Welcome to King of the Court, our daily celebration of the best players in basketball from the night that was. We’ll be keeping track of the best player of every night of the NBA season, and tallying the results as we go along.
King of the Court: LeBron James
King of the Court is a subjective honorific. A good rule of rulers, though: whoso pulleth down a triple-double, he shall be rightwise king. Therefore, by the power vested in me by The Ringer dot com, I hereby christen LeBron James the King of the Court for Sunday, November 27, 2016. In the name of trinity — the points, the rebounds, and the holy assists — with a player option for as long as he damn pleases. Sometimes, the king is The King.
The Cavaliers beat the alt-Process Sixers 112–108 on Sunday afternoon, behind LeBron’s 26-point, 10-rebound, 13-assist stats triptych and Kyrie Irving’s 39 points (more on him further down). Considered in a vacuum and encompassing only these two teams, it was a surprisingly close game throughout. Philly even led 81–77 going into the fourth quarter. Some context — J.R. Smith shooting at an extremely J.R. Smith Sunday afternoon game clip (0-for-11), no Channing Frye, no Iman Shumpert, Bob Covington opening a gash over Kevin Love’s right eye — helps explain the tight margin between the sitting champs and the catacomb-dwelling Sixers. The rest can be explained by Cleveland’s well-earned hubris.
The Cavaliers came into the game at 12–2. They have an elite offense, the best player in the world, and five players shooting north of 40 percent from 3. The Sixers are in their post–Hinkie Embiid rebrand phase, but they still, definitively, suck. Success begets confidence. Great success — say, playing in six straight NBA Finals or blazing out of a 3–1 grave like Ghost Rider — breeds arrogance, imperiousness. The Cavaliers, in other words, played the Sixers like the Man in Black plays Westworld: with a total lack of respect for the ability of their opponents.
Sergio Rodriguez and Nik Stauskas (quietly improved from all-world terrible to merely normal bad) got loose in this game. Whatever, it’s still November.
LeBron is often accused of coasting on his prodigious ability during the early marches of the NBA season. And, sure, sometimes he does. But that is his divine right. If you come at the King, you best have more than Joel Embiid on a minutes limit.
Prince of the Court: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is one of eight players, per NBA.com, who use ISOs more than 20 percent of the time they’re on the floor. The difference between Irving and the rest of the people on that list is he scores 1.32 points per possession and is shooting a ridiculous 56.7 percent out of the play. In other words, Kyrie is like a hero-ball charcuterie plate: one-on-one scoring delivered in ancient yet delicious variety. He scored 39 points against the Sixers, including 19 in the fourth quarter. Irving’s Velcro handle and soft-shoe footwork can leave even the league’s best defenses in states of glacial confusion. The Sixers, though slightly improved from last season, are not one of the league’s best. Rodriguez, T.J. McConnell, and Stauskas ain’t stopping anybody anytime soon. The table was set; all that was needed were the salted meats.
Irving went 7-for-10 in the fourth quarter. He skittered around Joel Hans Embiid, faded away on the baseline, spotted up from 3, layed it up over a double-team, and generally devastated Philly any and every way possible. The only thing missing from the above video is “Black Beatles.”