Five Things We Learned In NBA Wednesday: One half of Durant, Westbrook is all you need


If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking maybe you don’t want to go swimming in Australia

One half of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook is all you need. Okay, maybe we didn’t learn that so much as get reminded on Wednesday. Oklahoma City has now won four in a row and, finally with everyone healthy, are starting to play like the legit title contender we thought they were. And all of that is because of Westbrook and Durant, who turned it on in the second half after a sloppy second quarter from the Thunder when they shot 4-of-22 as a team (OKC was down a dozen at the break). In the second half the best one-two punch in the NBA just took over — Westbrook had 25 in the second half, Durant 21. When Westbrook was using his athleticism to attack he was dangerous, when he settled it was a win for Washington — in the second half Westbrook was 8-of-9 shooting in the paint and 2-of-11 outside it. Which is why when he attacked and didn’t settle he got the overtime game winner.

No matter how well Durant and Westbrook are playing it’s not going to be easy for Oklahoma City to catch Phoenix. The Thunder are just three back of the Suns for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and if you look at Phoenix’s schedule and see eight quality playoff teams in a row lined up you think they will lose a few and OKC will close that gap easily. Nope. The Suns started out this gauntlet beating Portland Wednesday night to make it four straight win. The three guard attack of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas combined for 76 points, while Gerald Green scored another dozen. Oklahoma City may well catch Phoenix at some point but this is not going to be easy for them.

Kyle Korver can dunk. The Hawks sharpshooter is a borderline All-Star because he’s having as good a shooting season as anyone has in the history of the NBA — he’s shooting 53.5 percent from three this season. But what he really wants to do is dunk — for the first time in two years Korver threw it down on Wednesday. We wouldn’t believe it either, but there is video evidence.

Andre Drummond vs. Nikola Vucevic could be a fun matchup for years to come. Brandon Jennings was the story in the Pistons’ win over the Magic — 24 points and 21 assists — but what I was watching in this game was a matchup of potential All-Star centers from the East in Andre Drummond and Nikola Vucevic. It’s a contrast of styles (which is why they weren’t matched head-to-head all game long). Vucevic scored a couple times on Drummond (and missed a couple) on traditional post ups but the strength of his game is that he can pop out and hit the 15-18 foot jumper, something Drummond didn’t always contest (to be fair he had rim protecting duties on a lot of those and needed help rotations). Drummond on the other hand got the ball in the post more and was 4-of-5 by my count on Vucevic in that setting. The bottom line is Vucevic ended up with 26 points and 15 boards, Drummond 26 points and 17 boards. These are two of the best young centers in the game and we would be watching them battle for many years.

Head-to-head, the Sixers are tanking harder than the Knicks. The real losers here? Anyone who paid for tickets to this game. Philadelphia met New York and unfortunately for two tanking teams someone had to win. Sure, the players didn’t see it that way but you can be sure parts of the fan bases (and front offices) did. The Sixers sat Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel and that was enough to give the Knicks the edge and the win behind 27 from Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks have a two-game winning streak and they are just half a game (two in the loss column) behind the Sixers.

Kobe Bryant inspired Nick Young to dish season-high assists with… three


Nick Young scores and – that’s about it.

He doesn’t defend much. He doesn’t rebound. And he doesn’t pass.

Here’s the NBA leaderboard for shots per assists (minimum: 500 minutes):

  • Brook Lopez: 22.4
  • Andre Drummond :19.6
  • Enes Kanter: 19.2
  • Jonas Valanciunas: 18.7
  • Timofey Mozgov: 15.3
  • Bismack Biyombo: 15.2
  • Tristan Thompson: 13.1
  • Serge Ibaka: 13.1
  • Ryan Anderson:12.7
  • Carl Landry: 12.7
  • Terrence Ross: 12.0
  • Derrick Williams: 11.9
  • Nick Young: 11.5
  • Alex Len: 11.1
  • LaMarcus Aldridge: 10.6

Terrence Ross is the only other non-big man to crack the top 15. Young’s lack of passing is not unique among guards, but he’s in a special class.

Even Kobe Bryant shoots just 3.6 times per assist, a number boosted by his career-high 17 assist against the Cavaliers. And if Kobe can be so unselfish, Young figures, why not him too?

Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:

Ha! Kobe inspiring Nick Young to a season-high three assists is a perfect example of Kobe’s veteran leadership. He’s taking his Lakers teammates to heights that seemed impossible.

At least Young was already dreaming big, though it’s hard to see him getting that double-double anytime soon. In 512 career games, he has never had more than six assists. He’s been closer with rebounds, notching nine once, eight once and seven twice.

Maybe if he keeps following Kobe’s lead, Young will play long enough to get that double-double someday.

Greg Monroe answers question about Pistons’ recent close wins with silence (video)


Greg Monroe is too classy to say it, so I’ll say it for him.

Prior to Josh Smith’s release, the Pistons were outscored by 31 points during his 57 minutes on the floor with the game within five points and five or fewer minutes remaining. He led the team with 26 shots in those situations, making just eight of them (31 percent) and none of his seven 3-point attempts.

It’s unfair to pin the Pistons’ turnaround on Smith no longer hijacking the crunch-time offense, though.

The difference is Smith no longer hijacks the offense during all portions of the game. The Pistons, freer to share the ball and not play in his shadow, are now capable of beating teams resoundingly and no longer needing their wins to come down to the final few minutes.

But when they do, Detroit’s Brandon Jennings-led offense clicks much better.

Andre Drummond hits the game-winning put-back to beat Pacers (VIDEO)


Brandon Jennings did the heavy lifting in the Pistons win over the Pacers on Friday, finishing with a game-high 37 points.

But if not for a bounce-back performance from Andre Drummond — and a game-winning put-back with three tenths of a second remaining — it may not have turned out that way.

Drummond was almost completely shut down in Detroit’s last contest, a loss in New Orleans where he faced the league’s toughest frontcourt matchup in Anthony Davis. But he managed to score 16 points and grab 16 rebounds against Roy Hibbert, and was in position to clean up Jennings’ late-game miss just in time.

MORE: Q+A: Andre Drummond talks surging Pistons

Q+A: Andre Drummond talks surging Pistons


Andre Drummond spent a few minutes with us talking about his surging Pistons, who had won nine of their last 10 before a Wednesday night loss in New Orleans, and after an extremely rough start to the season, find themselves just two games out of the playoffs in the East.

We also talked about Detroit’s postseason chances, what it’s like to play under Stan Van Gundy, and a little bit of sneakers, as well. Here’s the transcript from our discussion.

Q: Pretty good time to talk right now considering how well you’ve been doing recently. You’ve won nine out of 10 before Wednesday night in New Orleans, what’s been the biggest difference for you guys that’s helped to turn things around?

A: I think for us we’ve just really done a good job of playing as a team and not getting down when we start losing games, and really folding. We’ve done a good job of fighting all the way through the game, and most of the time, we came out with a win.

Q: Have you guys made any changes on offense or defense, or has it just been a combination of things that have helped you guys get out to this win streak?

A: I think it’s really been a combination of things, and it starts of with us, our effort and energy on both ends of the floor.

Q: Has your role on the team specifically changed during this little winning stretch that’s going on right now?

A: Not really. I’ve been getting the ball a lot more in the post … but other than that, nothing’s really changed. I think we’ve just simplified everybody’s role on the team.

Q: The wins you’ve gotten during this stretch, some of them have come against some pretty darn good teams. You guys beat Dallas and San Antonio on a road back-to-back, got a victory at Toronto, and got pretty close against the Hawks. So you’re not just beating bad teams, but you’re playing right now at a level high enough to sort of hang with everybody — even some of the league’s best teams. How has that part of it come together so quickly for you guys?

A: Like I said, it’s really the idea of not folding through the games like we’ve done earlier in the season. Like when we would get down, we’d [let it] snowball and it would get bigger and bigger. I think we’ve done a good job of really just continuing to fight throughout the game, and we’ve come up with great wins against some really solid teams.

Q: How crazy is it that even after such a tough start, you guys find yourselves now just two games out of the playoffs?

A: To even think about that, it’s crazy to hear, where we’re coming from. But we’re not going to get too excited, we’re not going to get too big-headed. We’re going to continue to play hard, and really work toward becoming a better team. If the playoffs happen for us, you know, we’re going to be really excited for that.

Q: Was the fact that you guys play in the Eastern Conference — you know, the teams in those bottom couple of playoff spots are actually below .500. Was that a motivating factor at all for you guys, even with the slow start to the season to say hey, if we keep working, if we can find a way to turn this around, we’ve still got a shot at the postseason here?

A: We want to make sure we’re really focusing on us, and not really worry about everybody else. We’re not going to look at something that isn’t here yet. We’re going to worry about the games we have in front of us now, and try to win all those games. And the playoffs will come for us.

Q: What’s it been like to play for Stan Van Gundy this season?

A: Stan’s been great. Everybody knows he’s a firecracker, he yells and screams. But he’s a very insightful man, and he’s done a good job with us in really getting us to play.

Q: I’m not sure how much you guys pay attention to this stuff, but he had that late-game instruction for you guys, that game in San Antonio where he told you to “form a f—king wall” defensively, and the thing went viral a little bit. Were you guys as players aware of it, and did you find that funny at all?

A: Yeah, we found it funny. We found out about it like a day or two later. Everybody was talking about it, and we were like … we didn’t find it that funny at the time, because it was like, he was serious. But everybody’s making t-shirts and stuff about it now, so it was funny to see.

Q: I have a feeling that if we got mics in a Stan Van Gundy huddle all the time, there’d be a lot more t-shirts available.

A: Uh, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Q: Alright, so tell me about some of the work you’re doing with the American Express Home Court Advantage program.

A: To be a part of the American Express Home Court Advantage has been very fun for me, because everybody knows that I’m very big into social media, and really expressing myself through all my social pages. When the idea of working with them was presented, I didn’t hesitate twice. I was excited to really share my likes and interests with my followers, and especially doing it with small businesses like the bowling alley was excellent. So I was really excited to speak about that, and give my fans an inside look at what I enjoy doing.

Q: Yeah, I saw that video, looks like you’re getting the bowling thing down. How long have you been at that as a hobby?

A: I’ve been bowling for about five or six years now, so I’ve been getting better year by year, taking different tips from different people and just putting them into my game. And I’ve been getting a lot better.

Q: What’s your career high score?

A: 215

Q: Nice! That’s not bad at all. It looked like in that video I saw you wearing some powder blue Jordan 3 retros. How big into the whole sneaker thing are you?

A: Well, I recently just signed with Jordan Brand too, so, you know, that was big for me because I’m a Jordan freak. I have every different Jordan from top to bottom in like, every different color. To be part of that now, it’s definitely great to be part of the brand.

Q: How big is your collection?

A: Let’s just say I have a sneaker bedroom.

Q: We’ll just leave it at that?

A: Imagine a master bedroom full of shoes, so just think about that.

Q: Nice. And what’re your favorites, the ones you’ve been wearing on court the most this season?

A: Right now I’m wearing a Team Jordan [this one, most recently]. But if I could, I’d wear Jordan 12s.