PBT’s Sunday Night Winners/Losers: Anthony Davis is playing like an MVP

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while being glad you didn’t get surgery to look like Kim Kardashian….

source:  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans. Nobody has an answer for Anthony Davis this season. You would think the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder might, as they have Serge Ibaka in the paint and a handful of other defensive-minded bigs to throw at him. Nope. Sunday night Davis was too much for everyone and put up 38 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a New Orleans win. He did most of his damage at the rim but also was 5-of-8 from the midrange and it didn’t matter if the Thunder defended him will — he was 8-of-11 on contested shots. This season he has been the best player in the NBA, hands down. A lot of voters will only seriously consider a player for MVP if his team is doing well (almost all the winners come from top 4 teams that year) but Davis’ play has to merit serious consideration this season. And when he gets help — like from Jrue Holiday playing good defense on Russell Westbrook — the Pelicans do win. I just wish New Orleans would keep going to him down the stretch, rather than having their guards decide to try to take over.

source:  • Kobe Bryant. He said after the Lakers loss to the Thunder Friday he was tired and feeling it in his legs. Kobe was 8-of-30 shooting against the Kings Sunday night (scoring 25 points), is 11-of-45 (24.4 percent) over his last two games and 33-of-113 (29.2 percent) in his last five games. Byron Scott has got to give the man a night or two off to rest, then run some sets for other guys even when Kobe is on the court. But that will really be up to Bryant as he has all the power in the organization (why do you think when the Lakers needed a game winner against the Thunder a clearly exhausted Kobe got his number called for an isolation set).

source:  • DeMarcus Cousins. The Lakers simply had no answer for the physicality of Cousins in the paint, and down the stretch the Kings leaned on him virtually every time down (New Orleans, this is what I’m talking about). The Lakers tried Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, going small and then eventually doubling — which is when Cousins kicked the ball out to shooters, the reason Ben McLemore had a career high of 23. Cousins had 29 points and 14 rebounds. When he is playing like this the Kings are a dangerous team. No matter who is the coach.

source:  • LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. That is a quality win. The Cavaliers had little trouble with one of the best teams in the NBA so far this season, dismissing the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday behind 25 points from LeBron James. (To be fair, no Zach Randolph or Tony Allen for Memphis). Again it was all about the Cavaliers offense which carved up a usually stout Memphis defense and shot 60.5 percent overall and hit 7-of-14 from three.

source:  • New York Knicks. Did you know that after Sunday’s ugly Knicks loss to the Raptors (118-108, and it wasn’t that close) and the Sixers win over the Magic, the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers are tied in the standings? It’s true. At 5-25 the Knicks are 18 games back of the conference-leading Raptors, and so are the 3-23 Sixers. The Knicks are percentage points ahead of the Sixers in the standings, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact they are terrible.

Report: No second bubble, scrimmages or practices for other eight NBA teams

Bulls guard Coby White vs. Hawks
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The on-again, off-again idea of a second bubble? The on-again, off-again idea of the eight NBA teams not continuing at Disney World even scrimmaging or practicing?

It’s all looking unlikely.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic:

There is growing belief among the NBA’s eight franchises not in Orlando that a second bubble site being built for minicamps and intrasquad scrimmages will not happen, sources tell The Athletic. There is pessimism about in-market minicamps for group workouts happening as well.

“There’s nothing happening,” one GM told The Athletic after a Tuesday call between the eight GMs and league officials. “It’s a shame. It’s a huge detriment to these eight franchises that were left behind.”

I’m so sick of some of these eight teams whining. They’re not playing because they weren’t good enough to qualify for the resumption. Deal with it. Every year, some teams get eliminated before others. This is different in degree, not kind.

Besides, are these eight teams watching the high level of play in the bubble? After a long layoff, teams look energetic and fresh. Long offseasons could give the eight eliminated teams an advantage next season.

Playing basketball safely amid the coronavirus pandemic is costly – both in terms of operational expenses and lifestyle sacrifices for participants. It’s worthwhile for the continuing 22 teams because the revenue being produced by the resumption.

That wouldn’t necessarily be the case for the other eight teams. Maybe there’s value in fulfilling local TV contracts, but the remaining games are a poor product. Scrimmages and practices would be even less marketable. Impending free agents especially have little reason to care about continuing.

I understand why many of the eight teams want to do something. But it’s probably just not worth it.

Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. out for season with torn left meniscus

Jaren Jackson torn meniscus
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Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 22 points and was the best Grizzlies player against the Pelicans on Monday night, showing off his athleticism and touch from three.

He also tore the meniscus in his left knee during the game, the Grizzlies announced Tuesday.

Even with the short offseason, Jackson should be ready to play at the start of next season.

This is a serious blow to the Grizzlies, who are 0-3 in the bubble and now just lost their best player through those three games. He has been the best source of offense for the Grizzlies in the bubble, feasting on defenders who cannot match his speed.

Jackson, a 6’11” big out of Michigan State, averaged 17.4 points and 4.6 rebounds a game this season, shooting 39.4% from three. He’s still developing, but he looks like a classic modern big — can protect the rim, can post up or make plays from the elbow, and can shoot the three — who is developing a strong chemistry with Ja Morant. They could be the cornerstones of the Grizzlies’ future.

First, Jackson has to get healthy.

Watch Devin Booker drain turnaround game-winner to beat Clippers

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Devin Booker is a serious problem.

The Suns All-Star guard scored his 34th and 35th points of the night on a turnaround game-winner at the buzzer= over Paul George — who defended him well. He called game.

Ivica Zubac opened the door for Booker to win it. The Suns had the ball with 31 seconds to go and the Clippers — Kawhi Leonard in particular — defended it well, forcing Ricky Rubio into a difficult, high-arcing shot he missed. Zubac did a good job grabbing the rebound, but then he hurried the outlet pass and Mikal Bridges tipped it, Deandre Ayton grabbed it, and the Suns got to reset and take one more shot.

Devin Booker took the final shot, a game-winner. That man is a problem.

The bubble Suns are now 3-0.

As 19-point underdogs, Nets top Bucks in biggest NBA upset since 1993

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nets big Donta Hall
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The Nets looked like one of NBA’s the worst continuing teams. They were underwhelming during the regular season, and their roster was decimated entering seeding games. Brooklyn had even more absences against the Bucks today.

No Caris LeVert. No Joe Harris. No Jarrett Allen.

But despite entering the game as 19-point underdogs, the Nets upset the Bucks, 119-116.

David Purdum of ESPN:

Obviously, Milwaukee is way better than Brooklyn overall. But the Bucks didn’t have much incentive to chase a victory. They’ve already all but clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Starters Brook Lopez and Wesley Matthews didn’t play. Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton didn’t play in the second half.

That created an opening for the Nets, who blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead then rallied to win.

What they lacked in talent, both teams made up for in effort – and feistiness.

Antetokounmpo was restrained from Brooklyn big Donta Hall after getting knocked down during a second-quarter tussle for a rebound:

That stood out in an eventful game for the Nets.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot led Brooklyn with 26 points. Jamal Crawford looked assertive early, but he left the game with a hamstring injury. And Jacque Vaughn got what could be considered a signature victory if the Nets were already favoring keeping him as coach.

Should anyone overreact to a game played under these conditions? No. But for a Brooklyn team overmatched in the bubble, this was at least a feel-good – and historic – moment.