Anthony Davis can do it all — score in the post, knock down a smooth jumper, he’s active on the boards, he can dish the rock.
The Lakers had an answer for none of that Tuesday night. Davis had 41 points on 27 shots, plus had 16 rebounds (six offensive). The Lakers defenders were slow to get to him off pick-and-pops, and he hurt them from the deep midrange, but frankly he hurt them from everywhere. That’s not all about the Laker defense — Davis hurts everybody.
Jrue Holiday added 22 in the Pelicans comfortable 105-88 win. The Lakers’ Nick Young left this game with an apparent Achilles or leg injury, but said after the game it was minor. That said, it wouldn’t be shocking if he missed a game or two to recover.
Three things we learned Tuesday: Sometimes good teams have bad nights. At the same time.
Three of the top four teams in our latest NBA power rankings lost on the same night (the only one that didn’t had the night off). Obviously, this is all Donald Trump’s fault. Nonetheless, here is what we learned Tuesday night around the league.
1) What is going on? Clippers blow 18-point lead in Brooklyn, Spurs flat at home against Magic. There must have been something in the water in Brooklyn and San Antonio because it was an ugly night for the two teams that believe they have a shot at knocking off the Warriors in the West this year.
With a 127-122 double-overtime loss to the Nets Tuesday, the Clippers have now lost three straight on the road. Their problems start with their bench — it was a surprising strength for them early on but now has either come apart or regressed to the mean, depending on how you want to view it. The Clippers led by 16 early in the fourth, but it was the bench at the start of the fourth that had no answer for Sean Kilpatrick — 20 points in the fourth (after shooting 3-of-13 through the first three) — and gave up most of the 19-5 Nets run that made it a ballgame. Well, that and the fact the Nets went 6-of-6 from three in the fourth. From there, it was a scramble and Chris Paul alone could not save Los Angeles.
The Clippers were without Blake Griffin who rested for the night, but this is Brooklyn (without Jeremy Lin), losers of seven in a row, it shouldn’t have mattered. Los Angeles has looked slow and tired on the road of late, with dead legs. The Clippers defense has been a little worse during their recent losing streak, but the bigger problem is on offense, where for the last three games they are 15.8 points per 100 off their average. In those three games, the Clippers are shooting 40.9 percent overall, 28 percent from three, and have been outscored by 12.3 per game. Next up on the road trip? The Cleveland Cavaliers. Play like this and it could get ugly.
(As an aside, I think Doc Rivers is right to have lost it on official Kenny Mauer for giving him technical foul, which led to Rivers’ ejection in the first OT. Rivers did cross over half court on the sideline to complain to Lauren Holtkamp about a call, but she was calm and talking to him while Mauer clearly thought he heard something (which Rivers denies), rushed in from across the court and played her protector. It was an overreach in my book. The league won’t see it that way, Rivers will get fined for losing his… cool. But at an emotional point late in a close game Mauer needlessly injected himself into the story.)
As for the Spurs, it was the first game home after a road trip and the Spurs mentally never showed up in a 95-83 loss to Orlando. Starting in the second quarter San Antonio just sagged back on defense and Orlando took advantage — that is the Magic team with the worst offense in the league, but these are NBA players and if you give them room they will hit shots. For example, Serge Ibaka has struggled this season but was 7-of-11 for 18 points on the night. The Spurs struggled to find their footing on offense, but credit Frank Vogel and the Magic defense here — we thought coming into the season they would be good defensively, and this has quietly become a top-10 defensive team. Still, it’s nights off like this that make you kind of wonder just how good the Spurs are and can be.
2) Cavaliers have off night, but give Giannis Antetokounmpo some credit for Bucks win. Cleveland took the day off mentally in Philadelphia on Sunday, but the Cavs were still able to come back and get the win in that one. Milwaukee is not Philly — the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and some real talent on the roster, coast on them and you will pay. Which is what happened, Cleveland’s bench (once LeBron James and J.R. Smith sat) blew and early lead and the team was listless the rest of the way.
Let’s give credit where it’s due: This may have been the Bucks best game of the season. It all started with Antetokounmpo, who was attacking the basket against a Cavs team that lacks a true rim protector (outside of LeBron) — the Greek Freak was 12-of-15 in the restricted area for the game, finishing with 34 points on 19 shots (plus 12 boards and five steals). The book on Antetokounmpo is clear — make him a jump shooter. The Cavs failed at that. Check out his shot chart.
The Bucks are risk takers under Kidd, which has had mixed results, but the one where he put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands has been a stroke of genius. Jabari Parker added 18 points and Michael Beasley had 17 off the bench for the Bucks.
3) Thing we will learn in next months: Can Grizzlies keep their heads above water? The Memphis Grizzlies are 11-7 and if the playoffs started today would be the four seed in the West. The question is where they will be in late January. That’s when they should get point guard Mike Conleyback from the transverse process fracture in his spine (which sounds worse than it is, this was the injury Cam Newton had).
Here’s the concern: The Grizzlies are 19.3 points per 100 possessions better when Mike Conley is on the court. Pair Conley and Marc Gasol on the court together the Grizzlies are a raw +81 this season, without them they are -88. Throw in the fact that Chandler Parsons (bone bruise), Brandon Wright (ankle) and James Ennis (calf strain) have missed games due to injury lately, and the depth of a thin Memphis side will be tested.
When (if?) the Grizzlies get healthy somewhere just before the All-Star break, will they still be in striking distance of the playoffs in the West, or will this team fade so far it can’t quite climb back? Will some bench players step up? I love the culture in Memphis, I love what David Fizdale has done as coach, but what comes next is a tough ask.
Stephen Curry on re-signing with Warriors: “It’s hard to see myself anywhere else”
Stephen Curry‘s steal of a contract comes to an end this summer and he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Notice how you haven’t heard any stories about teams clearing cap space to chase Curry this summer? That’s because you can’t find a person around the league that thinks he’s going to leave Golden State. Sure, his agent will get calls, but they have about as much chance of success as me calling Margot Robbie.
Although he says “curveballs happen all the time,” it should relieve millions of people in the Bay Area that Curry feels that he is home. “It’s hard to see myself anywhere else,” he says.
The Warriors can offer Curry the most money — safe to say he’s a max player, which will start for him at about $28.8 million annually — and he is playing on a contending team, for a strong organization, it one of the world’s great cities/regions, with an amazingly strong fan base. He’s going to bolt all of that because…
Curry will get a deal done minutes after the clock flips over to July 1 next summer. Same with Kevin Durant in Golden State (he can and will opt out to get a larger, longer deal that starts at $33.5 million a year). What that means for the Warriors ability to keep Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and other free agents is a different question.
By the way, don’t be shocked if, once past his prime, Curry plays the final couple seasons of his career in his hometown of Charlotte. But that’s not happening this summer.
David Stern was old-school dictatorial about it — the league always backed the referees’ in-game decisions, and fines rained down on any coach/player/executive to dared criticize them.
Adam Silver is more modern and transparent: The fines are still there, but now the league releases a “two-minute report” breaking down the calls in the final two minutes of games that are within five points at the two-minute mark of the fourth. (Those reports always existed, Silver just had them scrubbed up and released.) If the referees miss a call or blow one, the report calls them out. And they miss a fair amount (not as many as fans want to think, but some).
“I hate them. I hate the two-minute reports. I’ll go on record saying it again,” Wade said following practice Monday at the Advocate Center. “It’s bad for our game to come back with those two-minute reports…
“It’s in the game. It’s the call that’s been made on the floor, we’re mad at it then,” he said. “Let’s move on. I hate the two-minute report that comes back and says, ‘We should’ve called this’. We lost. It’s not making none of us feel better by saying ‘See, I told you.’ We lost the game. I hate them. I’ve said that multiple times.”
There are plenty of coaches/players/executives who feel the same way as Wade — if you’re not going to go back and change the outcome (and that’s not going to happen), then why publish the reports? Human error is part of the game, live with it.
At the Finals last year, Silver defended the reports.
“We’re in the second year of our Last Two-Minute Reports, and I still remain strongly behind them,” Silver said last June. “Now, I understand the criticism from some of the teams that, ‘What’s the point? Why are you telling the world that this call was decided incorrectly? May have gone in our favor, may not have. Nothing can be done about it after the fact.’
“My view, first of all, in terms of building confidence in the public, they want to see consistency. So they want to understand if we call something a foul, why we called it a foul, and we often give explanations for why we believe something was a foul, whether it was correctly called or incorrectly called. So it’s our hope that you take the Last Two-Minute Reports together with using a certain amount of replay that we’re building to build trust and integrity in the league.”
That’s Silver’s world-view summed up: While Stern preferred secrecy and just ignored conspiracy theorists, Silver wants to confront it all head on. Not that the tinfoil hat brigade is going to believe him, but he’s not going to hide when mistakes are made just to protect an image (within reason).
Silver works at the pleasure of the NBA owners — if they want the two-minute reports gone, they will be gone. But unless they pressure Silver to make a change, the reports are likely here to stay, regardless of what Wade thinks.
As if we need it, another report Boston still hunting for another star
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics got their first gold star this summer, convincing Al H0rford to join their solid young core. That was step one in returning Boston to contender status (well, probably step two, hiring Brad Stevens was step one), and it has worked when Horford has been healthy — they are 5-2 in games he plays this season. They are vastly better when he is on the court.
But if they want to challenge Cleveland, Boston needs another star player.
That Ainge is hunting for said star is about as big a secret as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s breakup. That the Celtics have the picks and young players to make an enticing offer to any team who decides to move a superstar is also common knowledge — if a superstar is put on the block Boston’s assets move it to the front of the line.
From all indications speaking to team sources around the league, Danny Ainge is still after the major trades the C’s president of basketball operations knows are needed. And no doubt he’s loving each story calling the 2017 draft one of the deepest and most talent-laden in many years, understanding that such talk could raise the value of the Nets’ pick that can be theirs.
The problem isn’t Ainge being willing, rather it is who is available? So far the Kings continue to rebuff calls about DeMarcus Cousins. The idea that Chicago would move Jimmy Butler was more fantasy than reality from the start, and it’s certainly not happening now that the Bulls are playing well. Washington is a year away (at least) from starting to think about breaking up John Wall and Bradley Beal. It’s hard to imagine Larry Bird trading Paul George. Doc Rivers isn’t breaking up the Clippers’ core with them playing well.
And so it goes, with Ainge trying to be patient and the fan base feeling impatient. Welcome to life in Boston.