Breakfast Special: When Bad Teams Go Good

Riddle me this, Batman. When an NBA team becomes my ultimate idee fixe, how many times are they going to have to bear out my points about them before it literally drives me insane?

Because I think I’m actually barking mad, and I have the Atlanta Hawks to blame. The Hawks beat Charlotte by one point, 124-123, snapping a 10-game losing streak, and I am leading my freaking column with it because the 9-10 Hornets have a +4.5 point differential, the kind of figure that should have them on pace for 53 wins.

I don’t believe in stuff like โ€œlearning how to loseโ€, but how many times does Kemba Walker have to disappear in a close game before we declare him permanently ruined by life on the 2012 Bobcats?

Charlotte went 36-46 each of the past two years despite outscoring their opponents on the season. Walker is that baseball player who hits a home run when his team is up 5 and strikes out when it’s the ninth inning, there are two men on base, and his team is down 1.

Oh, by the way, Kemba had 22 points on 7-of-23 shooting. Against the freaking Hawks.

The Hawks are a different team with John Collins on the floor. He, not Trae Young, might just have the best NBA career of Atlanta’s youth movement.

Collins had 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting plus 11 rebounds, Young had 18 on a weird 4-of-10 from three and 2-of-8 from two.

Oh, and Collins’ game-saving block secured his place as man of the match:

The Furious Los Angeles Clippers

What a monster comeback for the Clippers in Portland on Sunday.

LA was down 58-45 at the half…and reeled off a 38-16 third quarter, taking a nine-point lead and coasting to the finish line for a 104-100 win to drop Portland to 12-8, which set the Blazers, once in first place, back to sixth.

And now it’s the Clippers’ turn to sit atop the West, as 13-6 is good for that coveted but dangerous 1 seed in the crowded conference.

And oh by the way, 9-11, 4.5 games back, is where you’ll find the 14th-place Jazz. Man, competitive balance is fun, ain’t it?

Tobias Harris had 34 points on 14-of-22 shooting to go with 11 rebounds, HERO OF SERBIA Boban Marjanovic was a DNP-CD (shame on you, Doc!), and Avery Bradley showed off those weird-stat-line defensive chops in a game where he shot 2-of-11 from the field and led everyone with a plus-21 plus/minus.

Damian Lillard had 30 for Portland, but he had to take 27 shots (making 12) to get it. That ain’t gonna cut it in 2018, Dame.

When Evan Turner had your team’s best shooting night (17 points, 7-of-14), you probably didn’t win.

Give it up for Tobias, whose career high makes him man of the match:

Enes Kanter‘s Turkey Day

Thanksgiving came a little late for the Knicks, as Enes Kanter had 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting to go with 26 (!) rebounds in a game where New York stomped Memphis, who would otherwise be hanging onto first in the West, on the Grizzlies’ own floor, 103-98.

The Knicks are 7-14, and considering they didn’t look like more than a 15-win team on paper before the season started, staying on a 27-55 pace might just be their best-case scenario.

Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks in scoring with 22, but New York shot just 37.4 percent as a team. They weren’t supposed to steal this one, but the rebounds (56-41), free throws (27-of-32 for New York, 11-of-19 for Memphis), and pestering Mike Conley (who shot 8-of-24 from the field and 2-of-10 from three) proved decisive.

Kanter was beast mode out there:

Lightning Round!

LeBron James didn’t have one of those monster LeBron games we’ve seen when he singlehandedly drags that G-League team in Los Angeles to a win.

So the Lakers lost to Orlando at home, 108-104.

Nikola Vucevic was the man in the middle with the hot hand, scoring 30 points, pulling down 15 rebounds, dishing seven assists, and posting a team-best plus-17 in the win.

So of course Vooch is the man of the match:

DeAndre Ayton had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Devin Booker exploded for 37 points, and the Phoenix Suns…got smacked by Detroit 118-107 at the Hot N’ Ready, swamped under Andre Drummond‘s 19 points and 16 rebounds, Blake Griffin‘s 19 points and 11 assists, and Detroit getting five extra possessions from turnovers (17-12).

Weird but true? The Pistons blocked zero shots in the game.

Bust out the Raisin Bran for breakfast, Dwane Casey. You’ve earned it by coaching a solid game of team basketball:

Look out, Eastern Conference, because nobody could’ve seen Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid working THIS well together.

Can we just anoint Embiid as better than Karl-Anthony Towns based on their combined efforts working with Butler?

Jimmy had 34 points and 12 rebounds. Embiid had 32 and 12. Ben Simmons had 13 points on 0-of-0 from three. And Markelle Fultz watched football.

Butler steals man of the match honors, because those two extra points he had compared to The Process? Well, when those points seal a game, you’re probably the impact player.

Dwyane Wade may have had 35 off the bench, but the Heat did jack squat else, so they lost 125-115 to the Raptors to drop to 7-12.

Toronto got 29 points and 10 rebounds from Kawhi Leonard, 17 and 10 from Jonas Valanciunas, and 12 points and 10 assists from Kyle Lowry.

They also turned it into a Total Team Effort thanks to a trio of 10-point performances from CJ Miles, Fred VanVleet, and Delon Wright off the bench.

Oh, and they shot 52.2 percent from the field too. That’s just monster stuff.

Highlights? Kawhi not?

And finally, the Utah Jazz beat the ever-loving snot out of the Kings in Sacramento, whupping up on them 133-112.

Utah shot 53.3 percent from the field, got 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting from Ricky Rubio (!), saw Rudy Gobert post 18 points and 15 rebounds, smoked the Kings 49-36 on the boards, and just flat-out abused rookie Marvin Bagley, who put up a game-worst minus-28 in his 30 minutes; the Kings were plus-7 in the other 18 minutes of the game.

One Other Thing…

Shouldn’t the Little Caesars mascot be a Pistons fan?

Betrayal! Betrayal!

We’ve got some fun for you this week, as Pacers Tuesday considers what 82 games without Victor Oladipo would look like, the Wednesday feature asks questions about the crowded Western Conference standings, and IS HE ANY GOOD RETURNS! (it’s in its regular Thursday slot starting this week and running through the end of the regular season.)

Stay tuned for that, and thanks for reading!