The Clippers and Cavs give us a locally-televised game, Charlotte ruins Kemba's 47
GOOD MORNING PEOPLE!
Pals, the Kings were hurt by what happened to them on Wednesday, losing by 46 points to an awful Atlanta team, and I genuinely appreciated the way they got after it in the club’s return home.
Nothing was pretty, but the team remained low to the ground in a way that, to an outsider at least, looked like a make-good attempt.
This is a strange roster, and this is the strange roster’s first month together, so none of this can be easy. George Hill and Zach Randolph can’t put the Kings on their backs, not with the mosh pits from 2012 still ringing in their ears, but the sense of duty can at least lead.
Sacramento played ardent, collective basketball throughout. It was mostly bad basketball, and the Blazers take in some demerits for not responding with the same poise, but it won a game.
Willie Cauley-Stein, yes, this was good to watch.
Coach Dave Joerger demoted him following the Hawks loss, and while he didn’t emerge off the pine like a conquering hero in that first half, his defensive effort and interest allowed him the confidence to put it all together once it came time to peel off the purple in the second half – WCS finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, activity to spare. He had 13 points in the fourth quarter, mostly Mark Strickland’ing it.
(Send some of that activity his replacement’s ways. Skal Labissiere looked great but missed six of seven shots, while Zach Randolph clanged all four attempts from the field.)
Sacramento: 4-11, Portland: 8-7
Since fleeing from blue to red in 2008 the Oklahoma City Thunder have fielded Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo (!) and now Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Their offense, through Scott Brooks and Billy Donovan, has never looked especially pretty.
Anthony and Westbrook boast clutch resumes that rival the best of any generation and George has had his moments, so it isn’t as if this is a shirking lot. And there were plenty of solid screens and backcuts for payoff in this loss, the Thunder don’t always make everything so obvious when it comes to lining up for a score attempt.
They’ve also lost plenty of games down the stretch of 2017-18, and the squad’s offense has dipped to 15th. All the obvious hallmarks, Miami Lite, are in place.
What’s also in place is time, and a top-three defense. And those backcuts – those winding approach shots that spark you to play 18 holes instead of nine – those are enough to keep us coming back. We’re only a month in.
(But seriously hurry up.)
All this without Kawhi, too, San Antonio.
San Antonio: 10-6, Oklahoma City: 7-8
The only way this game works is if you put it on CBS and shove a whole lot of commercials into each dead ball. Charles Barkley still knows exactly the same amount about these two rosters anyway, whether they work out of Durham or Phoenix or Los Angeles or IUPUI.
This was just a fun little game of squirty, little players going at it. These kids will all be our bosses someday, but for now there is still some skin to clear up before a game like this becomes anything more than compelling in small bursts.
Kuzma, though. Is he what Kenny Walker was supposed to be? Kyle had 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Imagine how fun these kids are gonna look again on Feb. 6.
(They play each other on Feb. 6.)
Phoenix: 6-11, Los Angeles Lakers: 6-10
The Hornets have lost six straight, which you tend to do when you work five games on the road in outposts like San Antonio and Boston, mixed with the struggle inherent in hosting an angry Cavaliers team at home. The blowout loss in Minnesota was passable, I suppose, as was the Knicks defeat in the face of Kristaps’ big night, but this was a joke.
The Hornets are daffy enough to let the Bulls win a game they shouldn’t have, a lining that has little to do with Kemba Walker’s 47 points in Chicago on Friday night. The Hornets had more than their fair share of chances even if Walker had halved that total.
Kemba was a delight and I hope he never doubts himself, but this was a boneheaded night for most of Charlotte. Every time I clicked over someone was running somewhere they shouldn’t have been.
All the important Bulls played good, upright, basketball.
Shoulders were squared and faff was eliminated for one night as it ran through sets, Kris Dunn notched 22 points on 16 shots with seven assists, five rebounds and three steals in only 26 minutes off the bench, and Denzel Valentine did what he was drafted to do (18 points, four three-pointers, five rebounds and six assists).
Here’s a clip of Jamal Mashburn scoring 50 on the Bulls on the night that Phil Jackson elected to start Larry Krystkowiak on him:
Chicago: 3-10, Charlotte: 5-9
I love it when a player gets his own stadium. Victor Oladipo has his own stadium now.
The building where the Pacers play – it has a name but we don’t have to use it because you subscribed to an ad-free service – that building is Victor Oladipo’s now.
He’s yelling at its corners even when his team is down double-digits, he demands recognition when a three-pointer cuts the lead to 12 points, and he understands that the best way to keep a crowd going with dead legs is to put the onus on the referees. Get to that nail.
(Darren Collison and Lance Stephenson also lay claim to owning Indiana’s building, but they just can’t jump as high as Victor.)
Those three were terrors on Friday, poking at the Pistons repeatedly until Detroit found no confidence in its offense late. With more loose balls to work with in the second half, the Pacers were able to dissolve a 22-point deficit in spectacular and, we presume, moderately-priced fashion.
Oladipo missed 13 of 19 shots but pulled in 15 rebounds, Lance Stephenson had 13 and six assists in the fourth quarter (and he, thankfully, acted like it), while Collison, Thaddeus Young (18 on 14 shots) and Bojan Bogdanovic (15 on 12) kept the Pacers within striking distance as the chill settled in.
I watched this game after bringing my mother a delicious Arni’s pizza.
Indiana: 8-8, Detroit: 10-5
It’s still a frustrating game to watch – I’ve clicked through a bit, this Clipper/Cavs game should have been a lot more fun! Don’t dissuade yourself from watching the highlights, but don’t let the kids see this either.
Neither one of these teams can play defense, at least not with the Clipper roster the way it is at the moment. Sindarius Thornwell starts at point guard due to Pat Beverley’s injury, and he gets after it, but there’s only so much you can do at that position against Cleveland. I bet you could run on the court to detangle a net while the Cavs are on D and they wouldn’t notice.
Hell, tangle it. Mess with Korver’s head.
After the Cavs spotted the Clippers a dozen points to start the game, James and Co. went to work pinpointing the right places to attack, but it was more exhausting than encouraging.
Cleveland: 9-7, Los Angeles Clippers: 5-9
There are things about Miami that you can trust, which is weird for a team featuring Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside.
The group was smart enough to spy the too-typical Washington malaise to start this one, it used Wednesday’s game tape to make a meal out of John Wall (who didn’t score until the fourth quarter), and the Heat held off a superior Wizards team at home to take a split of a mid-week series. Washington missed all 13 of its first half threes, dap to the Heat, but also look at all those Wizards clanging makeable looks on a Friday night.
Miami made Marcin Gortat move, as it should have more on Wednesday, and splits like these are massive for middling squads like Miami.
Miami: 7-8, Washington: 9-6
The Knick eyes dart like a cat’s following a flashlight. A big, D-battery, flashlight.
There are no laser pointers, here, this was filmed on a giant camcorder and the darting isn’t even precise. It says “4-11-90” at the bottom of the video and Bob Saget listlessly introduced the clip with a weak imitation of the voice Paul Lynde used to bring Mildew Wolf to life.
I kind of want to play basketball against the New York Knicks.
All of Toronto’s losses have come against good-to-great basketball teams (Nuggets, Wizards, Celtics, W’s, Spurs). This team is swinging.
Toronto: 10-5, New York: 8-7
Dallas can’t score consistently because they’re bad, the team plays hard and Dirk Nowitzki slaps a lot of hands on his way toward the court each evening, but they’ll go on long stretches of suck if someone like Jose Juan Barea isn’t shooting them back toward respectability, and JJ missed seven of nine in this game (1-6 in the fourth quarter), so the sad state of affairs played out.
Jeff Teague (15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds) helped, he hit three three-pointers in six attempts and he’s the lead guard on the NBA’s fifth-best offense right now.
I’m looking forward to Minnesota hosting an angry Detroit club on Sunday afternoon, to see how Teague plays on, and there are probably clubs I can’t get into in Los Angeles now for admitting this out loud.
Minnesota: 10-5, Dallas: 2-14
I’m bursting, people, only the pretty blue eyes of my better half are keeping me from staying in to write about Saturday, too.
The first time I heard this song was on TV, coming back to the dorm to an awaiting VCR timer, no luck with the Swoosies or even the Kurtzes out on the quad in Columbia, MO., with Libby Titus bringing it live on an old SNL that NBC thankfully decided to repeat overnight sometime during the same season that Shammond Williams came to realize that he could do that stuff, with his hair.After waiting out the Albert Brooks films that I pretended to mostly understand, Libby piled on with this delight. It’s a song to listen to while watching rain fall from leaky gutters that you only rent.
When the head of steam is the head of state, especially now that decision guards can do whatever they want offensively, you’re in pretty solidly. Jamal Murray, 31 points.
When the entire team looks like Mavs-era Jason Kidd feasting on the front of the rim – not so much to lay in the ball in over the top but just to get there and see what happens – then you have a culture. The Nuggets shook NOLA on Friday, 37 assists in a game that was over by halftime, a team that just wanted you to give it until the weekend to get its shit together.
Denver looked chill as hell on Friday, just lining up three-pointers they know are going in. More of that, all year.
Denver: 9-6, New Orleans 8-8
The Jazz played the Knicks on Wednesday which means they’ve had plenty of time to hang out around the Papaya King this week.
That’s the dismissal I used for the first half, at least, as the Nets piled up ungodly amounts of points on a Jazz team that features some fans back home cheering for a tank job. The Nets, working without D’Angelo Russell, were insistent – movement and space and, for once, the shots were falling.
Russell and Jeremy Lin get buckets, they sop up minutes and they’re both gone – probably for a while. We do hope that D’Angelo’s status doesn’t nag him all year, should he attempt to pull a rush job in recovery.
Friday’s Nets weren’t bugged by any of this.
DeMarre Carroll continues to play fantastic basketball, facilitating the offense and acting rather ubiquitous in ways that usually won’t take BKN out of its sets, Trevor Booker always plays well enough against the Jazz and Allan Crabbe finally stayed consistent from buzzer to buzzer – 18 points on 14 shots.
Spencer Dinwiddie finished his night with 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds – he hit 6-10 three-pointers.
Brooklyn had itself a game.
Brooklyn: 6-9, Utah: 6-10
Yo, this woman is playing air bass.
Let’s read each other on Sunday.