A little reading recommendation: Yago Colas has a book coming out called “Ball Don’t Lie” talking about the intersection of hoops, language, culture, politics and more and how it shapes the sport we love. It looks compelling, and you can preorder it now. Also, here’s what you need to know from a four-game slate Tuesday in the NBA:
1) Anthony Davis drops 35 on Timberwolves, Pelicans get needed win. If the New Orleans Pelicans are going to make a push and get back in the playoff picture in the West, it’s going to happen now — Tuesday marked the start of a seven-game homestand. Anthony Davis understood the urgency. Davis put up 22 points in the first half when the Timberwolves had built a 17-point lead — without Davis this game would have been over by half. Davis did most of his damage with Kevin Garnett covering him — KG was a step slow to contest Davis’ jumper most of the night and paid for it. Then when Minnesota inevitably blew their lead (they have led by 17 or more nine times this season and lost five of those games) it was Davis who got to the line, scored a dozen in the final frame, and secured the Pelicans victory.
New Orleans is still four games back of Utah for the last playoff spot in the West, and they are going to have to hop Portland and Sacramento to get there, but it’s not impossible. The Pelicans’ schedule isn’t brutal in the second half, but they need to string together wins. And they are going to have to do it without Eric Gordon, who fractured his finger and is likely out a month.
2) Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on the same team is just not fair. Oklahoma City is still trying to figure out what to do with the starting shooting guard slot — nobody seems to be consistent there. Against Denver Tuesday, when it was the four lock starters — Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams — and Andre Roberson (who started), the Pelicans were -9. Sub in Dion Waiters for Roberson and the Thunder were +10. But we all know the next night Waiters could be the issue. It will be interesting to see if the Thunder try to address this at the trade deadline.
What the Thunder have are Durant and Westbrook, who cover up a lot of those flaws, and are the reason OKC got a 110-104 win in the mile high altitude. Durant led the way with 30 points and 12 rebounds, while Westbrook added 27 — but he was the highlight factory for a night.
3) Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked on Hassan Whiteside. Westbrook was impressive, but the Greek Freak had the dunk of the night, powering through Dwyane Wade then throwing it down on arguably the best shot blocker in the game. And the Bucks got the 91-79 win.