Kurt Helin

Five Takeaways from an NBA Tuesday: Por-zing-is! Por-zing-is! Por-zing-is!

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A seven-game slate Tuesday saw a series of upsets across the NBA Wednesday (although not of Golden State, which remains undefeated at 12-0), huge performances, and a couple of surprises. In case you were busy chasing zebras around the streets of Philadelphia, here are five things you need to know from an NBA Tuesday.

1) Knicks’s fans treat emergence of Kristaps Porzingis as greatest thing to hit city since pizza slices. New Yorkers have long been known for their even keel, their measured reactions to things. So the fact that rookie Kristaps Porzingis has emerged as a legit player and a ray of hope for the franchise in his first month in the league — much faster than even his most fervent supporters back at the draft expected — has been greeted in the rational manner you’d expect.

For example, some Knicks fans have taken to calling him “Godzingis.”

Porzingis dropped 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting, plus grabbed 11 rebounds on the Hornets Tuesday night, leading New York to a 102-94 win with his best game to date. He’s the first Knick rookie to put up 27-and-10 since Patrick Ewing — and Porzingis isn’t even 21 yet. While there wasn’t one of his signature putback dunks he showed off a varied and impressive offensive arsenal against Charlotte, scoring on jumpers from the elbow, pull-up jumpers, left-handed floaters, quick-hit elbow jumpers, pick-and-pop threes, baseline moves and jumpers, and most importantly he showed toughness finishing through contact. That was the concern back when Knicks fans booed the pick on draft night — they feared Phil Jackson had drafted a soft Euro. Andrea Bargnani 2.0. But Porzingis has a lot of grit to his game — he wants to defend, to hit the glass, he doesn’t shy away from physical play. He had five double-doubles this season, and while his game has a lot of room for improvement, still he can contribute right now.

He’s a piece the Knicks can use to start really rebuilding with (throw in Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant and you have a few pieces of what could become a good Knicks team in a few years). Which is why the “Por-zing-is Por-zing-is” chants that rang through Madison Square Garden Tuesday night may become a regular thing. New York loves him today.

2) Beasting Andre Drummond leads Pistons come-from-behind win over Cavaliers. Detroit had dropped four straight on a West Coast road swing, but they looked far more comfortable back in the Motor City Tuesday, coming from behind to beat the Cavaliers 104-99. That starts with Andre Drummond, who dropped what seems a routine 25 points on 10-15 shooting, plus grabbing 18 rebounds. The Cavs tried to go hack-a-Drummond, he hit three-of-four free throws and squashed that (intentionally fouling backfired on the Cavs in this one). Drummond also played some good defense down the stretch switching onto LeBron James when the Cavaliers’ tried to post him up. Reggie Jackson  returned to form for the Pistons, outplaying the Cavs mix-and-match point guards down the stretch. Cleveland had their chances late in this one but Kevin Love just missed a couple clean looks, and they had a turnover in there when LeBron thought he knew where Mo Williams would be but was wrong. The Cavs did not impress late, the Pistons did and got the W.

3) LeBron James passed Jerry West for 19th on NBA all-time scoring list. With a wide-open corner three late in the first quarter Tuesday, LeBron moved past Jerry West into 19th all-time on the NBA scoring list (LeBron finished with 30 on the night). Next up, Reggie Miller (LeBron is going to move up the ranks fast this season, he could get up to 11 or 12 this season).

4) Anthony Davis suffers apparently minor shoulder. Because the Pelicans didn’t have enough injury issues, their best player in Davis was clearly bothered by his shoulder and had to leave the game in the first half not to return (he just missed another Pelicans loss). Not good, but apparently not as bad as it could have been. After the game coach Alvin Gentry said that Davis will travel with the team to Oklahoma City and he is questionable for Wednesday night. I’d be surprised to see him that soon — the Pelicans will be cautious a year with their star — but it doesn’t sound serious. If Davis sits, expect Alexis Ajinca to get the start (he did in the second half Tuesday).

5) Brook Lopez‘s defense, Thaddeus Young free throws lift Nets over Hawks. Brook Lopez is not a guy with a great defensive reputation… okay, that is far too kind. He’s not seen as a good defender at all. But this season he’s been improved. He showed that at the end of the Nets win over the Hawks — with the game tied 88-88 Lopez twice nicely shut down the Dennis Schroder/Al Horford 1/5 pick-and-roll the Hawks wanted to use to start their play, which forced Schroder to try to create on his own. He slipped, got up, had to force up a shot and missed, but Paul Millsap got the rebound and what looked like an easy putback — and Lopez blocked it. Great defensive sequence by Lopez. All that led to a Nets fast break where Thaddeus Young drew the foul, eventually hit the free throws, and the Nets got the win.

Don’t look now, but the Nets have played better of late — wins over the Hawks and Rockets, with close losses to the Kings and Warriors. Not a bad last four games.

Pistons rally for 104-99 win over Cavs despite James’ 30

Andre Drummond, Ersan Ilyasova
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Andre Drummond had 25 points and 18 rebounds and made some crucial free throws when he was fouled intentionally, helping the Detroit Pistons rally to a 104-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

LeBron James scored 23 of his 30 points in the first half, but the Pistons double-teamed him on a couple of big possessions down the stretch and Cleveland couldn’t convert. The Cavs lost their second straight after winning eight in a row.

Drummond’s free throw with 2:07 left gave the Pistons a 98-97 advantage, and Detroit was able to hold on.

It was 102-99 with 13.8 seconds remaining after Reggie Jackson made two free throws for the Pistons. J.R. Smith then missed a contested 3-pointer from near the top of the key.

Detroit snapped a four-game losing streak despite giving up the first nine points of the second half. Cleveland led 65-55 after that run, but the Pistons were able to stay within striking distance.

The Cavs led 97-93 when they decided to start intentionally fouling Drummond, who came in shooting 40 percent from the line. He made two free throws with 2:58 remaining, and after the Pistons tied it on a basket by Jackson, Cleveland fouled Drummond again. This time he made one of two free throws.

James passed out of a double team to Kevin Love, who missed from the corner, but the Pistons turned the ball over. Then James, double-teamed again, threw the ball away with 48.8 seconds remaining.

Jackson missed a floater, but Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov missed from the baseline and Cleveland had to foul. Jackson made two free throws with 21.3 seconds remaining.

James answered with a driving layup, but Jackson was fouled again and pushed the lead back to three.

Love scored 19 points, and Smith and Mo Williams had 15 each for Cleveland, which is still without injured star Kyrie Irving.

Jackson had 23 points and 12 assists for Detroit, and Ersan Ilyasova added 20 points.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: James scored at least 30 points for the fourth straight game. In the first quarter, he passed Jerry West to take over 19th place on the NBA’s career scoring list.

Pistons: Drummond has had a double-double in all 11 games this season. … Jackson rebounded after a season-low nine points in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

 

LeBron James passes Jerry West for 19th on all-time scoring list

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LeBron James has moved past the logo.

With a shockingly wide-open corner three against the Pistons Tuesday, LeBron moved past Jerry West into 19th all-time on the NBA scoring list with 25,193 career points (and he kept adding to that, LeBron had 23 in the first half). LeBron had only needed 10 to move past West.

Expect LeBron to pass a lot more people this season — he is averaging 27 points a game right now and even if he takes a few nights off he likely moves up into the low teens by the end of the season. At least.

Jason Kidd on trading Brandon Knight: “I wouldn’t say we gave up a lot”

Brandon Knight
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Last season before the trade deadline when the Milwaukee Bucks were leaning fairly heavily on Brandon Knight, they were 30-23 and had set themselves up as a playoff team. After the trade deadline when Michael Carter-Williams took over at the point, and through the start of this season, the Bucks have gone 16-26.

Certainly there are a lot of other factors in play with those numbers, but the team’s offense took a hit when Knight was moved (he is in Phoenix now and racked up a triple-double for them Monday). So, why did they do it? The Bucks didn’t think he was the long-term answer, Jason Kidd said Tuesday, as reported by Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel.

“I wouldn’t say we gave up a lot,” Kidd said.”He (Knight) was having a great season, and he’s having a great season this year. But it wasn’t we gave up Brandon. We had a decision to make between our backcourt.

“It wasn’t Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry. We weren’t going to max out our backcourt. As an organization, we had a decision to make, and we made it.”

To be clear, what Kidd is saying they liked Khris Middleton — the Bucks gave him a $70 million contract extension to this summer — and they weren’t sure about paying Knight. I can accept that, but will add I’m far from convinced Carter-Williams is the long-term answer at the point in Milwaukee (he is just coming back from injury).

The Suns gave Knight $70 million this summer to pair with Eric Bledsoe in their backcourt. So far that has worked out pretty well, but it’s going to be a long time before we know which side (if any) made out in this trade.

 

Shaq tops list of six toughest players Nazr Mohammed defended

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 14:  Shaquille O'Neal #36 of the Boston Celtics drives the lane against Nazr Mohammed #13 of the Charlotte Bobcats on January 14, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2011 NBAE  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Shaquille O’Neal was a beast. He was huge, physical and strong, but with the quick footwork of a small forward. His combination of size and athleticism could only be compared to Wilt Chamberlain, another absolutely dominant player of his era. Shaq calling himself MDE wasn’t all hyperbole.

Just how tough was Shaq to guard? Ask Nazr Mohammed.

The 17-year NBA veteran listed the six toughest players he ever had to guard in a story at the Players’ Tribune, and Shaq was at the top of the list.

The morning after you played Shaq, it always felt like you were in a fight. You were sore from head to toe.

This probably won’t shock people, but Shaq was the most dominant big man I’ve ever faced. He’s in a class of his own. Shaq’s the player who kept me up at night wondering, “How the hell am I going to stop him?” Or, more realistically, slow him down, because nobody could stop him….

In order to guard him, or at least attempt to guard him, you had to do your work early. That meant getting back on defense quickly and trying to meet him at the free throw line. From there, you’d basically brace yourself for impact in a collision that you were physically incapable of winning.

Who came in second? Mohammed had a five-way tie amongst Rasheed Wallace, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming. The entire article is worth a read.