When Boban Marjanovic has one of those HERO OF SERBIA games off the bench, shoots 7-of-9, leads the Clippers with 18 points in just 16 minutes, pulls down seven rebounds, and keeps the game within the margin (he was minus-1) in that time frame, that’s a good sign for Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, that was just the third of the game that wasn’t total garbage for the Clips, as the Raptors pounded them like cheap steak 123-99 in a game that was over by the end of the third quarter, when the score was 103-74.
Serge Ibaka had 25 points to lead all scorers, Kyle Lowry added 21 (and a game-high plus-30 in 32 minutes), Fred VanVleet started and had five points and 14 assists, and a team that didn’t have Kawhi Leonard due to a bruised right hip still managed to go on the road and beat the crap out of a playoff team.
Nick Nurse has this Raptors machine humming, Masai Ujiri should be Executive of the Year every year but especially this year, Toronto is 22-7 (and on pace to eclipse the franchise record of 59 wins in a season set last year), and the Eastern Conference is so top-heavy that it’s like a woman whose breasts arrive in a room five seconds before the rest of her does when she walks through the door.
You’re welcome for the mental image.
But this is not a column featuring boob highlights (sadly), it’s a column about basketball highlights, and Serge Ibaka is your man of the match:
— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2018
Pop Makes History
How ironic that a guy who hates three-pointers got to fourth place on the career coaching wins list with a little help from one of his players going nutzoid from three-point land.
Bryn Forbes was 5-of-5 from three on his way to 24 points, the Spurs overall shot 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from long range, and…LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 0-of-0 from three as their 23 points came on a combined 10-of-22 shooting on two-pointers with three free throws chucked in there for funsies.
The Suns, on the losing end of this 111-86 smackdown, shot a pathetic 40.2 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three, as Josh Jackson (and his 8.2 PER) stunk out the joint with a 2-of-14, seven-point, four-turnover Roland Emmerich movie of a game.
Deandre Ayton continues his enigmatic rookie season, scoring 12 points and hauling in 11 boards, another one of those “his ceiling is Shaq but he’s nowhere near the ceiling” type games.
The Spurs, meanwhile, got some great bench help from Dante Cunningham; he had 14 points on 5-of-7 including 4-of-4 from deep; he and Forbes were 9-of-9 while the rest of the Spurs were just 4-of-12. Chew on that for a minute.
Then enjoy your dose of Forbes highlights, a million-dollar performance from the richly-named guard:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 12, 2018
It is an inevitability that a team in the Western Conference finding itself in 14th place must immediately have a strong game to stay in the giant fustercluck that is that peloton fighting for the 8 seed.
Portland, the 8 seed in question, is 15-12. Houston, the 14 seed despite being just two games under .500 at 12-14, stands only 2.5 games out.
And that’s after the Rockets beat Portland Tuesday night, 111-104.
Chris Paul had a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists, James Harden scored 29, and the Rockets played nine guys and managed a Total Team Effort when seven of them scored in double figures.
How insane has this season been for Houston? It looks like they’re starting to move away from the three-pointer. They only shot 29 threes, making nine of them, as the eFG% on their threes this season has been so dreadful (they’re shooting 33.6 percent for a .504 eFG%) that trying to get the ball inside (they’re hitting 55.5 percent of their twos, third in the league) is proving more effective.
But the grand debate between the triple and the deuce is a story for another day (one we talk about a lot here at Pace and Space!)
Meanwhile, Portland has an efficiency problem of its own. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 56 points (34 for Lillard, 22 for McCollum), but they had to take 46 shots between them (12-25 Lillard, 10-21 McCollum) in order to do it.
Portland’s low-efficiency volume shooting problem in its backcourt is why on any given night they could be the best or the worst team in the NBA, and nobody knows which you’re getting until they jump it up.
That’s why they’re the 8 seed…and why so many rumors are floating around involving trades up in the Northwest.
Oh, by the way, that triple-double from CP3? It was one of the best performances this season by a guy who stunk up the place shooting the ball—he was 2-of-12.
So instead, here’s a scoring duel between two of the most electric stat sheet stuffers in basketball. I AM SO SORRY FOR YOUR AUTOMOBILE, CP3:
— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2018
Short highlight show because it was a short night of stat sheets. Funny how that works. Enjoy the lazy Wednesday, folks; Is He Any Good should be right where it belongs tomorrow, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!