Kevin Durant is just trying to get his team wins, and with Russell Westbrook out that means he has to take on a heavy scoring load — he has scored at least 30 points in eight straight games.
That includes an impressive 46 on Portland Tuesday night, with 11 of those coming in the final 3:30 of the game when he went 4-of-4 with the game on the line. Durant has scored at least 46 points four times in 10 games, the only other player to do that since the NBA/ABA merger is Kobe Bryant (via Marc Stein of ESPN).
If you ask Durant about the MVP race he will blow you off, but this surge may have moved him ahead of LeBron James in that race. There’s half a season to go but right now it is those two battling for the MVP, with everyone else just trying to get their name on the other ballot slots.
The Bulls suffered a rough loss in Boston last night.
It didn’t get better afterward.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge – who played for Boston in the 80s – pleaded ignorance to any nefarious plumbing:
I think the idea that teams plot to shut off the visitor’s hot water is often overstated. Arenas have complex infrastructure, and things can go wrong on their own. Sometimes, the home team loses hot water, but that never gets remembered.
But reasonable excuses don’t make a cold shower in the moment any more tolerable.
Robin Lopez had reason to be upset from the Bulls’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.
This miss was all on him.
Dwyane Wade (26 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) was the Bulls’ best player in their Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.
But the 35-year-old guard clearly didn’t go all out on every possession.
Players can justify not closing out by claiming they were prioritizing rebounding position. Wade clearly has no such excuse.
The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.
One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.
We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.
Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.
If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.
For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.