Breakfast Special: Every Game A Finals Preview

The Toronto Raptors, every time they play a Western Conference team, get “potential Finals preview” added to it.

Such is the nature of a Western Conference where it seems like every team except the Suns has looked like a title contender at least once this season.

This time, it was the West-leading Denver Nuggets who came to Toronto…and became just the third team all season to beat the Raptors in Canada.

Denver won 106-103 behind a huge triple-double from Nikola Jokic; he had 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 15 assists.

Jamal Murray had 21 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, but his game was marred by seven turnovers.

And the Nugs defense held the Raps to a dreadful 26.8 percent shooting clip from three.

Contrary to what Gregg Popovich has said about basketball becoming “boring” because “it’s just layups and three-pointers”, putting so much feast-or-famine ball into the game has created all kinds of thrills and ushered in the “no 20-point lead is safe” era.

Just look at Game 7 of the West finals last year. Unless you’re a Rockets fan, that ongoing complete collapse and death by the sword was one of the best narratives the NBA’s had in ages.

But you’re here for the highlights. Private Joker!

Instant Relief, Just Add Atlanta

The Golden State Warriors have been reeling from Stephen Curry‘s injury woes, but once Steph had Trae Young guarding him, the Dubs looked like champions again, thumping the Hawks in Atlanta 128-111 behind a Triple 20 from their best players.

Steph had 30 on 10-of-17 shooting and 6-of-10 from three, Kevin Durant added 28 on 10-of-13, and Klay Thompson finished with 27 on 10-of-19. Limit ten makes per customer.

The Warriors shot 58.5 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from long range in this one.

Meanwhile, Young wasn’t exactly Steph out there; he had 20 points on 8-of-20 shooting and missed all five of his threes.

Young has been atrocious this season, shooting 37.9 percent from the field and 23.9 percent on 5.8 threes a game. Among players in NBA history with at least 138 attempts from long range (Trae’s total so far), that’s the sixth-worst single-season percentage.

Enough about Trae, the rookie will figure it out. Or he won’t, and he’ll wash out of the league. Either way.

Highlights go to winners, and that means Steph gonna Steph…

…and the rest of the stars will do as they do:

The Fault In Our Rockets

The Brooklyn Nets have earned a measure of NBA infamy for answering the question “what if you ran the Rockets’ offense, but with garbage shooters?”

Well, now the Rockets are answering the same question.

There is nothing fundamentally flawed about getting most of your shots from three-point land. This is Modern Basketball 101, and any shot not taken at the rim should be a three-pointer.

But what happens when you can’t hit threes for beans?

You get what we got here last week…er, last night…which is the way Daryl Morey wants it. Well, he gets it! I don’t like it any more than you men.

Houston shot 60 percent on two-pointers (21-of-35) and 28.2 percent (11-of-39) on three-pointers. Not good enough, guys.

Minnesota is now 12-12 after beating Houston 103-91 behind 24 points and 11 rebounds from Karl-Anthony Towns, a 50 percent three-point night where they had the same number of makes on 17 fewer attempts (11-of-22), and a big win in the turnover battle (20-14) to give them some extra possessions to play with.

Throw in a 42-34 advantage on the glass, so many extra shots that it bordered on absurd (Minny shot 82 field goal attempts and 28 free throws to Houston’s 74 and 19), and pulling down 32.5 percent (13/40) of the available offensive boards, and you see why they won.

Houston’s got a fundamentally sound system…and nobody to run it.

Come-from-behind wins are made by stars, and the KAT is your man of the match:

Lightning Round!

Cleveland is now 5-18 after beating the Nets 99-97 in Brooklyn.

5-18 is 13th in the Eastern Conference.

11-13 (Utah’s record) is 14th in the West.

The East is a Dumpster fire.

Alec Burks slammed home the game-winner in this one, part of a 13-point night off the bench:

The Pistons got absolutely humiliated at home by the Thunder Monday night, losing 110-83 while shooting 33 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from long range.

Paul George had 17 points and 10 rebounds to pace Oklahoma City, while Steven Adams was a monster of efficiency, scoring 21 points on just 7-of-8 shooting and 7-of-7 from the line.

Only one Pistons starter, Blake Griffin, had more points (20) than field goal attempts (he was 7-of-18), and that’s just not gonna get it done. Overall, Detroit’s 83 points came on 94 shots.

Give it up for the Kiwi, as Adams is the man of the match:

The Wizards beat the Knicks 110-107 behind a Dark Ages Special from Bradley Beal, who had 27 points on 12-of-25 shooting, and John Wall, whose 18 points came on 7-of-20.

That’s…kind of horrifying, but not as horrifying as the fact that the Wiz, at 10-14, now stand just a game and a half out of playoff position behind the 11-12 Orlando Magic.

10-14 would be dead last in the West if you traded the Wiz for the Suns.

Here’s a shot that went in. John Wall took it. It was a game-winner. I don’t want to reward 45 points on 45 shots for a pair of “stars”.

And finally, the Clippers shot 59 percent from the field, Tobias Harris (27), Danilo Gallinari (24), and Lou Williams (20) put up a Triple 20, and the Clips beat the Pelicans 129-126, and you guys are eventually going to listen to me and watch Pellies games on League Pass because they are entertaining as hell.

Yeah, New Orleans kinda sucks, but they score lots of points and can’t guard anyone. If you don’t think that’s fun, don’t come crying to me when another playoff game ends 66-64.

HERO OF SERBIA was a DNP-CD. Disgraceful.

Give it up for Harris, your man of the match:

Pacers Tuesday takes a look at Bojan Bogdanovic this week, trying to make sense of his spectacular start from long range and considering his “if he’s your third-best guy” potential. Stay tuned for that, and thanks for reading!