All the need-to-know info from Wednesday’s slate.
James Harden Is the Superhero and the Villian
Imagine sealing an MVP award because of a three-second pause.
Wesley Johnson has to go into a witness protection program. And James Harden must be brought up on charges for snatching this man’s soul. pic.twitter.com/7pM82he8kC— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) March 1, 2018
James Harden didn’t just cross Wesley Johnson into kneeling before him; Johnson didn’t just stumble and fall back into 1997; Harden waited. Harden admired his own artistry. Harden dared any defender to switch over to him. He had all the swagger of the good guy in a superhero movie after the inevitable 13-on-1 fight scene, making eye contact with the last poor soul remaining. That dude (it’s always a dude) usually keeps his distance after seeing the slaughter in front of him. The good guy usually spares his life. Here, that’s Montrezl Harrell.
The rest of the game was far less spicy, ending in a 105-92 Rockets win—a disappointment, considering the first time the Clippers hosted the Rockets this year.
“We’ve barricaded all the secret passageways,” Doc Rivers joked before the game. Too soon?
In case you need a refresher: Last time Houston came to L.A., a month and some change ago, Chris Paul called former teammate Blake Griffin a bitch, Mike D’Antoni said “fuck you” to Griffin after Griffin made contact with him, D’Antoni said Griffin hit him on purpose, both were given technicals, Griffin was ejected along with Trevor Ariza in the fourth, and finally, after the game, Paul led a group of Rockets to the Clippers locker room while Clint Capela (maybe) acted as a decoy.
That L.A. team isn’t this L.A. team. Griffin is gone. These Rockets aren’t those Rockets, either. Houston was still recovering from a losing skid last go round; it entered Wednesday winning 17 of its last 18 games.
No reason to break into the Clips locker room this time.
Girl, What Blush Brand Is That?
Death, taxes, and Coach Pop upset with the refs pic.twitter.com/1v9YaVYvkL— The Ringer (@ringer) March 1, 2018
Gregg Popovich, either very frustrated or very glammed up, was ejected from the Spurs’ 121-116 loss to the Pelicans early in the third.
Don’t Keep It in Your Pants
Kyrie spent 25 minutes on the court in Boston’s 134-106 blowout against Charlotte, hitting 13 field goals and putting up 34 points. Shout-out to the other point guards in the game—first Terry Rozier, who believes lane defenders are a social construct:
And to Kemba Walker, whose four 3-pointers and handles were forgotten in the awe of The Untucked.
Kemba Walker breaking out the moves early pic.twitter.com/I4re8jhIMe— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 1, 2018
Hezonja’s Hot Hand
I can’t imagine the correlation between a role player being in his contract year and him $$$$uddenly playing much better, but it’s happening yet again with Mario Hezonja. Orlando declined his option in October. He’s topping all of his numbers from last season.
MARIO HEZONJA WITH THE REVERSE SLAM! pic.twitter.com/ERlJsfyCUQ— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) March 1, 2018
Hezonja continued that Wednesday against the Raptors, hitting five shots off the bat (three of which were from behind the perimeter). Though the Magic lost, 117-104, his 17 bench points in 19 minutes kept it close up until the final five minutes. (Coincidentally, that’s when Aaron Gordon replaced Mario in the lineup. #HezonjaHive.)
Steph’s Defense Turned Into Offense As Quickly As a Podcast on 2x Speed
Points Speak Louder Than Words
After 12 consecutive starts for Stanley Johnson, Stan Van Gundy benched him Wednesday. Stan didn’t stan for Stan. Sad.
You cannot stop Stanley Johnson pic.twitter.com/W9xsAuXEWd— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 1, 2018
Johnson answered by being the best Piston on the court. He dropped a team-high 19 points in Detroit’s 110-87 win over Milwaukee, adding six rebounds, four assists, and effective defense.
At Least You Can Rebound
[John Denver voice] Take me hooooommmmeeeeee, Dennis Schröder.
And speaking of closers, let’s not forget Russell Westbrook, whose layup and subsequent free throw sealed the Thunder’s 111-110 win over the Mavericks.
Westbrook, as he does, finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.
A Reunion Is Brewing
Corey Brewer is expected to sign with the Thunder after reaching a contract buyout with the Lakers, ESPN reported Wednesday. Cue the Florida fight song! Brewer played under Billy Donovan as a young college pup at the University of Florida; the duo won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007. At 31, and against … actual NBA players, Brewer won’t be the effective player he once was for Donovan. But after watching his stint with the Lakers, there isn’t much less he can do.
You Can’t Lose Them All
Phoenix is executing a gorgeous tank job; of the last 23 games it played before Wednesday night, 20 were losses. Of course, for the Suns, who want to end up with the worst record they possibly can, a loss is a win, and a win is a loss. So against the Grizzlies, Phoenix’s 110-102 win was actually a loss, though also a personal win for rookie Josh Jackson, who went off. Pretty simple stuff.
Jackson finished with a career-high 29 points, and added seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks. A real win. (And, also, a lo—you get it.)