Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns

Game of the Night: Lakers get 2011 started on the right foot, then shoot it

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Grizzlies 104 Lakers 85: So many places to go with this one. The Lakers turned the ball over on 22% of their possessions. The Grizzlies outscored them in transition 28-5. The Grizzlies dominated on the offensive glass 28% to 16% of all available offensive rebounds grabbed. What I’m trying to tell you is that the Grizzlies kicked the crap out of the Lakers from baseline to baseline.  It should be noted, though, that Kobe Bryant’s third quarter explosion was what he thought was the only way to keep the Lakers in it, and also the reason the wheels came off the team. When Bryant opts to dominate the ball in an attempt to produce, the rest of the Lakers just watch him. It’s one thing to say the other Lakers are just standing around, not working for shots, but Bryant also shot early in the shot clock and in ISO situations, sometimes while facing three defenders. Someone was open. What’s worse, once the shots stopped falling, they lead to immediate transition opportunities, often unguarded. So Bryant took the wheel, drove through some battalions, then crashed the vehicle into a ditch filled with petrol and the ensuing debris set fire to the neighboring village. Whoops.

But to pick on Bryant is to ignore the complete and utter failure that was the Lakers’ offense and defense. The Lakers couldn’t be bothered tonight, and gave the corresponding performance.

For the Grizzlies, it was another display of how far they’ve grown, nestled in-between massive rollbacks of mediocrity. This team lost to the Nets and Kings in the past two weeks and have toppled the Lakers twice this season. If they could just play to their potential on consecutive nights, maybe they’d go somewhere.

Rudy Gay was particularly brilliant, nailing the baseline runner, the mid-range J, and an emphatic standing alley-oop that truly necessitates an “OH MY GOD.” In-between those he grabbed five rebounds and garnered three steals, his third three-plus-steals game in the past seven days. O.J. Mayo dropped 15 points, 5 assists and 2 steals to go alongside, and Mike Conley had the perfect Mike Conley game. 12 points on 7 shots, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. He played within himself and kickstarted the offense. Throw in the fact that he managed two pick and roll assists that led to Marc Gasol and Darrel Arthur dunks, and it was a pretty fine night all around.

Hasheem Thabeet was the only Memphis player with a negative plus/minus, yet he guarded Pau Gasol for long stretches, and stranger still, the Lakers didn’t relentlessly go to Gasol in such situations, despite Gasol’s success in that situation.

Ron Artest played close to 25 minutes and finished with no points and 3 turnovers.

The Lakers will be fine, because that is what they do: “be fine.” But it won’t make this period any more fun for Lakers fans.

 

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!

Nicolas Batum zips pass between Tobias Harris’ legs to assist Frank Kaminsky (video)

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Listen up, defenses: Nicolas Batum will throw passes between your legs.

Three things we learned Wednesday: Warriors, Cavaliers try to make statements in December

Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney, left, and Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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ESPN thought they had a great double header on Wednesday, but those games were decided by a combined 49 points, you should have flipped over to Hairspray Live. Anyway, here are the big takeaways from Wednesday.

1) You can’t have a statement game in December. But if you could Cleveland, Golden State made them. Can we just skip ahead to Christmas when these two teams finally play each other? Plus by then my shopping will be done, and I’m dreading doing it. We’ve said before the Cavaliers and Warriors have established themselves as the best in their conferences and they made that point with authority on Wednesday.

Cleveland did it thrashing the Knicks 126-94. To be fair, the Knicks were on the second night of a back-to-back and were without Derrick Rose. But that is a small part of the disparity here. First, Phil Jackson may want to not try to piss off the best player on the planet. Just a suggestion. Beyond that, the Knicks have had a good season (12-10), but they match up poorly with Cleveland. They don’t have a good defender for Kyrie Irving. Nobody has a good one for LeBron (well, maybe the Spurs). Kristaps Porzingis struggles to defend in space, and Kevin Love can exploit that. I can go on, but you get the picture. Between beating Toronto Monday and this, the Cavs are back to exploiting their advantages out East.

Golden State made its statement by blowing out a Clippers team that had been the second-best team in the West to this point. The Warriors did it with defense first — Los Angeles shot 39.6 percent as a team. Stephen Curry did a respectable job on Chris Paul (15 points on 14 shots), Klay Thompson blanketed J.J. Redick (just four shots), and Draymond was built to guard Blake Griffin (12 points on 20 shots, with seven turnovers). The Warriors anticipated the Clippers skip passes and turned those into transition chances (Golden State won the fast break points battle 27-11). The Warriors didn’t even have a great night on offense — Curry was 0-of-8 from three — and won 115-98 (and it wasn’t that close). Still, the Warriors ball movement was there.

Marreese Speights is in a unique position — the Clippers backup big was with the Warriors the past few seasons, and he was honest and harsh in his assessment of the differences between these teams.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo got a triple-double on an off night. He’s that good. Portland is not a good defensive team. Improved with Al-Farouq Aminu healthy and back on the court, but still not good. However, their defensive strategy of having their bigs play back and not press high off picks works against Giannis Antetokounmpo because you want to make him a jump shooter anyway — and the Greek Freak was notably frustrated at times Wednesday night.

And he still had a triple double of 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. He’s playing that well. Look at it this way, in a Westbrook/Harden world Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals a game this season.

The real story for the Bucks was the 27 from Jabari Parker, that’s the reason Milwaukee beat Portland 115-107.

3) Kemba Walker needs to be an All-Star, he got Hornets a win over Pistons. Charlotte shot 34.1 percent Wednesday night, no way they should get a win in that situation. But alas, there was Kemba Walker, who had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter sparking a Charlotte win, 87-77. Walker is averaging 23.6 shots per game, is shooting a career-best 41.4 percent from three, has a true shooting percentage of 58.2 percent (well above the league average), and is the everything for the Hornet’s offense.

The man deserves to be playing in New Orleans in the All-Star Game this year. I know the East is loaded with quality point guards — Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall — but Kemba has earned the recognition this year.

Warriors rout Clippers 115-98 for 7th straight win over LA

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, left, tries to go up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers guard Alan Anderson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 24 points, Draymond Green added 22 points and the Golden State Warriors routed the Clippers 115-98 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win over Los Angeles.

Stephen Curry had 19 points for Golden State, and Kevin Durant, who came averaging a team-best 27.0 points, was held to 16 on 5-of-17 shooting.

Curry failed to make a 3-pointer for just the second time this season, going 0 of 8. The Warriors were 7 of 30 from long range.

Jamal Crawford scored 21 points for the Clippers, who have lost five of seven. Four of their seven overall losses have come at home.