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) Paul George starts fast, Dennis Schroder takes over late, Thunder keep rolling. Everything is going the Thunder’s way right now — they have won six in a row, and Tuesday in Orlando was the perfect example of how they just keep finding ways.
Paul George started it out, owning the first half, scoring 31 of his 37 before halftime. His play keeps his name in the MVP conversation (he’s at least on the ballot).
Orlando would not go away though, and a 21-3 Magic run in the third quarter — Nikola Vucevic had six of his 27 in the frame — had Orlando in the lead entering the fourth.
That’s when the Thunder’s Dennis Schroder took over with 18 points in the fourth to spark a 23-5 Thunder run, leading them to a 126-117 win.
Russell Westbrook had his fourth straight triple-double as the glue in this one for OKC.
There’s another reason, besides its stars, the Thunder are on a role: They have become a good shooting team. For the first 40 games of the season, the Thunder shot 32.3% from three as a team (bottom 10 in the league). However, in the last 10 games they are shooing 42.9 percent. Those shots falling off kick-outs or other actions opens up everything else because defenders have to contest.
The Thunder need to keep it up as OKC has the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA (based on opponent win percentage).
Anthony Davis remains out with a finger injury — and whether he will or should ever return to the court for New Orleans after his trade request is an open question (I would say no) — but on Tuesday night Okafor stepped up and exposed how much the Rockets miss Clint Capela, with the former No. 3 pick scoring 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting, plus pulling down 12 boards, to lead New Orleans to a 121-116 in Houston.
James Harden did his thing on the way to 37 points — that’s 24 straight games with at least 30 points. Harden doing his thing means getting some calls from the officials he should not.
But at the end of the game, with everything still in doubt, Harden could not get the call he wanted (nor should he have, this is a good no-call).
3) Rudy Gay drains game-winner, then Popovich rips Spurs anyway. Traditionally, the coach of the team that gets the win on a game-winner as time expires is a happy man. That’s what Gregg Popovich and the Spurs got courtesy Rudy Gay Tuesday night against a scrappy Suns team.
Popovich is not your traditional coach, however. This was his entire post-game press conference (via ESPN), where the Spurs coach says the Suns got robbed.
“We were really fortunate to win the game,” Popovich said. “I thought that they outplayed us, outcoached us, outphysicaled us, outexecuted us. We had no respect for them or for the game. We didn’t play with each other. It was a pathetic performance, and Phoenix got robbed.”
Well, the Spurs film session Wednesday should be fun.