Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while playing the Breaking Bad game…
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks. Teague had a nice game before entering overtime — he had 22 points and 7 assists in regulation. However, he finished with 12 points and 3 assists in the extra 10 minutes and controlled the play a lot of ways for Atlanta. We have to ding him because he had chances to end the game at the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime. However, the third time was a charm. We also have to ding him because he was assigned Kyrie Irving much of the night and the Cavs point guard scored 40. Still, Hawks get the win.
James Harden, Houston Rockets. Second night of a back-to-back with their best win of the season on the front end, then trailing Memphis by 13 in the third quarter of the second game, a lot of teams would have just rolled over. It’s a sign of maturity that James Harden and Jeremy Lin led a comeback to get Houston the win. Harden had 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Harden got those 27 points on just 9 shots. How? He attacked the rim and got to the line 25 times, drawing a boatload of fouls.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. Who is too old again? At age 37 on the second night of a back-to-back, if Tim Duncan had an off night you’d forgive him. But Duncan showed up and had one of the best games of his season. In the fourth quarter Dallas had made a push and Duncan responded with a couple makes and a key assist to seal the win.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. Aldridge had some troublesome wisdom teeth pulled Sunday and since then hadn’t eaten much at all (which sucks on Christmas) nor had he shot a basketball. He was a game time decision Thursday, decided to play and went out and dropped 32 on the Clippers, including seven in overtime. Plus he pulled down 10 rebounds. Down the stretch of this game it was pretty much all Aldridge all the time for the Blazers, who ran the offense through him on the left block. And he responded.
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:
Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.
That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.
But he still chases them.
Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.
Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.
Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.
It could be both!
Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.