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 get that damn Narwhals song out of your head…
1) Kyrie Irving was in video game mode. Or he was Neo in the Matrix. Or whatever other internet exclamation of the superhuman you want to go with. Irving set a career high — and scored more than any player has in a game this season — when he dropped 57 on the Spurs. It’s hard to use words and stats to do him justice Thursday. For example, according to the NBA’s player tracking stats the Spurs contested 30 of Irving’s 32 shots, but he still hit 19 of them. He had 35 of his points in the second half, drained two threes (he was 7-of-7 from deep) with the game on the line, then scored 11 in OT to secure the Cavs 128-125 win. The Spurs were the better team on this night — they shared the ball, took advantage of mismatches, defended smartly — and in the end got another loss because Kyrie was not to be stopped.
2) Washington does not care how many Grizzlies were resting, they will take the win. In baseball, when a batter is in a slump, he’ll take any kind of hit to snap out of it — broken bat blooper that falls in, seeing eye grounder, whatever it takes to get on base. That’s where the Wizards have been, so the fact that Memphis was on a back-to-back and decided to rest Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph doesn’t change anything for the Wizards. Marcin Gortat feasted inside with them out scoring 22; John Wall scored 21, and the Wizards picked up the win. That’s three of four and two in a row for Wizards, who maybe are finding their footing again.
3) Utah is 9-2 since the All-Star break and has found an identity. The Rockets found out Thursday what more and more teams are discovering — the Jazz are starting to figure it out. And they have become a tough out. The Jazz are a defensive team: Since the All-Star break they are 9-2 allowing 90.6 points per 100 possessions, the best number in the NBA in that time (five of those 9 wins come against teams above .500). Rudy Gobert was doing his thing again Thursday — 22 rebounds, four blocks, altering many other shots — but what was different against the Rockets was the 19 points. He’s been an offensive liability, if that changes watch out. He only took 11 shots but played within himself — all his shots were at the rim. Just ask Terrence Jones.
Gordon Hayward was finding space to knock down three balls and get moving toward the rim, on his way to 29. Granted, Houston was on the second night of a brutal back-to-back (they lost to Portland Wednesday then had to fly overnight and play at altitude in Salt Lake the next day) but still, Utah is taking advantage of that now.