Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: Masked Russell Westbrook just needs a cape

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while being concerned about the amount of crap (literally) left on Mount Everest

1) Russell Westbrook is a destroyer of worlds. Anytime you do something that can only be compared to Michael Jordan you are killing it. After Wednesday night’s 49-16-10 line, Russell Westbrook now has put up four straight games with a triple-double — the last guy to do that was MJ. Westbrook has been superhuman and has to be right in the middle of any MVP discussion — especially putting up these numbers days after surgery to his face that forced him to wear a mask. Westbrook’s 49 points against a better-than-you-think Sixers defense moved him past James Harden as the leading scorer in the NBA this season. Westbrook now averages 27 points a game, Harden 26.9. OKC needed this game (the Pelicans remain one back for the final playoff spot in the West), and Westbrook got it for them. Maybe what has impressed me most about Westbrook is we have seen numerous other athletes in other sports come back from injuries and it takes a while to get over the mental hurdle, to play fearlessly again. Not Westbrook. Mask or no mask he only knows how to attack.

2) Get that man some coffee: Marc Gasol is a closer. You’ll hear this heading into the playoffs: “But who are the Grizzlies going to give to ball to when they need to close out games? They don’t have that star.” Show them video of this game — Marc Gasol knows how to close. Alec Baldwin would get him coffee. Houston was rightfully frustrated after not getting a foul call on Harden at the other end, but the final play shows why the Rockets need Dwight Howard back for the postseason. Terrence Jones had another strong game for the Rockets, but for much of the key parts of the game Kevin McHale had him matched up on Gasol. Jones tried but he is not going to win that matchup, and he didn’t with the game on the line.

3) Anthony Davis returned and reminded us he’s as good as anyone. Here’s a name nobody is mentioning anymore in the MVP race but should be in your five-man ballot: Anthony Davis. He missed five games with his shoulder injury but was back Wednesday and had 39 points and 13 rebounds. The Pistons defended him, but Davis hit 13-of-17 contested shots. That’s insane. In the final minute, he knocked down two midrange jumpers, pulled down a rebound, and altered the potential game-tying three. Oklahoma City likely gets the eight seed but the Davis and his Pelicans are not going away.

4) Portland in the NBA Finals? It could happen. The Trail Blazers have become my dark horse team to come out of the West and this game shows why. Portland was down 10 inside three minutes to go but they close games well, they have a defense with size in the paint (hello Robin Lopez) that can get stops, they have a good defender on the perimeter in Wes Mattews, and they have guys who can knock down threes. Damian Lillard missed his first 12 shots yet Portland was able to grind out a good win against the Clippers. With the addition of Arron Afflalo, there’s just a lot to like in Portland.

5) Charlotte looked like a playoff team knocking-off Brooklyn. If you watched this game you would have had no idea these two teams came into Wednesday tied for the eighth seed in the East — Charlotte was clearly the better squad. The Hornets went on a 27-4 first quarter run, and that was about it for the game — Charlotte moved the ball better on offense and defended better on defense. Mo Williams was brilliant again for them, helping save their season. There are six teams battling for two playoff spots in the East, I like Charlotte’s chances. And remember, the Hornets get Kemba Walker back soon from injury — they are only getting better.

There’s a mural in L.A. of Alex Caruso dunking over Harden, Leonard, Doncic

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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.

Now Caruso has his own mural in Los Angeles.

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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

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Daniel Theis‘ play as a rim protector is one of the reasons Boston has a top-10 defense this season. He has anchored the Celtics’ defense in the paint.

Kawhi Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP, and if he wants to go to the rim nobody is stopping him. Theis found out the hard way.

After the game, Leonard was asked about the dunk and he responded in about the most Kawhi way possible.

This was the first game Leonard and Paul George played together and they combined for 42 points, and they both made key play down the stretch of a 107-104 overtime win.

It took Luka Doncic 25 minutes to put together 35-point triple-double (VIDEO)

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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.

Eric Paschall led the Warriors with 22 points.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth-straight double-double.

 

Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr out 2 weeks with bone bruise in foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls say forward Otto Porter Jr. has a bone bruise in his left foot and will be reassessed in two weeks.

The Bulls say a second MRI on Tuesday revealed the bruise, something “not apparent” on the first MRI.

“He had a second scan, and something showed up that didn’t show up on the first scan,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen told NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s tough, tough for him, feel bad for him. But we’ll treat him and move on.”

Chandler Hutchison had been filling in Porter’s spot in the rotation, but he is out indefinitely now with sore shins.

Porter, averaging 11.2 points in nine games, has been sidelined since he sprained his left foot at Atlanta on Nov. 6.

The Bulls were 4-10 with three straight losses heading into Wednesday’s game against Detroit.