Sunday’s slate of games was fairly uninspiring, with no marquee matchups to speak of; even the two games that went into overtime and double overtime ended up being won by the team that was expected to do so.
But the players that shined the brightest might say otherwise, and the ones we’ve chosen as our Three Stars of the Night all happen to be guards who carried their respective teams to victory.
Third Star: Rajon Rondo — 15 points, 16 assists, 9 rebounds, 37th straight game with 10+ assists
As usual, Rondo did it all for the Celtics.
This one was especially important, not only because Boston held off a scrappy Orlando team in overtime for the victory, but because this was Rondo’s 37th consecutive game with 10 or more assists, which tied John Stockton for second most all-time. Next up is Magic Johnson and the record, which stands at 46 and which Rondo will undoubtedly surpass — one way or another.
Second Star: Tony Parker — 32 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists in double-OT win over the Raptors
The Spurs shouldn’t need double overtime to dispose of the Toronto Raptors. San Antonio — even without Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson who are out due to injury — is far better from an execution standpoint, and the Raptors have had a series of heartbreaking losses this season because of their simple inability to do exactly what the Spurs do best.
Despite the extra sessions required, Parker made sure the result was the one we all predicted. 11 of his 32 points came in the two overtime sessions, and his ability to get into the paint to get some easy looks when everything for Toronto offensively seemed to be a struggle helped make the difference.
First Star: Jrue Holiday — Career-high 33 points, 13 assists
This is the type of game the Sixers needed to win — at home, against a team where the matchup was fairly even.
Holiday made sure Philadelphia got that W, playing big all night long, but especially down the stretch of a close game. This one was a low-turnover contest with both teams shooting a relatively high percentage, and all that was needed to come out with the win was for someone on either team to step up with a superstar performance.
That was Holiday in this one, and we’ll let his shot chart tell the rest of the story.
Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George’s sloppy first game shows promise
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Kawhi Leonard, Paul George’s first game together is both sloppy and shows moments of real promise. This was what the Clippers had been waiting for since July, what they had paid a steep price to make a reality and change the course of a franchise.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard shared an NBA court for the first time and it was…
A bit awkward, like a blind first date. Credit Boston’s active defense for some of that — it’s not a fluke Boston has the seventh-best defense in the league this season and forced 23 turnovers on the night — but through the muck there were moments of real promise. Like the first play of the game, when the Celtics trapped Leonard off an Ivica Zubac pick, Leonard fed Zubac, who quickly found Leonard for a three.
For much of the game, things were not as smooth with those two on the court together — as should be expected. George missed the first 11 games of the season following double shoulder surgery this offseason. Once he returned, Leonard was out three games with a bruised knee. The pair had literally one practice together, and in the full-contact scrimmage to end that day they were on opposing sides.
This marriage going to take time. The Clippers didn’t even explore a Leonard/George pick-and-roll in this game, but you know that’s coming. As Doc Rivers put it postgame:
“We were kind of trying not to get in each other’s way at times, you could feel that…
“We need a lot of work, you can see that… part of that was we were trying to get the ball to guys instead of trying to score.”
With the game on the line in overtime against one of the NBA’s better and hotter teams in Boston, two things that make the Clippers so dangerous were evident.
One is the defense — George and Leonard each made big defensive plays late, including Leonard blocking Marcus Smart’s attempt at a game-winner.
All game long the Clippers length and defense gave Boston — which came into the game with the league’s fourth-best offense — trouble.
Second is Leonard and George have a good team around them — Patrick Beverley was the best Clipper on the floor Wednesday night and the team gave him the game ball afterward. He was intense on defense (as always), had 14 points and 16 boards, and with the Celtics making the choice to trap and double on offense guys were open, and it was Beverley who made Boston pay with the overtime dagger to seal a 107-104 win.
The Clippers, for all their star power, look a lot like Beverley. This is a scrappy, hard-working team with guys who play their roles and bring intensity. Even their stars are that way — George and Leonard are not anointed No. 1 picks where everyone saw their stardom coming, they are lunch pail guys who had talent but came out of smaller colleges and had to work hard to get where they are. Nothing was handed to them, they had to grind it out.
This is why pairing Leonard and George was always going to take a little time to make work. They were always going to have to figure it out.
But when they do…. you can already see why the rest of the league should be worried.
2) Another night, another ridiculous Luka Doncic triple-double. This feels like a nightly thing, and I’m fast running out of ways to praise Luka Doncic, his play, and to remind everyone that he’s just 20 years old and in his second NBA season.
Age doesn’t matter, he’s been so good he’s injected himself into the way-too-early MVP conversation. His latest feat Friday night was a 35-point, 11 assists, 10 rebound triple-double against the hapless Warriors — this time he did it in just 25 minutes on the court. He sat the entire fourth of a blowout Dallas win.
Doncic is now averaging a triple-double over his last 10 games: 31.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 10.5 assists in that stretch. Here’s the list of other NBA players to average a 30+ point triple-double for 10 games or more: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Oscar Robertson. That’s it.
Doncic is special, has willed the Mavericks to a 9-5 record, and has them looking like a playoff team in the West. Lifting up your team to the next level is what MVPs do, and so far in Dallas it’s what Doncic has done.
3) Do you believe in miracles… YES! Ben Simmons hits his first NBA three. That headline may overstate the excitement around Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons on Wednesday. But not by that much. Sixers fans — and coach Brett Brown — has had to wait three seasons, 193 games, and 18 attempts from three clank off the rim, if they hit anything at all. (Those numbers include his playoff stats.) It finally happened:
Ben Simmons has made his first NBA three.
We’ve all seen the videos of Simmons knocking down threes in an empty gym, but that’s the NBA equivalent of dunking on an 8-foot rim at the local elementary school. Not the same thing.
This was Simmons’ first attempt at a three all season — that’s the real concern. To create floor spacing Philly wants and needs, Simmons needs to be much more willing to uncork this shot — he’s got to take a bunch and make enough of them before teams respect him from deep.
This is at least a start. And it feels like a miracle.
There’s a mural in L.A. of Alex Caruso dunking over Harden, Leonard, Doncic
It’s hard to overstate how popular Alex Caruso is in Los Angeles. Seriously. This isn’t just cult status popular, when he enters the game off the bench Staples Center explodes in cheers like LeBron James just fed Anthony Davis for an alley-oop.
This is legit, it’s on the side of SportieLA, a clothing/apparel store on Melrose Ave. in the trendy heart of Los Angeles. Artist Gustavo Zermeño Jr. has done murals in the past for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other Los Angeles sports icons such as Vin Scully.
This one plays off a huge Caruso dunk from earlier this month when Dallas’ Maxi Kleber was the victim.
It’s good to be Alex Caruso in Los Angeles right now.
Kawhi Leonard just destroyed Boston’s Daniel Theis on dunk
After the game, Leonard was asked about the dunk and he responded in about the most Kawhi way possible.
Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard goes full monotone to describe blow-by-blow his poster dunk on Daniel Theis and game-sealing block: “What do you want me to say? Patrick threw me the ball, I took two dribbles into the paint and tried to jump high and dunk the basketball.” pic.twitter.com/tKkwC7REmZ
DALLAS (AP) —Luka Doncic scored 33 of his 35 points in the first half and had yet another triple-double to help the Dallas Mavericks rout the short-handed Golden State Warriors 142-94 on Wednesday night.
Doncic fell a point short of matching Dirk Nowitzki’s team record set Nov. 3, 2009, against Utah. In just 17 minutes, Doncic was 10 for 11 from the floor, making 6 of 7 3-pointers, and hit 7 of 8 free throws.
The second-year star from Slovenia had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds in the first quarter alone. He played only 25 minutes total, but still managed 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Doncic was coming off a 40-point triple-double Monday night against San Antonio, and has an NBA-best seven triple-doubles in 14 games this season.
The Mavericks never trailed and tied a franchise record with 22 3-pointers while sending Golden State to its worst loss since a 1973 playoff game.
The Warriors, who ended a seven-game losing streak by beating Memphis on Tuesday night, are an NBA-worst 3-13. Their five-year run of at the top of the NBA has collapsed under a weight of injuries, with Draymond Green out Wednesday because of right heel soreness.
With Green out, Golden State dressed only eight players, none of whom suited up for the team last season when it made the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive year.