Kurt Helin

Watch Jimmy Butler drop 40 on the Lakers

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Dwyane Wade was out, Rajon Rondo was returning from injury, which meant it was going to be the Jimmy Butler show in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

And put on a show he did.

Butler dropped 40 on the porous Laker defense, a season high for the Bulls star. It was enough to earn the Bulls a 118-110 win and a split in the back-to-back at Staples Center against both Los Angeles teams.

Three things we learned Sunday: Another triple-double for Westbrook in a loss

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What you missed around the NBA on Sunday, while you were digging out from a tidal wave of foam

1) Another triple-double for Russell Westbrook, another loss for Thunder. That’s five. In 14 games, Russell Westbrook now has five triple-doubles — a pace that would give him 29 over the course of the season (which would be third most all-time for a season, behind Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain). Westbrook had 31 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds Sunday. It was another impressive performance.

And it was another loss (115-111 to Indiana), one that showed how thin the margin is for the Thunder. This was not Westbrook’s best night — he described his play as “sh**y.” He needed 34 shots to get his 31 points, he shot just 5-of-13 in the restricted area, and he had seven turnovers. He was -18 for the game. His shot chart was not pretty.

shotchart_1479731030548

The challenge for Westbrook is he not only has to put up numbers and drive the Thunder offense, he needs to be efficient doing so, if not the Thunder will struggle to win. They don’t have other reliable shot creators and options, it’s the Russell Westbrook show.

Westbrook is almost averaging a triple-double (31.6 points, 10.4 assists, and 9.7 rebounds a game) and that has him in the MVP hunt early, but will the Thunder win enough games for him to win over voters?

2) Was it the meeting? Knicks beat Hawks and have won three of four.
New York picked up its biggest win of the season Sunday, beating a previously-hot Atlanta team 104-94. There were several factors involved: No Joakim Noah seemed to free up Kristaps Porzingis, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds; Carmelo Anthony had 31 points plus some key rebounds and passes late; Atlanta was sluggish all game, like they had really enjoyed their Saturday night in New York and they had not recovered for a Sunday day game. After the game, the Knicks credited a clear-the-air meeting with Phil Jackson (although I think the impact of those kinds of meetings on the court is often overstated).

However, the biggest key was the Knicks defense, which held the Hawks to 40 percent shooting, including 6-of-21 from three. New York has won three of four now, and the big difference is on the defensive end. New York had the worst in the NBA to start the season, but in those last four games it’s been average (17th in the NBA over that time). That’s a massive improvement. And it’s enough to get some wins.

We’ll see if they can sustain it this week. Tuesday Portland comes to town and they will test any defense with their guard play. Then comes a home-and-home against a good Charlotte team. But if the Knicks can keep getting stops, things will be looking up.

3) The Raptors got screwed and the league needs to look at clock issues. I don’t know that Terrence Ross could have gotten off a clean shot in less than 2.4 seconds, he may not have. I don’t know that the outcome of the game would have been any different. But the point is the officials in the Kings’ win over Toronto handled the clock poorly at the end of the game and Toronto never got the chance it deserved.

First, there were 27.2 seconds left when the Kings started their last possession of the game, which ended with a 24-second violation (Sacramento just had to hit the rim, and failed) — but the refs were good with 2.4 seconds left on the clock. Should have been 3.2, if you can do math.

Then on the final play, the clock did not start when DeMarcus Cousins tipped it on the inbounds pass, as it should have. Ross got the ball and hit a three before time expired — but the officials waived it off saying he did not get the shot off before the buzzer should have sounded. That doesn’t fly for me — the home clock operators screws up and the visitors pay the price? Could Ross have gotten that shot off faster and made it? Who knows. I don’t know if the clock impacted when Ross shot — but it could have. That’s the point.

The officials applied the current rule correctly, but the rule is flawed. The only fair thing would have been to replay the final 2.4. That didn’t happen.

It goes in the books as a quality win for the Kings, one they needed and frankly earned with their play most of the game. The ending was just messed up.

Jusuf Nurkic, Jamal Murray help Nuggets beat Jazz 105-91

Associated Press
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DENVER (AP) — Jusuf Nurkic had 16 points and 11 rebounds and the Denver Nuggets won a home game for the second time this season, beating the Utah Jazz 105-91 on Sunday night in a matchup of struggling Western Conference teams.

Rookie Jamal Murray had 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to help Denver improve to 2-4 at the Pepsi Center. Wilson Chandler added 17, and Danilo Gallinari had 13 points, five rebounds and eight assists.

Gordon Hayward had 25 points for Utah, and Dante Exum, Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson each had 10. The Jazz have lost four straight.

Will Barton started for the banged-up Nuggets after missing his previous nine games with an ankle injury. He made a 3 on his team’s first attempt from the field and finished with seven points.

The Nuggets led by double digits most of the night and only trailed once, 2-0. Utah stayed in touch until the fourth quarter thanks to Denver’s 13-for-30 free throw shooting.

The Jazz struggled early and often in their fourth back-to-back of the season, hitting just 5 of 22 shots in the opening quarter. They trailed by 19 in the second before finding any consistency.

TIP-INS

Jazz: PF Derrick Favors missed his third straight game with a left knee bone contusion, while PG George Hill missed his eighth straight game with a sprained thumb. “Hopefully the band will be back,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said of his team’s early season injuries. “We haven’t really established a band so I don’t even know what that sounds like.” … Veteran C Boris Diaw (rest) came off the bench after sitting out Saturday’s game against Houston. He had two points.

Nuggets: G Gary Harris missed his fourth consecutive game with a right foot injury and is not expected to return until mid-December.

TIED BY INJURIES

A plethora of injuries have hindered early expectations for the Nuggets and Jazz, two teams looking to get back to the postseason. Snyder said he hopes injuries won’t link the Northwest Division rivals for long.

“We don’t really want to be cousins in that one,” he said.

UP NEXT

Jazz: Host Denver on Wednesday night.

Nuggets: End their four-game homestand on Tuesday night against Chicago.

Raptors’ Terrence Ross’ game-tying three waived off in controversial win for Kings

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The person managing the clock in Sacramento screwed up — and that screwed the Raptors over. They should have been given another chance.

Let’s take a step back for context. The final ninety seconds of the Kings win over Toronto was gripping basketball. Not well played, but like an accident on the highway you couldn’t turn away. A monster Rudy Gay dunk had put Sacramento up 102-97. The next big play was Darren Collison foolishly fouling Kyle Lowry on a three-pointer with :27.2 left, but Lowry hit just two of three. The Kings tried to eat up the remaining time, but they didn’t hit the rim on a shot, giving them a :24-second violation, and the refs said there were 2.4 seconds on the clock (although that math didn’t work out, should have been 3.2). The Raptors had one last chance to tie, and Dave Joerger interestingly decided not to foul, and let it play out.

On the inbound pass, DeMarcus Cousins tips it, but the clock didn’t start immediately. Terrence Ross picked up the ball, took two dribbles and nailed the three to force OT.

Except, upon review, the referees said that the clock should have started when Cousins touched the ball and that meant the shot did not get off on time. The officials waived off the shot. Game over.

As you might expect, the Raptors lost it upon that call. The home official running the clock screws up, and the visiting team gets punished? If the clock had started earlier, maybe Ross could have shot sooner (he was facing the clock, but the look wouldn’t have been good). My thought, why not replay the final seconds again? Because the Raptors had to go by what the clock said not what it should have read.

Here is what the game official said afterward.

When asked about it after the game, all Kyle Lowry would say is “no comment.” Patrick Patterson took to Twitter, and he nailed it.

And yes Kings fans, you can say that Patterson fouled Cousins the play before, that wasn’t called, but that doesn’t make the end of the game call right. It wasn’t. And if the league wants to say that it follows the letter of the law, then that needs to change because it didn’t follow common sense.

Watch Russell Westbrook’s three to force OT; his triple-double not enough for win

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Russell Westbrook had another triple-double and hit the shot that forced overtime (which you can see above) — and that wasn’t enough.

Westbrook had 31 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t an efficient night as he was 15-of-34 shooting. Westbrook himself said he played like manure after the game, except he used a different word for it, one I can use here. That’s overstating it, but the problem for OKC is if he’s not at his peak they can’t win.

The Pacers got the win in OT 115-111 behind 30 from Jeff Teague.