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The Five: Everything to know entering Week 3

Every Monday we will tell you what you need to know heading into a new week of NBA action.

Russell Westbrook finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a sixth man role in Sunday’s win over the Nuggets.

Every Monday we will tell you what you need to know heading into a new week of NBA action.

1. The Heat Check: The hottest teams and players entering the week

Luka Doncic, Dallas

Doncic put on a show Sunday in Dallas, scoring 30 points in the first half alone, and finishing with 44 points on 17-of-26 (65.4%) shooting to go with five assists in the Mavericks’ 114-105 win over the Magic.

Not only does Doncic lead the NBA in scoring entering Week 3 at 36.4 points per game, but he has also scored at least 30 points in each of his first six games. Who was the last player to open a season on such a hot streak? Michael Jordan in 1986.

One of the keys to Doncic’s torrid start is the fact that he’s in the best condition to begin the season that we’ve seen in his first five seasons in the NBA. Rather than playing himself into shape over the course of the first half of the season, Doncic has been ready to go since day one after playing for Slovenia in EuroBasket for the first half of September right before training camp opened.

Take a look at Luka’s month-by-month splits from last season and then compare his numbers from October 2021 to October 2022. His scoring is up 14.2 points per game, his rebounds and assists are up one per game, and his effective field goal percentage is up 7.4 percentage points.

2021-22 SEASON
October 6 22.5 8.5 7.5 46.8 33.9
November 10 27.3 8.0 8.7 52.7 35.9
December 5 26.0 7.4 9.2 53.0 37.5
January 15 25.6 10.1 9.5 49.0 34.4
February 10 34.7 10.3 8.8 53.5 41.8
March 14 29.9 9.2 7.8 58.0 35.8
April 5 31.8 8.4 10.2 54.8 41.2
2022-23 SEASON
October 6 36.7 9.5 8.7 54.2 39.4

And in the spirit of Halloween, here’s something scary for the rest of the NBA: Luka still has room for improvement on his 3-point shot. He’s only shooting 22.6% from deep so far this season; he’s shot 35% from 3-point range in each of the past two seasons and is 33.4% for his career.

Can Luka keep his 30-point game streak alive this week as the Mavericks play the third and fourth games of an early season five-game homestand? The Mavericks open the week against one of the surprise teams of the young season, the 5-2 Utah Jazz, on Wednesday, before closing out the week against the Raptors on Friday.

* * *

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers knew they were getting a three-time All-Star when they traded for Donovan Mitchell this offseason, but what Mitchell has done through his first six games has exceeded all expectations for the opening weeks with a new squad.

Mitchell has fit in seamlessly with the Cavs, who are off to a 5-1 start, and is averaging 32.2 points, 7.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 49.6% from the field and 45.5% from 3-point range on over nine attempts per game. All of these numbers would represent career-bests for the sixth-year guard, as would his 38.9 minutes per game.


The question is whether this level of play is sustainable for Mitchell individually and the Cavaliers as a whole. They open Week 3 with a nationally televised matchup with defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics on Wednesday before hitting the road to take on Detroit and both Los Angeles teams.

* * *

Milwaukee Bucks

There is only one unbeaten team in the NBA entering Week 3 and it is the 5-0 Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks boast the league’s top-ranked defense, allowing only 102.6 points per 100 possessions. And after being held to 90 points in their season-opening win over the Sixers, the Bucks have scored at least 110 points in each of their past four games.

Keep in mind that they’re doing this without Khris Middleton, who continues to be sidelined following offseason wrist surgery. Middleton and Pat Connaughton are nearing their return to the court, which will only make the Bucks stronger.


After playing just five games in the first two weeks of the season, they have four games in the span of six days this week. This week, they host Detroit on Monday and Wednesday before visiting Minnesota on Friday (ESPN) before coming home to close the week against the Thunder on Saturday.

2. Can sixth man Russ save the Lakers?

After opening the season with five straight losses, the Los Angeles Lakers became the final team to get their first win of the season on Sunday night with a 121-110 win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers got two things on Sunday that had eluded them for much of the opening two weeks of play: good shooting and a great game from Russell Westbrook off the bench.

Los Angeles shot 13-of-30 (43.3%) from 3-point range on Sunday night, after shooting 25%, 20%, 18%, 27% and 31% over their first five games of the season (a combined 42-of-177, 23.7%). As LeBron James said after opening night, the Lakers don’t have a roster filled with laser shooters, so shooting over 40% from deep on a regular basis is not likely. However, if the Lakers can collectively shoot in the 30s, that would go a long way to helping their last-place offense climb up the rankings.

As great as the 3-point shooting was on Sunday, Westbrook’s performance off the bench was an even better sign of positivity for the Lakers. Westbrook posted the highest plus/minus of any player on Sunday (+18) as he finished with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds and eight assists in 32 minutes.

Westbrook has accepted the role of sixth man and Sunday’s game was an example of how he can thrive in that role. “Like I’ve mentioned since day one, whatever is needed from me to help the team win, that’s what I’ll do,” Westbrook said after the game.


Can the Lakers build on Sunday’s win and begin to climb out of the Western Conference cellar? This week they close out a four-game homestand with matchups against New Orleans on Wednesday, Utah on Friday and Cleveland on Sunday. Those three teams enter Week 3 with a combined 14-5 record.

3. National TV spotlight: Must-see matchups

Monday: Indiana at Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV

How will the Nets respond to their loss to the Pacers on Saturday that Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash could only describe as a “disaster” when they meet 48 hours later? Can the Pacers repeat their hot shooting (23-of-46 from 3) and get another brilliant performance from rookie Bennedict Mathurin, who scored a career-best 32 points in Saturday’s win?

Tuesday: Minnesota at Phoenix, 10 ET, TNT

When the Timberwolves made the trade to acquire Rudy Gobert this offseason, it was to elevate them to compete against the top teams in the Western Conference. This game against the Suns is a great test for the Timberwolves, who have played only one team that made last year’s playoffs in their first seven games of the season. Phoenix enters Week 3 riding a four-game winning streak and is tied for the best record in the West at 5-1.

Wednesday: Boston at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

This will be the second meeting in less than a week for the Celtics and Cavaliers. Cleveland took the first game in impressive fashion, rallying from a 15-point first-half deficit as Donovan Mitchell and Caris LeVert each scored 41 points to lead the Cavs to a 132-123 overtime win on Friday. It was the first time Cleveland teammates had scored 40 or more points in the same game since LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each had 41 in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Friday’s game was the first regular season occurrence in Cavs history.

Wednesday: Memphis at Portland, 10 ET, ESPN

Ja Morant leads the NBA in “did you just see that moments” that you don’t want to miss any night he’s on your television. And while Portland will be without Damian Lillard due to a calf strain, they have Anfernee Simons, who set NBA Twitter on fire last week when he caught fire in the third quarter of Portland’s win over Denver. Simons scored 22 points and made six 3-pointers in the third quarter alone.

Saturday: Boston at New York, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV

The defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics make their first trip of the season to Madison Square Garden, a place they have not won since December 2019. The Knicks, including key offseason acquisition Jalen Brunson, will look to keep that streak intact. After starting the season 3-1, New York has lost back-to-back games to Milwaukee and Cleveland – the top two teams in the East. Now they’ll face Boston, the No. 3 team in the East at 4-2 entering Week 3.

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Wednesday: Utah at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET

Luka Doncic will look to extend his streak of scoring at least 30 points to seven games when the Mavericks host the Jazz on Wednesday night. The Jazz have been one of the best stories of the early season as they open Week 3 in fourth place in the Western Conference at 5-2, while the Mavericks are 10th at 3-3.

Friday: Golden State at New Orleans, 8:30 p.m. ET

Does this game really need more of a sell than these two names: Stephen Curry and Zion Williamson? The Warriors enter Week 3 having lost two in a row and are looking to get back on track. Meanwhile, the Pelicans got Zion back on Sunday after missing the previous two games with a lower back contusion after a hard fall last week. Hopefully by Friday, the Pelicans will also see the returns of Herb Jones (right knee hyperextension) and Brandon Ingram (concussion protocols), who have both missed the last three games for the 4-2 Pelicans.

Sunday: Cleveland at Los Angeles, 3:30 p.m. ET

Anytime LeBron James plays against his former team from Cleveland, it is a must-watch matchup. In 18 career games against the Cavaliers, LeBron has averaged 29.6 points per game, which is his highest scoring average against any opponent in his career. Since joining the Lakers in 2018 after his second run in Cleveland, LeBron is 5-0 against the Cavaliers with averages of 34.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists.

5. This week in NBA history: Key anniversaries and milestones to celebrate

October 31, 1950

Monday marks the 72nd anniversary of the NBA breaking the color barrier as Earl Lloyd became the first black player to compete in the NBA, playing for the Washington Capitols in a 78-70 road loss to the Rochester Royals.

November 1, 1946

Tuesday marks the 76th anniversary of the NBA’s first game when the New York Knicks defeated the Toronto Huskies 68-66 in Toronto. Any fan taller than Toronto’s 6-foot-8 center George Nostrand got in free that night; a promotion that would lead to loads of free tickets in today’s league.

November 2, 1990

Wednesday marks the 32nd anniversary of the highest-scoring non-overtime game in league history when the Golden State Warriors registered a 162-158 win over the Denver Nuggets. The 320 combined points set the record that still stands today. In fact, only three games have produced more points when including overtime.

November 3, 1996

Thursday marks the 26th anniversary of the NBA debut of the legendary Kobe Bryant, who played six minutes off the bench in the Lakers’ 91-85 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

November 4, 1961

Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors began a streak of 65 consecutive games of scoring 30 or more points. Luka Doncic needs just 59 more 30+ point games in a row to catch the Big Dipper.

November 4, 2016

Stephen Curry’s then-record streak of games with at least one 3-pointer made ended at 157 games. Curry has since surpassed that record as he has made at least one 3-pointer in 196 consecutive games and counting, a streak that dates back to Dec. 1, 2018. Curry is four games away from reaching 200 straight games, which could come next Monday at home against the Kings.