A seven-game slate Tuesday saw a series of upsets across the NBA Wednesday (although not of Golden State, which remains undefeated at 12-0), huge performances, and a couple of surprises. In case you were busy chasing zebras around the streets of Philadelphia, here are five things you need to know from an NBA Tuesday.
1) Knicks’s fans treat emergence of Kristaps Porzingis as greatest thing to hit city since pizza slices. New Yorkers have long been known for their even keel, their measured reactions to things. So the fact that rookie Kristaps Porzingis has emerged as a legit player and a ray of hope for the franchise in his first month in the league — much faster than even his most fervent supporters back at the draft expected — has been greeted in the rational manner you’d expect.
For example, some Knicks fans have taken to calling him “Godzingis.”
Porzingis dropped 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting, plus grabbed 11 rebounds on the Hornets Tuesday night, leading New York to a 102-94 win with his best game to date. He’s the first Knick rookie to put up 27-and-10 since Patrick Ewing — and Porzingis isn’t even 21 yet. While there wasn’t one of his signature putback dunks he showed off a varied and impressive offensive arsenal against Charlotte, scoring on jumpers from the elbow, pull-up jumpers, left-handed floaters, quick-hit elbow jumpers, pick-and-pop threes, baseline moves and jumpers, and most importantly he showed toughness finishing through contact. That was the concern back when Knicks fans booed the pick on draft night — they feared Phil Jackson had drafted a soft Euro. Andrea Bargnani 2.0. But Porzingis has a lot of grit to his game — he wants to defend, to hit the glass, he doesn’t shy away from physical play. He had five double-doubles this season, and while his game has a lot of room for improvement, still he can contribute right now.
He’s a piece the Knicks can use to start really rebuilding with (throw in Langston Galloway and Jerian Grant and you have a few pieces of what could become a good Knicks team in a few years). Which is why the “Por-zing-is Por-zing-is” chants that rang through Madison Square Garden Tuesday night may become a regular thing. New York loves him today.
2) Beasting Andre Drummond leads Pistons come-from-behind win over Cavaliers. Detroit had dropped four straight on a West Coast road swing, but they looked far more comfortable back in the Motor City Tuesday, coming from behind to beat the Cavaliers 104-99. That starts with Andre Drummond, who dropped what seems a routine 25 points on 10-15 shooting, plus grabbing 18 rebounds. The Cavs tried to go hack-a-Drummond, he hit three-of-four free throws and squashed that (intentionally fouling backfired on the Cavs in this one). Drummond also played some good defense down the stretch switching onto LeBron James when the Cavaliers’ tried to post him up. Reggie Jackson returned to form for the Pistons, outplaying the Cavs mix-and-match point guards down the stretch. Cleveland had their chances late in this one but Kevin Love just missed a couple clean looks, and they had a turnover in there when LeBron thought he knew where Mo Williams would be but was wrong. The Cavs did not impress late, the Pistons did and got the W.
3) LeBron James passed Jerry West for 19th on NBA all-time scoring list. With a wide-open corner three late in the first quarter Tuesday, LeBron moved past Jerry West into 19th all-time on the NBA scoring list (LeBron finished with 30 on the night). Next up, Reggie Miller (LeBron is going to move up the ranks fast this season, he could get up to 11 or 12 this season).
4) Anthony Davis suffers apparently minor shoulder. Because the Pelicans didn’t have enough injury issues, their best player in Davis was clearly bothered by his shoulder and had to leave the game in the first half not to return (he just missed another Pelicans loss). Not good, but apparently not as bad as it could have been. After the game coach Alvin Gentry said that Davis will travel with the team to Oklahoma City and he is questionable for Wednesday night. I’d be surprised to see him that soon — the Pelicans will be cautious a year with their star — but it doesn’t sound serious. If Davis sits, expect Alexis Ajinca to get the start (he did in the second half Tuesday).
5) Brook Lopez‘s defense, Thaddeus Young free throws lift Nets over Hawks. Brook Lopez is not a guy with a great defensive reputation… okay, that is far too kind. He’s not seen as a good defender at all. But this season he’s been improved. He showed that at the end of the Nets win over the Hawks — with the game tied 88-88 Lopez twice nicely shut down the Dennis Schroder/Al Horford 1/5 pick-and-roll the Hawks wanted to use to start their play, which forced Schroder to try to create on his own. He slipped, got up, had to force up a shot and missed, but Paul Millsap got the rebound and what looked like an easy putback — and Lopez blocked it. Great defensive sequence by Lopez. All that led to a Nets fast break where Thaddeus Young drew the foul, eventually hit the free throws, and the Nets got the win.
Don’t look now, but the Nets have played better of late — wins over the Hawks and Rockets, with close losses to the Kings and Warriors. Not a bad last four games.