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) Wild ending in Denver: Gary Harris drains game-winner, then fan confronts Westbrook. What we should be talking about is Denver getting its signature win of the season — they outplayed the Oklahoma City Thunder all night, including putting up 72 first-half points. Nikola Jokic had a triple-double with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists, making his case for a future All-Star game. Jamal Murray had 33 points and absolutely broke Steven Adams‘ ankles. Gary Harris had 25, but it was the final three — off a Jokic pass — as a buzzer-beating game winner that we should be highlighting. We should be debating if Jokic violated the rules by taking a step before throwing his inbound pass to Harris for that game winner (I would argue he didn’t, we’ll see what the last two-minute reports says).
We should, but it’s what happened after that — when a fan came on the court to taunt and confront Russell Westbrook as he tried to leave the court — that everyone will be talking about.
Credit to Westbrook for not losing his cool here. He pushed the fan back before the late-to-the-scene security arrived, but he could have done much more and chose not to.
The NBA should not punish Westbrook here, this should be a no-call. For obvious reasons the league does not want to see players shoving fans, but this isn’t some Malice in the Palace moment where a player went into the stands, this fool (too kind a word) came onto the court after an emotional game, blocked Westbrook’s path to the locker room and taunted him. Westbrook gets a free shove there, it showed some restraint not to haul off and deck the guy. The league’s discipline system has all the consistency of a roulette wheel at times, so who knows what flows out of Kiki Vandeweghe’s office. But Westbrook should get a pass for this one.
2) Blake Griffin makes his debut in Detroit, and Pistons get the win. For all the questions about whether Stan Van Gundy should have made the trade for Blake Griffin, and whether that was good for the franchise or a sign of desperation, one thing was never in doubt:
Blake Griffin is an outstanding basketball player.
He’s healthy and showed that Thursday night in his debut against Memphis: 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Detroit got a quality 104-102 win.
That’s a big win for the Pistons — they have won two in a row now after their eight-game losing streak. Detroit is one game back of Philly for the final playoff slot in the East (two games in the loss column) and has seven-of-eight at home coming up — this is when the team needs to make its push into the postseason. These are crucial games for the team, and the Pistons need more of this Griffin.
One other interesting note: Van Gundy played Griffin through crunch time as the center guarding Marc Gasol, while Andre Drummond sat on the bench. The move worked as Anthony Tolliver was on the court in his place and hit a key late three, a couple of clutch free throws, and dived on a loose ball on the floor — having Drummond on the bench for the end of this game may well have been the right choice to win this game. However, if this becomes a trend it’s going to be an issue with Drummond.
3) Malcolm Brogdon has to be helped off the court after potentially serious injury. Hey, basketball gods, would you please lighten up on the injuries? Things have gotten out of control the past couple of weeks.
The latest is reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who apparently suffered an injury to the same tendon that Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard have been dealing with in San Antonio. And it’s not good.
Let’s hope it’s not that bad and he’s back on the court soon.
Also in that game, the Timberwolves looked good on their way to a 108-89 win.