Breakfast Special: Toronto’s Backcourt Monster Show

DeMar DeRozan scored 52 points, setting a career and franchise high and lighting up the night in Toronto on New Year’s Day, powering the Raptors to a 131-127 overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

And as if that weren’t enough, Kyle Lowry had 26 points of his own, giving the starting backcourt 78 points between them.

And the cherry on the sundae? The Raptors got more points from the starting shooting guard position than their opponent…as in 50 more points; Tony Snell started at the 2 for Milwaukee and scored two points.

But wait, there’s more! DeRozan and Lowry shot a combined 24-of-42 (57.1 percent), and DeRozan, who normally has a pathological aversion to shooting threes, hit 5-of-9 beyond the arc. He’s up to 34.9 percent on the season; still not good, but approaching league average and showing himself to be more efficient from three (where he’s got an eFG% of .524) than from two (where he’s hitting 51.3 percent of his shots.)

Meanwhile, this game did go to overtime, so you may be wondering what Milwaukee did right.

The short answer is that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe had 29 and 26, respectively, while Toronto’s frontcourt added nothing of value, with OG Anunoby scoring one point with zero field goal attempts in 35 minutes.

Plus, the Bucks shot 13-of-27 (48.1 percent) from three and a rock solid 26-of-28 (92.9 percent) from the line. Toronto wasn’t bad (42.4 and 81.8 respectively), but the Bucks were fundamentally sound; it just wasn’t enough against the onslaught of Toronto’s spectacular two-guard.

Highlights? How about four minutes of DeRozan doing DeRozan things:

The Orlando Tragic

Brooklyn nearly beat Boston on Sunday. Give them a SEGABABA at home, and what do they do?

They flip the script and beat Orlando by the same 98-95 count they lost by against the Celtics.

The Magic were atrocious from the field in this one, hitting just 36.5 percent of their shots and a pathetic 19.4 percent from three.

So why was the game close? Extra possessions. Orlando had 19 offensive rebounds and had 96 field goal attempts to Brooklyn’s 82. Even though the Magic hit a worse percentage, they nearly made up for it in volume.

The moral of the story? Limit your opponent to one shot!

This was a bizarre game for the gruesome twosome in Brooklyn’s backcourt. Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe have been shooting the Nets out of games all season, but this time they combined for a 35.7 percent shooting night (5-of-14)…and managed an eFG% of .536 (which is very good!) thanks to the fact that all five makes were threes. They were 5-of-11 (45.4 percent) beyond the arc and 0-of-3 on two-pointers.

This is modern basketball taken in a very strange direction, but that’s been true of Kenny Atkinson’s coaching throughout his tenure in Brooklyn.

In essence, it’s “what if the Rockets ran a G-League team out on the floor but didn’t change their offense?”


Kris Dunn‘s Continued Evolution

A maxim of this fine publication is “great teams win big and lose close.” Of their last eight losses, six have been by four points of less. Sure, the other two were blowouts; Boston and Cleveland beat them by 25 and 22, respectively, but that’s Boston and Cleveland. The Bulls lost another game to the Cavs by one possession and actually beat the Celtics by 23 at home.

Chicago is 10-4 since starting the season 3-20. And they actually play like a 10-4 basketball team.

Which is all by way of saying they took another gut punch loss, this time at home to the Portland Trail Blazers, on Monday night.

C.J. McCollum had a Dark Ages game, scoring 32 points on 11-of-30 shooting. Evan Turner (yes, really) was the real hero here, scoring his 22 on a hyper-efficient 10-of-14, while Al-Farouq Aminu added 24 to pace a Portland team that found itself in a monster shootout.

And yes, it was a shootout in the classic sense; the teams attempted a combined 212 shots, leading to 108 rebounds even as they combined to shoot a modest 43.4 percent from the field and a fantastic 41.7 from long range on 60 combined tries.

The difference-maker? Turnovers (12 for Chicago, eight for Portland) and free throw accuracy (88.9 to 82.3 in favor of the winners.)

Kris Dunn had 22 on 9-of-20 shooting, but in an NBA world where counting stats sway voters, that 22 is going into his Most Improved Player file, where he is a very credible challenger to Victor Oladipo for that honor. Although Oladipo’s case is certainly being helped by the Pacers playing like hot garbage in his absence; more on this later here at Pace and Space (stay tuned!)

Highlights, and you’re not getting those cherry-picked Dark Ages McCollum highlights; the guy took 30 shots, of course he got 32 points:

And Finally…

The Lakers are terrible. They were terrible with Lonzo Ball in the lineup, and even though Ball can’t shoot a lick, at least he played defense. This is more than Tyler Ennis and Jordan Clarkson can say for themselves.

Los Angeles is 0-3 without Ball, losers of five straight, eight out of nine, and 13 out of 16, dropping from 8-12 to 11-25 since the day before Thanksgiving.

In a 114-96 loss at Minnesota Monday night, Clarkson led the way off the bench with 20, but the Wolves shot 49.4 percent from the field, getting 28 from Jimmy Butler, 21 from Andrew Wiggins, and a 16-point, 13-rebound explosion from Karl-Anthony Towns, your standard Minnesota Big Three kind of game.

The Lakers turned the ball over 24 times, sent Minnesota to the line to shoot 27-of-30, shot just 8-of-26 from three, and just generally played like the G-League team they are.

LA now has the worst record in the Western Conference and leads Atlanta by just one game for 29th place in the entire NBA.

But these are highlights, not lowlights, so let’s throw the Lakers’ breakfast in the garbage in favor of a heaping helping of delicious breakfast served by the Butler:

It’s Pacers coverage time on Tuesday…and anyone with even a tangential interest in Indiana basketball knows what I’m going to say. Read it anyway. It’ll be full of delicious shown-my-work analysis like always.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!