Ham’s Hoops Roundup Monday 1/29: Russ vs. Process

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Boogie Cousins, Andre Roberson, and Mike Conley are all out for the season. Toronto continues to dominate. And Russ takes on the Process. It’s the Hoops Roundup for Monday, January 29th. Let’s get it…

Scores from Sunday, January 28th

Milwaukee 110  –  Chicago 96
Phoenix 102  –  Houston 113
LA Clippers 112  –  New Orleans 103
Detroit 104  –  Cleveland 121
LA Lakers 111  –  Toronto 123
Philadelphia 112  –  Oklahoma City 122
Sacramento 98  –  San Antonio 113

Around The Association

Three months.

We made it just over three months without any major injuries in the NBA. Yes, Gordon Hayward’s foot detached from his body. But that was so early into the season–like, literally five minutes–that it didn’t feel like a major in-season loss. Same with Kawhi’s extended, suspicious absence. He popped in, played basically every other game, and then disappeared again. And while we still don’t know what in the world is going on – it still feels like we’re going to see Kawhi again this season.

Three months and that was all there was. And then this weekend happened.

Within a 24 hour span we lost Boogie to a popped achilles and Andre Roberson to a torn patellar tendon, with news that Mike Conley’s season was over sandwiched in between.

Conley had been out the last two and half months. And Memphis is 8.5 games out of a playoff spot at 17-31. It’s the least consequential, and it would have been unlikely to see Conley moved over these next few weeks without knowing his health. But a rebuilding Memphis team could have used a healthy Conley–an elite defender and borderline All Star–as an enticing asset for contenders in need of defense and stability. I went into the season with a Mike Conley for Isaiah’s expiring, the Brooklyn pick, and contracts trade in my head. I still genuinely think a healthy Conley would have been the perfect point guard for the Cavs to take on Curry and the Warriors. Total gamer, A+ defender to put on Curry, has always thrived against Golden State, can run the offense while also allowing it to run through someone else, great shooter, coming off his best season.

None of this matters now. But for the sake of competitiveness with Golden State, I would have loved to see healthy Conley on the Cavs.

The Andre Roberson injury doesn’t carry the same weight as Boogie’s… but it’s consequential nonetheless.

Roberson is an elite defensive wing. With George they formed the best wing combo in the league defensively. He was every bit as important to OKC’s success on that end as George and Adams. And even with Melo’s laziness and Russ’s penchant for risk taking, those three guys were great enough to cover things up.

In 539 minutes with Roberson plus the other four starters (Russ, PG, Melo, Adams), OKC’s defensive rating was a 95.9. In 402 minutes fr those four without Roberson, OKC’s defensive rating was 114.5.

Sure, his shooting was an abomination. But with George and Melo on board it would not have been as big an issue as these last two years. That 18.6 difference in defensive rating is a big enough gap to indicate as much. This sucks.

But the worst of all was pretty obviously the loss of Boogie.

There are plenty of angles to go with here, but all that really matters is that New Orleans had the most unique 1-2 combo in the league and now they don’t. We could discuss Boogie’s effort, net rating differences, on-court off-court splits, the Pelicans supporting cast, and on and on and on.

At the end of the day, New Orleans had the two best bigs on the court at all times and could create a matchup nightmare for every single team and now they don’t. They were the number one, without doubt answer to the question “who do you least want to see in a playoff series?”

At best your front line would take a massive beating. At worst that size would be so overwhelming that you would simply have no answer for both of them and would lose the series.

Since losing to Memphis on January 10th and middling out at 20-20, they had won 6 of 7. Their lone loss was on a Boston-to-Atlanta back-to-back to play a young, high effort Atlanta team after a grueling overtime win over Boston (Boogie’s 44/24/10/5 game), and they still nearly pulled it out.

They were about to beat Houston on Friday to make it 7 of 8. The injury happened on a unnecessary, flukey hustle play by Boogie with 15 seconds left. He had a triple double at this point, and they were one more stop from closing out a MONSTER win. They were already legit contenders based on Boogie and AD alone. If they could have acquired a 3&D wing at the deadline, I genuinely think it would have made them every bit the contender to Golden State that Houston was.

And that’s what sucks so much about all three of these injuries. For the fourth consecutive year, Golden State just sits there as all their competition falls prey to these injuries. Kyrie in the Finals, CP3 & Blake, Mike Conley, Kawhi in game 1 last year.

Now this. Now their biggest matchup problem, a valuable member of a rival, and a threatening trade chip for their presumed Finals matchup all go down for the year in the blink of an eye.

And they capped that off with a wild win over Boston on Saturday night to just reaffirm that they’re still the best team in basketball. Goddammit. This all sucks.

Milwaukee 110  –  Chicago 96

Milwaukee  (26-22)  6th in East
Chicago  (18-32)  12th in East

Giannis (33p/9/8a) and Middleton (20p/7r/5a) carried Milwaukee to a nice, clean win over Chicago. They’re 3-0 now under interim coach Joe Prunty. Granted, those wins have been over Phoenix, Brooklyn, and Chicago. But 3-0 is 3-0.

They’ve got a really fun one with Philly tonight.

Lauri (17p/10r on 6-10 shooting) had a nice game in the loss. But Chicago has come back down to earth now with 4 straight L’s.

Phoenix 102  –  Houston 113

Phoenix  (17-33)  13th in West
Houston  (35-23)  2nd in West

After three straight games in the teens while shooting a combined 26%, the Suns moved Devin Booker to the one.

He responded with 31p/10a on 12-23 shooting, carrying the Suns in a really fun head-to-head with James Harden (27p/10r/8a).

But Harden is still Harden, and took the reigns on a night where Chris Paul (17p/5a) played just 27 minutes with some right groin soreness. He’s questionable for Tuesday.

LA Clippers 112  –  New Orleans 103

LA Clippers  (25-24)  9th in West
New Orleans  (27-22)  6th in West

The Pels lost their first game without Boogie. It just… it sucks so goddamn much.

Blake (27p/12r/7a) was great. I’m sad about Boogie, let’s just move on.

Detroit 104  –  Cleveland 121

Detroit  (22-26)  9th in East
Cleveland  (29-19)  3rd in East

LeBron (25p/8r/14a) had a near triple double, and the Cavs won their second straight game since hitting their presumed rock bottom against San Antonio on Tuesday. Love (20p/11r) and Isaiah (14p/7a) were good.

And JR (15p/4r) hit 4 of 7 from three one game after his 7 for 13 from deep performance against Indy on Friday. Getting him confident again is as important as anything for this team, and these last two games have to be encouraging.

LA Lakers 111  –  Toronto 123

LA Lakers  (19-30)  11th in West
Toronto  (33-15)  2nd in East

Fred VanVleet (25p/4a/2s on 9-13 shooting) had himself another nice night. And the Raptors continue to cruise their way to some nice, easy wins. They’re making quick work of bad teams, getting valuable rest for their starters (DeRozan led the way with just 30 minutes), and building the hell out of their bench’s confidence (61 points on 53.5% shooting).

It’s the type of stuff you see from teams like Golden State and San Antonio. These decisive wins and extended bench minutes are as big a reason as anything for their sustained success – in terms of growth and development and also minimized injury risk. Credit to Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey, those guys have done a hell of a job and should be, at worst, top three in any Exec and Coach of the Year conversations.

Philadelphia 112  –  Oklahoma City 122

Philadelphia  (24-22)  8th in East
Oklahoma City  (30-20)  5th in West

As much as I love the Sunday matinees, it’s a shame we didn’t get this on a weekday night with Twitter buzzing. I’m hungover. I’m half asleep. I’ve got Lord of the Rings on the main TV and this game with no volume on the side TV. I’m utilizing every last ounce of energy just to get a dumpling from the table to my fat mouth.

If we’re getting two of the most magnetic figures in the NBA, I want it on a Thursday night. Russ and Embiid was made for the 8pm, no other games, everyone on NBA Twitter is losing their collective minds matchup. This was fun. It was a nice lead in to the Grammys. But the point of the matter here is that I want the NBA schedule to conform to my pathetic lifestyle and last night it did not. Anyway…


What a goddamn dunk. And what a moment it created after.

Embiid (27p/10r/2a/2b) had his moment. But Russ (37p/9r/14a/2s) won this battle. And goddammit it sucks that we have to wait until next year to see these two playa again.

Aside from the drama and beef, this has slowly become one of the most fun matchups over the last two years thanks in large part to the positional cross-matchups. Steven Adams (20p/13r on 10-11 shooting) is one of the few guys strong and quick enough to give Embiid issues.

And the Paul George (31p/4r/4a/4s) – Ben Simmons (22p/4r/7a) matchup is already one of the most interesting showdowns of two-way wings in the league.

It sucks that we have to wait until next season to watch these two go at it again.

Sacramento 98  –  San Antonio 113

Sacramento  (15-34)  15th in West
San Antonio  (33-19)  3rd in West

De’Aaron Fox (26p/3a on 6-15 shooting, hitting 6-6 from three) followed up his unreal performance and game-clinching putback on Thursday with another monster night.

But the Spurs got 23 points on 9-15 shooting from Bryn Forbes off the bench, and pulled away after the half with a 30 to 19 third quarter and 64 second half points.

Schedule for Monday, January 29th:

7:00   Charlotte  @  Indiana
7:30   Minnesota  @  Atlanta
8:00   Phoenix  @  Memphis
8:00   Philadelphia  @  Milwaukee
8:30   Miami  @  Dallas
9:00   Boston  @  Denver    NBATV

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