Just to be clear, if you’re a basketball coach and you headbutt a referee, you should be headed to jail. There is no excuse, it is assault. That has nothing to do with the night in the NBA, just wanted to make that point. Here’s what you need to know from a four-game slate in the Association Tuesday.
1) Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams rip the heart out of Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins was brilliant Tuesday night — 35 points, 17 rebounds, six steals, four assists — and even sent the game to overtime with a driving layup. Then he played brilliantly in the second overtime and had the Kings up five and looking like they would pick up a quality win.
But then Dirk Nowitzki did this to make it close.
Followed by Derron Williams faking Rudy Gay with the pump fake, and then draining the game-winning three at the buzzer.
2) Klay Thompson goes off, and it’s just another night at the office for Warriors. If your team is playing the Warriors, here is a good rule of thumb: Stick with Klay Thompson at the arc. Do not give the man clean looks. The Lakers chose to ignore that advice. Anthony Brown kind of lazily played back on Thompson early and gave him some space (on the night, 13 of Thompson’s 22 shots were uncontested) and Thompson knocked down the looks and started to get hot. After that it didn’t matter how close Brown or anyone else got because Thompson was feeling it — he had 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, 4-of-7 from three, all just in the first quarter.
“I was just getting open shots,” Thompson said. “Running the break. Running off screens. Have to get credit to my big guys, setting good screens. Just having no hesitation about it, letting it fly.”
Thompson finished with 36, Stephen Curry refuses to accept injury, and the Warriors cruised to a 109-88 win. Just another day at the office for a 33-2 team. The Lakers defended the arc poorly and didn’t get back in transition defense well, the two cardinal sins against Golden State. I think Metta World Peace summed this game up best.
—Kurt Helin from Staples Center in Los Angeles
3) The Knicks have already won as many games as they did all of last season. Carmelo Anthony and Arron Afflalo each had 23 points, Kristaps Porzingis added 17, and the Knicks just swept a home-and-home from the Atlanta Hawks, looking good doing it. The Knicks are looking like a team — Anthony came rushing to the defense of Porzingis when there was a scuffle on the court. All is right with New York.
Last season the Knicks went 17-65, on their way to the No. 4 pick in the draft. This season they are 17-19 and just 2.5 games out of the playoffs in the shockingly deep East. Maybe Phil Jackson actually knows what he’s doing.
4) JaVale McGee still knows how to throw it down. McGee has become known as much for his mental miscues as anything, leaving people to forget the man is a freakish athlete for a big who should have won the dunk contest over Blake Griffin and his Kia — McGee knows how to finish. Just ask the Kings, he still can.
5) Jimmy Butler drops 32, Derrick Rose returns, Bulls offense keeps clicking and they keep winning. Going back to Christmas Day, the Chicago Bulls have an offensive rating of 111.7 points per 100 possessions, third best in the NBA behind only the Spurs and Thunder. Yes, since Christmas the Bulls have been better on offense than the Warriors, the Clippers and everyone else. They are starting to find their groove, beginning with Jimmy Butler and going down the line.
Jimmy Butler had 32 Tuesday, Pau Gasol 26, Derrick Rose 17 and the Bulls comfortably handled the Bucks 117-106. Chicago has found an offensive identity, so it seems, and with that are looking like the clear second best team in the East. There are a couple better tests coming up this week — Boston and Atlanta — but Chicago has become a team to watch. And Butler is playing like the kind of guy you build your franchise around.