Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.
1) Thibodeau benches Knicks starters, says “We’ve gotta figure it out”
The Knicks “preferred” starting five have been dreadful.
Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson have played 205 minutes together this season, and they have a net rating of -15.6, with a horrific defensive rating of 121.7 (stats via Cleaning the Glass, which filters out garbage time). They cost the Knicks wins, putting them in a hole out of the gate almost nightly.
Against the defending champion Bucks Thursday, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau had seen enough and benched his starters for the fourth quarter. It was a dramatic step, but it was also the right move. That starting five includes a couple of new players to the Knicks, so Thibodeau was asked if they just need more time to develop chemistry. Thibs answer, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN:
“You know what they say: When it’s 10 games, they say you need 20,” Thibodeau said. “When you say 20, they say you need 30; at 30, you say 40. And before you know it, the season is over. So that’s a bunch of bulls***.”
Against the Bucks, none of the Knicks starters was better than -15 (Mitchell Robinson). Meanwhile, the bench unit of Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and Obi Toppin was getting it done — and almost completed a comeback. Milwaukee led by 24 in the third quarter when the Knicks starters were in, but the bench got the game all the way back to a tie in the fourth, before Giannis Antetokounmpo and company made some threes and big shots down the stretch. Pat Connaughton led the Buks with 23 points off the bench (7-of-13 from 3), and Jrue Holiday added 18 points and six assists.
What that Bucks’ second unit with Quickley, Rose and Toppin has is chemistry through continuity — they played together as a unit much of last season. It shows.
Thibodeau said he is “searching” for lineups that will work. Maybe more time together helps the Knicks starters, but how much do they need? That fivesome has played more minutes than any other five-man unit in the league this season. We have a pretty good idea of what they are. Thibodeau needs to experiment with some new starting lineups, the Knicks (7-5 now) can’t keep digging out of holes every game.
“Yeah, just they didn’t play well,” Thibodeau said of his decision to sit the starters… “That’s it. We’ve gotta figure it out. And right now we’re playing well on the road and we’re not playing well at home, which is unusual. So we’ve gotta get that straightened out.”
It’s a long season, but the time spent figuring out issues can cost teams seeding in a deeper East. Thibodeau can only be so patient.
2) Lakers win another overtime game without LeBron. They’ll take it.
“Good teams don’t win a lot of close games. Good teams aren’t in close games.”
That’s a cliche around the league for a reason, lucky bounces in close games tend to even out over time. Lakers are 3-0 in overtime this season in just a dozen games. Overall, they have a -0.5 net rating (-2 if you take out garbage time), with a 21st-ranked offense and 12th-ranked defense. The Lakers are 7-5 right now despite those pedestrian numbers because they have won close games.
We can debate what that says about this team long-term, but the Lakers will take the W. Especially with LeBron James still sidelined.
Russell Westbrook got downhill to the rim a few times against a usually stingy Heat defense, hit some 3s and key midrangers when he had to (he was 6-of-13 on shots outside the paint, the shots the Heat want him to take), and despite not doing much in overtime had a triple-double of 25 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds. Westbrook was at the heart of a 120-117 overtime win.
Miami lost Jimmy Butler to a sprained ankle in the first half. After the game there were still not a lot of details, with Erik Spoelstra saying they have to wait and see. It sounds unlikely that he will play against the Clippers on Thursday night, in an L.A. back-to-back for the Heat.
The Heat have started 0-2 n this road trip and now face a Clippers team that has won five in a row.
3) Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green squared off
No. 1 vs. No. 2. Cade Cunningman vs. Jalen Green.
That showdown got two of the worst teams in the NBA facing off in a nationally televised game, and the two men put up numbers but were not efficient. As rookies tend to go.
Green scored 23, and his shot chart looked as if Daryl Morey were still running the Rockets — he took eight shots within four feet of the rim (4-of-8) and 11 3-pointers (3-of-11), and just one midranger. He ended the night 8-of-20.
Cunningham, 20 points, had a better night from 3 (4-of-10) but was less efficient in the paint (4-of-9, with a couple of missed floaters)
Both rookies showed the potential that got them drafted that high, and showed how far they have to go to reach that potential. It’s a work in progress.
If anyone cares, the Pistons beat the Rockets 112-104 behind 35 points from Jerami Grant.
Highlights of the Night: Andrew Wiggins gets up for Timberwolves
Andrew Wiggins breaks out a “this is what I’m fully capable of” game once every few weeks, just to tease and frustrate fans of his squad. He saved one of those games for going against his old team Wednesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves, reminding them what they are missing out on… occasionally. He had 35 points to lead the Warriors to a win, and he had this monster dunk over Karl-Anthony Towns.
Then later, Wiggins added a put-back dunk over Towns, just for emphasis.
Also in that game, Minnesota’s future Anthony Edwards broke out with a career-best 48. He’s going to be special.
Last night’s scores:
Washington 97, Cleveland 94
Brooklyn 123, Orlando 90
Boston 104, Toronto 88
Milwaukee 112, New York 100
Pistons 112, Rockets 104
Chicago 117, Dallas 107
Charlotte 118, Memphis 108
Oklahoma City 108, New Orleans 100
San Antonio 136, Sacramento 117
Denver 101, Indiana 98
Phoenix 119, Portland 109
Golden State 123, Minnesota 100
LA Lakers 120, Miami 117