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.
The Houston Rockets are in control of their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and were up 3-1 heading into Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Texas.
That did not stop what appeared to be Rockets owner Leslie Alexander from complaining to NBA referees. During gameplay. While standing directly next to an official, some 20 feet from his courtside seat.
Congratulations are in order to Bill Kennedy, the official in question, for keeping his cool. Or perhaps he just was so surprised by some dude yelling in his ear from right next to him he didn’t know how to react.
Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)
The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.
Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:
Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)
There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).
It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.
This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.
Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.
Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.
This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.
Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.
They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.
After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.
So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.
Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.