Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while you and your friends debated canned vs. bottled beer….
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. He wasn’t in attack mode, he was in seek-and-destroy mode. With Dion Waiters and basically everyone who can shoot outside 15 feet injured he knows he has to be the man to space the floor and he did just that — 4-of-7 from three and also 3-of-6 from the midrange on the night. Also, there was the key late-game three and a late-game and-1 on Serge Ibaka that propelled the Cavs. He finished with 31 points on 19 shots. Oh, and his crossover is still impressive.
Oklahoma City Thunder late game defense. A lot of arm-chair pundits are going to say “the Thunder are 0-3 with Russell Westbrook back, they are worse with him.” That’s crap. We have years of numbers — or years of watching them if you have an eye for the game — that says they are better when both Kevin Durant and Westbrook are together on the court. It’s just going to take some time to integrate Westbrook again. They will work it out. Chill.
There is nothing really for Thunder fans to worry much about, but if you want how about OKC defense under pressure. Go read John Schuhmann’s fantastic breakdown at NBA.com that shows jump shooting teams give them real trouble. Then look at the Cavalier possessions in the final 4:30 of a game (so we are starting with OKC having a two-point lead at home):
• Jarrett Jack open corner three on Derek Fisher’s late rotation.
• Kyrie Irving left alone at the three point line early in the clock when Thabo Sefalosha fell asleep.
• Spencer Hawes gets the ball at the three point line after setting a pick and popping, nobody gets between him and the basket so he drives in for a lay-up.
• Irving short-arms a jumper but Tristan Thompson out-hustles every Thunder player to get the board, which leads to another set and a Hawes left-handed runner.
• Irving turns the ball over, his pick-and-pop timing with Hawes is understandably still a little raw.
• After struggling to get open for the ball Irving makes like he’s going for handoff from Thompson at top of key, but changes up and cuts to rim, nobody goes with him and nobody rotates quickly, one nice pass later he is driving into Serge Ibaka for an and-1.
• Jack drives left away from pick from at the top of the key, no help rotation comes until he is deep in the lane and can hit floater.
• After that it’s pretty much the foul game.
Jerryd Bayless, Boston Celtics. Brad Stevens decided to start him next to Rajon Rondo and… nobody saw that coming. Bayless had 29-points and shot 5-of-8 from three (an abbheration as he shoots 28.8 percent from there on the season). I’m not really sure that’s sustainable, but give the man credit when it happens. And give him credit for taking the three rather than the long two that he often gravitates toward. Expect to see a lot more of this backcourt in the coming games.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. This makes 18 straight games he has scored at least 20 points. He took 25 shots to get his 23 in this one, not exactly efficient, but he still was key for the team’s win. If you watched this game and still think all he can do is dunk, well, you should take up watching cricket. He showed a midrange game, a number of post moves, his handles are amazing and he still wisely gets points by being the most athletic guy on the court. Because he is. It’s simple, players should exploit their strengths and Griffin’s biggest strength is that few can match his athleiticism. But if you think that’s all he is watch again. Or, go watch cricket.