, Jrue Holiday has battled a series of non-COVID illnesses) but the Bucks have looked like a team that is a little bored with the regular season. The focus and energy are not there every night.

But Antetokounmpo is starting to change that — he’d just be happy if you were still bored with it.

2) Light the beam: Fox scores 22 in fourth leading Kings past Jazz

The Kings are legitimately good — playoff good. Which was the goal all along and fueled the Tyrese Haliburton/Domantas Sabonis trade (which worked out for both teams) and other moves like getting Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk in the offseason. The Kings have missed the playoffs for a record 16 straight seasons and the goal was not to slowly try and build a team that could beat the Warriors in the playoffs, it was to get to the playoffs.

It helps to have De'Aaron Fox when you’re trying to do that. He scored 22 of his 37 in the fourth quarter and got the game-winner in a dramatic ending that almost wasn’t a Kings’ win until the referees went to the video replay.

The Kings hunted mismatches all through the fourth (and the Jazz gave up the switch too easily at times), putting the lightning-quick Fox on defenders like Lauri Markannen who couldn’t stop him from getting to the rim without sagging off him so much they gave up an open jumper. Pick your poison against a hot Fox.

Markannen had 28 points for the Jazz while Jordan Clarkson added 24.

“I thought I had it off in time,” Markannen said of his almost game-winner. “Right from the moment it left my hand, it felt good. … It’s tough. Obviously, everyone remembers the ending but there’s a lot of things that we did early, we fix and win this ball game.”

With the win the Kings sit fifth in the West — out of the play-in fray — but the margins are thin in the tight West, they are still just a game up on the 7/8/9 seed Trail Blazers, Suns and Warriors. The Kings need to keep getting wins like this to reach their goal.

But today, they look like a playoff team.

3) Two highlights you need to see

Two fun highlights from last night that are NBA-adjacent.

First, check out Scoot Henderson — the projected No.2 pick in next June’s NBA Draft — and think about how much fun he will be in the league.

Then watch this Thunder fan with $20,000 with this half-court shot.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest

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We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 4 at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken in New Orleans. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the record fall when LeBron returns to Los Angeles on Feb. 7 or Feb. 9.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

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It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.

LeBron livid over no foul call at end of regulation, Lakers fall to Celtics in OT

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“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.

LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.

After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:

There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.

These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.

“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.

The other Lakers were a little more direct.

Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.

There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.