It was a busy night on the NBA docket, but all eyes were in the Bay Area where there was a battle of the undefeated between the Warriors and Clippers. If you decided to watch Northern Illinois upset Toledo on the gridiron (and if you’re not an alum of one of those schools, why would you?), here is what you missed from an NBA Wednesday:
1) Warriors executed like champions, beat Clippers and remain undefeated. This was as good as it gets this early in the season — the players were focused, the crowd was loud, and it felt like a game that had meaning. These are the two best teams in the West right now (the Thunder have defensive issues, the Spurs’ offense is still settling in), but when it came down to crunch time Wednesday night one team was confident in its identity and system, and the other one is still figuring a few things out. It felt as close to a playoff game atmosphere as you can find in November, and just like in the playoffs the Warriors find ways to win, this time 112-108. That would be the 5-0, undefeated Warriors.
Stephen Curry dropped 31 and continues to have cheat codes for the NBA, but he alone was not why the Warriors won. They got 17 points from Harrison Barnes, 16 from Klay Thompson, and at the end of the game their defense was able to get stops. The Clippers missed their opportunities (Chris Paul not seeing an open Blake Griffin under the basket for a dunk to tie the game, plus just missing some decent looks) and Doc Rivers is still trying to settle on who will be the fifth player in crunch time (it was Austin Rivers and Lance Stephenson for defense, not Paul Pierce). Despite a strong game from CP3, Golden State won because it knew how to execute better under pressure, they know how to do the little things well.
And a few big things, like Festus Ezeli blocking a Blake Griffin dunk attempt.
I just hope we get to see these two teams go at each other in the playoffs. Basketball gods, be kind to us this year.
2) The Raptors are NBA’s only other undefeated team after beating the Thunder. Second night of a back-to-back on the road and you get Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Thunder? Before the season you chalk that up as a loss, and if you’re Gregg Popovich you rest half the team. Toronto didn’t see it that way. DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and the Raptors got the win. They were in attack mode all night and got to the line 39 times (compared to 14 for the Thunder) and that included a lot of free throws late during a 10-0 run that got them the 103-98 win. It’s early, but Toronto is 5-0, with a top 10 offense and defense, and the third best net rating in the league. Toronto looks legit.
3) Bradley Beal shakes LaMarcus Aldridge, drains game-winning three. The other East over West upset came in a game that started with a 19-2 Washington run, and yet you knew San Antonio was going to make a comeback. They did, of course, and this game was close much of the way. Tony Parker hit a shot to tie it with seven seconds left but Bradley Beal — 25 points on the night — shook LaMarcus Aldridge and drained a game winner. The Wizards are 3-1 on the young season thanks to Beal and John Wall leading them to a top-10 offense.
4) Jabari Parker is back. In his first game back following ACL surgery, Jabari Parker looked… rusty. And a bit tentative. All of which is to be expected for the Milwaukee Bucks’ scoring machine, this is going to take some time, both physically and mentally. He played just 16 minutes and was 1-6 from the floor. And none of that matters — it’s just good to see Parker back on the court. His game will come around. By the way, the Bucks beat the hapless 76ers 91-87.
5) You aren’t the only one who hates sleeves on jerseys, LeBron James is in your camp. A lot of fans just flat out hate short-sleeved jersey — you make that clear on twitter every chance you get. LeBron James agrees with you, he’s complained before about how the sleeves impact his shot, and even talked to Commissioner Adam Silver about it.
After a missed three Wednesday night, LeBron turned his tight-sleeve jersey into something a little less constricting — just using his bare hands.
That would be the ultimate rejection of the sleeved jersey concept.