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Three things we learned on Tuesday: I, for one, welcome our new Russell Westbrook overlord

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You were too busy watching people dance in ’90s movies (and maybe trying out a few moves yourself) to watch the four NBA games on Tuesday, but we have you covered. Here’s what you need to know.

1) Russell Westbrook continues to dominate, be NBA’s best player this season, and he reminded us by shredding Miami. On paper, this was the kind of game the Thunder should win — they are a better team than the Heat, particularly defensively, and without Goran Dragic (back issues) Miami’s offense is lifeless. Plus, Steven Adams gives Hassan Whiteside trouble. And all of that did happen. The Thunder started to pull away with a 13-1 run late in the first quarter, led by 22 in the second, and cruised to a 106-94 win.

But the real difference in this game was Russell Westbrook. He was the best player on the court — just like he’s been the most dominant player in the NBA all season long. He controlled the entire game — not just with his scoring (29 points) but the way he carved up the Miami defense and left it in shreds on the floor. He penetrated, passed, and his relentless energy and attacks left the heat in tatters. Westbrook accounted for more than half of the Thunder’s points, via scoring or assist. He got his triple-double (17 rebounds, 11 assists, that makes 15 triple-doubles this season) and did so in just more than 23 minutes of court time (which is insane), but the numbers barely tell the story of how well he is playing.

Westbrook also got some help from a Thunder bench that has been improved of late. Plus, Adams was getting to the rim when he wanted, then hurting them.

The Thunder’s improved bench play, plus the fact Victor Oladipo is expected to return soon from his wrist injury, makes this team that much more dangerous. But it all starts with Westbrook, who continues to amaze. And dominate. I, for one, welcome our new Westbrook overlord.

2) Eight technicals, one ejection, and guys looking for fights postgame — Rockets/Mavericks had some bad blood. This is how tense things got: Trevor Ariza left the Rockets’ locker room and stood outside the Dallas locker room after the game, waiting for to have words — or more — with Dallas center Salah Mejri. Patrick Beverley and James Harden.joined him, and Dallas police were there as well to keep the peace. Ariza believed Mejri said something way out-of-bounds about him and his family (Ariza picked up two technicals and was thrown out when it happened), something Mejri denied according to ESPN. Security kept Mejri in the locker room, Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams talked down the angry Rockets, and eventually, Houston’s players boarded the bus and left without incident.

But that’s what spilled off the court from a physical, nasty game on the court that saw eight technical fouls and a couple of flagrant fouls. The big one happened midway through the second quarter, when Andrew Bogut set a down screen to free up Harrison Barnes, James Harden ran into that screen and went hard to the ground. It looked like Bogut wasn’t set, but slid and leaned into Harden on the play, and the officials called him on it.

The Rockets thought the Mavericks were playing dirty all game.

As Beverley noted, in the end, the Rockets made 17 threes and cruised to a 123-107 win behind 34 points and 11 assists from James Harden. Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki were on minute limits and did not play in the second half.

3) Joe Ingles drained a game-winning three for the Jazz, and the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell couldn’t answer. Joe Ingles is shooting 47.8 percent from three this season — the Lakers’ scouting report was no doubt clear that he was not to be left alone at the arc, under any circumstances. Especially with the game on the line. That’s when Utah’s Quin Snyder borrowed from Steve Kerr (as noted by Nate Duncan on Twitter), running a standard Warriors play where the pick-and-roll out top is almost the distraction while a dangerous three-point shooter sets a down screen, then flares to the corner off another screen (Joe Johnson set it) and usually finds space. Ingles found that space and knocked down the game-winner.

The Lakers tried to answer — Julius Randle got to the line attacking right at Rudy Gobert (Randle did that impressively a couple of times late in the game), but in the end when they needed it D'Angelo Russell threw up an airball. This was one of those learning experience games for the Lakers, and the kind of game good teams like the Jazz find a way to win.

It’s worth watching the final three minutes of this game, it was the most dramatic of the night.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.