Oklahoma City Thunder bench. The starters staked the team a lead but the Thunder bench carried that over and got the win over the Clippers Thursday night. Jeremy Lamb had 11 points and was +9, Reggie Jackson had 9 points and was +14, Steven Adams had 6 points, 7 rebounds and was +10. Jackson is looking better and better — and more expensive for OKC to keep — every game.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. This was a game for those that say all he can do is dunk should have watched. Griffin was human attacking the rim, just 5-of-10 inside 8 feet. But out on the left side of the court he was 5-of-6 from the midrange, showing off a more confident jumpshot that he was quick to release. He also showed off a jump hook off glass from left block. There was real variety to his game — he needs to be more consistent at it, but his offensive game is improving (check out The Extra Pass post in the morning to find out more). The other end of the court… that’s another post for another day.
Nate Robinson, Denver Nuggets. This was pretty much the microcosm of Nate Robinson’s game. What do we want to talk about? Those two threes at the start of the fourth quarter to spark the 13-0 run that put the game away for Denver. We want to talk about how he stuck it to his former team. In reality, he was 3-of-13 shooting to get his 11 points. It’s that inefficiency — and his defense — that drives coaches crazy. It’s why he bounces around. But he plays with passion and he makes plays — he’s hard not to watch.
Paul George floors Jeremy Lamb with crossover, hits step-back 3-pointer over him (video)
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s a roundup of Monday night’s action you might have missed while paying for a $14,000 Uber ride.
1) Rockets fall behind in a shootout, but come back from 13 down late in the third to extend win streak to 10. This was as good a game as the Pelicans could play without Anthony Davis — they put up 103 points on 58.7 percent shooting and hitting 17 threes. DeMarcus Cousins was a beast in the paint, while Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore couldn’t seem to miss from beyond the arc. Late in the third the Pelicans were up 13, and they were up 10 at the start of the fourth.
It was not enough.
James Harden had 12 points in the fourth (and finished the game with a career-high 17 assists).
Clutch scoring last two games: James Harden 18, Rockets opponents 16
Chris Paul added 11 in the fourth, and the Rockets stormed back winning the fourth 37-20 and the game 130-123, extending their win streak to 10 games.
The Rockets are 21-4 and are outscoring teams by 11.4 points per 100 possessions this season — they are the best team in the NBA right now. CP3 and Harden mesh on offense — the Rockets are +7.8 points per 100 when they are on the court together — and Houston surprisingly has the fifth best defense in the NBA this season. None of this is a fluke. This team is playing hard right now, establishing an identity, and establishing themselves as a contender.
Can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a seven-game series? I am not going that far, I think there are things that can be exploited in a series, but we are five months away from the Rockets needing to answer that question. What Houston has shown is it is the team best suited to challenge Golden State — the Rockets can play at pace and thrive, they have multiple elite scoring playmakers (and coach Mike D’Antoni staggers them so one is almost always on the court), they have a switchable defense that can attack the Warriors wings, and they have the right mindset. GM Daryl Morey put together a team to go after the Warriors, and he did it better than anyone. They are a legit threat to the title holders, and the Rockets should only get better as the season moves along.
2) Celtics lose with Kyrie Irving out. Thunder lose because… you tell me? There were a couple of upsets Monday night in the NBA, but only one was easy to excuse.
The lowly Chicago Bulls have not been quite so lowly the past week, winning three straight games, the latest one handily against the Boston Celtics 108-85. Credit best friends Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis (*cough*) who combined for 47 points, plus the improved play of Kris Dunn lately continued as he had a dozen points. We would normally call this a terrible loss for the Celtics, and you can be sure Brad Stevens didn’t like it, but with Kyrie Irving sitting out with a left quad contusion, there is at least a good reason for the off night.
There is no good reason for the Thunder — fully healthy — to lose at home to the Charlotte Hornets 116-103. The Hornets hit 13-of-25 from three, and Dwight Howard outplayed Steven Adams all night on his way to 23 points, Kemba Walker had 19 points and 9 assists, but this is the kind of game the Thunder should win. After a Russell Westbrook highlight slam over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the game was tied 66-66, but then the Hornets went on a 22-2 run. Of late, the Thunder looked like they were turning a corner with three straight wins, but then followed it up losing 2-of-3 now and needing to go to overtime against a shorthanded Grizzlies team to get that one win. Royce Young re-tweeted himself and hit the nail on the head.
I keep thinking, “Okay, this is officially the low point for the season,” and then a week later it’s “Okay, THIS is officially the low point of the season,” and then a week later…
There is no one thing wrong with the Thunder, but more and more focus is turning to Carmelo Anthony. Not just his lack of defense or his shooting slump — he had 11 points Monday and is shooting 33 percent overall and 16.7 percent from three his last five games — but the roster depth OKC gave up to get him. Paul George and Russell Westbrook have a grove together (the Thunder are +4.8 per 100 when they are paired) but things slow when Anthony is added to the mix and another star sits while Anthony plays. In ‘Melo’s last five games OKC is -1.8 per 100 with Anthony on the court.
"What we're seeing is Melo aging before our eyes," a source from another team said the other night. https://t.co/V5acjzLCLY
The Thunder still have time, but each day the inconsistent play and losing get more concerning. As George said after the game, “We can say we’re going to figure it out, we can say all that, but at some point it’s got to stop.”
3) Matt Barnes retires. Barnes announced Monday on Instagram that his 15-year NBA run was over.
For a lot of fans, mention Barnes and they think of the guy who tried to get in a fight with Derek Fisher. Or the New York nightclub incident with Cousins. Or the guy who was a pest on the court and seemed a magnet for technical fouls and fines from the league office. But Barnes was the kind of guy you wanted coming off the bench on your team and hated to play against — he went hard, he could shoot threes, he defended, and he brought a spark to the game. He was the kind of opponent you hate to go against.
Barnes was a second-round pick out of UCLA who played for nine teams during his career. He was the guy teams turned to for a spark off the bench — both because he could shoot the rock and because he played a fiery, emotional game. Barnes finished his career averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Barnes won an NBA title with the Warriors last season, and he played well after Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury and Barnes was thrust into a larger role (the Warriors went on a 14-game win streak in that time).
While he had a rough exterior, off the court he was one of the more thoughtful basketball interviews out there — ask him about the game and he gave smart, calm, intelligent answers, not just clichés. He was active with charities and gave of his time and money, it wasn’t just a tax write off for him. He’ll be missed by some of us, but he’s a guy ready for life after basketball.
Rockets’ Clint Capela dunks, blocks, plays DeMarcus Cousins to standstill (VIDEO)
Going toe-to-toe with DeMarcus Cousins — who has been playing at an All-NBA level this season and had 24 and 14 on Monday night — the Rockets’ athletic big played Cousins to a standstill. Capela had a career-high 28 points on 13-of-14 from the field with most of his shots being dunks (every one of this shots was at the rim), plus he had five blocks, most of Cousins.
It was the best game the Swiss national has had as a pro, who also had eight rebounds on the night. Check out his big night above.