Breakfast Special: The Downside of NBA Christmas

Go ahead and find me a worse day for basketball than the day after Christmas. The NBA schedules no games on Christmas Eve to make sure that their marquee teams don’t have a back-to-back on the holidsy, and that also means that on December 26, those same teams, spared the need to play a SEGABABA, are all resting up and at home with their families.

Which can only mean one thing…a Bad Team Bonanza that leaves all but the hardest core League Pass junkies playing video games instead. Seriously, I’m still playing 2K12 on a MyPlayer save I’ve had since Obama’s first term.

But journalistic responsibility being what it is, and with the Pacers in action and my fan loyalties very much on display, I bring you the kind of breakfast you achieve when you run out of food on the day the grocery store’s closed.

Please Don’t Let Them Finish 4-5

The Detroit Pistons have manhandled the Indiana Pacers for a few years now, thanks mainly to a style problem; Detroit’s centers have been able to eat Myles Turner‘s lunch on the boards.

Tuesday’s 107-83 shellacking at the Hot N’ Ready Arena was more of the same, as Turner was completely ineffective, shooting 3-of-9 from the floor for only 10 points and three rebounds, while Andre Drummond had 21 points and 18 boards.

Meanwhile, there was a HERO OF SERBIA sighting! Boban Marjanovic had six points on 1-of-1 shooting (EFFICIENCY!) thanks to a perfect 4-of-4 from the line, for Boban is love, Boban is life, and any night Boban plays is a Silent Night, Deadly Night! Part 2!

Oh, and Detroit out-rebounded Indiana 46-26. Yikes.

The Pistons shot 50 percent as a team, but the amazing thing about Stan Van Gundy’s fourth-place bunch is how they shoot the three. They’re still just average to below average at it, but making 12 of 34 shots beyond the arc shows how Detroit’s offense is evolving into modern four-out basketball the way the Warriors have taken Seven Seconds or Less and turned it into the divine perfection of what small ball can be.

Curiously, those two styles? The latter was invented by Mike D’Antoni; the latter was perfected by the Houston head coach. Can we give the man a statue?

Tobias Harris had 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting, and he’s your man of the match:

What The Crap Was That, Part 1

How on Earth did the Toronto Raptors lose on the road to the Dallas Freaking Mavericks?

The more amazing part isn’t the 98-93 final score. It’s the fact that Toronto shot 33.7 percent from the field and only lost by five.

DeMar DeRozan was 3-of-16 for eight points, J.J. Barea led Dallas off the bench with 20, Dirk Nowitzki‘s Fountain of Youth Game led to 18 points on 9-of-13, there were 109 total rebounds, and despite a 24-12 made free throw advantage, Toronto still lost behind the aforementioned dreadful shooting.

Dallas is 10-25, but what really jumps out is just how good they are at making good teams look stupid on their best nights.

We don’t often give man of the match to bench players on bad teams, but Barea is the man of the match:

What The Crap Was That, Part 2

Milwaukee has lost at home to the Chicago Bulls not once but twice this season.

This time, Chicago smacked the Bucks 115-106; the Bulls are now 11-22 overall…and 8-2 in their last 10.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was valiant in defeat, scoring 28 on 11-of-17, Eric Bledsoe had 22 on 8-of-14, and Malcolm Brogdon added 18 off the bench on 7-of-11.

The rest of the Bucks? 38 points on 13-of-41 (31.7 percent.) Ouch.

Nikola Mirotic led Chicago with 24 off the bench, while Kris Dunn has begun to show signs of the potential he had when the Timberwolves drafted him fifth overall last year.

Dunn has his PER up over league average, and after shooting a horrific 37.7 percent last year as Ricky Rubio‘s understudy, whatever Ricky taught him about shooting seems to have sloughed off him as he’s closer to league average for his position now.

In fact, he’s a 0.5 VORP positive player in his sophomore year, and if Victor Oladipo hadn’t locked up the honor by Thanksgiving, we’d be talking about him as Most Improved Player.


If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Blown Out of the Arena

Miami beat Orlando in a cross-state Florida basketball rivalry game, winning 107-89 and hanging onto the 8 spot in the tightly packed East standings by going to 18-16.

On the one hand, they’re just a game and a half back of Detroit for fourth place and a home playoff Game 1. On the other hand, they’re just half a game up on the Knicks for ninth and missing the playoffs entirely (but don’t worry about New York. They’re 15-6 at home and 2-10 on the road; their day of reckoning is coming on a big road trip.)

That’s nine straight losses for Orlando, as Frank Vogel finds his seat getting hotter in the coach’s chair; when you don’t have Paul George and Danny Granger to anchor a top defense, bad things start happening. Orlando’s down to 11-24 and a game on the wrong side of Chicago in the standings, now 14th in the East and fourth-worst in the NBA.

Josh Richardson led the way with 20 for Miami, Kelly Olynyk added 15 points and 12 boards in Hassan Whiteside‘s continued absence due to injury, and the defense held the Magic to 40.7 percent shooting and 25 percent beyond the arc.

And yes, the Magic are without Aaron Gordon. But they look like they got burninated by Stuff the Magic Dragon out there.

Highlights from a 39-point fourth quarter that turned a 69-all tie after three into a blowout win for the home side:

Jingle Jangle Jingle

The Brooklyn Nets are a prime example of what happens when you take the fundamentally sound principles of Houston Rockets basketball and try to play it with players who suck.

San Antonio beat Brooklyn 109-97 as the Nets shot 41.9 percent from the field overall and 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) from three-point land. The Spurs, meanwhile, got 21 from Kawhi Leonard, 20 from LaMarcus Aldridge, and 51.3 percent shooting from the overall squad

It was also a free throw party and all of Texas was invited; the Spurs made 20-of-24 from the line against 7-of-9 from Brooklyn, and while having a Seven of Nine night is good if you’re a Trekkie, it’s bad if you’re a free throw shooting team.

The league just wasn’t right with Kawhi hurt. If the Spurs can get their wheels rolling again, they’re a genuine dark horse as the West’s third-best team:

Phoenix and Memphis Played A Basketball Game Because Reasons

I really don’t mean to rag on the Suns here, who pulled out a 99-97 win over a Grizzlies team that is now 3-20 after starting the season 7-4 (and really, between them and Chicago, what’s with teams having 23-game runs with three wins?), but they always seem to do enough dumb stuff that you wonder how they win at all.

At least they got Devin Booker back, and Booker scored 32 points to power the victory at home.

The Suns lost the turnover battle 19-10, but when your opponent shoots 15 percent from three (as Memphis did, going 3-of-20 and what’s with those numbers again?), you can probably shoot your way out of a jam.

Which Phoenix did. At the free throw line, to the tune of 27-of-35, offsetting a 24-of-29 night for their opponents.

This was sloppy, ugly, what-else-is-on-TV basketball. 64 free throws?

But at the end, someone had to win this thing, and that’s where a Tyson Chandler game-winning slam dunk came in:

Nobody loses on an out-of-bounds play quite like a badly-coached garbage team. Still glad you fired David Fizdale instead of trading Marc Gasol, Grizz fans?

Highlights from the stretch drive:

The Comical Shooting of the Utah Jazz

Take a cleanly-contested game in which teams combined for only 16 turnovers, throw in a star turn from Jamal Murray (22 points on 9-of-15), stir in some good free throw shooting (19-of-23 for Utah, 18-of-22 for Denver), and add a solid rookie performance from Donovan Mitchell (13 points on 5-of-10) and what do you get?

If you said β€œa closely contested Northwest Division rivalry game,” go sit in the corner. This was an old-fashioned butt-kicking that Denver won 107-83.

See, Utah shot 32.1 percent as a team. Rodney Hood was 4-of-17. Four players had one make each on at least five attempts. Denver shot 48.1 percent themselves. And that’s how you get a blowout win if you don’t cherry-pick stats that were close.

Denver was 11-of-30 (36.7 percent) from three. Utah was 10-of-35 (28.6 percent.) The Jazz bench shot a combined 8-of-35 (22.9 percent.) And that’s how blowouts happen.

Highlights from Murray, your man of the match:

And Finally…

Willie Cauley-Stein had 17 points on 8-of-10 for the Sacramento Kings.

The rest of the team had jack-all, with only two players notching even 10 points and the Kings’ defense going MIA to allow the Clippers to shoot 55 percent from the field, win the rebound battle 49-36, and get a bench explosion as Montrezl Harrell had 22 points and Lou Williams had 21.

LA won the game 122-95 despite 16 fewer field goal attempts and a 14-9 loss in the turnover battle.

How, you ask, besides the rebounding? Well, there was that whole 55 percent thing, along with 13-of-31 (41.9 percent) beyond the arc, but the real battle was won through referee spittle.

That is to say the Clips shot 21-of-27 from the free throw line against just 8-of-12 for Sacramento.

But that’s only a 13-point advantage. They won by 27.

See, the Kings took 16 more shots, but LA actually made four more (44 against 40.) Plus, the Kings shot just 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from long range.

Except for the turnovers, there was literally nothing the Kings did right.

Let’s finish by giving Jamil Wilson his due; the guy’s been toiling away in Agua Caliente for the Letter League, so he gets his NBA props:

Coming later: That Pace and Space glossary I promised yesterday that was rendered inoperative by circumstances. We’re set to finish 2017 like Miami finished that game against Orlando last night, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!