All the need-to-know info from Thursday’s slate.
A Worthy Audition
With the young Lakers in town, and the narrative that LeBron could head to Southern California this summer looming over the Lakers’ entire season, L.A.’s matchup with the Cavaliers on Thursday was more or less an informal, and probably insubstantial, audition on their possible future teammate’s court.
LeBron, however, presented his own case for why he—not the location or roster—is what truly matters. He led Cleveland to a 121-112 win and posted his 59th career triple-double—which tied him for sixth all time with Larry Bird.
But the embryonic Lakers stood their ground for the majority of the match. Not only did the team’s raw, talented players contend with LeBron's finished product, they also displayed the “I see you” flashes of their ceiling that made the team draft them high in the first place.
You WILL appreciate Lonzo Ball pic.twitter.com/4G1UwEVjpF— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) December 15, 2017
Brandon Ingram led the way with 26 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Kyle Kuzma continued to fuel his cult-hero status by tallying 20 points, and late-first-round pick Josh Hart replaced Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the lineup and posted a strong performance. Six Lakers scored in double figures, including Lonzo Ball, who was two rebounds away from matching LeBron’s triple-double with one of his own.
Afterward, Ball and James met at midcourt and had a word—or rather Lonzo listened to LeBron talking through his jersey.
LeBron covers his mouth to talk to Lonzo Ball after game pic.twitter.com/uMq6wfNwQu— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 15, 2017
“I didn’t tell him anything,” LeBron said postgame with a smile. “There’s enough noise out there with Lonzo.”
LeBron is right. What’s more, he knows he’s got the power to make even more of a racket with just a word of his own. For now, though, let’s just make this into a meme.
Kristaps Porzingis Gives New York Another Scare
Porzingis was well on his way to leading the Knicks to their third win in a row.. But with the Knicks up 10 and over nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, the big man seemed to hurt his left knee while defending a shot near the rim.
Porzingis headed back to Knicks locker room. Appeared to be a non-contact injury to left knee. pic.twitter.com/bfWKAFclGD— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) December 15, 2017
The injury appeared to be non-contact, and Porzingis asked out of the game, leaving for the locker room. He did not return. The Knicks, by way of Courtney Lee and Frank Ntilikina, fended off the Nets, winning 111-104.
After the game, Porzingis was reportedly standing and did not appear to be experiencing any pain. He is set to be evaluated on Friday.
The Superstar Is More Fun Than the Superteam
Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State was one made in search of not just a title, but also an efficient system where could he fit in rather than stand out. Yet as with Thursday’s matchup with the Mavs, every Warriors game without Steph Curry has become must-watch TV as Durant has had to take over like he’s an über-efficient Kobe.
In 34 minutes against the now-8-21 Mavs, Durant forced his way to 36 points (tied for a season-high) on 23 shots, mostly by taking his trademarked midrange jumpers and confidently driving to the rim. Until Klay Thompson—lest we forget him—dropped four 3s and 14 points in the fourth quarter, no other Warrior had more than 20 points. In the four games that Curry has missed with an ankle injury, Durant has averaged 33.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and three blocks per game while shooting 43 percent from 3.
The game, which the Warriors won 112-97, was another tailor-made for Durant to take over and win. And without Steph or Draymond Green, the Warriors have also become Durant’s team for a momentary, extremely enjoyable blip.
Brook Lopez Airballed Two Free-Throws
What the hell did I just witness?— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) December 15, 2017
80% FT shooter Brook Lopez airballs two straight free throws pic.twitter.com/KxNRRFKQSB
Then he did (or rather didn’t) do this:
Not your night, Brook. Shake it off, buddy.
What Can Towns Do for You?
With no game on Wednesday night, Karl-Anthony Towns got something he doesn’t get much of during games: rest. And by facing the Kings on Thursday, he got a favorable matchup to make a much-needed statement.
Karl-Anthony Towns using every tool in the bag tonight. pic.twitter.com/RhpwRAZshd— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 15, 2017
In his first 15 minutes on the floor, Towns scored 19 points and blocked four shots. By the time the Wolves had blown out the Kings, 119-96, he had amassed 30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five blocks, and a steal.The only other Wolves player with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and five blocks? Kevin Garnett. For Towns, it wasn’t just a career night, but also a complete performance commensurate with the hype that has surrounded Towns prior to this season but had corroded a bit over the first part of the year.
Of course, even in a blowout—and even though Tom Thibodeau extended his rotation to 11 players—Towns played 35 minutes, and all but one starter played 30 or more. At least Minnesota doesn’t have to suit up tomorrow.
John Collins Baptizes Luke Kennard
✈️✈️✈️✈️ John Collins just flew Ersan Airlines. ✈️✈️✈️✈️ pic.twitter.com/St8fVJCILj— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 15, 2017
The Pistons March to Drummond’s Beat
When Andre Drummond is engaged, his best skill may be his ability to rack up numbers in volume at an effective pace. Especially on the boards. Drummond dominated Thursday night as the Hawks welcomed the Pistons to Atlanta. Detroit won, 105-91, while Drummond pounced on the opportunity to stockpile numbers against one of the worst teams in the league. He finished with 12 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks.
The question is: Can he do it consistently against better teams?