Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching Jimmy Fallon and Anne Hathaway do Broadway versions of hip-hop classics….
Timofey Mozgov, Denver Nuggets. It’s not just that Mozgov had a monster night — 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, plus a career high 29 rebounds — it’s that he did it against one of the better defensive centers in the NBA in Andrew Bogut. The real key here was just pure hustle — Mozgov outworked Warriors players for the rebounds. He got his points by working hard off the ball, which led to a quick pass and an easy bucket. The Warriors have played good defense this season but didn’t Thursday night and Mozgov made them pay. That was a career night for the Russian big man.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets. Mentioned in the Mozgov grade that hustle was winning the day for Denver, so no shock that the Manimal put up 18 points and 17 rebounds. But those numbers are not out of line with what Faried has done the second half of this season — Denver has needed him to score and he has shown off a vastly improved post game (he is shooting 56 percent from the post since the All-Star Game, via Zach Lowe). He’s so confident in his post game that when the Warriors cut off the play designed for a handoff to Randy Foye, Faried just backed his man down and nailed the game winner.
Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs. I am not a fan of the “most improved player” award because it can be nebulous to define. That said, Patty Mills would land on my ballot. All season long he has had to step in when Tony Parker gets the night off, as happened Thursday, and he has played brilliantly — 26 points, including 6-of-11 shooting from three in the win over Dallas. Okay, not the most efficient of nights (9-of-25 shooting) but he’s getting it done for the team that will have the best record in the NBA.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. If you’ve been watching “Cosmos” you know that certain bodies can bend space-time to their will. Tim Duncan is one of those bodies. He doesn’t seem to age. There was a real scare early in the game — he admitted it scared him, too — when Duncan hyperextended his knee. But soon he was back in the game and finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and threw in a block. Spurs win again. Timeless.