All the need-to-know info from Tuesday’s slate.
The Cheat Sheet
- The league’s most reliable triple-double struck again, for the hundredth time. Not hyperbole! Russell Westbrook earned the 100th triple-double of his career—and 21st on the season—with 32 points, 12 assists, and 12 rebounds in the Thunder’s 119-107 win over the Hawks. Only Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138), and Jason Kidd (107) can claim more.
- D’Angelo Russell discovered Klaytheism against the Raptors, hitting a perfect seven 3-pointers on seven attempts in the first seven minutes of the game. DLo finessed 24 points in that short span. He pulled up for an eighth 3-point shot not 40 seconds later, missed, and was immediately subbed out by Kenny Atkinson. Hot streak, cold world. Russell finished with 32; Brooklyn lost, 116-102.
- Indiana outlasted Philadelphia, 101-98—the Pacers are now 10-1 in games decided by three or fewer points—for its fourth straight road win. Indy needs six more wins to clinch a playoff spot, but there’s a nasty schedule ahead, including the Raptors and Warriors, both twice.
- Markieff Morris balled like he was Marcus Morris against the Wolves: 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting, going 3-for-5 from deep.
- Utah extended its win streak to seven with a 110-79 win over Detroit. (It could’ve been much worse, as the Pistons gave up 42 points in the first quarter alone. Is there a more talented, more irrelevant frontcourt in the league than Detroit’s?)
- Domantas Sabonis left Sixers-Pacers early after all 250 pounds of Joel Embiid landed on his leg (prepare to cringe); it was ruled a left ankle sprain. X-rays were negative.
- San Antonio bumped Denver in the standings after the Spurs’ 108-72 pulverization of Orlando, and the Nuggets sucked their thumbs against the Lakers, 112-103. San Antonio is now tied with the eighth-seeded Jazz with a 38-30 record (though Utah owns the tiebreaker).
The Takeaway: It’s Towns’s Town
After Jimmy Butler went down, Andrew Wiggins seemed the Wolves’ most likely interim closer. Karl-Anthony Towns is having a better season and shooting better marks than Wiggins across the board (including 42.1 percent from 3), but the elder player is a wing familiar with flashy finishes, and is also, you know, a max player.
But it’s KAT filling in Butler’s shadow. He continued to be the difference-maker Tuesday in Minnesota’s 116-111 win at Washington, as he finished with a season-high 37 points and 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, a steal, and five missing teeth fragments. It was his second straight 30-point game and his 58th double-double, good for the most in the league. For a player I’ve criticized before for empty stat-stuffing—one who racks up such numbers by, rather often, getting boards by default rather than grabbing them, for example—Towns is not playing for appearances, or fat stat lines, or an All-Star spot. He’s had the tiniest, ice-cream-sample spoon of winning, and he’s hooked.
It’s never not going to be weird watching a 7-footer with this kind of perimeter instinct have the patience on a five-second shot clock to wait out his defender and then take a game-deciding corner 3 without reservation. Towns turned the lights off on the Wizards and kissed them goodnight.
The game prior, KAT hit Minnesota’s final five shots down the stretch to squeeze a win out of the Warriors. Butler, who recently reactivated his Twitter after a two-year absence just to talk shit to Jae Crowder, gave his blessing:
Without Butler, Towns is taking nearly as many shots as he did last year, when he and Wiggins Bonnie-and-Clyde’d the offense against the world. That’ll change, for the best, when Jimmy returns. But until then, Towns is stretching his legs on a winning team for the first time.
Play of the Night
Pro of waiting under the basket: one rebound closer to a triple double. Con of waiting under the basket:
John Collins with the putback dunk over Westbrook pic.twitter.com/1fz60lsMfq— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 13, 2018
Letdown of the Night
Jamal Murray vs. L.A., Round III ended subtly, and by subtly, I mean with no profanity from Luke Walton:
That was four days ago, when the Nuggets last met the Lakers. (The first time, you’ll remember, Murray dribbled circles around Lonzo Ball.) Walton called Murray “disrespectful” after the second game, and Isaiah Thomas followed Murray to the Denver bench after the Nugs guard allegedly licked his fingers after BBQing his defender, Brook Lopez. Legend. Before Tuesday’s game, Will Barton called it a “suburban beef,” and he was right: The most any Laker did in their 112-103 victory was Thomas passive-aggressively checking Murray the ball in the final seconds.
Quote of the Night
“They did now.” —Myles Turner after sideline reporter Jeremiah Johnson told him postgame that Philadelphia had not yet lost on its home court in 2018.