Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while trying to explain how a python ate your family pet…
J.J. Hickson/Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets. Let’s be clear — Denver snapped the Los Angeles Clippers 11-game win streak because the Clippers were tired and off. The back-to-back with the second game in Denver trap has caught many teams over the years, and the Clippers looked listless, shot 39 percent and Chris Paul had an uncharacteristic six turnovers. But it was Faried as the starter and Hickson off the bench that had the biggest impact — they both brought real energy and defended Blake Griffin well (yes, BG still had 26 points but he needed 25 shots to get there). They also made Griffin work on defense with Faried scoring 18 and Hickson 21 (Glen Davis had to work as well). The Clippers were clearly tired but that only matters of a team could exploit it. Faried and Hickson exploited it.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. We’re giving him the shoutout with his 35 points on 21 shots, plus 12 rebounds and 5 assists — that’s 32 games in a row Durant has scored at least 25 points — but it was more than him that got OKC a win over Chicago. Russell Westbrook returned to action and nearly had a triple double (17 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) and the Thunder put up plenty of points on one of the best defenses in the game. Consider this a reminder that when healthy, when focused like they will be come the playoffs, the Thunder are an elite team who can score on anyone.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets. Somebody hopped in the Hot Tub Time Machine because that was some Utah era D-Will right there — 28 points, leading every Nets starter into double digits. As a team Brooklyn shot 58.6 percent and scored 116.3 points per 100 possessions. The Suns have not exactly been defending well but that is the kind of offensive night that Jason Kidd hopes to see more of in the playoffs.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks. The reason the Knicks have any playoff life was the recent collapse of the Hawks, now they need wins. So they need more nights like this one with 28 from Millsap — he scored the first eight of the third quarter when the Hawks put together runs to come from six down to take control of the game. Pero Antic and Kyle Korver played well for the Hawks, but Millsap was the best player on the floor and that’s why Atlanta won.
Russell Westbrook led a double-digit comeback in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Been there done, that.
Westbrook hit a defining buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Been there done, that.
Westbrook posted a historic triple-double. Been there, done that.
All three in one game?
That’s a new level for Westbrook, who lifted the Thunder to a 114-106 win over the Magic tonight while posting an incredible stat line: 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
James Harden scored 53 in a triple-double just this season, and Westbrook has already one-upped that record.
This MVP race is one for the ages.
The Thunder trailed the Magic by 21 points in the second half and 14 points midway through the fourth quarter.
Russell Westbrook capped the incredible comeback with this 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
This becoming the norm for Oklahoma City.
Paul George expressed extreme dismay after the Pacers’ loss to the Timberwolves last night — the latest cause for concern in Indiana with its biggest star just one season from free agency.
But perhaps George wouldn’t have sounded so disillusioned if that game featured correct officiating down the stretch.
Minnesota’s Kris Dunn got away with fouling Jeff Teague by disrupting the Pacers guard’s speed/quickness/balance rhythm with 21.6 seconds left, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:
Dunn (MIN) makes contact to Teague’s (IND) arm that affects his SQBR and causes him to lose control of the ball.
Because the Timberwolves were in the penalty, a correct would’ve sent Teague — who’s making 86% of his free throws this season and 84% for his career — to the line. He would’ve had two attempts to build on Indiana’s two-point lead.
Instead, he forced an off-balance shot, which Minnesota rebounded. Ricky Rubio drew a shooting foul on a 3-pointer on the other end, and his three free throws lifted the Timberwolves to a 115-114 win.
The two-minute report featured a few other missed calls: George getting away with pushing off then Wiggins getting away with fouling George on a possession where George missed anyway, Andrew Wiggins getting away with a travel on a possession where Minnesota turned the ball over anyway. But those were effectively wash’s. Dunn’s uncalled foul was the one of consequence — especially if it contributes, even in a small way, to George’s exit from the Pacers.
Edmond Sumner has grown about five inches since high school.
That has helped turn the 6-foot-5 Xavier point guard into an intriguing NBA prospect — but also seemingly contributed to physical complications. Sumner missed nearly all of his freshman year with knee tendinitis. Then, after a promising second season and start to his third, he tore his ACL in January.
Still, he’s entering the NBA draft.
Rick Broering of Musketeer Report:
Like with Duke’s Harry Giles, medical testing will be huge with Sumner. But at least Giles ended the season on the court. Sumner might not be healthy at all during the pre-draft process.
Sumner looked like a borderline first-round pick before the injury. This probably pushes him into the second round.
His long strides provide impressive speed and quickness, and he’s still shifty. Add quality court vision, and his ability to drive by defenders is even more valuable.
A 6-foot-8 wingspan and good lateral mobility also help make him a quality defender.
But it’s also concerning that so much of his positives could be undermined by his knee issues, especially considering his unreliable jumper. If Sumner can’t move like he did before getting hurt, I don’t see how he sticks in the NBA.
If Sumner’s knees check out, it’s worth rolling the dice on him and hoping his jumper develops. He might even be OK without shooting range, though that’d lower his ceiling considerably.
Again, though, the first thing is examining his knees.