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 you needed to go worship some Norse gods…
1) Portland may not be back on track yet, but they’ll take the win. Yes, Damian Lillard dropped 25, and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and 10 boards, but don’t underestimate how much having Robin Lopez back helped the Blazers snap their three-game losing streak. He brought a different, needed energy to the squad. Down the stretch he altered shots in the paint and knocked down some key free throws. They are just better with him on the court — not that he made this win easy. Credit the improving Jazz (Quin Snyder is doing a good job) for making the Blazers work for their 102-101 win. But if Chris Kaman were still starting Portland would have lost this game. Lopez does the dirty work the Blazers need better than his sub. Still, Lillard is the one still putting on the show — and dunking on guys.
Rudy Gobert — who has developed into a quality rim protector and a nice young center — stood up for himself, by the way.
Yeah the best rim protector of the @NBA gets dunked on sometimes
2) If anyone is going to catch Charlotte or Miami for the eight seed in the East it might be Detroit. After Tuesday night’s games the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat are tied for the final two playoff spots in the East. Brooklyn is just 1.5 games back, but they are crumbling and trying to trade their best players, it seems unlikely they make a run (even if they do they finish the season with a brutal stretch of games). Detroit on the other hand… they are just 2.5 games back after beating Miami on Tuesday night, 108-91. The Pistons seemed an unlikely team to make a run after Brandon Jennings went down with a torn Achilles, but Tuesday his replacement D.J. Augustin dropped 25 points and had 13 assists with no turnovers. That’ll do just fine. The Pistons continue to play well since Josh Smith became Houston’s problem. And if Detroit can hang around the playoff race remember this: It has a very soft schedule the last couple weeks of the season. Charlotte and Miami may want to put some distance between themselves and Detroit before that time.
3) Even James Dolan can’t watch the New York Knicks. Lowly Boston came to Madison Square Garden and had little trouble dispatching the depressingly bad Knicks. Is New York so bad even owner James Dolan can’t stay awake to watch them? Apparently (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
4) Hollis Thompson cannot be stopped (for a night, anyway). The question with the Sixers is always, from where will the offense come? Tuesday the answer was Hollis Thompson, who opened the night shooting 8-of-8 (four of those from three) on his way to a team-and-career high 23 points. You don’t see that every day. By the way, when the Sixers find offense they often win, as they did knocking off the Nuggets 105-98. Which brings us to…
5) In case you haven’t been watching, the Denver Nuggets have fallen and they can’t get up. The Nuggets have dropped 10 of their last 11 games, and in that stretch lost to the Sixers (on Tuesday), Celtics and Timberwolves. For a team that had playoff dreams before the season started — they thought they could get back close to the 57-win team of a couple years ago — this has been an ugly fall. It has gotten so bad coach Brian Shaw is suggesting the players are trying to lose games. Over at Eye on Basketball today our old friend Matt Moore did a fantastic job breaking down what is wrong with the Nuggets (as much as one can in fewer than 5,000 words).
The debate in Denver is whether the roster is a bad fit for Shaw, whether Shaw is unfit to coach, or if the players are inherently bad. Throw out the last one. The list of quality players in terms of talent on this team is significant: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson, Darrell Arthur, even the rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, who weren’t supposed to play this season, can play. So can Nate Robinson and Timofey Mozgov who were traded.
But the roster doesn’t work with Shaw. The thought early on was that the problem was fit, that Shaw needed a back-to-the-basket post scorer, and that’s true. But this goes well beyond it. Shaw seems to have a fundamental failure to understand or connect with these athletes, players, not to belabor the point but who by and large won 57 games for George Karl two years ago. Shaw was brought in to give the Nuggets a better chance to win in the playoffs. Safe to say that not having your players purposefully trying to lose in your eyes is kind of a prerequisite for making the playoffs….
That’s the problem. It’s everything. The coach has coached badly, the players have coached badly, Shaw has thrown enough players under the bus to raise it high enough to change the tires on it, the players have failed to show basic levels of competitive spirit or competency. There’s no effective leadership, and so this is the mess.
Shaw will be out in Denver at the end of the year, but the issues that need fixing in the Rockies are much bigger than just that.
PBT’s Sunday night NBA Winners/Losers: Durant and Rondo both looking healthy
Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while watching the trailer for the new Terminator movie…
Rajon Rondo. That’s 31. Sometimes as fans we overemphasize the triple-double (it’s not always as impactful on the game as it sounds) but if you’re hitting that number consistently then you’re doing something right. Sunday was the second time this season and the 31st time in his career that Rajon Rondo hit that number. He’s doing something right. He wasn’t exactly efficient (he had 13 points on 17 shots) and he missed some key shots late (his floater was off) but he had 13 rebounds and 11 assists, which — along with Jeff Green’s 25 points — helped fuel the Celtics past the Wizards in a quality win.
Kevin Durant. He’s still getting his legs back under him, he had an off night against Philly recently, but he bounced back and looked like the KD we know and the rest of the league fears on Sunday. Durant had 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He was Durant again, and that included hitting what ended up being the dagger three — with less than two minutes to go Detroit got caught on a bad switch and Durant drilled the three that put them up four and gave OKC the win. But it didn’t matter if Detroit defended well, earlier in the game Jonas Jerebko defended him as well as one could and Durant just scored over him anyway. Because when he’s on Durant can score on anyone. Which is more than we can say for….
Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons. Saturday they couldn’t beat the hapless, tanking Sixers (we’re going to have a new team on the bottom of the PBT Power Rankings Monday). At least Sunday they showed a little pride and had a shot at beating an Oklahoma City team still trying to get its feet under it with Durant and Russell Westbrook back. OKC was up two with 10 seconds left in the game when Westbrook missed a 16-foot jumper, Brandon Jennings got the rebound pushed the ball up the court looking for a chance to tie or maybe win the game for the Pistons. Jennings got into the lane but saw big men coming over to contest his shot (or more likely swat it into the third row) so he made a smart, quality pass to a wide open man — Josh Smith at the arc. He got a wide open, uncontested shot to win the game. Of course, Smith is shooting 25 percent from three this season, which is just below his career average, so what the Pistons got with the game on the line was a shot they want to avoid and every opponent would encourage them to take. The results were predictable. This is why they are the Pistons right now.
Chandler Parsons. For some reason the Milwaukee Bucks kept leaving Chandler Parsons open and he made them pay — 28 points on 14 shots (4-of-6 from three) as the Mavericks toyed with the Bucks in an easy win. Parsons had nine uncontested looks according the NBA’s Sports VU cameras, he hit seven of them. This was the most comfortable he has looked in the Dallas offense (being wide open will do that), which frankly already was pretty powerful.
Denver’s back court’s shooting. Ty Lawson was 1-of-10 from the floor. Arron Afflalo was 4-of-14. Gary Harris came in off the bench and was 1-of-8. Throw in an 0-of-6 night from Danilo Gallinari and the Nuggets were not impressive in their loss to Atlanta. It happens, guys have off shooting nights, but Denver had one of those nights when basically everyone they count on to create points was off. (Wilson Chandler, who had 29 points on 22 shots, was the exception to the rule, but it wasn’t enough.)
Nuggets’ Gary Harris throws it down hard, his mom missed it (VIDEO)
Don’t take your eyes off Gary Harris — especially you, mom.
During the fourth quarter of a needed road win for the Nuggets, Harris got the ball out near half court, blew past his man, turned the corner and just threw it down over the late-rotating defender. It was a huge throwdown.
And apparently Harris’ mother was texting a friend or doing some people watching or something, but she wasn’t watching her son. She’s going to hear about that one.
Report: Nuggets to exercise Timofey Mozgov’s team option