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) Light the Beam! Kings now fourth in West.
The Sacramento Kings are the four seed in the West.
Let that sink in for a moment. If the playoffs started today, the Sacramento Kings would host a first-round series. The long-struggling franchise — do we need to remind everyone again they have missed the playoffs for 16 consecutive years? — has come together this season around a couple of star players, a new coach, and a “light the beam” idea that could feel gimmicky in some places but everyone has bought into in Sacramento, from the fans through the locker room.
All showed in Wednesday’s win over the struggling Rockets (now losers of eight straight). Domantas Sabonis continues to look like an All-Star and finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. De'Aaron Fox scored nine in the fourth and finished with 24 points and nine assists. Veteran Trey Lyles came off the bench and scored 20.
Trey Lyles coming through with some clutch minutes 🙌 pic.twitter.com/lkfSqf0cxh
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) January 12, 2023
The Kings played with their food too long and let Houston hang around, but pulled away for the 135-115 win. And you know what a win means.
Another late night beam shot. 22-18. Another shot at going 5 games over .500 on Friday. pic.twitter.com/uS4OQD3FvL
— James Ham (@James_HamNBA) January 12, 2023
Mike Brown has to be in any Coach of the Year conversation this season. It’s a very crowded discussion, but the veteran coach has everyone buying in, has built a top-three offense around the inside/outside duo of Sabonis and Fox, and gets enough defense some nights to get the win.
Kings management took hits in the media — including from me — for the trade that sent out Tyrese Haliburton and brought back Sabonis from Indiana. My primary criticism remains valid: Sacramento once again traded long-term for short-term. They gave up the best player in that trade three years from now to get a guy who could help more today.
Give the Kings credit — it worked. Sabonis and his steady, professional double-double nightly is a better fit today and what this team needed to make the playoffs. Fox needed more touches and space in the backcourt. The Kings weren’t thinking about building the best possible team in four or five years, they wanted guys who could get them to the playoffs now.
They found that mix. The Kings are not a playoff lock in the tight West — they are two games above the play-in and three out of falling out of the playoffs altogether — but they feel like it. This looks every bit like a playoff team.
Just as importantly, this is a fun team. This is the team Kings fans have long deserved, and they should savor it.
2) Kyle Kuzma drains game-winning 3 for Wizards, Zach LaVine goes for two
The game against the Bulls was tied 97-97 with :22.5 remaining. Washington got the ball to Kuzma out top, ran a little time off the clock thinking last shot, waited for Taj Gibson to screen Alex Caruso, drove to his right along the three-point arc, then put up a jumper while fading to his right. Splash.
KYLE KUZMA FOR 3 😱
WIZARDS LEAD BY 3 WITH :05 TO GO
— NBA (@NBA) January 12, 2023
This man is just SO CLUTCH!!!! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/BUJwHI3zSo
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) January 12, 2023
That shot left 5.7 for the Bulls to do something. With DeMar DeRozan out (quad), they turned to Zach LaVine, who had 38 on the night. He got the ball, the defense swarmed and there was no clean look at a 3, so he drove and then put up a midrange two, much to the dismay of an open Nikola Vucevic.
Vuc's reaction to the final Bulls possession 😬 pic.twitter.com/d0PyqzwzG0
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 12, 2023
Here is how LaVine explained that shot, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
“We were just trying to get a 3 off. And then when I went in to pull up, I think Delon Wright fouled me. My instinct was to go up and try to get a 3-point play,” LaVine said. “I was going for a pull-up when he fouled me. I shot it. They didn’t call it. And that’s how it is.”
Washington needed the win, and they are now within a game of the Bulls for the play-in out East. Kuzma finished with 21, Monte Morris added 17.
3) Dedmon gets one-game suspension for massage gun incident
The Miami Heat hoped the NBA league office would step in and suspend Dewayne Dedmon — launching a personal massage gun onto the court could hurt someone.
The league didn’t, so the Heat did — Miami suspended Dedmon one game for getting into an argument with coach Erik Spoelstra, then in storming past him toward the locker room Dedmon hit one of the team’s massage guns launching it onto the court. That got Dedmon ejected.
Dedmon threw a massage gun on the court after some heated words with Spo 😳 pic.twitter.com/yjJYB599HY
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 11, 2023
If the NBA league office had suspended Dedmon, the Heat would have saved money against the salary cap/luxury tax (and the Heat are pushing the tax line). Heck, the Heat might have pushed the league to suspend him a couple of games — Dedmon is out of the rotation anyway and the Heat would have saved more money.
The league didn’t, so the Heat did. For Dedmon, the result is the same, he sits out a game and loses some money. He’s a guy to watch, Miami will keep him around on the chance they can use his salary in a trade at the deadline, but if he’s around after Feb. 9 Dedmon is a potential buyout candidate. Especially after this.