All the need-to-know info from Monday’s slate.
Utah Just Out-Role-Player’d the Spurs
At one point during the fourth quarter of Utah’s 101-99 Monday-night victory against the Spurs, coach Quin Snyder walked over to Rudy Gobert as the franchise center stood on the sideline, ready to check in for Derrick Favors. Snyder, according to reporters at the game, asked Gobert if he minded Utah rolling with Favors.
It was the right move—Favors’s fourth-quarter line of eight points, four rebounds, one block, one steal, and spot-on defense will back up that decision—and symbolic of the Jazz, who sealed their 10th straight win with a mix of stray role players. (Imagine coming away from a game against the Spurs looking like a remarkably meshed team.) Ricky Rubio was ruled out with a hip injury, and new addition Jae Crowder scored 14 points in 33 minutes.
Gobert did eventually sub back in—on the final possession after Utah had rallied back from a 13-point deficit. The Jazz had the lead by that point, after Donovan Mitchell had picked Kyle Anderson in what seemed like a far-too-casual turnover for a one-point contest—
—then made a layup on the other end, hit an 18-footer the possession after that, and drew two foul shots, making one. But don’t forget to credit Utah’s other rookie, the undrafted 24-year-old Royce O’Neal, for his role in the win. He can be seen trapping Kyle Anderson into the Spurs’ bench and Gregg Popovich’s glare on San Antonio’s last chance to win.
(Not to take away from this Jazz win, but Manu stumbling into a Slo-Mo Kyle Anderson iso is the best the Spurs can do?)
Mitchell, who became the first rookie to lead a team in scoring over a 10-game win streak since Wilt Chamberlain, finished Monday with a game-high 25 points.
Steve Kerr Hands Iggy the Clipboard
The notion that the Suns can compete with the Warriors is just a few levels more likely than your uncle thinking Bama could take on the Browns. And Steve Kerr knew that.
During a first-quarter timeout, Kerr gave the clipboard to Andre Iguodala, who proceeded to coach the huddle while Golden State’s actual head coach stood off to the side with his assistants. Draymond Green, out with a sprained finger, and David West became in-game interims later as well.
Steve Kerr's just letting the Warriors coach themselves. pic.twitter.com/GIRPtyMWML— ESPN (@espn) February 13, 2018
Even if Kerr saw it as an opportunity for players who have genuinely expressed interest in coaching or who want to see the playbook from another angle, the gag was lowkey disrespectful. It took me back to youth soccer, when the coach of the better 9-year-olds forced them to get 10 passes before shooting on the worse 9-year-olds. Except these aren’t kids, they’re members of a professional basketball franchise.
Proud of T.J. McConnell for Drawing Multiple Defenders
Ed Malloy, not unlike the Knicks, ended up not being able to stop McConnell:
Ref started playing defense pic.twitter.com/VqbBsR3lsE— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 13, 2018
McClutchall is a very bad, very corny nickname that will not be further acknowledged in this blog. But Brett Brown be damned if the Sixers’ sixth man doesn’t earn it. He finished with a 10-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double—the first of his career—and tacked on six steals in Philly’s 108-92 win against the Knicks. He became the first player in franchise history to rack up a triple-double off the bench.
On the year, McConnell is making more than half of his attempts from the floor. But there’s something about New York that brings out McClutcha—dammit:
A triple-double plus six or more steals has happened only 10 other times this century. (Draymond Green, naturally, also had 10 steals as part of a triple-double.) It’s a feat LeBron James has yet to accomplish. It made Joel Embiid really happy!
Hyperbole aside, McConnell’s performance was the realization of his season-long growth into a dependable bench option.
Royce O’Neale or Royce … O’Kneel?
Mirotic Making His Mark
Bright, flashy purple doesn’t suit Nikola Mirotic, but New Orleans, so far, does. Off the bench against the Pistons, the former Bulls forward contributed 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting. (Anthony Davis nearly outscored both Mirotic and Jrue Holiday—who also had 21—combined as the big man finished with 38.)
In his four post-trade games prior to Monday, Mirotic was rather inefficient. He put up an average of 14 points, which would be third-most on the DeMarcus-less Pels—but on 26 percent 3-point shooting.
New Orleans is second-best in the league in field goal percentage—it’s good to have Davis, if the 38 points against Detroit weren’t enough of a reminder—and Mirotic finally fit in on Monday.
The 118-103 loss was the Pistons’ third in a row after a five-game win streak.
Payton in Phoenix
Phoenix was up against a Warriors team coached by Iguodala. But whatever handicap that might have put on Golden State (none; see end score, 129-83), new Sun Elfrid Payton continued to impress.
After his 19-point debut on Saturday, Payton led all scorers with 29 against the Warriors, shooting 11-for-18, and adding eight rebounds and five assists. For those who haven’t seen a Magic game since 2011, it’s quite the contrast with Payton’s reputation in years past as a poor shooter. (Though really, he was hitting or approaching career highs this season with Orlando before he was traded.)
Would Your Valentine Get T’d Up for You?
Sixers Bench Loses a Piece
Justin Anderson left the Knicks matchup in the second quarter and did not return after suffering a right ankle sprain. Anderson was tailing Courtney Lee on a drive to the basket when his foot landed on top of Lee’s, bending at a nasty angle:
No word on Justin Anderson, but his ankle shouldn’t have looked like this... pic.twitter.com/sOV6TCr3Ad— Sixerdelphia (@Sixerdelphia) February 13, 2018
Immediately after, Anderson bypassed the bench and the trainers and hobbled toward the tunnel. The Sixers announced the X-rays were negative, but provided no additional information.
Another Battle in the Petty Wars
What’s an off-day and 2,345 miles between Isaiah Thomas and the Cavaliers to stop the drama between the two?
Isaiah Thomas on his hip: "I mean, this is the first real practice I had all year. Let's see how my hip responds tomorrow with the soreness & things like that, but I'm here. I'm here & I'm happy. Got my joy back & I'm ready to put on a show for the Lakers.” #LakeShow— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) February 12, 2018
IT is doing that thing only those with a Bachelor of Arts in Shade know how to do: He’s talking about the Lakers, but he’s really talking about Cleveland. His joy is back. There might be potential soreness after his first real practice all year.
Twenty-seven days until Cavs-Lakers.
LaVine Seals Another Win
I don’t know what Orlando talked about in the 75-second timeout that preceded this inbounds pass, but it wasn’t this:
Ah, the honeymoon phase of Zach LaVine’s comeback. It’s been just 13 games since the start of his season; fall in love all over again with the dunks and the athleticism and the clutch plays and the puppies.
OK. The puppy came before.
LaVine finished with 18 points in Chicago’s narrow 105-101 win.