All the need-to-know info from Tuesday’s slate.
The Garden Effect Is Real
The Lakers stepped into Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night boasting a young, scrappy team that’s fun to watch despite its growing pains. For nearly 53 minutes they hung on, stood close, and stayed with the Knicks. But New York had something the Lakers didn’t: a 7-foot-3 unicorn who stood out like a Midtown skyscraper and totaled 37 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, and a career-high five 3s in New York’s 113-109 overtime win.
L.A. doubled Kristaps Porzingis almost immediately all night. But inside, outside, near the rim, in the midrange, everywhere, Porzingis drained it all.
The Lakers, who had six players in double digits, countered. Lonzo Ball had one of his best shooting games, and arguably his best game of his young career. The rookie pushed the pace every time he had a chance to and never hesitated or overthought. He finished with eight rebounds, six assists, and 17 points, including 10 in the third quarter alone during a flurry of back-and-forth shot-making that infused the Garden crowd with audible vigor.
Porzingis RIGHT BACK at the Lakers tho pic.twitter.com/UmlBFnnvHS— Kristaps Wobzingis (@World_Wide_Wob) December 13, 2017
Kyle Kuzma hit a game-tying 3 to send it into overtime, but Porzingis shut the door in the extra period with his best shot of the night:
This was a game that had everything. And by everything, I mean Michael Beasley was out there making winning plays and scoring 13 points, including a couple of key buckets in OT. Only at the Garden.
Rookie Rap Beef
The Weary Wolves Get Worn Out by Overtime
Out of breath with tired legs, the Wolves couldn’t hold serve in overtime on Tuesday night in a 118-112 loss to the Sixers. By the time Minnesota parlayed Jimmy Butler’s 38 points, Andrew Wiggins’s 20, a strong defensive effort by Karl-Anthony Towns, and 26 Sixers turnovers to take a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter, exhaustion had gotten the better of them.
Butler hit clutch 3s in crunch time, but played a total of 46 minutes. Towns played 47. Thirty-two-year-old Taj Gibson played 40 minutes, which could have been more had he not fouled out in overtime. Four Minny starters played more than 40 minutes. Only two Sixers even reached 40. Can you blame the Wolves for faltering late at this point? Tom Thibodeau stuck to his eight-man rotation in a back-and-forth, grueling overtime game.
Their malaise left the door open for the Sixers and Joel Embiid, who took over the fourth, hit a dagger 3 and finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists—a career high—including a couple of key dimes to Ben Simmons.
The Wolves seemingly controlled this game, and the turnover edge doesn’t quite compute with the final result—that is, a bad loss for Thibs’s crew, which got overplayed in vain.
LeBron Is a Nightly Create-A-Player
Like a manager in a video game, LeBron seems to have the power to select the style of play befitting whatever game he’s participating in. When he needs to take over and bully-ball his way to a win, he can do that. When he is hot beyond the arc, he can take over with his shot. Whatever he chooses, he can do it at a high level. On Tuesday against the Hawks, who the Cavs beat handily, 123-114, LeBron opted for a little passing clinic.
LeBron places the pass perfectly for Cedi Osman pic.twitter.com/pHwzB6DASY— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) December 13, 2017
In 35 minutes, LeBron scored 25 points and tallied a ridiculous 17 assists—his highest total of the season and tied for the highest single-game total in his career—and tacked on seven rebounds. Every pass was either a perfect dime or a perfect impression of Messi’s tricks on a soccer pitch.
It was another testament to LeBron’s godlike vision and Picassolike creativity that burns through defenders and creates space where there is none. They say sharing is caring, but LeBron turning the benevolent practice into a casual way of showcasing his robust skill set is simply another impressive addition to his résumé.
A Robot Without Much Rust
After being sidelined with a strained quad tendon, Kawhi Leonard finally made his long-awaited 2017 season debut with a 16-minute stint that served as a good reminder of his colossal value. After starting 3-for-3 in just five minutes of play, Leonard finished with 13 points, six rebounds, an assist, and a steal. He led all Spurs players with a plus-8 when he was on the floor and put his karate skills to use with this acrobatic shot:
The Kawhi 'bot is back. Newly programmed with more grace & sick reverse moves. pic.twitter.com/kR8JBd97hZ— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) December 13, 2017
The Spurs couldn’t beat the Mavs on Tuesday night, falling just short, 95-89. But every time Kawhi was on the floor, you got the feeling that had he played just a few more minutes, San Antonio probably would have won. But Gregg Popovich knows what he’s doing. You don’t win playoff games by overexerting your recently injured superstar in December.
Embiid Takes a Euro Trip
Joel Embiid with the picture-perfect eurostep pic.twitter.com/V3ph4UXCYX— Kristaps Wobzingis (@World_Wide_Wob) December 13, 2017
Jamal Murray Dunked the Pistons Back to Mediocrity
Jamal Murray with the Poster Over Reggie Jackson pic.twitter.com/vhD6pLVP7B— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) December 13, 2017
Detroit, which fell 103-84 to the Nuggets, has lost seven in a row. After the game, Stan Van Gundy reportedly called it the worst performance of his entire coaching career.