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 wondering if Lionel Messi would really leave Barcelona…
Klay Thompson. Making the All-Star cut at the guard spot in the West is going to be pretty much like getting into Harvard — some incredible people will be left out. (That includes actual Harvard grad Jeremy Lin.) Klay Thompson is likely going to be one of those on the outside looking in, but he made a nice case for inclusion Wednesday — 40 points on 25 shots as the Warriors talent just overwhelmed the Pacers in the second half. Thompson was a big part of that with 15 points in the third quarter when the Warriors started to take control and 12 more as they sealed it in the fourth. He was 6-of-11 from three. He is playing like an All-Star, the only problem is in the Western Conference that’s not enough.
Darren Collison and Sacramento Kings. The Darren Collison pickup has been a lot better for Sacramento than I thought it would be and the point guard was key in the Kings putting together their best performance in a while and routing the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had 24 points and he also drew the defensive assignment on Russell Westbrook and helped lead him to an off night (although Westbrook contributed plenty on his end to that cause). Rudy Gay had 28 points, DeMarcus Cousins 23, but the real key was that the Kings played the best defense they have in a long time. Sacramento contested 48 percent of OKC’s shot attempts and the Thunder hit just 27.9 percent of those (via NBA.com). Of course, the Thunder hit just 37 percent of their uncontested looks, it was that kind of night for them, but the Kings should be happy after this one.
Chicago Bulls/Oklahoma City Thunder. What. Was. That. Two of the league’s power teams just got destroyed on Wednesday night. Both looked flat and disinterested. That’s not the fault of Dion Waiters (who was 1-of-9 shooting). That’s not the fault of Derrick Rose. Or the polar vortex. Or Barack Obama. Or North Korean hackers. All credit to the Kings and Jazz who both played well, but this was just one of those nights for two good teams. The thing is, the Bulls can afford to have these off nights, they are in a solid spot in the East. However, the Thunder now have had a couple bad games in a row on the road in Cali and they can’t really afford it — they are four games back of the eight-seed Suns, with the Pelicans in between them. We keep waiting for the Thunder to go on a run and just blow by everyone into a playoff seed, but the fact is those teams above them are pretty good with playoff dreams of their own and are not just going to roll over. OKC needs some wins.
Atlanta Hawks. Another day, another Hawks win against a powerhouse team. Today it was Memphis’ turn to learn the Hawks are for real. Memphis got the kind of ugly, scrappy game they thrive in and the Hawks beat them at their own game with a 96-86 win. This was an 84-84 game with three minutes left and the Hawks simply executed better down the stretch — Al Horford hit shots, Jeff Teague hit a key three and the Hawks pulled away. Let’s all say it together again — the Hawks are for real.