Ham’s Hoops Roundup Friday 1/5: Steph Is The Point God Now, But Chris Ain’t Dead Yet

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Harden-less Houston and Durant-less Golden State still put on a show, Chris Paul holds his own against Steph even in a loss, and the Thunder’s Big Three roll in LA. It’s the Hoops Roundup for Friday, January 5th. Let’s get it…

Scores from Thursday, January 4th

Golden State 124  –  Houston 114
Oklahoma City 127  –  LA Clippers 117

Golden State 124  –  Houston 114

Golden State  (31-8)   1st in West
Houston   (27-10)   2nd in West

Tough to sell this as a Western Conference Finals preview with no Harden or Durant on the floor – but last night was still fun as hell, highlighted by the point gods Steph and Chris.

Steph took the W, going for 29p/9r/5a and closing the door on Houston late. But don’t sleep on what Chris Paul did last night. For the first time in about four years now it felt like he had something for this Warriors team. He dropped 28p/7r/9a and was right there in his bag keeping Houston in this game without Harden. If nothing else, it showed that a well-rested, well-surrounded Chris Paul can still absolutely TERRORIZE any opponent. And if he’s only asked to do carry the offensive load like that for 15-20 minutes in a playoff series, that’s the kind of thing that can counter those “your best player is sitting, we’re gonna pull away here” runs that Golden State can go on.

It also goes back to what I talked about with Isaiah and LeBron on Wednesday and Isaiah’s ability to step into LeBron’s roll in that specific offense with LeBron off the floor.

Chris does the same for Harden to an even greater degree. Chris can very obviously run that high PNR with Capela and can very obviously kick out to those shooters. Houston didn’t struggle without Harden as much as Cleveland did without LeBron, but I do think both teams have found in Chris and Isaiah a necessarily similar second banana to their top dogs.

It doesn’t mean either team can or will beat Golden State. It’s not that simple. This is one fix for one solution, and still does create another dilemma in how Harden-Paul and LeBron-Isaiah mesh while sharing the court in big moments come April, May, and June. But knowing how much of a load it takes off LeBron and Harden until then is immeasurably valuable until then.

Back to the game…

In terms of third bananas, both Klay Thompson (28p with 6 threes on 11-20 shooting) and Eric Gordon (30p/7a/3s on 12-24 shooting)  stepped into Durant and Harden’s roles with expected ease. I know this idea has been beat to death… but when you see these two take the court together with no Durant and no Harden, each as the de facto 1B scoring option, it’s fascinating to wonder what they’d look like with their own team.

Neither will ever do it. Klay is perfectly happy where he is and has grown perfectly into this role. Gordon bounced around bad situations and dealt with injuries and was constantly misused and seems overjoyed to have finally found the perfect situation. Both are wildly overqualified for their roles – but only because they’re both the best possible version of those roles. I don’t see either giving that up–or giving up living in San Fran and Houston–to go carry the load 82 nights a year in Charlotte or Detroit. But watching guys this year like Booker in Phoenix or Oladipo in Indiana, it’s interesting to think what Klay or Gordon could do in those roles.

Dray was also apparently awesome last night too, going for a 17p/14r/10a triple double that was preposterously like the 6th most memorable performance last night. I say apparently because all I can remember of Dray last night was laughing out loud at this every time he touched the ball.

But to close it out… and yes I know this is an insanely long section for one game but there was only two games last night so I can do this… the star of last night was Gerald Aloysius Terrance Jameson Green III, who in his fifth (FIVE-th) game of the season went for 29 points on 8-15 shooting from three and 9-16 shooting overall. You read that correctly… he took one (1) out of his sixteen (16) shots from inside the arc. And he made it. 29 points on 8 threes in 34 minutes just one week removed from getting signed off his couch – which if you watched the game you know very well since Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller reminded us no less than 25 times.

But not even Reggie Miller could ruin that. Because god damn was it fun. Gerald Green, who is now on his 10th team in 10 seasons… and actually 14th team in 12 seasons if you include a D-league stint, two Russian teams, and a three-month contract in China… who last year would randomly pop in with some good games for Boston and then sneaky was one of the three biggest reasons they survived the first round in Chicago last year… who’s career highlight is still probably the blow the candle out dunk in the Dunk Contest… who could never totally put it together despite having a nice J and quite possibly the bounciest bunnies of the last two decades.

That dude came in and almost single handily beat the Warriors last night. Two best teams in the West… both going full bore despite one major absence… and at the height of the game we had 31-year-old Gerald Green and 32-year-old Swaggy P trading big buckets. What a league man. What a fucking league.

Oklahoma City 127  –  LA Clippers 117

Oklahoma City  (22-17)   5th in West
LA Clippers   (17-20)   9th in West

Big night from the Thunder Big Three, who combined for 82 points on 61.5% shooting with the exact type of shot distribution and efficiency that you want to see from them moving forward.

Russ hung a 29p/12r/11a triple double on 11-24 shooting. George dropped a very efficient 31p/6r with 5 threes line on 12-16 shooting. Melo added an equally efficient 22p/4r on 9-12 shooting, including 3-6 from three. And the Thunder start the new year on the right foot with a back-to-back sweep in LA after two streak-halting losses to end 2017.

Growing rift between Russ and Melo? My Counlm:

LA had it’s four-game win streak snapped, but things are still looking better for the Clips. Blake (24p/9r/7a), DeAndre (26p/17r), and LouWill (26p/10a) continue to thrive.

They’ve got Golden State twice in the next five days. But if they can survive that without imploding and/or losing one of those three guys to injury, they’ve got a real chance to make a statement in the West for the rest of January

Schedule for Friday, January 5th

7:00   Detroit  @  Philadelphia
7:00   Minnesota  @  Boston   *ESPN*
8:00   New York  @  Miami
8:00   Toronto  @  Milwaukee
8:30   Chicago  @  Dallas
8:30   Phoenix  @  San Antonio
9:00   Utah  @  Denver
9:30   Washington  @  Memphis   *ESPN*
10:00   Atlanta  @  Portland
10:30   Charlotte  @  LA Lakers

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