Breakfast Special: Dwane Casey’s Two Scoops of Revenge

The dumbest thing the Toronto Raptors did in an otherwise stellar offseason was fire Dwane Casey after a 59-23 regular season.

And the smartest thing the Detroit Pistons did was show Stan Van Gundy the door in order to get Casey back on an NBA sideline without missing a single gameday.

So as good as the Raptors are—and at 12-2, they are very good—Wednesday night belonged to Casey’s Pistons, who won 106-104 on some late-game heroics from Reggie Bullock:

Just watch the pure exuberance on Blake Griffin‘s face. Watch the way the Pistons celebrate together. Watch everything that Casey has instilled into this team.

Then tell me he’s not a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate if he can somehow coach this previously-underachieving franchise into the top 4 in the East somehow this year.

Detroit was 10-of-33 on three-point shots. Which isn’t good (30.3 percent) but if Masai Ujiri and friends somehow thought they were getting a triumph of modern basketball with DeMar DeRozan shipped out of town and Casey—at one point one of the worst Scott-Hollins Syndrome cases in the league before last year—coaching elsewhere, the 4-of-20 the Raptors shot made fools of them all.

This was supposed to be one of those “your hot ex-girlfriend shows off her new guy and rubs it in your face” games for Casey.

Instead, the new guy got a kick in the ghoulies like an ’80s coming-of-age movie.

You done good, Dwane Casey. Celebrate this one a little bit more than usual…on second thought, you really don’t need me to tell you that, do you?

Blake Griffin’s 30 points and 12 rebounds make him the man of the match:

Buck Wild in Milwaukee

The Memphis Grizzlies, every NBA fan’s vexation for the fourth consecutive season as we try to make anything resembling sense out of these guys, walked into Milwaukee, beat up the Bucks, and stole their lunch money.

Well, OK, they won by one possession—bolstering the Bucks’ “win big, lose close” street cred in the process—but still, it’s the freaking Bucks.

Marc Gasol just became the only center in NBA history not named Brook Lopez to make six threes in a game, going 6-of-12 from out there, 10-of-18 overall, and notching 29 points.

Mike Conley had 26 on 9-of-16 to prop up his case as the best player never to make an All-Star team.

And Mike Budenholzer’s squad, which tries so very effectively to be Rockets East, just ran aground on the same problem Houston so often runs up against.

Three is more than two. But two is more than zero, and when you hit 9-of-35 (25.7 percent) from three and 32-of-46 (69.6 percent) from two, something’s gone a bit sideways, hasn’t it?

Milwaukee won the rebounding battle (44-34). They didn’t get clobbered too badly on turnovers (16-12). But basketball is ultimately a game of doing a trained seal impression, and on that front the Bucks fell short.

Speaking of “three is more than two”, though, how about Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff doing a pretty good job demonstrating what he learned from Daryl Morey in Houston? Memphis was 14-of-36 from three (38.9 percent) and 28-of-47 (59.6 percent) on two-pointers.

Feel the love, fans, even the freaking Grizzlies are upping the entertainment value.

You like threes? I like threes! Let’s watch some threes.

Luka Doncic Just Isn’t Fair

The Dallas Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz 118-68. Sixty-eight points in an NBA game in 2018 will get you beaten to a pulp so bloody that nobody can identify the remains (contrast the Boston Celtics in 2002, who scored 66 points in a playoff game and won.)

And Super Saiyan Goran Dragic, aka Luka Doncic, aka America’s Second-Best Slovenian (sorry Melania, it’s a bronze medal for you), did…this.

Seriously, that’s Rudy Gobert, perpetual Defensive Player of the Year candidate, getting hey-look-it’s-Batman’d by Doncic on an absolutely filthy play right at the rim. Doncic is the real deal.

How bad was it for the Jazz? The starters shot 17-of-40 (42.5 percent) from the field and 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from three. That’s pretty bad, but it’s not 68 points bad.

The Jazz bench? 8-of-40 (20 percent) from the field and 2-of-21 (9.5 percent) from three.

Meanwhile, the Mavs couldn’t miss…well, except on their free throws (16-of-24 ain’t good.) They shot 58.4 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three, had every single bench player make at least half of his shots (total bench production: 25-of-36, 69.4 percent overall), destroyed Utah 51-33 on the boards, and just for kicks had Dwight Powell end up at plus-34 for the game.

While we’re on the subject, the Jazz came into this game at +2.2 for point differential. That’s a 47-35 pace over the course of a season.

They left at -1.6, an expected W-L record of 37-45. Ten losses in one, you could say. They dropped from sixth to 12th.

The Mavs, meanwhile, just altered their expected win total from 34 to 45 in that same one stroke. They’re now sixth in point differential and instantly playing better than their 6-8 record.

It might not stick, but it’s intriguing right now.

Here’s a little Slovenian fun to honor the king of the made-you-look:

Lightning Round!

LeBron James, in Eff You Mode, will not let the Lakers lose. Bron could’ve taken the 2012 Bobcats to the Finals if he set his mind to it.

Los Angeles grabbed the win 126-117 over Portland as Bron had 44 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, and a place in history as he passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list.

Oh, and he hit 13-of-15 from the free throw line just to throw a bit of shade at his haters.

The Timberwolves may be winless on the road. They may be miles behind the pack in the West, with only the Suns below them in the standings.

But they’re 6-1 at home and look like live dogs since Jimmy Butler left town.

Minnesota beat New Orleans 107-100 behind 25 points and 16 boards from Karl-Anthony Towns, playing fantastic defense as well; Anthony Davis got 29 points, but he shot just 9-of-25 from the field to get them.

Don’t let Andrew Wiggins‘ presence in the NBA’s official highlights fool you; he still sucks. He had 23 points, but it was on 8-of-22 shooting.

A wild Wednesday in the NBA included upsets everywhere you look, and the Phoenix Suns ran their record to 3-11 with a big home win over the San Antonio Spurs, spanking the cowpokes 116-96.

It was TJ Warren’s night; he had 27 points on 10-of-17, posted a +24 plus/minus, and pinched three steals.

Meanwhile, DeAndre Ayton continues to impress in his debut season; he had 17 points on 8-of-11 to go with 10 rebounds and three assists.

Phoenix shot 56 percent as a team. That’s getting it done.

Give it up for the hotshot rook:

The giant car crash on the fringes of the East playoff race is going to get real interesting by April, and Miami and Brooklyn just played fender bender derby at Barclays Center last night, a game the Heat won 120-107.

Miami’s now 6-8 and standing ninth. Brooklyn is 6-9 and in tenth. And Orlando—more on them in a second—stands 7-8 and in eighth.

In other words, the world has gone mad, and none of this will matter when the Raptors or Bucks beat the snot out of one of these teams in the first round of the playoffs.

Tyler Johnson had 24 in 31 minutes off the bench to pace the Heat, while Goran Dragic had 21 on 8-of-15 shooting in a starter’s role.

Brooklyn, meanwhile, stunk out the joint shooting, missing 61 of their 102 attempts.

Johnson’s the man of the match:

Orlando beat Philadelphia (and alert Pacers fans will now note that put Indiana back into third place in the East!) by a 111-106 count, spoiling Jimmy Butler’s second outing in Philly.

What also got spoiled was a triple-double from Joel Embiid; he had 19 points, 13 boards, 10 assists, and an L.

Ben Simmons had nine points on 0-of-0 three-point shooting.

And for the winners, Nikola Vucevic had 30 points, eight rebounds, a game-high plus-21, and just a single turnover.

A big comeback from 16 down takes a team effort, and that’s what you’re getting:

The Cleveland Cavaliers just got a nasty reminder that they’re still the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Washington spanked them 119-95 behind 20 points from Bradley Beal, as nobody on the Wizards were truly great, but all of them were at least competent.

And “competent” beats the Cavaliers, who turned the ball over 23 times, shot 4-of-21 from three, and got absolutely nothing from anyone not named Collin Sexton.

And hey, let’s celebrate competence! YAY COMPETENCE!

The Boston Celtics are back in the East’s home side of the playoff bracket, walloping the Bulls 111-82 behind a balanced attack in which six guys were in double figures but nobody cracked 20.

Jaylen Brown‘s 18 led the way, and Gordon Hayward had a wacky stat line—11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, but he was plus-24 to set a team high in that mark.

Boston won the turnover battle 22-13 and outshot the Bulls from three to the tune of 15-of-34 for the Celtics against just 7-of-23 for Chicago.

Team efforts mean team highlights:

And finally, Oklahoma City whipped the Knicks like a team whipping the Knicks.

Dennis Schroder has been putting on one mighty fine understudy performance in replacement of the injured Russell Westbrook, and his 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting went along with 12 assists and a plus-30 point differential on the floor.

The Thunder have been doing an absolutely fantastic job of team basketball without their superstar. How soon before we start asking questions?

And speaking of stars, how about Paul George with the big 35-point night?

A Little Love For Twitter

If you’re not following me on Twitter, you should. And if you’re wondering why, well…just read this thread that inspired today’s breakfast page image:

Go ahead. Click. Read the comments. This is the very best that NBA Twitter can be, and it’s awesome.

You know who else is awesome? You are, reader. You da real MVP. Thanks for reading!