We know you were watching the College Football Playoff (was there anyone rooting for Alabama outside that state?). We get it. It was just a three-game NBA schedule, here’s what you need to know.
1) Another day, another win for the Spurs and Warriors. Right now there are two clear best teams in the NBA: Golden State and San Antonio. (Cleveland may get there; Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clippers are close but just short.) Monday night the NBA’s best just kept right on rolling.
It almost seemed unfair that the day after Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov blew his organization up they would have to face the league’s steadiest, best-run franchise. The Spurs win seemed preordained. The Nets had that “we better play hard for the new coach” energy to start the game, but it faded. The Spurs began to pull away in the second, their ball movement shredded the Brooklyn defense, and by the fourth it was garbage time (which the Spurs dominated also). LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 11 boards, Kawhi Leonard added 17. The Spurs are just a machine with great execution, and undisciplined teams such as the Nets usually just get steamrolled.
Golden State was at home, where they were already 17-0 on the season, which was bad news for Miami. The Heat hung around for a half, but at the break Luke Walton reached into Steve Kerr bag of playoff adjustments — he assigned big man Andrew Bogut to guard Heat rookie wing Justise Winslow. (Remember, this is what the Warriors did to Tony Allen of Memphis last playoffs and it changed the series.) Winslow is reluctant to shoot from the midrange (24 shots in 35 games) and is shooting just 22.7 percent from three — the Warriors dared the kid to make them pay for keeping Bogut in to protect the paint. It worked. The Warriors started to pull away in the third, and their bench took over from there (although Miami was good enough to not let it become a total blowout). Stephen Curry was a -3 on the night (all the Warriors starters were in the negative), but he did still drop 31 points.
2) Joakim Noah returned to Chicago’s lineup, but the Bulls’ defense is still slumping. In their last five games, the Chicago Bulls are allowing 106.6 points per 100 possessions, making them a bottom 10 defensive team. Defensive stalwart Noah returned to the lineup on Monday and, well, that wasn’t the problem. The Wizards controlled the pace and scored at a 112.4 points per 100 pace on their way to a comfortable 114-100 win over the Bulls. Washington wants back in the playoffs (they are two games out of the eight seed) and played with that kind of desperation — plus injuries (no Marcin Gortat) forced them into more small ball, and Chicago had no answer. Fred Hoiberg tried to go bigger at times, but the Wizards targeted Doug McDermott when that happened and he could not defend the small lineups of Washington. John Wall had 17 to lead seven Wizards in double digits — and he even welcomed Noah back by blocking him at the rim.
3) Sage advice fom Dwyane Wade to the Warriors: “Enjoy it.” Both players and fans of good teams need to stop sometime and savor the moment when things are going right. It’s not just about getting rings, it’s about the journey and the little moments. Miami’s Dwyane Wade tried to pass that idea along, via Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.
“I was talking to Andre Iguodala after the game and I told him, ‘Listen, enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted. Myself, Chris Bosh, UD (Udonis Haslem), and Chris (Andersen) have been there before and won. When it’s gone, it’s different. You got to enjoy it.’”