All the need-to-know info from Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving NBA feast.
Nothing is more annoying than being mocked for caring about something too much, which is probably why players from both the Thunder and the Warriors spent the lead-up to Wednesday night’s clash acting like it was any other game. Which was obviously bullshit. The Thunder beat the Warriors, 108-91. The head-to-head moment between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be played on a loop, with KD’s I’m not mad, I’m laughing bit juxtaposed with Westbrook’s SPAAAARTAAAA act. It was tense, sure, but this game wasn’t very competitive. The Thunder went up by double digits in the second quarter and never looked back. The Warriors frankly looked more motivated to come back against the Sixers last Saturday. The meeting between ex-teammates will get the headlines, but there are a couple of other lessons worth mentioning:
- Paul George was the best two-way player on the floor, scoring 20, adding 11 boards, and notching four steals and two blocks on the other end. Forget the soap operatics: The perimeter defense of George and Andre Roberson was the key to the Thunder victory. And George’s four 3s didn’t hurt at all:
- This was Westbrook’s best game of the season, and the closest he’s looked to last year’s folk hero.
He finished with 34 points, 10 boards, and nine assists. Some folks, Durant and Steph Curry apparently among them, thought he was still in the game at the end because he was hunting for the triple-double.
Check out the Steph/KD reaction from the bench. They were following along on the assist hunt https://t.co/aKxvi5BVGz— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 23, 2017
I wouldn’t put it past him, and I would also ask those people how many Thunder fourth quarters they’ve seen this year. No Oklahoma City lead is safe, even if they’re playing Nick Young and Kevon Looney.
- As this game hit its fever pitch in the third quarter, it became obvious that this was a must-win for the Thunder. The Warriors can blame the loss on bad refereeing, Durant being less than 100 percent, Draymond Green’s foul trouble, or whatever else. They’re still the Warriors. Oklahoma City had no such excuses. The Thunder built a win-now team, around a my-way player, and it hasn’t been working. Until Wednesday night.
Waiters Island: Where Streaks Go to Die
Of course Boston’s story-of-the-season 16-game win streak came to an end in Miami. And of course the dagger was a two-handed Dion Waiters dunk.
LeBron James Really Wants That MVP Trophy Back
Cleveland’s 119-109 win against Brooklyn was probably too close for their comfort, but it’s still the Cavs’ sixth victory in a row. The ship is mostly righted, Kevin Love looked solid, Dwyane Wade was a super-sub (18 points), and LeBron made his MVP stump speech with a megaphone running through a Marshall stack. Here are two very useful tweets:
LeBron James has 23 pts in the 4th Q alone after requiring stitches to his face in the 3rd. Cavs once trailed by 7 in the 2nd half, lead by 11 with a minute to go.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 23, 2017
LeBron's PER has gone over 30. He's had four seasons with 30+ PER in his career, the four seasons he won MVP.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) November 23, 2017
The New Normal
Embiid with the VOLLEYBALL SPIKE block! pic.twitter.com/QzQKUeTtiw— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 23, 2017
The highest compliment I can pay the Philadelphia 76ers is that they have gotten to the point where they can easily dispatch a team like the Portland Trail Blazers (which they did on Wednesday, 101-81), and it’s … not that remarkable.
The Red Scare
Houston’s offense is going to be illegal soon if it keeps working this well. RIP to all the there’s-only-one-ball takes, and a mighty viking funeral to every Chris Paul–likes-to-control-the-tempo argument. Houston beat Denver, 125-95, and scoring only 125 was an act of mercy. Happy Thanksgiving, here’s Chris Paul being a warlock.
I'm sorry... What did Chris Paul just do? pic.twitter.com/h0ukF1YWEx— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 23, 2017
Paul had 23 points, 12 assists, and three steals … in 28 minutes. And that wasn’t even the most eye-popping stat of the night! Luc Mbah a Moute was plus-57! Which means [checks the graffiti outside of the Basketball Hall of Fame] LMM had the greatest game of any player ever. So congrats to him!
Is It Too Late to Get a Tim Hardaway Jr. Float for the Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Career-high 38 points for Tim Hardaway Jr. tonight, to go along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists pic.twitter.com/Jr0mhbAgxJ— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) November 23, 2017
Asking for a friend for Tim Hardaway Jr., who carved his name into short-term New York sports lore with a career game against Toronto. All was lost, then THJR led the Knicks on an incredible third-quarter comeback, outscoring the Raptors 41-10 in that frame. That was the worst quarter in TORONTO FRANCHISE HISTORY. New York won, 108-100, and Hardaway the Younger finished with 38 points, making Steve Mills —the man who signed THJR to a $71 million deal this past summer —the new Daryl Morey.
Big Men Are Back
find someone who's as happy to see you as Dwight Howard is to see wrestling pic.twitter.com/zCcVjwmlQP— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) November 15, 2017
Size is the new pace, man. It was a great night for big guys in the league. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis combined for 53 points and 26 boards in New Orleans’s 107-90 win against San Antonio. They are both averaging at least 25 and 10 boards a night, which no duo has ever done in a season, mostly because no duo has ever been able to do stuff like this:
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins's skill level at their height is ridiculous. 7 foot wing scorers that can initiate offense and shoot 3's. pic.twitter.com/Zcu7zLWVKo— Wilt Caineberlain (@CaineLovesCali) November 23, 2017
Elsewhere, Dwight Howard scored 26 points and grabbed 13 boards in Charlotte’s 129-124 overtime win against Washington, Joel Embiid had 28 points and 12 boards in Philly’s victory against Portland, Willie Cauley-Stein looked great in Sacramento’s win over the Lakers, and Kristaps Porzingis had 22 points, 12 boards, and three blocks against the Raptors, one of which was this knockout punch on a DeMar DeRozan layup, which led to a totally normal 7-foot-Latvian running-the-break moment:
Porzingis is so special, this is routine now pic.twitter.com/JdKp84DsIr— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) November 23, 2017
It’s downright refreshing to watch these guys bang down low! After a couple of seasons watching teams bend over backward to chuck 3s on practically every possession, watching some good old-fashioned (or even newfangled) center play is practically exotic.