Our grades from Wednesday around the NBA, or what you missed while watching a man attack a taxi with a didgeridoo…
Tony Wroten, Philadelphia 76ers. Rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams was out and Wroten got thrown in the fire with his first ever start against Houston — and he responded with a triple double. Wroten finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists — the first person since Elias sports started tracking triple-doubles (1971) to get one in his first start. Wroten is a guy who has really developed his game over the past few years and it showed Wednesday.
James Anderson, Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, two Sixers make the list (it could have been three, Spencer Hawes had a big game as well). You have to stay tuned with this team — they are now 4-3 in games in which they trail by 10 points going into the fourth quarter. Anderson sparked that comeback with 13 of his 36 points in the fourth, and on the night he took just 16 shots. Anderson also hit six threes, but none bigger than this.
Brooklyn Nets. What. Was. That. Brooklyn was off to an ugly 2-4 start this season but was getting a Kings team that had lost five in a row — and Brooklyn got just blown out. I’m a stats-minded guy, I don’t like to say “the game was won with energy” but the Kings simply outworked the Nets for most of the night, getting to lose balls, trying harder on defense and generally just seeming to care. The Nets are 2-5 and while getting better is a season-long process that process will not work without effort. For the second time in seven games the Nets just didn’t show up.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic. He’s really best suited to be the No. 2 or 3 guy on a good team, but he played like a No. 1 on Wednesday with 36 points on 11-of-15 shooting including 8-of-11 from beyond the arc. The bigger thing was 29 of those points came in the second half to lead the Magic back from 19 down to get a win. The Magic are still willing to shop veterans on this team and you can’t tell me there are not good teams that couldn’t use what Afflalo brings.
Memphis Grizzlies defense. This was a team that made it to the Western Conference Finals on the strength of their defense, and they brought back pretty much the exact same roster… so why is the defense so terrible? Toronto came into Memphis and dropped 103 points on them putting up 116.8 points per 100 possessions. Last season teams shot 43.5 percent against them and 33.8 percent from three, this season it is 46.6 and 38.2. Memphis needs to turn it around on the defensive end to turn this team around.
The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.
The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.
Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.
Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:
Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.
The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.
Russell Westbrook had yet another triple-double on Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star notched 13 assists in the loss to the Houston Rockets, 137-125, and one of them came on a nifty pass to teammate Victor Oladipo.
The play happened with the Thunder on the fastbreak early in the third quarter. Westbrook was moving from left-to-right across the middle of the floor with the ball while Oladipo streaked down the right wing.
With the Rockets defense collapsing, Westbrook reached halfcourt and fired a bounce pass that sliced through the opposition.
Oladipo finished with the clean dunk.
Still not sure it beats this one, but I think we’ll have to compare once the season comes to a close.
The race between James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the 2017 NBA MVP has narrowed to a two-man race toward the end of the season. The Oklahoma City Thunder star is averaging at triple-double this year, and the Houston Rockets guard is doing things nobody has ever done on a basketball court before.
It’s a tough decision to decide between them, so much so that even former Los Angeles Lakers great and 2008 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant can’t do it.
Speaking on ESPN on Sunday, Bryant said he thought the league might have to just bite the bullet on Westbrook vs. Harden.
“We might see our first co-MVPs this year,” said Bryant.
That would be a huge step for the league, but I’m not entirely sure they would do it. There have been co-NBA All-Star Game MVPs in years past, but never league MVP.
Still, can you decide between Russ and Harden? The Mamba can’t.
Houston Rockets center Nene is from Brazil, but on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder the South American native went full euro.
On a fastbreak possession, Nene took on Thunder big man Enes Kanter near the rim and absolutely shook him with a nasty eurostep.
The play was so good that it forced Oklahoma City to call a timeout as James Harden and the rest of the Rockets bench met Nene on the court to celebrate.