Breakfast Special: Panic Time in San Antonio

It wasn’t long ago that the San Antonio Spurs were the solid third seed in the Western Conference, a team that even without Kawhi Leonard looked like they were well on their way to a 19th straight 50-win season.

As of this writing, the Spurs are no longer a playoff team.

The Rockets, behind 28 points on 6-of-17 shooting from James Harden (yes, really; he was 14-of-14 from the line), beat San Antonio 109-93 to take their 19th win in their last 20 games.

Houston has a reputation, and a deserved one, for living and dying by the three-pointer, and they took 44 of their 80 attempts from that far away during the game.

But they were rotten from three, hitting just 29.5 percent (13-of-44) of them.

Where they won the battle was on the good old two-pointer, hitting 26-of-36 (72.2 percent) from in close.

That’s the biggest misconception about Rockets basketball. They avoid the inefficient Worst Shot In Basketball™, as in the midrange jumper. But layups and free throws on interior shots are more efficient than anything this side of getting Steph-level hot from three-point land, and when the Rockets miss threes, they’re more than capable of getting the best possible twos.

Oh, and Eric Gordon had one point on 0-of-7 shooting including 0-of-6 from long range, which is insane.

Harden’s the man of the match, so here’s your highlight reel:

Russell Westbrook, Captain Counting Stat

When you shoot 7-of-19 and score 17 points, you had a rotten game shooting.

When you do that and post a triple-double in a game your team wins, that’s another matter.

And if you hadn’t surmised from the subtitle, of course we’re talking about Westbrook. 17 points on 7-of-19, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, a game where Oklahoma City’s Big Three shot a garbage 21-of-51 (41.2 percent) but redeemed themselves by hitting 11-of-19 of those (57.9 percent) from three.

The Thunder beat the Kings 106-101 on the strength of some solid defense; Sacramento shot just 40.9 percent as a team from the field, squandering a 13-5 offensive rebounding advantage and the aforementioned lousy shooting night from the other side’s best guys.

The Thunder are now 40-29, entrenched in fourth place in the wild West, and sitting on the conference’s third-best point differential behind only the mighty Rockets and Warriors. Don’t sleep on these guys.

That’s 99 triple-doubles for Westbrook in his career:

Tank That For Data

The Grizzlies have now lost 18 in a row. Whatever else may be said about that sad joke of a franchise, at least they don’t take half-measures. They now have as many losses in 18 games as they have wins for the entire season.

Of course, all that losing means someone was the beneficiary; the Bucks won this one 121-103 behind 24 from Khris Middleton and 20 from Giannis Antetokounmpo, leading seven in double figures in the Total Team Effort.

The Bucks shot 58 percent against the nonexistent Memphis defense, hit 48 percent of their threes, and overcame an 18-9 turnover disadvantage due in part to the Grizz happily obliging their opponent by choking at the free throw line; Memphis hit only 52.6 percent of their charity tosses.

Milwaukee had 11 offensive rebounds. Memphis had 21 defensive boards. When your enemy’s hitting shots left and right AND grabbing offensive boards at will? That’s a fantastic way to get blown out.

Oh, and did we mention Brandon Jennings is back in the NBA and nearly notched a triple-double with 16 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds? Because he did, and the league is on notice:

And Finally…

Somewhere along the line, and underneath the radar, the Portland Trail Blazers seized the third spot in the West; they won their 10th straight game Monday, beating Miami 115-99 and dropping the Heat into 8th in the East.

Damian Lillard scored 32 points on 8-of-19 shooting, Jusuf Nurkic added 27 points and 16 rebounds on 12-of-18 from the field, and Portland’s defense held Miami to just 42.9 percent shooting and 32.3 percent from three-point land, all while winning the game at the free throw line to the tune of 25-of-30 for the home team against 11-of-16 for the visitors.

14 more makes. 14 more attempts. A 16-point win. Any questions?

Your Western Conference Player of the Week is also the man of the match with all those points:

Pacers Tuesday returns on actual Tuesday this week, as we go back to 2013 to ask whether the squad’s got the kind of hopes that propelled them to two Eastern Conference Finals appearances the last time Lance Stephenson was a key part of the team.

Come dream with us here at Pace and Space, and thanks for reading!