Wednesday night was a full slate of 11 games around the NBA, and despite the fact some of the biggest names — LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis — were given the night off it ended up being a very entertaining show. Here’s what you missed.
1) The Warriors defense remains hit and miss, but with this offense it doesn’t matter. The Golden State Warriors gave up 121 points on the night. DeMar DeRozan scored 34 points on 18 shots. The Toronto Raptors scored a ridiculously good 118.6 points per 100 possessions (per NBA.com) with a true shooting percentage of 60.5 percent. Toronto’s offense was fantastic Wednesday night.
And they still lost, because the Warriors offense was better. The Warriors won their fifth straight 127-121. Stephen Curry had 35 points, and Kevin Durant added 30, and the Warriors scored at a 121.7 points per 100 pace.
The Warriors are allowing 105.1 points per 100 possessions this season — that’s a bottom 10 defense. It’s up to 107.5 per 100 in their last five. And it doesn’t matter, they won all five of those games, because their offense is evolving into the unstoppable tsunami everyone feared — the Warriors have averaged 121.8 points per 100 in those five, with a true shooting percentage of 65.3 percent. In those five wins, the Warriors have assisted on 74.4 percent of their buckets — they are sharing the rock, playing at a fast tempo (101.2 possessions per game), and generally just running opponents out of the building. They also are getting the shots they want: Against Toronto almost 74 percent of their shots were either at the rim or a three pointer, and 45 percent of their shots were uncontested (according to NBA.com players tracking).
The model for this Durant/Curry version of the Warriors was always that the defense would slip a little but the offense would more than make up for it. That has sort of come true — the offense is everything they could have hoped. They have 70 games to figure out how to defend better before the playoffs put everything to the test. But until then they can shoot their way to a whole lot of victories.
2) Andre Roberson gets in way of Russell Westbrook/James Harden showdown, Thunder win because of it. So much for the idea of two guys getting triple-doubles in the same game. Russell Westbrook came pretty close to holding up his end with 30 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds — he was the force of nature, the angry Russ we’ve come to expect this season.
James Harden never got close: 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting, 13 assists, seven rebounds, and six turnovers — and you can credit Andre Roberson. The Thunder put their long, best defender on Harden and he gave the bearded one trouble — of Harden’s 16 shots, 13 were contested (according to the NBA.com player tracking stats). Roberson was a disaster on the offensive end all night (2-of-11 shooting) but his defense won them the game, 105-103. Harden’s night might be summed up in the final 20 seconds, when down three he made a fantastic steal to give the Rockets hope, only to turn the ball over when he missed Trevor Ariza on the wing with the pass.
Oklahoma City as a whole found the defense that got them off to a 6-1 start — and just in time for the fourth quarter: Houston went scoreless for the final 6:26 of the fourth quarter until a late three by Eric Gordon which proved meaningless. All of which paved the way for Westbrook to decide not to kill some clock dribbling it out and wait for the foul and instead go for the dagger dunk — and nail it over Clint Capella.
It wasn’t pretty, but after four straight losses the Thunder will take it. Gladly.
3) Too much Marc Gasol at the end and Grizzlies out execute Clippers. I could watch Marc Gasol hit the game winner and do his dance all night long.
The Clippers have been the best defense in the NBA this season and yet David Fizdale’s floor-spacing Grizzlies (that’s just weird to write) thrashed them. Memphis just shot the ball well, starting with Conley (30 points) and Gasol (26), but as a team the Griz hit 15-of-26 threes and they crashed the boards hard. What Memphis has are both a four and a five who can space the floor and that pulled DeAndre Jordan and his rim protection away from the basket. Look at that game-winning three above by Gasol — Conley drove on J.J. Redick and DJ was forced to choose between protecting the rim or staying with his man in the corner. Jordan chose the rim, Gasol nailed the shot, and the Grizzlies all danced. The big problem for the Clippers is that the other top teams in the West — Golden State and San Antonio — both also have fours and fives that can space the floor and force Jordan into tough decisions.
Bonus thing we learned (that we already knew): Take the best player off a team and they can suck. We got two examples of how teams are just not the same without their star. The big one was Indiana beating Cleveland 103-93 on a night LeBron James was rested. New Orleans has struggled against everybody, but they weren’t a threat to Orlando without Anthony Davis and lost 89-82. I get why teams are resting players, and the Cavaliers can afford to do it and still run away with the East. But there is a cost on the court (and to fans who paid to see those stars).