The Oklahoma City front line dominated Chicago on Monday night — Steven Adams had 22 points, Enes Kanter came off the bench for 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, plus had 11 rebounds, and the Thunder won handily (also because Russell Westbrook was impressive and Jimmy Butler was sick).
However, Kanter’s best play may have came when he tried to give the referee a technical.
Late in the second quarter Kanter was at the free throw line and seems to be wiping something off the court and getting set, when the referee tossed him the ball before he was ready. Kanter tossed it back, then tried to give the official a technical. Turns out he can’t, but it’s still pretty funny.
Three things we learned on Monday: The New York Knicks know drama
It was a light NBA schedule with just three games, so as not to distract from Clemson’s comeback, but the Knicks never give up the spotlight easily.
1) Derrick Rose goes AWOL, Phil Jackson doesn’t talk, and the Knicks are still the Knicks. Drama — often unnecessary drama — just follows the Knicks around. They are their own reality series, throw in a “tribal council” and some tiki torches and you’ve got a hit.
Monday night the Knicks had a chance to snap their recent slide when they took on the Pelicans, but the news became about point guard Derrick Rose — he just didn’t show up for the game. He had been at shootaround Monday afternoon, but when he didn’t show up for the game the team was left scrambling. Team executives didn’t know where he was, they were calling him but to no avail. Nobody seemed to know where he went.
After the game, Rose’s long-time teammate Joakim Noah was able to get in touch with him and find out he was okay. Rose reportedly texted other friends he was fine as well, and the organization had some level of contact with him and told the media he had a “family situation.” The good news is that Rose is safe. However, “family situation” is vague (and something the media will be careful with, NBA players are people with real lives, and not all of that needs to be public). We don’t know what happened yet, the Knicks themselves don’t seem to know.
The reality is two possible things are going on here.
One, Rose did have some kind of family crises that required his attention (and reported return to Chicago). In his haste to deal with the situation, Rose didn’t bother to contact the team. While that is a fairly big oversight — it’s not just Rose who didn’t call the team, it was those close to him as well — it is possible. Even coach Jeff Hornacek said after the game the organization didn’t have enough information to say what had happened.
Second, Rose is frustrated and quit on his team. Rumors of Rose being frustrated with his role have been making the rounds in the league for weeks. Rose has put up decent numbers this season for the Knicks (17.3 points per game) and is moving better than he has in years, but don’t confuse that with him being so good he should be a key focal point of the Knicks offense — New York is 1-12 when Rose takes 17 shots or more. This needs to be Kristaps Porzingis’ team — he is their best player now. Rose was benched in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee Friday because the undrafted Ron Baker was playing better — and the Knicks came from behind to win that game. Rose and Hornacek’s relationship is reportedly getting tense because of how Rose is being used. Did Rose just decide to walk away in frustration?
If he did just walk, Rose needs to be done in New York. You can’t just walk away. His teammates and the organization should not tolerate that — lord knows Knicks fans won’t. Those people value effort and hard work.
Most likely it will be spun as the former, regardless of reality. Rose will be back playing point guard for the Knicks soon enough. However, between this, Rose missing training camp to deal with a civil rape trial (of which Rose was found not liable), plus his play this season, the entire situation has the feeling of a one-and-done with Rose and New York (he is on a one-year contract). The Knicks don’t need the added drama.
One other thought here: Where was Phil Jackson in all of this? On almost any other team the team GM/President — who was in the building — would at least make a statement to the media about what was going on, not just throw his coach out there to deal with it (Hornacek was busy coaching a game, he had little information about what was happening). Jackson went out and got Rose and Noah this summer — a win now move, rather than a slower build for the future around Porzingis — so this is his guy. Jackson should be the one addressing the situation.
2) Also in New York, Anthony Davis put up 40 and showcased his skills, while Carmelo Anthony got tossed. Rose’s disappearing act overshadowed Anthony Davis dropping 40 and looking every bit the top-five NBA player that he is. The Pelicans won 110-96, and it wasn’t that close, thanks to Davis.
Carmelo Anthony didn’t want to stick around for this disaster and got himself ejected.
3) Russell Westbrook outduels ailing Jimmy Butler to get Thunder win. This felt like it could have been a showdown, but it ended up being more of a showcase. Jimmy Butler wasn’t feeling well, and having Andre Roberson draped all over him certainly didn’t help matters — Butler shot just 0-of-6 from the floor. Without him, the Bulls didn’t stand a chance — not with Russell Westbrook doing Russell Westbrook things. He had 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds, plus shot 50 percent from the field.
However, the real difference was in the front court — the Thunder were far more athletic and talented, outworked the Bulls frontline, and that decided the game. Steven Adams’ 22 points led the Thunder in scoring, while Enes Kanter came off the bench for 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, plus he pulled down 11 rebounds. The Thunder were +24 points in the paint, they owned the inside, and that was the biggest difference Monday night.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio lead Timberwolves over Mavericks, 101-92
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Karl-Anthony Towns had 34 points and 11 rebounds, Ricky Rubio added 13 points and a season-high 15 assists, and the Minnesota Timberwolves snapped a four-game losing streak with a 101-92 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.
Towns hit 15 of 19 shots from the floor as the Timberwolves shot 56.3 percent.
Rubio scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including consecutive baskets during an 8-0 run that gave the Timberwolves some breathing room after Dallas had whittled a 21-point lead to 81-77.
He hit three free throws with 2:08 to play to give Minnesota a 97-83 advantage.
Towns got the Wolves off to a fast start, scoring Minnesota’s first seven points and 16 total in the first seven minutes. He finished with 20 in the period as the Timberwolves took a 33-14 lead after one quarter. The Wolves shot 65 percent from the field in the quarter.
They stretched the lead to 44-23 before the Mavericks responded with a 15-2 run to get back in the game. Nowitzki hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions to close the first half as Dallas pulled to 54-46 at the break.
Mavericks: Dallas had won seven straight against the Timberwolves, including four in a row at Target Center. This was the first meeting of the season between the Midwest Division foes. . Nowitzki topped his previous season high of four 3-pointers. The last time he had six in a game was April 1, 2014. . Andrew Bogut missed the fourth quarter with an injured hamstring.
Timberwolves: Towns scored 20 points in a quarter for the second time in his career. He had 22 in the first quarter against New York on Nov. 30. . Zach LaVine left early in the fourth with a bruised left hip and did not return. Lavine grabbed Devon Harris to get called for a foul, then limped off the court and into the Minnesota locker room. He was replaced by Tyus Jones. . Shabazz Muhammad scored in double figures off the bench for the sixth time in his last eight games, finishing with 11 points in 20-plus minutes.
Mavericks: Dallas plays the Phoenix Suns on Thursday in Mexico City.
Timberwolves: Minnesota hosts the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder cruise past Bulls 109-94
CHICAGO (AP) — Even Russell Westbrook was impressed with the passing by Oklahoma City’s big men.
Westbrook flirted with another triple-double and Steven Adams led a dominant effort in the paint, helping the Thunder pull away from the Chicago Bulls for an easy 109-94 victory Monday night.
Westbrook had 21 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, falling just short of his 18th triple-double of the season. But his all-around performance is practically a sure thing these days.
It was the inside play of Adams and Enes Kanter that really hurt Chicago, with the big men scoring with ease or passing out of double-teams to set up their teammates.
“They do a great job of playing off each other,” Westbrook said.
Adams had 22 points on 11-for-14 shooting, and Kanter finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The duo helped the Thunder to 56.6 percent shooting from the field, a 60-36 advantage on points in the paint and a 42-38 edge in rebounding.
“I thought tonight, on both ends of the floor, we played at a high level,” coach Billy Donovan said.
The Bulls had won three in a row and five of seven, but they were no match for the Thunder with Jimmy Butler hampered by an illness. The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week had one point on 0-for-6 shooting and seven assists.
“I appreciate him coming out and giving it a shot. That says a lot about him, as a competitor, but he was really struggling, obviously,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Butler was sent home after he left the game in the third quarter, and Hoiberg said Butler will not play Tuesday night against Washington. Wade, who turns 35 on Jan. 17, also will rest against the Wizards.
“Jimmy can’t put up 50 every night. We have to do better. We have to support him a lot better,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said.
Gibson’s three-point play off a slick pass from Wade got Chicago within 10 with 6:51 left in the third, but Westbrook helped the Thunder put it away from there.
The dynamic point guard threw an alley-oop to Adams and then found the center for a layup. Westbrook set up Andre Roberson for a 3-pointer and a cutting dunk. Kanter added a driving layup with 54 seconds left, helping Oklahoma City to an 89-67 lead after three.
GRANT VS GRANT
Brothers Jerami and Jerian Grant faced off. Jerian Grant had 11 points in 21 minutes for the Bulls. Jerami Grant played 16 minutes for the Thunder and finished with seven points.
“Whenever I get to play against him, it’s great to see him,” Jerami Grant said.
Thunder: Victor Oladipo scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. … G Cameron Payne played almost 15 minutes in his second game of the season after being sidelined by a right foot injury. … The Thunder had lost four straight road games.
Bulls: G Rajon Rondo did not play on his bobblehead night. The veteran guard hasn’t played since Dec. 30 against Indiana, and it’s unclear when or if he will return to Hoiberg’s rotation. … Rookie G Denzel Valentine missed his third straight game with an ankle injury.
“I mean, I don’t really want to talk too much about it because I don’t really know what the situation is,” said Noah, who has played with Rose since 2008 as teammates in Chicago before coming to New York. “Obviously Derrick is one of our better players. And when he is not here it is tough. But I am just happy that everything is OK with him.”
When asked if Rose’s health is OK in light of his mysterious absence, Noah replied, “Yeah. He’s OK … I think it’s a relief for all of us.”
That’s good news. Coach Jeff Hornacek added this.
“Everything will become clear later on,” Hornacek said. “You know, we want to respect whatever he’s going through. We’re just not going to comment on it.”
The next question is where is he and why did he miss the game? In the absence of real information, there has been talk of Rose’s frustration with his role in the offense. There was talk of him having words with Hornacek. Here is the most solid information we have, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Re Derrick Rose: Sources tell ESPN he left w/out permission but has subsequently been in touch with team officials.