All the need-to-know info from Wednesday’s slate.
20K for KD Trey
By way of injuries to both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Oracle Arena stage was set for Kevin Durant to reach 20,000 career points against the Clippers on Wednesday night and bask in the glory of the milestone on his own. It only took Durant one half and 10 shots—of which he only missed one—to hit 25 points and become the second-youngest player behind LeBron to reach the mark.
Feels fitting that Kevin Durant got 20,000 points by crossing someone over & hitting a midrange jumper. Ruthless. Cool standing ovation from Oracle Arena too for KD. pic.twitter.com/T7IDBBRwUC— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) January 11, 2018
Durant made six of seven 3-pointers and finished with 40 points, but the Warriors lost, 125-106. There’s a certain delight to watching Durant have these kind of nights now. Playing within the egalitarian system of Golden State, only sporadically does Durant get to willingly go off. Speaking of going off …
Lou Will Only Get Buckets
While Durant was reaching milestones, Lou Williams was getting shots up, turning the term “professional scorer” into a synonym for his own name and leaving the Warriors’ defense dazed and confused. In 35 minutes, Williams dropped 50 points, highlighted by a 27-point third quarter, the highest-scoring quarter in the league this season.
Whether he was raising his trade value or his All-Star profile, or just simply beating the Warriors—this was the Clippers’ first win over the Warriors in three years—Williams balled out and spoiled Durant’s night.
The Finnisher and the Unicorn
OK, this one was fun; part of the beauty of the NBA is that even between two mediocre, messy teams, a tightly contested battle could be an instant classic full of fun. It also helps when you have stars, current or upcoming, and that’s exactly what this matchup had.
In the red corner, the challenger, Lauri Markkanen, held his ground and even rose above it:
In the blue corner, the veteran, Kristaps Porzingis, took it to the rim on his own
And put a force field around the rim at MSG, blocking Markkanen four times:
Lauri Markkanen for th—NAH pic.twitter.com/ZsUCdWaN3O— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 11, 2018
In the end, Markkanen exploded for 33 points (with eight 3s) and 10 rebounds, while Porzingis had an off night offset by highlights, scoring only 14 in regulation, but 10 points in both overtimes. The two shadowed each other all night, including in OT when they exchanged long 3s and Porzingis made a game-tying buzzer-beating dunk:
In the second overtime, Porzingis kept the Knicks in it, but Chicago eked out a win, 122-119. I don’t know if we can make this a rivalry, but I’d be fine with a playoff series within the next two years.
The Wolves Keep Wildin’
The West’s top tier is a three-headed monster that, save a long-term injury to Kawhi Leonard, should remain Warriors-Rockets-Spurs. But that fourth spot is up for grabs because the Thunder—sans Andre Roberson, who is apparently their best player—are in a rut, having lost three in a row, while the Wolves are on a run, having won three straight. On Wednesday, the two teams played each other in Minnesota, with the Wolves dominating the contest from wire to wire as they beat OKC, 104-88, despite Russell Westbrook’s 38 points.
Jimmy Butler (who has been on fire), Karl-Anthony Towns (who’s looked engaged on defense), and Andrew Wiggins (cherish the flashes!) combined for a Thibodeau-fever-dream 63 points. Here’s the catch: Thibs actually played all 13 of his players! Nine of them even played more than 10 minutes. It’s a belated (early?) Christmas miracle.
Giannis Would Immediately Be Our Best Volleyball Player
Let’s Check In on the Wizards’ Bench
Wizards-Jazz went down to the wire. The teams combined for five 3s in under two minutes crunch time, keeping the result in limbo until the final possession, where Washington had a shot to tie it. It was ugly:
Even uglier was the final box score. The Wizards, playing the Rudy Gobert–and–Derrick Favors–less Jazz, spoiled a 35-point, 11-assist night from John Wall while wasting Bradley Beal’s eighth straight 20-plus-point performance. Here’s a possibly related factor: Utah outscored Washington’s bench 35-16, with Kelly Oubre Jr. accounting for 12 of Washington’s points. No other Wizards bench player scored more than two.
This has been the Wizards’ weakness for what feels like centuries. Their top-heaviness makes them appealing; their lack of depth—and the way it contributes to them losing winnable games—makes them only above-average and untrustworthy in the playoffs.
Time to Upgrade to the iPhone X
put rodney hood in the hall of fame literally right this instant pic.twitter.com/609CWD44fi— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) January 11, 2018
Rest Is Important, Until It Isn’t
The Hornets hadn’t played a game since January 5. The Mavericks were playing their third game in four nights. Dallas, who got 19 points from 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, beat Charlotte, who got 41 from Kemba Walker, 115-111. That’s it. That’s the whole joke.
Stay warm out there, kids.
Is Markelle Fultz back? He claims he has a surprise for NBA fans in London... pic.twitter.com/qYzOZFQV9e— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) January 9, 2018
Oop, There It Is
Alley-oops are art. Few things are better than seeing a player throw the ball in the air in a way that suggests he’s not trying to make a shot. You wait for his counterpart, on a near-telepathic connection, to rise and catch the ball midair and dunk it. Wednesday was filled with a handful of these masterpieces:
There was the reverse backcourt, John Wall–to–Brad Beal connection:
Bradley Beal ⬆️— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 11, 2018
John Wall ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/5JeVVwsPvi
The silky smooth John Henson one-motion finish in Milwaukee:
And of course, Donovan Mitchell suspending gravity for a hot second:
Donovan Mitchell is a human trampoline. pic.twitter.com/QJrNziGAfD— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 11, 2018
All Hail the Point God
chris paul is a genius, example 474748483838 pic.twitter.com/dozOC6Bhjz— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) January 11, 2018
No James Harden means the Houston floor was Paul’s to own on Wednesday night against the Blazers, whom the Rockets beat, 121-112. While Eric Gordon exploded for 30 points, Paul topped him with a season-high 37, a fact that was frustrating for Portland—and especially maddening to Damian Lillard.
Make sure you hit it out of his hand next time, Dame.
Heat Check: TBD
If this isn't one of the most incredible fouls I've ever seen... pic.twitter.com/fw2si1lrmP— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) January 11, 2018
The Heat have been showing off their athleticism and interchangeability lately as they have put together a six-game winning streak. On Tuesday, they beat out the Raptors in a chippy game that had its consequences. On, Wednesday they simply outplayed the Pacers. Guided by Goran Dragic’s 20 points and nine assists, as well as 15 points a piece from the three bench players—including the suddenly leaping Bam Adebayo—Miami once again assembled together a good win from the sum of its parts. With Erik Spoelstra’s plan coming into focus, the Heat look more and more like a surefire playoff team by the day.
I Repeat: Free Aaron Gordon
No Net could defend Andre Drummond on Wednesday, as he had 22 points, 20 rebounds (Seven offensive! Only one Net had seven boards!), and five assists in 31 minutes. Detroit won by 34, 114-80.