Mike D’Antoni knew that beating the Thunder on Friday without Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol would be asking a lot of his reeling Lakers. That’s why he placed the emphasis on beginning the team’s potential run at turning things around on Sunday night’s home game against the 9-29 Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I told the team, the biggest thing is our season starts Sunday,” he said. “We’ve got to make a run. We’ve got one shot at it, and everybody needs to get ready mentally and physically.”
If the Lakers are to begin to put together a streak beginning Sunday, they’ll have to do it without Gasol, and possibly without Howard, as well.
Howard will be reevaluated before tip-off, and if he is able to go, his mere presence inside should ensure that Cleveland will have major difficulty offensively outside of the guard play of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
The Cavaliers won the first meeting of the season between the two teams back on Dec. 11 in Cleveland, and while Gasol missed that one with knee tendinitis, the Cavaliers got 20 points, nine rebounds, and five assists from Anderson Varejao, who is now out himself due to a knee injury that required surgery.
With or without Howard, and definitely without Gasol, D’Antoni is right — the Lakers need to start piling up wins very soon if they’re going to begin to turn it around, and Sunday night against the Cavaliers would seem to be the right time to start.
LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry
“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”
“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”
LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.
Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)
But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:
Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.
That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.
The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.
Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to the league:
Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.
But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.
Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.
Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)
Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.
The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.
It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.