All the need-to-know info from Tuesday’s slate.
The North Meets the Heat
Tuesday’s matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat was a barn burner packed with a little bit of everything. Let’s begin where it ended.
With just ticks left on the clock, Wayne Ellington evaded Pascal Siakam’s steal attempt, drove to the hoop, and scooped it in. The 0.3 seconds remaining wasn’t enough for DeMar DeRozan, who had given Toronto the lead a possession earlier and posted a team-high 25 points as Kyle Lowry sat out with a back—er, butt—injury. The Heat squeaked out the road win, 90-89, but DeRozan wasn’t done. After the buzzer, he and Goran Dragic, who led the Heat with 24 points, got into a slight shoving match:
DeRozan & Dragic get into it at the end, get separated quickly pic.twitter.com/qSAmKWkPD6— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 10, 2018
And that wasn’t the only chippiness displayed in the affair. Earlier in the game, Serge Ibaka tried to test James Johnson:
James Johnson-Serge Ibaka throwing punches at each after getting heated pic.twitter.com/CJdIXGliRJ— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 10, 2018
Don’t mess with “Bloodsport”!
Both players were ejected. Johnson’s absence turned out to be a boon for the Heat, who were carried by a stellar second half from rookie Bam Adebayo, an athletic freak who is growing more polished by the game.
Bam finished tied for a team-best plus-9, putting up 16 points and tying Hassan Whiteside for the Heat lead with 15 rebounds. (On Tuesday, the Heat signed a temporary lease on the Air Canada Centre boards, out-rebounding the Raptors 64-37.) If it weren’t for Ellington, however, none of it would have mattered.
With Damian Lillard sitting on the bench with a calf injury as the Blazers began their four-game road trip in Oklahoma City, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic needed only a little over half an hour to put the lackadaisical Thunder to bed, 117-106.
McCollum played 33 minutes and put up 27 points, leaving Oklahoma City lost on the perimeter, helpless on the inside, and wondering when Andre Roberson would come back.
Nurkic, meanwhile, played less than half of the game (23 minutes), but had nearly as many rebounds (eight) as any Thunder player. He added 20 points of his own. Even Shabazz Napier took the opportunity to weave through the shoddy OKC defense and tack on a 21-5-2. It was a timely win for the Blazers and an awful home loss for the Thunder. Following the game, Russell Westbrook—who was the only standout for OKC with 22 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds—left the building without talking to any media for the second time in the past week.
Free Aaron Gordon
L.A. Loves (Read: Needs) a Winning Streak
In a battle between two of the worst teams in the league, the Lakers had one of those nights where their youthful potential coincided with a perfect dose of veteran support. Julius Randle scored a game-high 22 points, Lonzo added 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and Brook Lopez hit five 3s on their way to a 99-86 win over the Kings.
The matchup was like chicken soup on a rainy day for the Lakers, who badly needed to put together an encouraging performance after not having won two straight games since December 9. Despite turning the ball over 25 times (a season high), the Lakers did just that. They let Randle cook, they let Lonzo drive them, and they moved the ball around to the tune of 30 team assists:
And they played defense! Yes, it was against the least efficient offense in the league, but L.A. held Sacramento to 86 points, the fewest points allowed by the Lakers in a game this season. Right now, every Lakers win isn’t just a flicker of hope for the franchise amid controversy surrounding them, it’s a way to outrun history. The bad kind.
2018 A.D. (Always Dirk)
Watching Dirk Nowitzki on a good night has become like eating comfort food. The sight of that midrange jumper soothes the soul—him fading away from the basket yet still making that shot fills you up in a way that is rare, but cherished.
On Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, Dirk poured in 20 key points as the Mavs won, 114-99, snapping their three-game losing streak. He gave us a nostalgic 24 minutes; these days, Dirk can’t exactly turn back the clock, so from time to time, he pauses it. But for me, that’s more than enough.
Lock Your Car, Hide Your Keys, Giannis Hazing Is Here
(Giannis is only 67 days older than rookie Sterling Brown.)
Bam Slamma Jamma
Blake’s First Movie Looks Like (a) Trainwreck
(Full disclosure: This is not to say that if I were to find myself on a commercial airplane during a long flight that I would not turn it on.)