What you missed while wondering if your dog ate your toes….
The Lakers getting a win — not a statement, just a win — against Boston is our Game of the Night.
Mavericks 121, Nuggets 120: Arron Afflalo is a great story. Back at UCLA he was the man — they ran him off double screens (like Boston does with Ray Allen) to get him open, he was the guy the offense was built around.. The NBA was cold water splashed across his face, here he was just another guy. He had to carve out a new identity for himself. A lot of guys fail at that. Afflalo is just a good guy with a great work ethic who transformed himself into a quality NBA role player. He’s a plus defender, he sets the screens and he waits for his catch-and-shoot three opportunities.
With 16 seconds left and the Nuggets down one to Dallas — and Carmelo Anthony fouled out after maybe his best game of the season with 42 points — Denver’s plan was to have Chauncey Billups come off the high screen of Nene and create, but Billups slipped a little and Tyson Chandler defended it beautifully and the play blew up. Billups was forced to pass to the only open guy near him, Afflalo. Shawn Marion closed out like he expected another catch-and-shoot but Afflalo took one hard dribble to his left to create space, rose up and drained the jumper from 19 feet.
Ballgame. And the Nuggets ended the Mavs win streak at 10 in what was a wildly entertaining shooting display where neither team could seem to miss and the tempo was up.
Suns 112, Warriors 88: The Suns were motivated — win and they were .500 on the season. Golden State was on the second night of a back-to-back and was flat. The result is a spanking. The Warriors shot 40 percent as a team and the best three-point shooting team in the league hit 30 percent on the night. Steve Nash was vintage.
After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.
The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.
But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:
“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.
“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.
This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.
But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.
Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.
Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…
If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.
The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.
Mocking Dwight Howard‘s frequent team changes has become commonplace around the NBA.
It even has crossover appeal.
On “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver opened his monologue on President Donald Trump’s trade war with a few jokes at Howard’s expense. Suffice to say, Oliver doesn’t believe Howard will transform with the Wizards.
(warning: rest of Oliver’s speech contains not-safe-for-work language)
Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times at a Boston nightclub on Sept. 25, 2000. He suffered a collapse lung and underwent emergency surgery. But Pierce famously played all 82 of the Celtics’ games that season. That feat was seen as a testament to his resolve.
Really, it was a coping mechanism .
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
Long after he was released from the hospital, Pierce remained nervous, jittery, anxious. He couldn’t sleep. The Celtics urged him to seek counseling, but he waved them off. “I thought, ‘I can do this myself,'” Pierce recalls. “I didn’t want anybody else in my business.”
But as the weeks dragged on, moving around in public spaces became almost unbearable for Pierce. The trauma of the event had stripped him of his confidence. His anxiety spiked while dining at Morton’s restaurant in Boston just a few months after the stabbing, when the manager approached him with a house phone and said a friend was insistent on speaking with Pierce. He picked up the receiver, and a menacing voice sneered, “I’m going to kill you.”
“So now I’m really paranoid,” Pierce says. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.
“I think that’s the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn’t work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that’s where I felt safe. I didn’t want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me.”
“I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce admits. “It was eating me alive. Once I finally started talking to a family member, it helped me.
“I realized, ‘I should have done this sooner.’ I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad — really bad. I never want to feel that way again.”
This is one small excerpt of MacMullan’s incredible piece on mental health in the NBA. I highly recommend reading it in full.