Breakfast Special: Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For McCollum

Oh, thank the gods the midterm election season is over. That’s one less distraction on Twitter when I have a deadline on this column.

(Initiative 1631 went down in Washington. 1634 passed. And Dino Rossi is a slime mold masquerading as a human being. That’s all the politics you’re ever getting from me in this space. Move the Orlando Magic to Seattle. Now then. On with the show.)

CJ McCollum had 40 points on 17-of-26 shooting and 5-of-10 from deep, Evan Turner (!) had 16 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, and the Bucks got absolutely nothing out of anyone not named Giannis Antetokounmpo (23 points), Khris Middleton (22), or Brook Lopez (22), wasting a Triple 20 at Moda Center in a 118-103 loss to the Trail Blazers in which Portland turned a close game with six minutes left into a runaway at the end.

Oh, and each team shot just eight free throw attempts. I would be perfectly OK with Bucks-Blazers being the NBA Finals matchup (especially if both teams wear some ’70s retro jerseys to commemorate the ’71 Bucks and ’77 Blazers. This needs to happen on the return trip, guys) if they’re going to play that clean.

A 51-42 rebounding advantage and 52.7-43.5 percentage difference from the field were the decisive stats here…well, that and the whole “only three Bucks in double figures while McCollum dropped a 40-piece on them” thing.

Portland is now one of the weirdest 8-3 teams in basketball. They’ve beaten the Bucks, Rockets, and Pacers…and lost at home to the Wizards and Lakers. That just makes less than zero sense!

McCollum and his 27 second-half points make the man-of-the-match reel:

Into the Hornets’ Nest

Charlotte is 6-5. Their point differential (+7.9) is consistent with a team that should win 62 games, not the 45 their record says they’re on pace for.

And last year, they had a similar win-big-lose-close ability (they were +0.3) and won 36 games.

This bugs me more than it should.

But behind 29 points from Kemba Walker and 20 from Marvin Williams, Charlotte beat the Hawks 113-102.

The big takeaways here were not good. The Hornets hit just 10-of-18 from the free throw line and turned the ball over 21 times. You start understanding why the Hornets underachieve when you watch their deeper fundamentals; Walker isn’t a crunch time scorer, the team does not execute in the basic ways common to good teams, that sort of thing.

But at the same time, +7.9 does not happen over 11 games by accident. There’s a seed of something great here, it just doesn’t grow in the soil of Charlotte’s NBA climate.

But hey, give it up for Kemba:

The DC Dumpster Fire

Acting like Dwight Howard is somehow going to be the Wizards’ salvation is outright comical at this point.

Howard had eight points and 11 rebounds, shooting 3-of-5 but posting a -13 plus/minus, as the Wizards went into Dallas and got their butts handed to them by the Mavericks, 119-100.

Luka Doncic led the way with 23 for the Mavs, Wes Matthews actually shot the ball like a competent NBA player on his way to 22 points on 7-of-14, and DeAndre Jordan…OK, he had eight points and 12 rebounds on 3-of-5 shooting.

Either I have no point or there is some serious NBA trending toward low-output shooting from big men these days as they put up their stats on the boards and play solid defense.

Or Jordan can’t score without Chris Paul throwing him alley-oops.

The freaky part of all this? Washington handily won the turnover battle (16-10), but the Mavs shot 26-of-27 at the free throw line and won this one with good old-fashioned not giving away opportunities outside of those times coughing up the ball.

This probably should’ve been closer. But it wasn’t, and the Wiz are now 2-8 and putting up a point differential-adjusted 14-win season statistically.

But they beat Portland. The world makes no sense.

Anyway, Doncic is your man of the match:

And Finally…

The schedule says there was a basketball game in Phoenix last night. And that the Nets beat the Suns 104-82 behind 26 points from Caris LeVert.

Brooklyn is now 5-6, and that’s good for a playoff spot in the East if the season ended today because the East is a trash fire below the 4 spot (Raptors, Bucks, Pacers, Celtics, and no, I’m not “forgetting” the Sixers…unless they beat the Pacers tonight for their first road win after starting 0-5 and make me look stupid.) 5-6 is good for the 7 seed and is just one game back of the aforementioned Sixers for the 5 seed.

LeVert is the guy whose career fortunes are tied to Thaddeus Young; that’s one of the more interesting win-win trades in recent NBA history.

While we’re on the subject, how about Spencer Dinwiddie? 12 points off the bench, a +20 in his 30 minutes, and one hell of a campaign he’s putting up in his quest to become one of the league’s best sixth men. Keep an eye on him; he’s actually finding a place in the NBA universe.

The politics are done. Let us all focus on basketball. Because if we’ve learned one thing from the Phil Knight Foundation’s donation to right-wing causes this election cycle, it is this:

Sneakers buy Republicans too.

(sorry.)

Thanks for reading!