Shootaround (Nov. 26): 'Awful' Warriors move to top of Western Conference
Warriors less ‘awful’ than Lakers | Record night for 3-pointers | Lee shows Celtics what could have been | Hornets’ roster, record take hits
No. 1: Warriors less ‘awful’ than Lakers — For a game severely lacking in style points, the Golden State Warriors’ 109-85 victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles sure produced some pretty numbers. Like the Warriors’ 10th consecutive victory. And the Western Conference’s best record (14-2) to edge ahead of the L.A. Clippers. And a 10th straight game in which Golden State’s offense, however it looked to coach Steve Kerr, still rang up 30 assists, three shy of the league record. So as you peruse some of Anthony Slater’s account for the San Jose Mercury News, keep in mind that Kerr’s rhetoric about giving fans their money back was just that; the Warriors coach wasn’t digging deep into his pocket for any refunds. Of course, Kerr had Draymond Green’s collision with teammate Ian Clark that left the former limping on a sore left knee and the latter kneed in the throat:
Steve Kerr took a frustrated timeout before the Warriors had a point.
Golden State missed its first four 3s, including two Steph Curry clangs, giving him 12 long-range bricks on 12 attempts in Los Angeles this season. The Staples Center was working its Warrior voodoo magic early.
But it didn’t last. Moments after Curry’s second miss, Kevin Durant pinpointed a cross-court pass through traffic into Curry’s hands. He rose and, finally, nailed a left corner 3. The Curry hex was lifted. A Warrior barrage followed, resulting in a 109-85 Friday night win over the Lakers.
It was the Warriors’ second straight blowout of the Lakers and 10th straight win overall, pushing them to 14-2 on the season. Earlier Friday night, the Clippers fell in Detroit, dropping them to 14-3 and giving the Warriors sole possession of the West’s top seed for the first time this season.
This Golden State victory, unlike many this season, was built on the back of a stingy end-to-end defensive effort, making a solid but not spectacular offensive performance hold up.
The Lakers entered the night at a disadvantage. They were missing three talented offensive players: D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Nick Young. Without the trio, the Lakers struggled to create any consistent string of good looks.
The Warriors were sturdy on the perimeter and disruptive even when the Lakers got past the frontline. Golden State blocked 10 more shots on Friday night, upping the per game total to 6.2 this season, tied for the league’s third most. They became the first team with three games of double-digit blocks.
“They shot 35 percent from the field,” Durant said. “That’s what you want.”
Zaza Pachulia was the surprise contributor in this category on Friday night. He entered the night with three blocks combined in the season’s first 15 games. He had three blocks against the Lakers.
Included among them: Pachulia got talented Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram on an isolation switch, stayed with him on a dribble move and then stuffed his shot. It was a lowlight of a rough performance for Ingram, who finished 3-of-17 from the field.
On the offensive side, Durant continued his incredibly efficient season, finishing 11-of-19 for 29 points, plus six rebounds and nine assists. Curry finished with 24 points and made four of his 10 threes, not spectacular for him but far better than the 0-of-10 night he had in Staples three weeks earlier.
In the closing minutes, Durant nailed Curry with a sweet one-hand cross-court bounce pass for an easy layup. It was the Warriors 30th assist of the night, continuing a 30-plus assist streak that’s now at 10 games, the longest in the NBA in 26 seasons and three from the record.
But Golden State did cough up 17 turnovers and the energy from both sides was relatively lethargic on the day after Thanksgiving.
Steve Kerr, minutes after the win, called it “one of the worst basketball games I’ve ever seen.
“We were awful,” Kerr said. “They were awful. The people who bought tickets should get their money back honestly. I’m not trying to make a joke.”
The win gave Golden State a 10-game win streak for the fourth consecutive season, tying the franchise for the fourth longest streak in NBA history. The Warriors margin of victory over these past 10 games: a dominant 18.7 points.
Still, it’s worth noting that the Warriors didn’t look like their usual selves, as demonstrated on reigning MVP Steph Curry’s failed dunk in the second quarter:
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) November 26, 2016
No. 2: Record night for 3-pointers — Quantity vs. quality. It’s often a choice, and that’s how it played out Friday in a couple NBA games. The Houston Rockets handled the “quantity” side of the debate, jacking up a league record 50 3-point attempts in their game at Sacramento. But it was left to the Cleveland Cavaliers to take care of the “quality” when they became the first NBA team to make at least 20 3-pointers in a second consecutive game. First here are some details on Houston’s long-distance attack from Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Records seemed certain to fall before much of the Golden 1 Center crowd could get comfy.
The Rockets were taking and making 3-pointers at a pace even beyond their norm, on their way to attempting more 3-pointers in a game than any team ever has. Their pursuit of the top line in the record book seemed to be about the only thing likely worth watching in the second half.
Instead, they were threatened with a far more ignominious place in history.
After the Rockets built a 29-point lead in the first half, the Kings chased the largest comeback in franchise history and ever against the Rockets, cutting the lead to eight before the Rockets closed out a 117-104 win in Golden 1 Center.
A comeback from down 29 would have tied the fifth-largest in NBA, and would have been the greatest since 2009. But with the Kings within 10, James Harden drove to a three-point play. After a Rudy Gay basket for the Kings, Clint Capela put in a put-back slam and Harden nailed a 3-pointer for a 16-point Rockets lead with 5 ½ minutes remaining.
The Kings had one more move left in them. Down 15 with 3:53 left after Sacramento coach Dave Joerger called time out to get a technical foul, DeMarcus Cousins seemed to respond to the support. He twice blocked Clint Capela shots on one end and nailed four 3-pointers in the final 3:14.
By then, it was finally too late, returning the final minutes to the regularly-schedule record book watch.
The Kings’ longshot comeback hopes ended when Capela finished a break with a dunk and Eric Gordon in the Rockets’ 21st 3-pointer of the night, the second most in Rockets history, with 51.4 seconds left.
That came on the Rockets’ 50th attempt, breaking the NBA record set by Dallas against the Nets in 1996. The 21 made 3-pointers are two shy of the franchise and NBA record set against the Warriors.
Harden grabbed the rebound of the final shot of the game, getting his fourth triple double of the season (one more than all of last season) with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Capela had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Trevor Ariza added 18 points as seven Rockets players scored in double figures to answer the 32 points put up by Cousins, half coming in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets have made at least 15 3-pointers in seven of their 16 games this season. No team had ever made 15 3-pointers more than five times in the season’s first 16 games. They have made at least 10 3-pointers in 15-consecutive games, one shy of an NBA record streak set by the Warriors and Cavaliers last season.
Then it was on to Cleveland, where Brian Windhorst of ESPN sifted through even more impressive numbers:
The Cavaliers set an NBA record by becoming the first team to have back-to-back regular-season games with 20 3-pointers, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
The team made 21 on Wednesday in racking up 137 points in a blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Cavs piled on 20 more Friday in a 128-90 rout of the Dallas Mavericks. There had been only 25 games in league history in which a team made 20 or more 3s in a game before this week, according to BasketballReference.com.
The Golden State Warriors accomplished the feat seven times last season but never in back-to-back games. The Cavs had consecutive 20 3-pointer games against the Atlanta Hawks last season in the playoffs, making a combined 46 in Games 2 and 3 of their 4-0 series sweep.
The Cavs have now recorded 10 or more 3-pointers in 14 consecutive games. They have made at least seven 3-pointers in 54 straight games dating to last season, an NBA record.
“We were making 11, 12 or 13 3s (per game), but I thought that we could shoot better,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “The last couple games the guys have been shooting really well.”
After Kevin Love hit 8 of 12 3-pointers Wednesday in a 40-point showing, he hit 7 of 9 against the Mavs and scored 27 points.
Love had been reducing his 3-point volume earlier in the season and looking to get to the foul line. But after reviewing film with assistant coach Phil Handy, Love said he was passing up good shot opportunities because he was aiming to draw fouls instead.
So Love abandoned pump fakes and looked to shoot quicker after catching passes.
“So many guys close out to me so hard, but having my size, I’m able to get the ball off quick if I just catch and shoot,” Love said. “I think I saw that and I’ve been able to do that. That’s only going to open up more for everybody. Feels good right now.”
No. 3: Lee shows Celtics what could have been — David Lee didn’t play for the Boston Celtics long enough to prompt a whole lot of sentiment from anyone in attendance Friday for his first game back. Nor did he create many lasting memories on the Celtics’ parquet court. So there weren’t any real echoes to stir or emotions into which to tap. Mostly, there was a basketball game to be won and that’s what Lee and his current team, the San Antonio Spurs, focused on, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
In a long hallway leading through the back catacombs of Boston’s TD Garden, legends from the Celtics’ past look down on players as the enter the home locker room.
There is Bill Russell and Larry Bird. Robert Parish and Bob Cousy. Dennis Johnson and — Gregg Popovich’s favorite — John Havlicek.
Spurs forward David Lee can be relatively sure there will never be a photo of him in the No. 42 he wore in Celtics green on that wall. For two good reasons.
“It was a short time,” Lee said after the Spurs’ come-from-behind 109-103 victory over the Celtics on Friday. “It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”
Back in Boston for the first time since his Celtics career ended unceremoniously in February after 30 games, Lee gave the Beantown faithful a salty taste of what he couldn’t deliver for them last season.
Lee came off the bench for 15 points, 12 rebounds and a handful of hustle to help the Spurs open 9-0 on the road for the first time in club history.
“It was a great win for us against a really active team at both ends of the court,” said Popovich, whose team will carry an eight-game winning streak into Saturday’s game at Washington. “They do everything right, so we feel great to get out of here with a win.”
With their starting big men scuffling, the Spurs needed a lift from a former Celtic. Lee answered the call.
“He’s one guy who constantly brings that juice for us,” Mills said.
Lee, 33, was traded to Boston in the summer of 2015 after five seasons in Golden State.
It was a classic salary-dump, with the Celtics wanting only to rid their books of Gerald Wallace’s $10.1 million contract.
Lee acknowledges he arrived in Boston out of shape, and did not play well to start the season.
By Christmas, Stevens — in the midst of a youth-driven rebuilding effort — had moved on to other players
“I just didn’t play well the first games of the season, and they shifted who they wanted to play,” Lee said. “That’s the way things work out, and I take responsibility for my side of it.”
Boston bought out Lee’s contract in February, allowing him to finish the season in Dallas. By that point, he had played in only one of the Celtics’ previous 22 games.
Even so, Lee insists it is only coincidence he saved his best game as a Spur for a Boston team that once gave up on him.
“There’s no hard feelings on my end,” he said.
No. 4: Hornets’ roster, record take hits — Losing Marvin Williams for however long after the veteran forward suffered a hyperextended left knee Friday in New York was bad news for the Charlotte Hornets. Losing, period, was even worse. A team that had dazzled the NBA in its earliest weeks this season had slumped from 6-1 to 8-7, and the Hornets’ fourth consecutive defeat brought some extra cause for hand-wringing according to the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell:
The Charlotte Hornets’ arrival at good health lasted all of one half Friday.
For the first time this season, no one in the Hornets’ rotation was hurt. Steve Clifford could coach as he intended back in October. This was going to feel like a luxury after all the nicks and bruises this team has endured.
And then, in the third quarter, power forward Marvin Williams was rolling around the floor, clutching his left knee in obvious agony. He hobbled to the bench area and fell flat on his back on the edge of the court, with an expression of sadness and fear.
The initial diagnosis is a hyper-extended knee. This could have been a lot worse, but still this is problematic. The Hornets plan to list Williams as doubtful for Saturday’s rematch with the New York Knicks at Spectrum Center.
If Williams is out for any significant length of time, we’re going to see just how important he is to this team. He’s been inconsistent as a shooter so far this season, but his wide-spectrum defensive skills are crucial, particularly for the Hornets’ ability to switch defenders on mid-sized scorers.
Frank Kaminsky, Williams’ backup at power forward, is improving all the time. But he certainly isn’t Williams, in terms of athleticism, knowledge and experience. Kaminsky struggled to guard the Knicks’ 7-foot-3 emerging star, Kristaps Porzingis. Kaminsky also traveled twice for two of the Hornets’ 13 turnovers.
All that factored into the Knicks’ 113-111 overtime victory, dropping the Hornets to 8-7.
They are now on a four-game losing streak. The cushion of an 8-3 start has been all but extinguished by recent events.
The odd thing is the Hornets are not playing poorly. Wednesday’s home loss to the San Antonio Spurs was about as well executed by both teams as regular-season NBA basketball gets. Friday’s game in New York was close and compelling and the Hornets at one time led the Knicks by 13 points.
But the Hornets haven’t been the same since that home victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Point guard Kemba Walker, who is easily the most important player on this roster, looks tired. He picked up two quick fouls Friday, and though he had a huge 3-point play off a layup and free throw late in this game, he hasn’t been dominant of late.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kevin Martin, the veteran scorer who topped 20 points per game for five straight seasons from 2007-2011, announced his retirement via an ad in his hometown newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio. … It was Carmelo Anthony coming up big at the end of overtime for New York, with help from Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis. … Some thoughts on the Washington Wizards, who now can boast a winning streak of a whole two games. … The Timberwolves nailed down their comeback victory in Phoenix but the Suns have no one but themselves to blame. By going small, they prompted the Wolves to bring backup guard Tyus Jones into the game. … Chicago wrapped up its grueling, annual “circus trip” away from United Center with a 4-2 record, a clear indicator they’re not to be confused with last season’s Bulls team. … Not that anyone needs to split hairs on the quality of triple-doubles, but the one Russell Westbrook produced at Denver Friday had much in common with those turned in by the master, Oscar Robertson.