Breakfast Special: The Lakers Tank Fail

Lakers coach Luke Walton is taking the continuing criticism of Black Marv Marinovich in stride. BMM’s son, Lonzo Ball, continues to be the biggest bust at No. 2 overall since Darko, and indeed Ball shot a disappointing 5-of-13 from the field in the Lakers’ you-can’t-even-tank-right 132-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

With the game decided, Walton pulled Ball from the game to preserve his health, but he couldn’t resist taking a dig at the media circus around Lakerland. When asked why he’d pulled Lonzo, Walton simply said “His dad was talking s— so I took him out early.”

Of course he was kidding, but that is just world-class Eff You Mode right there.

And then there’s this to consider…

Luke would “disagree with that”, regarding LaVar’s spurious claim that Walton has “lost the locker room”. It’s getting to the point where the Lakers should just trade Lonzo to Shanghai for a plate of kung pao chicken and the merch LiAngelo stole from that shop.

Meanwhile, on the subject of the actual game…

The Lakers rode a Total Team Effort to the win, won the rebound battle 49-37, shot 55.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from long range, got 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting from Brandon Ingram, and just generally ran roughshod over a horrid Atlanta team that got 27 points from Dennis Schroder and 15 from Kent Bazemore, which is great until you consider that the two men combined to take 38 shots.

Ball’s double-double, despite coming as it did on a Dark Ages 13 points on 13 shots factory of inefficiency, nonetheless netted some good press from the Lakers’ official Twitter:

Another Thunder Sort Of Loss

Russell Westbrook went for another triple-double…

But the Thunder lost 114-100 to the Suns in Phoenix, thanks in no small part to Carmelo Anthony‘s regression to his worst self in scoring 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting. When defenses bait Melo into isolations, it completely wrecks the Thunder’s offensive flow, and from that, it tends to sap their defensive motivation as well.

Westbrook’s 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists came as part of a minus-10 plus/minus, the ultimate case of everything wrong with Oklahoma City and why they’re dead meat by, at the latest, the second round of the playoffs; if they finish lower than fifth, they don’t have a prayer in Round One.

Meanwhile, Devin Booker had 26 points, T.J. Warren had 23, and Dragan Bender is starting to show signs that he might just actually be an NBA-quality player, scoring 20 points on 6-of-8 from three-point land and 7-of-9 overall.

Also, Oklahoma City shot just 57.1 percent from the line (12-of-21) and forced only seven turnovers. That’s not going to get it done against anyone.

How ’bout some Plays of the Night:

Dragan Bender’s got the great name and the movie-star looks; if he ever actually figures out how to play basketball, he could be a bankable superstar.

The Spurs Road Woes Continue

San Antonio is 18-2 at home and 9-12 on the road, and that’s the difference between them and the Rockets and Warriors ahead of them in the standings.

The Spurs had a chance to pull within half a game of Houston for second in the West but fell in Portland 111-110.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 and Manu Ginobili added 26, but despite shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 47.8 from long range, turnovers (14-9) and getting shots up (Portland was 48-of-92 from the field against the Spurs’ 40-of-81) marked the difference.

C.J. McCollum led the way for Portland with 25, and even though he needed 24 shots to do it, he still provided the scoring punch.

Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Maurice Harkless added a much more efficient 19 on 7-of-10 off the bench.

The Spurs were better from three and on drawing fouls; the Blazers controlled the ball better and shot well on two-pointers. It was a pick ’em, but someone had to win.

The ultimate highlight, as McCollum won the game for the home team:

Dallas Lost More Than New York Won

Kristaps Porzingis had 29 points on 9-of-25, the kind of “spectacular” game that’s great if you don’t think too hard about the box score.

And on a night where Dallas retired Derek Harper‘s number, the Mavs had numerous opportunities to overcome the Knicks, but lost 100-96 thanks mainly to shooting 38 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three.

The Knicks’ bench won this one, shooting a combined 14-of-24 (58.3 percent), led by Kyle O’Quinn‘s 15 points on 6-of-7. The starters shot 41,4 percent, which was still better than what Dallas put up.

And even though it pains me to put a 2002-esque performance as man of the match, Porzingis did score 29, so he gets the nod:

And Finally…

The Utah Jazz are 3-17 on the road, and they fell at Miami 103-102 Sunday.

Donovan Mitchell continues to make his Rookie of the Year case, scoring 27 points on 12-of-25 shooting (OH THE INEFFICIENCY), and in a skin-tight game that could’ve gone either way, that did help power his team.

Utah shot 90 percent from the line, outrebounded the Heat 44-37, and even made one extra three-pointer (10 for them, 9 for Miami, both teams right around 31 percent accuracy)…

…but Miami got three extra possessions on turnovers, shot 48.2 percent as a team to Utah’s 45.1, and saw all five starters in double figures. Teamwork beat stardom on a Sunday on South Beach, and the Heat go to 22-17, moving all the way up to fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and half a game back of Washington as the best team in the Southeast Division.

Josh Richardson was the hero of the day with the game-winning layup:

But the late comeback, as Miami erased a fourth-quarter deficit, deserves its own look:

Ready for some Monday stasticality? Well, good, because coming later today, we rank the contenders and the pretenders in the NBA playoff races, looking at point differential and trying to project the rest of the season and see what predictions the numbers have to make. Stay tuned for that, and thanks for reading!