Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching your bracket go up in flames on the first day…
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. Credit the Milwaukee Bucks, they would not roll over, they fought and made Golden State work for it. Stephen Curry was the guy that was not going to let the Warriors pick up an ugly loss at home (especially not with the Spurs and Grizzlies the next two teams on the schedule). Curry scored 14 of his 31 in the fourth quarter, plus he had 11 assists on the night, to hold off the Bucks. Plus he did this.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. He picked up the last five of his 35 points on the night when Scott Brooks had to put him (and Derek Fisher and Serge Ibaka) back in the game when what had been a Thunder blowout came apart when the Cavaliers showed some fight and went on a 16-0 run. The reason it was a blow out before that had a lot to do with Durant and his teammates playing an efficient game (with Russell Westbrook out). KD had his 35 on 12-of-21 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists plus his 14th technical of the year for starting down Anderson Varejao after a dunk.
Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves. Must be something about March. A year ago Dieng was a key part of Louisville’s run to a national title, but the rookie has struggled to find a place in the NBA. Then on the day the NCAA Tournament opens the Minnesota reserve big man has his best game of the season — 22 points, 21 rebound, and 4 assists. Sure, the Timberwolves were just destroyed by the Rockets, but it should be about developing guys for the Timberwolves and this was a good sign. Plus Dieng was part of the highlight of the game.
Wesley Mathews, Portland Trail Blazers. Portland had some good ball movement in this one, they looked more like the team from the first months of the season on Thursday night. The big beneficiary was Wesley Mathews who had 28 points and knocked down 4-of-9 from three. Damian Lillard and John Wall had a fun point guard duel, but it was the better team play of the Blazers and guys like Mathews that made the difference.
It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.
Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.
The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.
Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).
Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.
If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.
Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).
With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.
Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.
Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.
The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.
It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.
Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.
Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).
One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.