Kyle Kuzma

Out of game, shoeless LeBron James waves towel on court near play (video)

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LeBron James wasn’t about that NBA-rulebook life last night.

Not only did he get away with a comically blatant travel, he – ostensibly out of the game – later wandered onto the court during play. He got pretty close to the action, waving his towel in celebration of consecutive Kyle Kuzma blocks.

And LeBron was wearing only socks on his feet. He had already given his shoes away to young fans – with 4:20 left! Sure, the Lakers were up 19 on the Jazz, but that’s a lot of time remaining. What a kind and totally disrespectful gesture, a real do-it-all move.

Restless-late-in-a-blowout LeBron is the best LeBron.

Anthony Davis’ 41 quiets boos in New Orleans, leads Lakers to win

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NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis capped a 41-point performance in his return to New Orleans by intercepting Jrue Holiday’s inbound pass with 5 seconds left and making a pair of game-sealing free throws, and the Los Angeles Lakers extended their winning streak to nine games with a 114-110 victory over the Pelicans on Wednesday night.

A packed-in and energetic crowd booed Davis during introductions and virtually every time he handled the ball, only to see him and new teammate LeBron James take over the fourth quarter.

James had 29 points and 11 assists, scoring 15 points in the final period, when Kyle Kuzma also added nine of his 16 points to help the Lakers erase a 10-point deficit.

Kuzma gave the Lakers the lead for good when he hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:07 to go, making it 111-109.

New Orleans trimmed it to 111-110 when Josh Hart hit one of two free throws, and after turnover by James as he was swarmed in the paint, JJ Redick had an open look from 3-point range for the lead that rimmed out. The Pelicans were forced to foul Davis, who missed one of two free throws, giving the Pelicans 5 seconds to run a play for the tie or lead. But that’s when Davis sealed it, stepping in front of Brandon Ingram for his third steal.

Holiday had 29 points and 12 assists, and Ingram had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who dropped their third straight game.

Trailing by as many as 16 in the third quarter, the Lakers began to take control with a 9-0 run to open the fourth, trimming New Orleans’ lead to 89-88. Los Angeles tied the game at 91 on Kuzma’s third 3.

New Orleans briefly went back up by four before Davis, who’d received treatment after banging his right elbow at the end of the third quarter, returned to the game and immediately threw down an alley-oop feed from James.

The Lakers took their first lead since the opening five minutes of the game when James hit a jumper over Ingram, pulling up as the Pelicans forward glanced over his shoulder to see if a screen was being set.

Davis missed his first shot and three of his first four to the delight of the crowd, but still scored 27 points by halftime.

There were moments Davis appeared to drawing fuel from the crowd’s antagonism.

When he hit a put-back while being fouled, he demonstrably mimicked officials’ “count-it-and-one” gesture with his arm extended and index finger pointed angled downward. When he hit a 3 later in the half, he pressed his thumb and forefinger together and extended the other three fingers as he ran back on defense.

Ultimately, Davis executed about every move New Orleans fans knew and loved when he wore the No. 23 in blue, red and gold, from soaring alley-oop dunks to turn-around, baseline fades. Only this time, he wore a gold jersey with a purple No. 3, and it was his misses that drew triumphant roars from the crowd.

The Pelicans appeared buoyed by the partisan energy permeating the arena, going up 38-35 on Holiday’s step-back 3 as the first quarter expired.

New Orleans led 64-54 at halftime, thanks in large part to Holiday’s 10-of-15 shooting to that point, including his 4-of-4 mark from 3-point range. And the Pelicans maintained a double-digit lead until early in the fourth quarter.

Three Things to Know: Markelle Fultz is making plays, getting buckets for Orlando

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Don’t look now, but Markelle Fultz is making plays, getting buckets for Orlando. The Washington Wizards were going to dare Markelle Fultz to use that long-broken jumper.

Midway through the first quarter, Nikola Vucevic brought the ball out to the left wing above the arc, handed the ball to Fultz and set a pick, but Washington defender Isaiah Thomas instantly backed a couple of steps off. Fultz set his feet and drained a three. One minute later, almost the exact same scenario played out in an early shot clock opportunity. After that, Wizards’ defenders started to come out and contest Fultz from beyond the arc, and that opened lanes for what Fultz really wants to do, drive to the rim. He was in attack mode for the rest of the night.

Fultz had his best NBA game Sunday — scoring a career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting — capped off by this steal and slam to seal the win.

Fultz is playing solid, respectable ball for Orlando — and he’s improving seemingly game to game. On the season he is averaging 10.5 points a night on 48.6 percent shooting (21.4 percent from three), plus 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds.

Not All-Star numbers, not the numbers teams hope for from No. 1 overall picks. However, for Fultz this is a marked improvement from the player with a combination of an injury and a clear mental block — call it a case of the yips if you want — we saw the first two seasons. Fultz was the top pick of the 76ers back in 2017 (they traded with Boston to move up to get him), but by the start of training camp had seemingly just lost the ability to shoot the basketball. He played only 14 games that season. During his second season he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome (a pinching of the blood vessels and/or nerves around the collarbone), and the Sixers threw in the towel and traded Fultz to Orlando. Fultz never got on the court the second half of last season.

This season, out of the spotlight and pressure of being on a contender in a major market, Fultz has started to find his game again. He talked about it after his play on Sunday.

“I never lost confidence. I’m just feeling better. I took the time this summer to rehab and get everything right physically. Each game out there, I’m feeling more and more better. It’s showing in my play and I’m just going to keep going.”

Fultz’s jumper still has a lower release and he pushes it more than you’d like, it’s not a form dad’s would have their children mimic. But, it’s going in more and more. Fultz is looking comfortable when he drives, and his comfort level seems to be growing every time he steps on the court. The Magic like what they see (they should, considering they picked up is $12.4 million option for next season) and Fultz has moved into the starting lineup.
It’s all good signs for someone who a lot of people in the media and around the league are rooting for — and that includes fellow Washington alumnus Thomas, who watched the improved Fultz first-hand on Sunday.

2) Boston’s 10-game win streak rolls off the rim with Marcus Smart’s attempted game-winner. This looked every bit the game-winning shot by Marcus Smart. Until it wasn’t.

That shot ended Boston’s 10-game win streak on a night they just were not as sharp as they had been. Boston had six players in double digits led by Jaylen Brown’s 18, but this was a game where they missed Gordon Hayward’s playmaking and scoring. With the game on the line, it was Smart — who was 2-of-15 shooting up to that point — forced to drive and take the shot.

Also, Sacramento had Buddy Hield and he seemingly could not miss — he had 35 points, including seven three-pointers.

Don’t look now, but after an ugly start to the season the Kings are 5-2 in November, and the two losses were to the Raptors and Lakers by a combined 6 points. Luke Walton’s team is figuring it out.

3) Kobe Bryant shows up to Staples Center, Lakers show out and roll Hawks. The Lakers are the best team in the NBA to start the season and the stars were out Sunday night to watch them: Kevin Hart, Chance the Rapper, and…

Oh, Kobe Bryant.

He was getting a lot of love from the Lakers’ stars.

Even Dwight Howard and Kobe were all good.

Part of the draw for all those stars was Trae Young, who has been putting on a show this season and had 31 against the Lakers, plus handed out seven dimes.

But this was no contest, with the Lakers up 12 after one quarter and then 28 at the half. LeBron had 33 points, 12 assists, and continues to play at an MVP level no matter who is in the house. Kyle Kuzma had a solid 17 off the bench. Los Angeles is now 10-2 on the season and look like the force of nature Lakers nation had hoped for before the season.

Kyle Kuzma’s late 3-pointers help Lakers push past Suns. 123-115

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PHOENIX — Kyle Kuzma was out on the floor in the crucial final minutes on Tuesday night when his teammates made the extra pass and found him at the 3-point line. Both times, he never hesitated to take the shots that splashed through the net and pushed the Lakers to a 123-115 over the Phoenix Suns.

Nobody looked happier than Anthony Davis and LeBron James. They’ll take all the help they can get.

“Welcome back,” Davis said they told Kuzma.

Davis had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Kuzma added a season-high 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting to push the Lakers (8-2) to their best 10-game start since 2010 and bounce back from a home loss to Toronto on Sunday.

James added 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

Phoenix (6-4) trailed for a big chunk of the fourth quarter but pushed ahead 113-111 on Devin Booker‘s fastbreak layup with 3:29 left. The Lakers responded with three straight 3-pointers – one from James and two more from Kuzma – to lead 120-113 and put the game out of reach.

Kuzma missed the first four games of the season this year because of an ankle injury he suffered during the summer while playing for USA basketball. He averaged 18.7 points last season but was scoring just over 10 per game until Tuesday’s outburst.

“I’ve just got teammates who believe in me,” Kuzma said. “We all believe in each other. We’re a team and we pick each other up.”

Los Angeles dominated in the paint with 70 points. Dwight Howard came off the bench to score 12 points and grab nine rebounds in 20 minutes. The Lakers had 39 assists on 51 made field goals.

“That is the secret for us,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “If you truly commit to the extra pass offensively and playing for each other, we are going to be near unbeatable. That was a really good team we beat tonight – that’s a really good win.”

The Suns were led by Ricky Rubio and Booker, who both scored 21 points. Aron Baynes added 20 and Dario Saric had 18.

“Down the stretch we have to be better,” Booker said. “Rebound better, execute better. We didn’t do that tonight.

Davis scored 14 points as the Lakers took a 60-58 halftime lead. James added nine points and eight assists.

 

Three Things to Know: Raptors show Lakers how roster depth is needed to win a ring

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Raptors show Lakers how roster depth is required to win a ring. To win an NBA title takes a couple of things coming together perfectly. First, you need stars playing at an elite level — Toronto had that last season with Kawhi Leonard dominating the playoffs, plus All-Stars such as Kyle Lowry stepping up. Secondly, it requires some role players to perform at a championship level, such as Fred VanVleet taking over the fourth quarter of a Finals closeout game.

The Lakers have championship aspirations this season. No doubt they have the stars — LeBron James is playing at an MVP level this season and Anthony Davis is beasting.

Do they have the role players? That’s the question. So far this season the Laker bench has been surprisingly good, led by Dwight Howard, but Sunday night they saw what the next level will take.

Toronto showed the Lakers what championship depth looks like. Lowry (fractured thumb) and Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) were in street clothes Sunday night. Toronto’s remaining star Pascal Siakam did his part putting up 24 points — 18 of them when Kyle Kuzma was guarding him, he torched the young Laker (via NBA.com matchup data). But he was equal opportunity, scoring on everyone.

However, it was VanVleet’s 23 points, Chris Boucher’s 15 plus defensive blocks, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson having his best night as a Raptor that sparked Toronto’s 113-104 win. That victory snapped the Lakers’ seven-game win streak.

Boucher, in particular, was a beast in the fourth quarter.

Anthony Davis admitted after the game he’s still playing through some shoulder pain, something he has battled for a couple of weeks since he jammed it on a missed dunk attempt. He’s not going to want to sit, but this is what the much-discussed load management really is — rest the bumps and bruises everyone has during an NBA season so it doesn’t become something bigger. Davis knows his body — and he had 27 in this game — but it’s something to watch.

The Lakers’ defense, which has been impressive all season, was off against Toronto — they got burned on backdoor cuts and other sets they have stopped previously. That happens. And there are nights Hollis-Jefferson is hitting fadeaways from the post and you just tip your cap and move along.

This was just one November game and should not be weighted too heavily for or against the Lakers.

But it was also a reminder of what depth on a championship team looks like.

2) Another game, another Nikola Jokic game-winner. Nikola Jokic is clutch.

We can debate how much his conditioning (or lack thereof) has led to a slow start to the season by his standards. What matters is he has not taken the step forward Denver needs if they are going to contend this season and not exit in the second round again.

But the Nuggets are 7-2 now because the last two games Jokic has drained a game-winner. The first came against the Sixers capping a 19-point comeback.

Sunday’s came against Minnesota after the Timberwolves had come from 16 down in the fourth to force overtime.

Go ahead and talk about how Denver is not sharp this season and has a bottom-10 offense, they are still 7-2 and atop the Western Conference. They will be a tough out when Jokic is hitting shots like that.

3) Miami suspends Dion Waiters 10 games for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Miami had to do something. Dion Waiters has been a distraction and a disruption this season in a franchise that tolerates neither.

The latest incident was him taking too-many THC-infused edibles before a team flight to Los Angeles, waking up in a panic attack, and paramedics needing to be called to the plane when it landed. Maybe a teammate gave Waiters the “gummy” (and he’s no snitch), but he still took it. He was the distraction.

Miami couldn’t suspend Waiters for the THC incident — that is covered by the league’s CBA and there is a protocol — but considering Waiters had already called out team management on social media and had other clashes with the coaching staff, they had grounds to go another route.

Waiters has been suspended 10 games for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

“We are very disappointed in Dion’s actions this season that include the very scary situation on Thursday night, and grateful that the outcome wasn’t worse,” the Heat said in a statement released with the suspension announcement. “There have been a number of instances this season in which Dion has engaged in conduct detrimental to the team. … We are proud of how our players have started the season. We expect all of our players, including Dion, to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards, and to show professionalism and respect for their teammates, the team, the fans and the NBA community.”

Miami has been open to trading Waiters, but with all this — and two seasons, $24.8 million still on his contract — there have not been any takers. Expect Miami to keep Waiters available as we get closer to the trade deadline.