Kurt Helin

Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: When will the Warriors lose a game?

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Just three games on the schedule Thursday night, but if you were watching Rex Ryan get revenge then you missed a few things worth discussing, so here is a little wrap-up of three things to take away from the NBA slate of games:

1) When will the Warriors lose a game? Golden State is 10-0 after knocking off the upstart Timberwolves 129-116 Thursday. The Warriors aren’t just winning, they are dominating, having beaten opponents by an averaged of 17.1 points per game (17.2 points per 100 possessions). They have the top-ranked offense in the NBA and second-ranked defense (based on points per possession, stats via NBA.com). Stephen Curry has come back from his MVP season improved, and the Warriors’ team is not looking to coast through the early part of the schedule. It begs the question:

When will the Warriors lose a game?

Not this Saturday, when they host the lowly Nets. Probably not next Tuesday when they host Toronto (if DeMarre Carroll is back for the Raptors that game gets more interesting, but I’ll still take the Warriors). However, then comes a three-game stretch where I think the Warriors stumble for the first time.

Thu, Nov 19: at L.A. Clippers
Fri, Nov 20: Chicago Bulls
Sun, Nov 22: at Denver Nuggets

The Clippers are legit and — if Paul and Redick are healthy — they are capable of beating the Warriors on a given night. The Bulls still may be figuring rotations/chemistry out, but they are sixth in the NBA in defense, they have flashes of great offense, and with the Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back this could be the game. Denver has been middle of the pack on offense and defense, but they have shown flashes, and it’s the third game in four nights for the Warriors, plus this game is being played at altitude in Denver. That could lead to a one-off performance.

If they don’t stumble in those three and get to what would be 15-0, then it could be a little while as the schedule softens up. And at that point I’ll start entertaining a discussion of 70+ wins, not before.

2) Just a reminder that Stephen Curry is a basketball-shooting cyborg who cannot miss. Well, he does miss some shots — he was 15-of-25 on his way to 46 points Thursday — but that may just be part of the programming to throw us off, to make him look more human so we don’t get suspicious. Here are all his buckets from Thursday night, you be the judge.

3) Game summary: Blake Griffin got tossed for Clippers, Suns guards could not miss. Nobody should read much into the late TNT game regarding it being predictive. The Clippers started the night without Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, and that gave the Suns’ backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight a chance to take over. But there are two things of note from the Suns comfortable win over the Clippers, 118-104.

First, Blake Griffin got ejected, picking up two first-half technicals.

Doc Rivers and the Clippers didn’t like that call, saying the rule about if a player showing up an official is inconsistently enforced (he’ll get fined for that). My take on this is a little more nuanced (and has two parts): First, I don’t think what Griffin did in this specific instance was worthy of a technical, especially not a second one that sends him to the showers. Rivers is right that the rule about what constitutes showing up an official is applied inconsistently. This was a quick trigger — but the Clippers bring this on themselves. That’s the second part of this. No team in the NBA is as demonstrative at whining about calls game in/game out as the Clippers, and Griffin is at the forefront of that (with Rivers right behind him). Griffin’s incessant complaining pushes up against the “showing up the official” line nightly, so he should understand that he’s going to occasionally step over that line. More importantly, his behavior does not endear or make officials give him the benefit of the doubt — they are humans who get sick of being jawed at like anyone. Griffin wears on them nightly, and this is the occasional price. He shares blame here, even if you can say this particular instance was out of line.

The big takeaway: Griffin getting ejected did not decide this game. They were already behind when it happened. Without CP3 and Redick, Suns’ guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight took over this game from the start — they combined for 63 points and 13 assists. That’s why the Suns won this game; they got phenomenal guard play that the Clippers could not stop or match. Those two earned the Suns a quality win at home.

David Blatt: Kyrie Irving still has “ways to go” in return

Kyrie Irving
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are doing just fine, thank you very much. They are 7-1 and atop the Eastern Conference standings.

And they are not close to full strength, Kyrie Irving is still out recovering from the fractured kneecap he suffered during the NBA Finals last June. When might we see Irving back on the court? Patience, grasshopper, we’re going to have to wait a while. Here is what Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt said on the issue Thursday, as reported by Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“[We’re] not rushing things and not letting up from the day-to-day work, but still a ways to go,” he said. “And how much, I can’t honestly tell you, but he’s working at it every day.”

 

Irving has not returned to any practice yet, let along a full contact affair, so we are still weeks away at the very least. Reports have suggested it could be after the first of the year before Irving is back on the court (except as Uncle Drew), although somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems a more likely timeframe.

If the team were struggling, there might be pressure to speed up the timeline, but as they are not the Cavaliers should remain patient.

Bulls’ Jimmy Butler gets massive boombox-themed aquarium

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If you’re home on Friday night, you can watch Jimmy Butler by flipping on league pass and catching the Bulls and Hornets.

Or, you can watch him on Animal Planet get a 600-gallon aquarium shaped like a boom box.

Butler will appear on “Tanked,” a show where Wayde King and Brett Raymer set up massive, high-end home aquariums for celebrities. Butler’s love of music — including country music — led to the boom box idea. And yes, a wireless music setup is part of it, so the boombox does play tunes. (I am not going to make a joke about Phish. Wait, I kind of just did. Sorry.)

While I don’t think that would fit in my place, I have to say it’s impressive. I like it.

(Hat tip to the Chicago Tribune.)

 

Report: Pat Riley gave unintentional assist to Spurs landing Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge
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Pat Riley’s pitch was a long shot and he knew it — he asked LaMarcus Aldridge to take the mid-level exception for one year with the Miami Heat then re-sign for a max salary in one season (that according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel). The pitch was joining Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Goran Dragic — guys who would all be willing to sacrifice to win.

But that pitch had an unintended impact — it pushed Aldridge closer to the Spurs, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports in a must-read opus on how Aldridge ended up a Spur.

“He told me, ‘You’re a good player, but you can be great,’ ” Aldridge told Yahoo. “I’ve had good seasons on my own, but to win, you’ve got to have other big-time guys with you. When you have other guys who are willing to take that sacrifice with you – maybe you all go from averaging 23-24 points to 18-19 points – and you can all do it together.

“He was saying, ‘Hey, you might have to take a lesser role, but at the end of the day, you want to be known as a champion. Champions have to do different things.’ He brought up Chris Bosh, how he was averaging 21 in Toronto, and came to Miami, and people tried to say he wasn’t important. He told me, ‘We don’t win any of those championships rings without him,’ [and] that [Bosh] wouldn’t trade those rings for anything.

“Eventually, it becomes a road in your career, whether you have to decide whether you want to keep having these crazy stats, or do you want to win a championship?”

That is essentially what Popovich and the Spurs had preached — this was where he could win, where he could be part of a family, but it meant not always being “the man.” Aldridge had long felt he had been second in the hearts of Portland — behind Brandon Roy then Damian Lillard — and he wanted to be out of the shadows of others. However, Riley and Popovich told him if he wanted to win he had to forget about shadows entirely.

Aldridge realized Riley was right. It sank in and Aldridge understood what he wanted was that family experience and a chance to win. But not in Miami, in his home state of Texas. In San Antonio.

The fit is still being worked out with Aldridge as a Spur, but they look like the second-best team in the West right now and a real threat to come out of the conference. If that happens, the Spurs should thank Riley.

 

Dwyane Wade out Thursday for Heat; with son at hospital

Dwyane Wade
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Dwyane Wade will not be in the building Thursday night when the Miami Heat host the Utah Jazz, and for the best of reasons — family.

The Heat made this announcement Thursday less than two hours before tipoff.

First off, good news that Wade’s son is not in any serious danger.

Wade has played fantastic ball for the Heat this season through eight games, averaging 18 points and shooting 37.5 percent from three.

Gerald Green is also out for Miami Thursday, due to a team suspension.