Three things we learned Thursday: The Warriors are who we thought they were

Getty Images
15 Comments

Thursday night the eyes of the NBA were focused on the Bay Area, as were ours. Here’s a recap of what you should have learned from the Thursday night slate of games around the league.

1) Golden State is figuring everything out, Kevin Durant is unstoppable, The Destructor’s form has been chosen.
So much for that slow start to the season…

Kevin Durant is not going to be able to change the narrative this season — for many fans he is a traitor to a small market team he helped build, he took the easy path to a ring (as if there is an easy path), the Warriors are the villains — but that doesn’t make the potential in Golden State any less real. The Warriors unleashed the full force of their machine on the previously undefeated Thunder Thursday night, and it was an awesome show. Oklahoma City was basically Alderaan. A fired-up Durant was everywhere, scoring 39, hitting seven threes, and playing strong defense.

By the way, Oklahoma City had the best defense in the NBA as of Thursday morning, and Golden State just toyed with it starting in the second quarter — OKC had allowed 88 points per 100 possessions through four games, the Warriors put up 123. It wasn’t just KD, the Warriors kept getting Steven Adams switched onto Stephen Curry, then Curry would blow by him and get the shot he wanted. A lot of Warriors got the shots they wanted.

More importantly, the Warriors are playing strong defense again. Russell Westbrook was just 4-of-15 shooting, as a team the Thunder shot 40.2 percent (with a true shooting percentage of 48.3, well below average). Look at OKC’s second-quarter shot chart (hat tip Nate Duncan), and notice the shots at the rim.

Thunder shotcart

When Golden State plays like this, when focused and motivated, maybe one or two teams in the NBA stand a chance to steal a game. To win four-out-of-seven against the Warriors when they play like this… good luck with that.

2) The best part of the Thunder/Warriors game was Durant and Westbrook blocking each other’s shots.
Okay, the best part was Westbrook showing up to the game in a photographer’s vest, which no matter what he says was a dig at Durant. But Westbrook and Durant rejected each other’s shots during the game and it was fun.

3) LeBron James is 5-0 to start the season for the first time in his career. One team that looks like a threat to Golden State is in the East — the defending champs and the NBA’s only undefeated team. Cleveland brushed aside a short-handed Boston team Thursday (no Al Horford or Jae Crowder), and Cleveland seemingly has picked up right where it left off last season. Don’t take my word for it.

LeBron was the ridiculous version of himself we’ve come to take for granted — 30 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds — but what has been most impressive is that for much of this young season he has pulled back. As he has done the past couple of seasons, we see a largely restrained LeBron during the regular season as he paces himself so he can unleash his full force in the playoffs. The difference has been that peak Kyrie Irving — playing with a post-Olympics bounce — and the rest of the Cavaliers have stepped it up. Tristan Thompson was a force against the Celtics, with 15 points on seven shots, plus 14 boards. Oh, and he did this to poor Tyler Zeller.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
0 Comments

Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.