You may have been busy Tuesday night learning to juggle so you can prove to cops you’re not driving under the influence. If so and you missed what was going on around the NBA, we’ve got you covered. Here are the three big takeaways from the night.
1) The NBA celebrates the greatness of Dirk Nowitzki as he reaches the latest milestone in future Hall of Famers career. He is the best shooting big man ever. He is the best European player in the NBA ever.
And now Dirk Nowitzki is only the sixth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points in the NBA, which he did with a shot over the Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr.
It was vintage Nowitzki: He got to his spot, studied his options, and hit a fade-away jumper with that high release that no defender has a chance against.
With that, the love for Nowitzki poured in from all over the league, here’s just a taste.
And the love even came in from outside the NBA.
I will say about Nowitzki what I said about Kobe in his final years: Savor him while you can. Enjoy the one-legged fadeaways. Watch him, because there will never be another quite like him, and we are fortunate to get to watch him play. (The same applies to LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and the other greats of the game today.)
2) Russell Westbrook put up a ridiculous, career-high 58 points and it’s still not enough, Thunder lose fourth straight. It feels like this game summed up the Russell Westbrook MVP debate: He was unquestionably phenomenal putting up 58 points on 39 shots, while also dishing out nine assists. He was attacking the rim (he got to the line 16 times) and was finding open teammates when the shots weren’t there. Victor Oladipo returned from missing time with back spasms and added 16 points, but this was almost always the Westbrook show. Maybe no other player in the league could have pulled off this battering ram performance.
But it wasn’t enough to get the win. That’s the heart of the argument against Westbrook: James Harden — and if you want, Kawhi Leonard — are lifting their teams to higher heights, they are doing more to make their teammates better. The Thunder are on pace to win 45 games right now, and Marc Cuban has made the argument that many in the media will when voting comes: If your team didn’t win 50 games, you didn’t do enough to win the award.
I don’t think that’s fair: The Thunder were +7 in the 36 minutes Westbrook was on the court in this game, but -12 in the 12 minutes he rested. Westbrook’s value, by any measure, cannot be questioned.
The loss was because Oklahoma City could not stop Portland, which had an offensive rating of 130.1 for the night (points scored per 100 possessions). Portland had depth, it’s bench led by Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard turned the game, both at the start of the second quarter and again late in the third. Of course, Damian Lillard (22 points) and C.J. McCollum (21) got theirs, but down the stretch Jusuf Nurkic had a couple big buckets on his way to finishing with 17. This was a quality win for Portland, which is now 1.5 games back of eight-seed Denver in the West. The Blazers need wins to catch the Nuggets.
The debate around Westbrook for MVP — if he can maintain his triple-double for the season pace — will be just a broader discussion of what happened in this game.
3) Ejections and a gorilla running out into play? Just another night in Phoenix. Let the record reflect that the Washington Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns on the road 131-127, thanks to 29 points from Bojan Bogdanovic (who has been a fantastic pickup for Washington).
But that wasn’t close to the interesting parts of the game. First, there was the ejection of Jared Dudley of Phoenix and Brandon Jennings of the Wizards for their part in this altercation that started after a Jason Smith pick on Tyler Ulis.
Dudley was ejected for the bump on Smith. Jennings makes a gun gesture with his fingers at Dudley during the scrum afterward and that gets him tossed. Fines (and maybe a suspension) are coming for them.
But that wasn’t the strangest part of the game — that was when the gorilla came onto the court during play. He’s clearly going to retrieve something that came onto the court, but still.