Wednesday was a day with a couple of unexpected outcomes around the NBA — Toronto beating San Antonio, Charlotte easily handling Miami. Here are five things you should know from a busy night around the Association.
1) James Harden drops 42 in Rockets victory over Wizards. Harden was terrible on Tuesday night against Brooklyn, shooting 2-of-9 on his way to 10 points while turning the ball over seven times. He took that performance personally and turned it around Wednesday against the Wizards scoring 42 points on 23 shots, including hitting 5-of-9 from three. He still had seven turnovers, but he dished out seven assists as well. The Rockets have won six-of-eight and can get to .500 with a win over the Lakers Saturday. Are the Rockets back? Well, they are playing a little better and are finally getting healthy, but they have hit a soft patch in the schedule. One of those six wins — Dallas — was against a team currently over .500, and the next four Rockets games are against sub-.500 teams. They can get into the black in wins, they are the eighth seed in the West right now, but the real tests are ahead.
2) Matt Barnes drains ill-advised, half-court game winner for Grizzlies. Teams with winning records have lost three games this season by at least 30 points. The Grizzlies have suffered all three defeats, the latest a 37-point drubbing by the Thunder on Tuesday.
Already down about that, Memphis faced its first two-game losing streak in a month, trailing the Pistons late. So, when Matt Barnes hit his way-too-early halfcourt shot, Marc Gasol had a simple reaction.
“We needed it,” Gasol said.
The Grizzlies nearly didn’t get it.
Memphis coach Dave Joerger clearly called for a 20-second timeout as soon as Barnes grabbed the rebound. Point guard Mike Conley said he, upon seeing Joerger, also requested a timeout.
“Everyone was calling timeout but me,” Barnes said. “But I didn’t see it or hear it. I just went for it.
“Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.”
“The play that we had called if they missed was to dribble three times and shoot it with four seconds on the clock from halfcourt and end the game,” Joerger said. “So, we executed very well.”
3) What team is second in the East behind Cleveland right now? Charlotte. Winners of three in a row and eight-of-10 (after a Nicolas Batum triple-double led a comfortable win over Miami Wednesday), the Charlotte Hornets are the No. 2 seed in the East as you read this. This isn’t some fluke. At +5.4 per 100 possessions, Charlotte has the best net rating (point differential per 100 possessions) in the Eastern Conference. The best. Better than Cleveland, Chicago, Boston and everyone else. Al Jefferson being out — right now with an injury and then with a five-game drug suspension for lighting up like Snoop Dog — won’t hurt too much, their defense is elite and 10 points per 100 possessions better when he is out. That Charlotte is playing this well despite Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being out for the season injured is a surprise.
4) The Timberwolves beat the Lakers — but at least the Lakers’ looked like they were developing their young players for a night. Minnesota earned this win, and Karl-Anthony Towns showed why he (not the tall, skinny kid in New York) is the early leader in the Rookie of the Year race — Towns had 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, plus pulled down 14 boards and was the focal point of much of the Timberwolves attack. Plus he played solid defense inside.
Lakers’ fans, here is why you should feel good about this loss (aside the fact you’re all on team tank now to keep your top three protected pick): Kobe Bryant didn’t play after the third quarter while D’Angelo Russell finally got the chance to close out a game. Russell had a career-high 23 points, which included the shot to tie the game at the end of regulation and force OT. This is what the Lakers should be doing nightly; this is how you bring along young players. Just know it wasn’t all Byron Scott’s idea.