Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: Sleep on the Spurs at your own risk


If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while trying to figure out how to sign up for Mr. T’s home renovation show

1) San Antonio thrashes Atlanta, reminds everyone just how good they can be. Spurs East looked like a pale imitation of the original Sunday — the game of the day became a clinic in San Antonio basketball, with the Spurs opening the game on a 20-4 run and never looking back in a 114-95 victory. These are the moments the Spurs remind everybody just who seemingly unstoppable they can be. Early on it seemed they could not miss — at one point they hit 10 consecutive shots — but even when the shots stopped falling the Spurs controlled the game. The Spurs did that with a physical, long, aggressive defense. We can come up with excuses for the Hawks (teams are often flat on first game home after a road trip, adjusting to Kyle Korver’s return, just an off night) but they looked like a Neil Diamond cover band playing a summer concert in the park Sunday — fun in their own right but nothing like the real thing. Because the real thing has players such as Kawhi Leonard making plays like this.

2) While Atlanta stumbles, LeBron James and Cavaliers keep on rolling. We can pick apart the Cavaliers — in their last 15 games they have given up 103 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the NBA (and it’s gotten worse lately). But LeBron James and the Cavs’ offense cover up a world of mistakes right now. LeBron was in vintage, control-the-game-at-both-ends form, with 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and five steals. He got help from J.R. Smith Sunday — 23 points on 11 shots, the rare efficient game from Smith. When the Cavs are playing like this on offense, you can see them in the NBA Finals.

3) Russell Westbrook got the triple-double, but it was really the Enes Kanter show. Russell Westbrook is playing so well right now that he can rack up a triple-double, and the instinct is to say it wasn’t that great of one — he shot 5-of-16 and had six turnovers. Still, there was 12 points, 17 assists, and 10 rebounds. However, the real story in OKC was the return of Enes Kanter, who returned from one game off and dropped 27 points and 12 boards. The other thing of note, this was the best the OKC defense has looked in a while.

4) Pelicans’ playoff chances setting like the Suns. While the Thunder keep winning, the Pelicans keep on stumbling to the finish line — they fell to the Clippers 107-100 on the road. While that may be an expected result the Pelicans are now three games back of OKC for the final playoff spot in the West, a very difficult to overcome deficit to overcome with just a dozen games left. The loss dropped them half a game behind the Suns and into 10th in the West.

5) The Rooster is crowing again in Denver. Back a couple years ago when the Nuggets won 57 games for George Karl, Danilo Gallinari was their leading scorer. A knee injury and a botched surgery set him back, but under Melvin Hunt The Rooster seems to be back — Sunday he had a career high 40 points on 12-of-21 shooting, both knocking down threes (six) and getting to the free throw line (11 times). If Hunt stays on as coach Gallinari could be a real fantasy steal for your team next season.

Russell Westbrook: “I didn’t watch much basketball growing up”


Like it would to most NBA players, the fact Allen Iverson said he was a big Russell Westbrook fan was taken as a big compliment by the Thunder guard (who recorded his 10th triple-double of the season Sunday). Iverson said the spirit of himself lived in  Westbrook, that “I’m the biggest Westbrook fan there is.”

However, did Westbrook watch a lot of Iverson growing up?

Not so much.

What makes Westbrook and Iverson similar is the fearless, relentlessly attacking style of play. Physically they are different and playing in a different era, but the game is the same.

Iverson recognizes that. Westbrook appreciates it, even if he hasn’t watched much AI.

Hassan Whiteside and Russell Westbrook trade monster blocks at both ends (VIDEO)


We knew Hassan Whiteside was a shot-blocking machine, but Russell Westbrook can do it, too. This is just an awesome sequence from Sunday afternoon’s Heat-Thunder game: Whiteside blocked Enes Kanter’s shot attempt, sending Goran Dragic on a fast break, and he promptly met Westbrook at the rim and got blocked.

Both of these teams are fighting for their playoff lives as lower seeds.

Russell Westbrook records another triple-double, Thunder pick up key win (VIDEO)


The Thunder got bad news about Kevin Durant on the same day that the Atlanta Hawks were coming to down. That has recipe for an emotional letdown and an ugly loss.

Russell Westbrook refused to let that happen.

It was another MVP-level performance for Westbrook, who had his ninth triple-double of the season — 36 points (15 in the fourth quarter), 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. The Thunder went on a 19-2 run in the fourth quarter to pick up the 123-115 win. Dion Waiters was also key with 26 points.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The Pelicans — without Anthony Davis — lost to the Warriors. That gives OKC a two-game lead over New Orleans for the final playoff spot in the West. Without Durant or Serge Ibaka down the stretch, it’s going to take more games like this from Westbrook to get OKC in the postseason.


Orlando’s Elfrid Payton records second-straight triple-double (VIDEO)


Who does Elfrid Payton think he is, Russell Westbrook?

The Orlando Magic rookie is growing more comfortable with the NBA game and looked very good against Portland Friday night: 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Payton was in attack mode and getting to the rim — he hit 8-of-9 in the restricted area on the night.

Payton was central to the Magic upsetting the Trail Blazers Friday night, 111-104.

Payton has some work to do on his jump shot and other aspects of his game. But he’s starting to look like another key piece of the future in Orlando.