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All The NBA You Need, Nothing That You Don’t
Big weekend around The Association. Lots to get to. Let’s not waste any more time.
To the games…
(Home team in CAPS)
CLEVELAND 100 – Charlotte 93
MINNESOTA 125 – LA Lakers 99
Minnesota covers (Pk)
Orlando 119 – OKLAHOMA CITY 117
Orlando covers (+9.5)
GOLDEN STATE 133 – Phoenix 120
Phoenix covers (+16.5)
PORTLAND 112 – Denver 105
Denver covers (+7.5)
The Hornets Lost, But They Are For Real
I said last Monday that last week would be a revealing week for this Hornets team. Utah, Indy, Toronto, and Cleveland is a brutal stretch, and coming out of it 2-2 doesn’t quite tell the story of how impressive they looked.
This Charlotte team is for real. Very much for real. And while I’m not a huge advanced stats guy, the numbers bear it out.
Seventh in the league with a Net Rating of +6.4. Third in defensive efficiency, twelfth offensively, which pretty accurately portrays the goal of this Charlotte team. As does their fourth-ranked defensive rebounding rate, fourth ranked assist percentage, and top ranked (by a wide margin) assist-to-turnover ratio. This team wants to defend, crash the defensive boards, move the ball offensively, limit turnovers, and get back in transition – and the numbers bear that out. They play hard and they don’t beat themselves. And there’s enough firepower between Kemba (who has been AWESOME), Batum, Williams, and some of those big guys off the bench to take advantage of the ball movement.
Are they a real, real contender to Cleveland? Not yet. But they’re right there with Atlanta and Toronto as one of the four best teams in the East right now.
The Cavs Will Win 70 Games This Season
Okay, fine… 70 might be extreme.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not in play. Not when you consider how comfortable this Cavs team has looked through nine games.
In a way, they’ve almost become everything the Warriors were last regular season. The parallels are there. Defending Champs coming into the season without those same expectations. Flying under the radar thanks to the offseason acquisitions of other favorites. Hungry to defend their title, yet secure enough to trust their system. And, most importantly, extremely comfortable as a unit.
They know who they are. Every guy on that team understands and accepts their respective role. They’re both confident and unburdened – playing every game like they know they will win, yet at the same time acknowledging that they can lose without fearing repercussion. Yesterday they beat the Hornets, a leading contender in the East, with Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, and Jordan McRae playing around Lebron the last six or seven minutes. That balance of trust and comfort is exactly the level you want to reach as a basketball team.
Are they as deep as Golden State was last year? No. Their bench can’t extend leads like that team did without Lebron on the floor, which means less nights blowing teams away. But if Tyron Lue and Player-Coach Lebron can keep the group motivated enough to maintain that defensive intensity every night, they know they can always rely on either Lebron or Kyrie to single-handedly bury opponents in the fourth.
If Lebron is gunning for the MVP the way he seems to be thus far (which in his case simply means playing 75+ games instead of 68), there’s no reason this team can’t win 65 games this year. Catch a couple breaks here and there, avoid a major injury, keep up that intensity, and all of a sudden 70 is very much in view. The sky is the limit for a team as comfortable and well rounded as them.
Especially when they keep shooting like this.
Andrew Wiggins Has Been Aggressive As Hell
Yes, 47 points is the story last night. Huge number. Supremely impressive. Wiggins has been scoring all season. Take away his seven point performance against OKC and he’s averaging nearly 29 a game.
But the real number was night was 22. Twenty-two free throw attempts. Twenty-two.
Watch the way Wiggins attacks the basket. He’s less like a guard than he is an old school power forward. Dude is sneaky strong for his frame, and has the quickness and length the get shots up inside or at the very least draw contact.
Will he keep hitting threes? Probably not at the clip he is now. But if he keeps getting to the line around 9 or 10 times per game, there’s no reason he can’t maintain an average of around 26 PPG.
As soon as this Minnesota team really figures it out defensively, watch out.
‘Member Serge Ibaka? I ‘Member
‘Member Serge Ibaka? You know, that guy who played with Russ and KD who was never quite overrated but never really underrated either? The guy we all wanted to become more offensively but just couldn’t seem to develop any kind of inside game to add to his 18-footer? The other guy who left OKC this offseason? ‘Member?
It’s easy to forget about Serge this season. Combine the increased focus on Russ and KD’s departure and all of that with the dysfunctionally crowded front court situation in Orlando, and it’s not shocking to forget about a guy barely averaging just 14 and 6 for a bad basketball team.
Last night we finally got the Serge Ibaka game. Not only did we see the old Serge – we got a glimpse of the inside-outside game we hoped he might develop when given a chance to spread his wings.
Maybe it was the excitement of returning home, maybe that’s the Serge who’s here to stay. We’ll learn over the coming weeks. But that was a pretty sweet game of redemption last night.
Oh And Russ Got Another Triple Double
41-12-16. NBD. Seen it before.
Like once. Literally one time… ever.
Marquese Chriss Is Gonna Be Good
Just figure out how to stop fouling out in sixteen minutes dude. SIXTEEN. Come on dude.
“There’s Only One Basketball”
Yeah, and they keep putting it through the hoop a lot.
This Sequence Was Equal Parts Awesome and Terrifying
Good Job, Good Effort
Don’t Forget About Dame
Dame has been awesome. 30-5-5 on the year. Absolutely deserving of MVP consideration. Diving on the floor, laying out for loose balls, putting his body on the line. The guy brings it every single night and means more to his team than almost any player you can name. I’ll have to write more on this later. But since I brought up Wiggins’ free throws it’s worth noting that Dame has jumped his average from 6 FTA per game last season to 10 this year. That jump is massive, especially when you consider that he’s hitting them at a 91% clip.
Portland has played a brutal schedule thus far, yet still sit right near the top of the West at 7-4. Big game coming up against Houston on Thursday. If Dame can outduel Harden you can expect to hear his name brough up a LOT more in MVP discussions.
That’s it for today. Eight games on the slate tonight. Excited to watch the Kawhi-Justise matchup during Spurs-Heat. Harden could very easily go for 50-15 tonight in Philly, while I’m willing to be we also get our first 30 point Embiid night out of that game too. Picks coming later today. See you right back here tomorrow morning.