It was a big day around the NBA — we could have expanded this to seven (or more) takeaways easy. We didn’t. So you can read about Al Jefferson being out for six weeks or Derrick Rose sitting the game Wednesday out in other posts. Here are the five things you need to know from an NBA Wednesday.
1) Stephen Curry sits, and the Warriors’ offense falls apart. The Mavericks blew them out. The good news for Warriors fans is that the MRI came back negative — there is nothing structurally wrong with Curry’s left leg. Still, the Warriors are going to keep their eyes on the big prize and be cautious about bringing him back.
Even if it costs them games, as it did Thursday night. The Warriors without Curry (and Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa and Harrison Barnes) lacked any flow on the offensive end. Klay Thompson couldn’t get open (eight of his 15 shots were contested), the ball didn’t move as well, the spacing was off, Shaun Livingston started for Curry but couldn’t exploit his size differential over J.J. Barea, and, in the end, the Warriors struggled defensively to stop a good Dallas team. This game wasn’t close, Dallas led by as many as 30 and won 114-91. It happens. Dallas earned an easy win, but nobody is reading anything into this game.
2) Kobe says goodbye to Boston Garden by sticking dagger in Celtics one last time. Ask Kobe what title means the most to him of his five, and he will talk about 2010 — because the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics. There was respect and it flowed both ways — something the classy Celtics showed before the game giving Kobe a piece of the parquet.
The crowd cheered him before the game and mock booed him during it. That was fun. And as it has been all season for him, what the fans wanted and what he can deliver is just a few turn-back-the-clock moments a night. So after Jordan Clarkson softened them up with 24 points, Kobe scored nine in the second half of the fourth quarter, including the dagger that sealed the Lakers’ win.
3) Cleanthony Early could play again this season, which is amazing news. The scariest news of the day in the NBA came in the early morning — Knicks’ second-year player Early was robbed at gun point after leaving a strip club in Queens, then was shot in the leg. The good news was that the bullet did not cause any serious structural damage, and Early could return to the Knicks again this season following surgery. This could have ended so much worse. It’s going to be interesting to follow this investigation — this was a robbery clearly done by pros, and it appears Early was targeted.
4) Jimmy Butler has game-winning tip-in for Bulls. No Derrick Rose for Chicago (tight hamstring), and when they got in a close, back-and-forth battle with Paul George and the Pacers the question was who would be the closer for the Bulls. Turns out they can run plays rather than just isolation sets in the final minute, and at the end of regulation and overtime it was Butler stepping up and finishing, such as hitting a crucial three in the final minute of regulation to help force OT. None of his buckets, however, was bigger than the alley-oop finish off a Pau Gasol pass to win the game.
This is the kind of win quality teams get — beating a good team without a key starter. The Bulls have strung together some quality play since Christmas and maybe, just maybe, they are starting to show the potential we saw on paper.
5) Sixers outhustle, outplay, beat Kings for another win. Philadelphia is 2-1 since Ish Smith was brought in to run the point, or since Mike D’Antoni joined the bench if you prefer. They are playing hard as they have all season; now they just have a guy at the point who understands how to run the show. That was enough to get them a 110-105 win over Sacramento Wednesday.
The Kings, on the other hand, do not bring it every night — much to the frustration of coach George Karl. One game after ending a press conference saying “I’m done, I’m frustrated“, Karl called out his team’s defense and effort after this loss. He should also call out the turnovers (22 in this game), as CSN Kings’ insider James Ham said in the PBT Podcast, this team just doesn’t value possessions. The Kings have lost three straight, and it feels like they could be falling into a downward spiral.