Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) No Stephen Curry, no Draymond Green, that just means more Kevin Durant. It’s really not as simple for Golden State as “Curry’s out, let’s just give the ball to Durant more.”
Although sometimes it is that simple.
From the opening tip Wednesday night, Kevin Durant decided to take over the game against Charlotte. With All-Stars Curry (ankle) and Green (shoulder) out and replaced in the starting lineup by a guy just called up from the D-League (Quinn Cook) and a rookie (Jordan Bell), Durant went into MVP mode, put the Warriors on his back, racked up a triple-double of 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists, and led the Warriors to a 101-87 win in Charlotte.
This was KD’s night, but it’s not going to be like this every game. Things will get challenging for the Warriors without Curry. To use the cliché, his gravity as a shooter — his ability to pull defenders to him 30 feet from the basket, with or without the ball — is what provides the space in the Warriors offense and makes it elite. That spacing is gone for a couple of weeks, and it will be up to Durant to create shots and rack up points, but also Klay Thompson (22 points) and others to pick up the slack. That said, Durant is capable of winning a few games on his own.
More importantly against Charlotte, the Warriors came out and played focused defense for 48 minutes — something they have not done consistently all season. The Warriors have coasted a lot, but with Curry out they can no longer do that and still win a lot. Wednesday in Charlotte was one game, but it was a sign that the loss of Curry snapped the Warriors out of their sleepwalking ways, and gave them focus. If it stays that way, Golden State will barely miss a beat the next few weeks.
2) LeBron James drains threes, including dagger late, to push Cavaliers win streak to 13. LeBron James is shooting 43 percent from three this season. He still has as quick a first step as anyone in the game, and once he gets rolling downhill he’s an unstoppable force, but now he can consistently just shoot over the top of the defense and make them pay, too. Good luck stopping that.
Just ask the Sacramento Kings, who came into Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night and were scrappy. However, LeBron was 5-of-8 from three, including a step-back with 16 seconds left that sealed the game, and the Kings could not match him. LeBron finished the night with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists.
The Cavaliers win streak is now at 13 games, tying a franchise record (LeBron’s Cavs did it in 2009 and again 2010). They can break that tie Friday night in Indiana.
3) DeMarcus Cousins sets history with another 40-20 night. With Anthony Davis out for a third straight game, the Pelicans are leaning more on Cousins to keep them in the crowded playoff mix in the West — and he’s responding. On Wednesday night he had 40 points and 22 boards in the Pelicans’ win against Denver.
That’s Cousins’ second 40-20+ game this season. The last guy to do that was Patrick Ewing back in the 1989-90 season. Back when “Do The Right Thing” was in theaters and we couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing “Funky Cold Medina.” It’s been a long time since we’ve seen something like Boogie’s recent run.
More importantly for New Orleans, thanks to Cousins the Pelicans are 3-1 in games Davis has missed. That is keeping them in the playoff mix.