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) Raptors look like team that can go deep in the postseason. The Cavaliers want to be woken up when the playoffs start. No Kyle Lowry. No Serge Ibaka. But the Toronto Raptors had a secret weapon for their nationally televised game Thursday night — Cleveland’s defense.
The Cavaliers don’t care about the regular season — LeBron James called them a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” team during the 82-game marathon — and it shows with a 3-7 record in their last 10 and a defense that is dead last in the NBA during that stretch. This could be the Cavaliers worst game of the season, and the offense was not going to cover up the defense in this one. Isaiah Thomas looked rusty as he missed his first 11 shots, finishing 2-of-15 with four points. Kevin Love was 2-of-8 on the night. J.R. Smith hasn’t made a shot in two games (0-of-12). As a team, the Cavaliers shot 6-of-26 from three (23.1 percent). LeBron James played well and tried yelling at his teammates to snap them out of their funk, but id didn’t work.
This game and the bad habits the Cavaliers are developing are exactly why plenty of people around the league think Cleveland is vulnerable.
It’s not just the Cavaliers are bad — the Raptors are good. Legitimately good. They are top five in offense and defense in the league this season and they unleashed all their strengths on the listless Cavs. The Raptors pounded the Cavaliers inside with their size, and their depth led to Toronto winning the battle of the bench 76-48. The Raptors had a defensive rating for the night of 95.9, and an offensive rating of 129.5. Everything was going so well Fred VanVleet had 22 points.
There are no statement games in January, but for the Raptors this is a good confidence boost.
2) Boston comes from 22 down in London to beat Sixers. The NBA’s annual sojourn to London did not slow down the Celtics’ winning streak, now at seven games.
The Sixers got off to a fast start and led by 22 in the first half, but the Celtics owned the second half and picked up a 114-103 win. The stats tell the story: Philladephia shot 54.7 percent in the first 24 minutes and 36.6 percent in the second 24. Boston cranked up their defense after the half, and that fueled their offense — the Celtics shot 61.9 percent in the second half. Ridiculous. But this was more than just shots falling, Boston’s effort was there in the second half, while the Sixers looked like they just wanted to get to the pub.
Kyrie Irving led the way in the second half and finished with 20 points and seven assists.
3) NBA blows opportunity, will not televise All-Star Game Draft. The NBA All-Star Game itself is a listless affair. All-Star Saturday is a blast, the weekend-long circus around the game is entertaining, but the actual on-the-court product has great players taking turns scoring against non-existent defense. It’s not entertaining, and sport should be that at least. This season the NBA came up with a good way to inject a little fun into the game — have the top vote getters be captains and pick the teams in a draft of every All-Star, playground style. As of today’s vote, Stephen Curry and LeBron James would take turns picking teams.
Except the league is blowing it because they are doing the draft in private. The teams will just be announced, we will not know the draft order or anything else.
Where is the fun in that?
“Yes, it would be more fun if we had that kind of draft…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on NBA TV. “I think there was a sense from the players that it put them in an impossible position, where they’re picking one player over another – in part, not because they necessarily think that player is better than another player, maybe because they have a personal relationship with the player, or they think that player would be a better complement to the players, and that, invariably, if they just did it as a pure draft, guys would say, Oh, I can’t believe such and such was selected before that player.”
Yes, you can. We want to have that “I can’t believe such and such was selected before that player” debate. This is an entire business and league selling entertainment — why put one of the most entertaining parts behind a curtain? We want to see how the sausage is made. One of the reasons we love the NBA is the interpersonal drama, and this would bring plenty of it — would LeBron James pick Kyrie Irving? Would Curry team up Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant again? Who ends up with a chip on their shoulder because they were picked last?
Who wouldn’t watch the All-Star Draft? Will some player have hurt feelings? Maybe, but he’s an All-Star, he’ll get over it.
This was a chance to put some real drama into the All-Star Game, but the NBA went halfway with its idea.