The NBA season is crawling into its third week, and Sunday’s five games conveniently were spread from afternoon to evening, and featured a couple huge comebacks. If you were too busy needlessly freaking out about Starbucks’ holiday cups, here are five things you should know from an NBA Sunday.
1) Paul George looks like his old All-Star self again. But the Pacers still lost. Paul George had a couple good games this past week but Sunday he showed he is all the way back — he went head-to-head with LeBron James and held his own. George put up 32 points Sunday against James and the Cavaliers, meanwhile defending LeBron on the other end (LeBron had 29 points on 23 shots). It was an entertaining game thanks of those two, who had great clashes back in the Eastern Conference Finals and Sunday renewed that rivalry —and you could sense the mutual respect. Ultimately too much Kevin Love (22 points), a fourth-quarter 7-0 run, and a couple of LeBron free throws late sealed a Cavs win.
In the two games prior, George put up 36 and 26 points. He has shown he’s back to the All-Star, top 12 NBA player he was prior to his freakish injury playing for Team USA. What’s most interesting about this three-game run? Indiana had gone back to a larger lineup, moving George back to the three. After all the hype about the Pacers going small and George at the four (he’s spending time there still), he’s thriving back at his traditional position.
2) Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson powered the best comeback of the season. In the third quarter Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers were up by as many as 18 on the Pistons, and were still up 13 entering the fourth quarter. They seemed in control. Then Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson took over — the Pistons went on a 20-0 run at one point and won the fourth quarter 41-11, making it look like a comfortable 120-103 win when the final buzzer sounded. Drummond had 29 points and 27 rebounds in the game — that’s three 20-20 games for Drummond this season, the rest of the NBA has one. And he wasn’t even the best Piston on the floor in the fourth. After an unimpressive first three quarters (14 points on 15 shots), Jackson had 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting in the fourth
In limited run last season, Jackson and Drummond showed real chemistry. Last summer Stan Van Gundy bet on that giving Jackson an $80 million contract that was mocked in some quarters. Nobody’s laughing now. So far this season when Jackson and Drummond are on the court together the Pistons have an offensive rating of 108 points per 100 possessions, and they are +18.8 points per 100. Late in games the Pistons’ offense is essentially a Drummond/Jackson high pick and roll with shooters spacing the floor, and those two look like one of the best P&R combos in the league. Maybe SVG knew what he was doing after all.
3) Dwyane Wade passes Scottie Pippen on the all-time scoring list. He’s not exactly at the top of this list — with this bucket Dwyane Wade is now 51st all-time in the NBA in scoring. Still, he moved past Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen on Sunday (in an impressive Heat win over the Raptors), and in the next couple weeks he will track down and pass Dale Ellis and Reggie Theus.
4) Kobe Bryant may have played his last game in Madison Square Garden. The first time Kobe Bryant stepped on the court in Madison Square Garden it was 1996, and he was coming off the Lakers’ bench as a rookie. Since then he has had some of his most memorable games there, like dropping 61 on the Knicks back in 2009. Kobe had averaged 30.7 points a game in MSG coming into Sunday. The reality of where he and his Lakers are right now was on full display Sunday — Bryant had 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting, he was 2-of-10 from three, and the Lakers lost 99-95. Sunday felt like the end of an era for Kobe and his trips to NYC (he’s not coming there as a free agent next summer, just stop talking about that nonsense).
5) Kevin Durant looked good, dropping 32 on the Suns in a Thunder win. Kevin Durant does not want to talk about his pending free agency. He doesn’t have to; everyone else will do it for him. And 29 other teams will covet him so long as he keeps scoring like he did against Phoenix Sunday.