What you need to know from a Wednesday night around the Association.
1) No Draymond Green, no win for Warriors. It’s one difference between the Spurs and Warriors — when Gregg Popovich sits Tim Duncan or Kawhi Leonard or whichever key player for a night of rest, San Antonio is just as dangerous. Remove one of the key cogs of the Warriors and their machine sputters a little.
Draymond Green may have had his All-Star case made for him Wednesday night in Denver when Luke Walton told him to sit and rest a “pretty beat up” body for a night. Without Green, the Warriors were not the same. It was particularly noticeable on defense, where the Warriors’ ability to switch virtually every pick and still defend at a high level was compromised, and it led to the Nuggets getting the shots they wanted too often. On the offensive end, the ball seemed to stick for a second, the passing wasn’t as crisp, plus the Warriors did not push the pace the same way. It took 20 from Stephen Curry in the fourth to make it a game (although he hunted a game-winning three at the end when he could have driven for two or found Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala, who were open.) Curry had 38 on the night. Curry went the first 37 games of the season always on the plus side of the +/- stat, but he’s been in the negative two games in a row.
Give the Nuggets credit here. Danilo Gallinari had 28 and played hard on defense, Gary Harris added 19. Nikola Jokic did a fantastic job against Andrew Bogut, and that tweak lets Darrell Arthur be a beast off the bench with 18 points and 11 boards. Will Barton did his thing with 21 points. We know how a seven-game series between these two would end, but for a night Denver did what it needed to do.
2) Russell Westbrook gets ejected; Kevin Durant drops 29 and Thunder win anyway. J.J. Barea got under Russell Westbrook’s skin. Westbrook was having a bit of an off night and didn’t score for the game (seven assists and eight rebounds, though), and this happened.
Later Westbrook picked up a second technical and was sent to the showers early. Not that it mattered. Kevin Durant dropped 27, the Thunder were in complete control of this game from the middle of the second quarter on, and OKC got the win 108-89.
3) DeAndre Jordan’s streak of consecutive games ends at 360 due to pneumonia, but Clippers still win 10th in a row. At 360 games, DeAndre Jordan’s streak had come full circle. (Sorry, I had to.) The man with the longest active consecutive games streak in the league was felled by some germs in his lungs and had to sit Wednesday when the Clips played the Heat. (Taking over that streak is Tristan Thompson at 324.)
Not that it mattered for the red-hot Clippers. Good defense forcing 24 Miami turnovers, plus 19 points from Jordan’s replacement Cole Aldrich, led the Clippers to a comfortable 104-90 win. That’s 10 in a row for the Clippers, nine of those without Blake Griffin. The Clippers seem pretty solidly locked into the four seed in the West now, although maybe they could catch the Thunder and be the three seed.
4) Bradley Beal returns for Washington Wizards, who pick up the win. For four consecutive seasons, Bradley Beal has missed games for the Wizards due to a stress reaction in his lower right leg. While the numbers have not shown it this year yet, Washington needs his shooting and skill next to John Wall to open up the offense and create options for others. Beal started 3-of-3 from the field and finished with 11 points in 23 minutes. He will be on a maintenance program the rest of the season trying to keep him healthy.
Washington held off a late charge to beat the Bucks 100-92. At 18-19 on the season, the Wizards are just 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East. They have been inconsistent all season long, but string together a few wins in a row, and suddenly things start to look different in our nation’s capital.
5) The Knicks’ Derrick Williams was a dunking machine against the Nets. Not one, not two, not three, but four big dunks from Williams against the Nets (it wasn’t enough as Brooklyn upset New York 110-104).