How important is the long ball to the modern NBA offense? If the season ended today, four teams would place in the all-time top-40 for best team 3-point percentage – the Spurs, Knicks, Thunder and Heat. The best offensive teams seem to manufacture plenty of looks from behind the arc, and in that spirit, we’re honoring some of the best individual 3-point displays from Wednesday night’s action. And James Harden, because, well, you’ll see. To the stars!
Dorell Wright – (28 points, 5-for-8 from 3)
It’s not easy to drop 28 points on the Grizzlies – it’s even tougher if you’re a perimeter player. Dorell Wright has been more down than up this year (he’s shooting 35 percent from the field on the season), but tonight he found his stroke when the 76ers needed it most. With Evan Turner scoring just a single point in 41 minutes of play and Jrue Holiday missing everything around the basket, Philadelphia got five huge 3-pointers from Wright and a few freebies from the line. The 76ers may not have very many consistent contributors offensively, but guys like Nick Young and Wright can heat up in a hurry.
Corey Brewer – (27 points in 24 minutes, 6-of-7 from 3)
Anytime you can tie a career-high for points in just 24 minutes, you’re doing something right. When he wasn’t cutting backdoor and baffling a Lakers defense that played both stupid and lazy, Brewer was spotting up in the corner to hit 6-of-7 from behind the arc. Brewer practically had enough time to check the weather on his spot-up attempts, but give him credit for knocking them down. Brewer’s 27-point scoring barrage spoiled a really strong offensive effort by the Lakers, but also epitomized all of the real struggles the Lakers have on the defensive side of the ball.
James Harden – (30 points, 15 of the last 17 in the 4th quarter)
This is exactly what you want from your star in a clutch situation – no 21-foot fadeaway garbage – just assertive drives straight to the front of the rim. Harden scored 15 of the last 17 points in the fourth quarter for the Rockets just by putting his head down and blowing past Minnesota’s big men to score in the paint. Whether it was in a pick-and-roll or in straight isolation, Minnesota had no answer for Harden’s aggressiveness off the bounce. This was the good kind of hero ball.
Former Kings players DeMarcus Cousins, Matt Barnes reach out to pay for funeral of Stephon Clark
Whatever Kings fans thought of DeMarcus Cousins on the court — it was a divisive topic with changing opinions over time — he was fully committed to the city of Sacramento. He was all in.
Still is, despite playing for New Orleans. Cousins and another former King, Matt Barnes (a Sacramento native), have reached out to the family of Stephon Clark — the unarmed young black man shot by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard a week ago — and offered to pay for the funeral, reports Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.
Clark’s shooting has sparked protests throughout Sacramento, including blocking entrance to a Kings game on Thursday night. According to reports and the Sacramento PD’s own account, the shooting occurred when police were looking for a car burglary suspect and officers had tracked the suspect through yards, then confronted Clark in the backyard of his grandmother’s house, where he lived. Police allegedly thought he was armed and shot him 20 times, but he was holding only a cellphone.
The shooting has sparked reactions around the nation and from NBA players, including Barnes.
One of the factors to consider in the Rookie of the Year race: clutch plays.
Down three with less than 10 seconds to go Friday night, the Utah Jazz put the ball in the hands of their rookie playmaker Donovan Mitchell — and he made the play, draining a three to force overtime. It’s an impressive play.
In the clutch this season (last five minutes of a game, within five points), Mitchell has averaged 3.2 shots per contest (by far the most of any rookie) and has a true shooting percentage of 51 percent. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the other front-runner in the ROY race, averages less than a shot per game in those clutch situations (0.8) and has a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.
Mitchell made the big shot, but the Spurs made plenty too, had 45 points on the night from LaMarcus Aldridge, and got the win.
PBT Extra: Who is coming out of the Eastern Conference?
The Toronto Raptors will finish with the No. 1 seed and all the best metrics in the East, but they have a history of playoff flameouts. The Boston Celtics’ have been hit hard by injuries. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but also a dreadful defense, this is the most vulnerable a LeBron led team has been since he bolted Cleveland seven years ago.
So what team is coming out of the East?
We get into that in this latest PBT Extra. A poll on Twitter found most of you think the Cavaliers, but personally, I think the Raptors — who have been better defensively all season than the Cavs — may finally have their year.
LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT
SAN ANTONIO (AP) —LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.
The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.
Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.
San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.
After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.
Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.
Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.
Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.
Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.