Through two games the Spurs are shooting 51 percent overall against the Clippers and 46 percent from three. They have scored more than 25 points in six of the eight quarters. It feels like every shot they take is a wide open one. They have done pretty much whatever they wanted.
The Clippers have no answers, no defense for it. Blake Griffin, slowed some by a bad knee, just cannot come close to rotating as fast as the ball moves. The Spurs are making it look easy.
San Antonio remains undefeated in the playoffs, pulling away for a 105-88 win that has them up 2-0 in the series now headed to a very busy Staples Center in Los Angeles (Clippers, Lakers and the NHL’s Kings all have home playoff games this weekend, plus the Amgen Tour of California cycling race finishes outside Staples Sunday afternoon.)
San Antonio is playing fantastic, beautiful basketball, having now won 16 in a row dating back to the regular season. Tony Parker found his grove (on his 30th birthday) and had 22, Tim Duncan had his usual efficient 18 and, as we all expected, Boris Diaw added 16. It was that kind of night for the Spurs, where Diaw is hitting everything and Tiago Splitter was 4-6 shooting.
Chris Paul struggled again to find his mojo, in part still due to injury but more because the Spurs defensive game plan is working and not letting him get the looks he wants. Nor can he get going setting up teammates. Blake had 20 to lead the Clippers, who had just two other players in double figures. If Paul and Griffin are not playing like All-Stars the Clippers have no real chance.
Thing is, the Clipper offense wasn’t that bad — they shot 49 percent, hit 9-13 threes and scored 88 points.
But if they don’t find a way to slow the Spurs offense it’s all for naught. And I’m not sure they have the pieces or the maturity to make that happen right now.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.
Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.
He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.
The San Antonio coach has seen everything.
Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.
Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:
“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”
“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”
The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.
Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.
The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.
They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.
Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!
Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.
He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.
That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.
In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.
Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.
Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01: