Welcome to King of the Court, our daily celebration of the best performances in basketball from the night that was. We’ll be keeping track of the best player of every night of the NBA season.
King of the Court: Richard Jefferson
Seven and a half billion years from now, long after the oceans have dried up and the plants have died out and human life has ceased to be, the sun will balloon into a red giant, encroaching on the Earth’s orbit, and oblivion will come. And on that day, Richard Jefferson will probably still have at least two rebounds and 10 or so points off of the bench.
For those of you crying “hyperbole” and “natural life expectancy,” here’s an illustrative example: two Richard Jefferson dunks. One from his days as a second-choice scoring option (behind Vince Carter, it’s reputable) on the New Jersey Nets in 2004. The other over Klay Thompson — with Jefferson still rocking the Bic-ed clean look, aged somewhere between 28 and 52 — this past weekend.
Though the seasoned vet is only three years younger than his head coach and extremely not Andre Iguodala, “Richard Jefferson, Finals MVP” was a thought that actually got some traction last season. He helped the Cavaliers manage the bleeding over the first two canings against the Warriors, and begin to turn the tide in Game 3, with scoring and unflagging defensive effort. This was after averaging only 5.5 points per game in the regular season. It’s obvious that LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are a cut above, but whatever that extra … whatever is, Jefferson always seems to turn up with it. Another illustrative example: He had only eight points in the Cavaliers’ 109–108 win over the Warriors on Christmas Day, but two of those points sent Kevin Durant hurtling across the boundaries of space-time, back into the time-out chair in kindergarten.
There were plenty of things going on in the Cavs’ chippy 124–118 win over the Celtics on Thursday night. The Big Three were in bona fide, honest-to-goodness Big Three form, even with LeBron’s eight turnovers and shoddy 3-of-7 shooting from the charity stripe. For the first time since the Warriors nearly made the mistake of offering up Klay Thompson for Kevin Love’s services three summers ago, Love and future MVP (not this year, duh, but soon, probably) Kyrie put up at least 30 points apiece. Isaiah Thomas — in faith as small as a mustard seed, bless his immeasurable heart — put up 31 in a valiant, but futile performance. And you know how when you mute an “I’m the smart and reasonable one here”–ass blowhard on Twitter, the ground opens up beneath their feet and swallows them whole in real life? That’s more or less what LeBron did to Marcus Smart, but to his face, on national television. I am fully aware of what I am forgoing here.
HOWEVER. When the Celtics made a late surge and the rest of his teammates were playing the kind of I thought you had him perimeter defense that let Jae Crowder get an open look on Boston’s penultimate possession in the fourth quarter, it was Richard Jefferson to the rescue. Again.
Jefferson finished with 11 points and three rebounds in 19 minutes of action. Did I mention that he’s old?
Runner-up: Nick Young
Russell Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double through 30 games, but he was ejected in the third quarter of a 114–80 loss to the Grizzlies with six turnovers and no assists. Swaggy P — who is a distinct and separate cosmic entity from Nick Young (we’ve established this) — went 5-for-6 from 3.
Meanwhile, Kemba Walker was all of us, any and every time we hit send on a tweet.