Breakfast Special: Precious ROY in Dallas

Luka Doncic has seized the conversation for Rookie of the Year, as not only are his Dallas Mavericks 10-9 and in eighth place in the Western Conference after the Mavs thumped the Rockets in Houston by a 128-108 count, but by point differential Dallas is the fifth-best team in the West.

Houston, meanwhile, has lost four in a row to drop to 9-11, all the way down in 14th, with only the wretched Suns below them.

Early in the season, you can talk about small sample sizes and early outliers and all that…but we’re a quarter of the way through and the Western Conference is like a slot machine that has all three of its reels spinning in a free-float…and the whole thing is a perpetual motion machine besides. If there is any order to how this is all going to stop, your guess is as good as mine who’s going to emerge. We could be looking at a 14th-place team that gets a comment along the lines of “would have been a playoff team in the East” (Houston, at 9-11, would be tied for eighth with 10-12 Orlando.)

Doncic had 20 points and six rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting, splitting the honor of leading scorer for Dallas with Devin Harris (wait, he’s still in the league?), who scored 20 of his own on 6-of-8.

J.J. Barea (wait, he’s still in the league?) had a double-double with 13 points and 12 assists off the bench, Dallas out-Rocketed the Rockets by shooting 17-of-34 from three, and Houston had one of the new problem-with-Moreyball games, shooting 13-of-45 (28.9 percent) from three-point land while making 27-of-42 (64.3 percent) of their two-point shots.

The fundamental soundness of “three is more than two” doesn’t work if you don’t make the shots, guys.

The Mavs can’t possibly make the playoffs in Doncic’s rookie year…can they? They might if he keeps playing like this:

New Orleans Takes the Wiz

There’s been a lot of talk about the Pelicans being sellers at the trade deadline, moving Anthony Davis, and most of these rumors seem to involve the Lakers.

Now, while I’m never going to explicitly dismiss any rumors involving the Purple and Gold for as long as LeBron is on that team, the Pellies are 11-11, hanging around the fringes of the playoff hunt, and they’ve got one of the most explosive collections of offensive talent ever assembled.

And that explosive collection of talent thrashed the Wizards 125-104 at Smoothie King Center Wednesday.

Davis had 28 points and 15 rebounds. Julius Randle had 23 and 12 off the bench. Jrue Holiday scored 29. And Tim Frazier added 12 points and 12 assists.

Three guys with double-doubles, three guys with 23 or more points, a 64-38 rebounding advantage?

How is this team 11-11?

Oh. Right. They may be fourth in Offensive Rating, but they’re 25th in defense and couldn’t guard my dead grandmother.

But the Pelicans are the greatest show on League Pass. They play the third-fastest game with the fourth-best offense and sixth-worst defense. Tell me that’s not the most watchable basketball going today and I’ll tell you to get back in your time machine and go home to 2002 if you don’t like it.

Cue the Brow:

Greekout!

Greekazoid saved the day in Milwaukee’s 116-113 squeaker against Chicago at home, as Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points on 14-of-21 shooting, pulled down 11 rebounds, and dished eight assists.

It wasn’t a great game for the Bucks—they only managed a comparatively low (for them) 35 three-point attempts, making just 12—and the Bulls put up their best star-driven effort to try and win the ballgame, getting 24 points each from Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine plus 22 from Ryan Arcidiacono.

But the Bulls were ultimately undone by their failure to capitalize on Milwaukee’s poor three-point night by only going 11-of-37 (29.7 percent) out there themselves. Two makes, which still would’ve been below league average for the game, and this one goes the other way.

One make, and at least it goes to overtime.

Malcolm Brogdon also added 24 for the Bucks, who go to 15-6 on the season and 11-2 at home.

But Greekazoid is your man of the match:

Oh, and Khris Middleton dropped the hammer at the end:

Lightning Round!

The Hornets would like to remind everyone that their point differential makes no sense, as they smacked Atlanta 108-94 at home.

A double-digit win behind 22 points from Jeremy Lamb and a dreadful 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting from Kemba Walker powered the victory, while the Hawks generously helped out by shooting only 34.4 percent from the field.

Cody Zeller had 19 as well, on 7-of-9 shooting. Resistance is futile.

Highlights:

Speaking of point differential, the Sixers did some work toward bringing theirs more in line with their record (they’re seventh in the East in that stat at +1.1) with a 117-91 thrashing of the Knicks.

Joel Embiid had 26 points and 14 rebounds to go with seven assists, JJ Redick blew up for 24 points on 10-of-14, and Ben Simmons had 14 points on 0-of-0 from three-point range.

The Sixers say 24 here for Embiid but the box score (and I checked this from three sources) says 10-of-21 FG and 6-of-8 FT. So he had 26.

Donovan Mitchell‘s back in Utah, and he’s back to his old 2002 All-Star tricks…never mind that Mitchell was five years old in the 2001-02 season.

If you guessed “he had lots of points but took lots of shots”, welcome back, thanks for your continued and loyal patronage! Mitchell had 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting. High volume, high counting stats.

But then again, Utah won 101-91 over the Nets on the road, continuing the Western Conference’s dominance of the East this season.

Rudy Gobert, however, was much more efficient, scoring 23 points on 10-of-14 and pulling down 16 rebounds in the win.

Russell Westbrook had a monster of a triple-double, going off for 23 points, 19 rebounds (!), and 15 assists in the Thunder’s 100-83 pile-driver they dropped on Cleveland at home.

The advanced analysis here is that Collin Sexton isn’t ready to play against Russell Westbrook.

This ain’t rocket science, so here are some highlights.

Minnesota annihilated the Spurs 128-89, as in a post-Jimmy Butler world, the Timberwolves are finding fresh chemistry and getting solid performances from Robert Covington (21 points, nine rebounds, a monster plus-44 plus/minus) and Dario Saric (10 points, six rebounds, plus-15 in 17 minutes off the bench.)

The Timberwolves have now won four in a row, stand 11-11, and have dropped the Spurs below .500 in the crowded pack below the cut line in the West.

Karl-Anthony Towns (16 points, 11 rebounds) added a double-double as well, but please enjoy Josh Okogie, who’s getting more minutes with Butler gone and showing off his athleticism:

Portland made a meal of Orlando at Moda Center, but when you have Damian Lillard, you can eke out a 115-112 win based on an insane stat line.

Like 41 points, 13-of-22 shooting, 10-of-15 from three, eight assists, and a game-high plus-15.

See?

Also, Nik Stauskas was putrid for the Blazers, scoring 18 points, but playing such wretched defense that he ended up minus-17 in 19 minutes in a game his team won.

But how about Lillard, huh?

And finally, the Clippers beat the Suns. Phoenix is 4-17. All is hopeless and we can only wonder what it’s going to look like with Zion Williamson and Deandre Ayton on the same floor.

Los Angeles got the 115-99 victory behind 28 points from Danilo Gallinari, 12 points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes from HERO OF SERBIA Boban Marjanovic, 20 off the bench from Lou Williams, and all five starters posting at least a plus-21.

Oh, and Ayton was absolutely neutered by the big Serbian (and by Montrezl Harrell as well), scoring just four points in 30 minutes and grabbing only nine rebounds.

This tweet just makes me smile.

But give it up for Gallo:

Is He Any Good returns today…and we’re asking a lot of questions about Gordon Hayward, because it’s not officially a Thursday in midseason until half the Internet hates me. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!