NBA Breakfast Special: Greek Freakout In Boston

Giannis Antetokounmpo may as well be the Breakfast Special MVP for all the highlights he’s put on this show, and that was on display in a 111-100 losing effort for the Milwaukee Bucks in Boston Monday night.

The Greek Freak had 40 points on 14-of-24 from the field, adding nine rebounds, but the Bucks got otherwise outplayed by Kyrie Irving‘s 32 points and Jayson Tatum‘s continuing “hey, what about me” Rookie of the Year campaign.

OK, so rookies aren’t subject to quite the same pressure to be on good teams as, say, the MVP, but go ahead and tell me how a starter and the third option on a team that’s 21-4 is anything other than an instant All-Star.

And oh by the way, Tatum was 4-of-5 and is shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc, best among qualified players in the entire NBA. He’s also fourth in points per field goal attempt.

So we’ll show you the rising star…

And we’ll show you the Freak…

And we’ll show you the man of the match:

You’ve Been Dubbed

Stephen Curry had 31 on 9-of-19 and 5-of-11 from three. Klay Thompson had 22 on 8-of-12. Kevin Durant had 19 on a much less efficient 8-of-21. And Draymond Green went hog wild, scoring 19 of his own on 6-of-12.

Oh, and Golden State came from down 20 at the half to smack the Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans 125-115, but that wasn’t the only case of a team shorthanded; Durant got thrown out for picking up his second technical, taking DeMarcus Cousins (who had 19 points, 11 boards, seven assists, and five steals, coming up two blocks short of a five-by-five) with him.

Oh, and Steph sprained his ankle. It was just ugliness all around.

The Dubs assisted on 36 of their 45 baskets. They shot 51.7 percent from the field. And the highlights? Well, just for kicks, we’ll throw some Swaggy P into it:

And the insane 15-0 run to start the second half set the entire tone for the comeback:

And oh by the way, no 20-point lead is safe in today’s NBA:

Pacermania

The New York Knicks were on a SEGABABA and didn’t have Kristaps Porzingis.

This is a problem when you’re at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Indiana Pacers are having one of their Pacers kind of nights shooting the ball.

Enes Kanter and Courtney Lee were each minus-34 on the plus/minus in New York’s 115-97 loss, while the Pacers shot 53.5 percent from the field, held the Knicks to 6-of-23 from long range, and pulled off a Total Team Effort, led by Thaddeus Young with 20 and Bojan Bogdanovic with 19.

Four Pacers starters were at least plus-25. Only Bogie, at plus-13, missed that mark. Double-doubles belonged to Darren Collison (10 points, 10 assists) and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Domantas Sabonis (12 points, 12 boards.)

This was just a complete victory; Indiana won in every statistical category: Percentages on field goals, three-pointers, and free throws to go with rebounds, assists, steals (and by extension turnovers), and blocks.

Highlights? Here you go, including Lance Stephenson stretching the first-half lead to 27:

A Total Team Effort deserves total team highlights:

The Devin Booker Show

Well, there you go. Booker scores 46, the Suns are streakier than cheap window cleaner, and the Philadelphia 76ers were the victim this time, as Phoenix showed up in their building and smacked them 115-101 behind 46 from Booker and 25 from T.J. Warren.

The Suns show these flashes where they look like the elements of a good team; they just can’t do it more than once in a blue.

Phoenix won despite a Triple 20 from the Sixers; Joel Embiid had 22, J.J. Redick added 25, and Ben Simmons, not to be outdone by that hotshot in Boston, had 20.

Philly lost this one from across the river in Camden; they were 7-of-30 (23.3 percent) from three, while the winners were 10-of-22 (45.4 percent) and just plain shot the ball better (48.4 percent to 42.9) overall.

Philly made all 16 of their free throws; Embiid made 8, while Hack-A-Ben was 2-of-2 to quiet the critics of his free throw shooting for a night.

But still, Phoenix won, and that means you get to see the man of the match in action:

Bad Team Derby

Charlotte beat Orlando 104-94; Brooklyn beat Atlanta 110-90.

The Magic were cover-your-eyes terrible, shooting 43.9 percent and 10-of-32 (31.3) from long range, turning the ball over 20 (!) times, and sending Charlotte to the line for 40 free throws, of which the Hornets made 33, in the process overcoming a 40.5 percent shooting night (and 3-of-17 from three) of their own.

Kemba Walker had 29 for the winners; Nicolas Batum added 11 points and 11 boards for the double-double.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Southeast, the Hawks shot an atrocious 36.6 percent overall, lost the rebounding battle 52-38, watched Brooklyn hang a 15-of-36 (41.7 percent) three-point night on them, and except for Dennis Schroder (19 points on 9-of-17) got just about nothing from anyone.

I don’t think anyone is hanging on these Fate Worse Than Death games, but here are some highlights, first of Charlotte’s push to 8-3 at home (against 1-10 away):

And then of the Nets’ move to 9-14 on the season:

What Just Happened In Utah?

The Jazz have turned their lives around in the absence of Rudy Gobert, a damning condemnation of the way Gobert’s old-school game clogs the toilet and takes all the motion out of Utah’s offense.

Since Gobert went down, Utah’s kept the NBA’s sixth-best defense while raising their offensive rating all the way up to 10th overall in the entire league.

So what happened when they got Gobert back? Well, the Washington Wizards got straight-up embarrassed, losing 116-69 on 23-of-80 (28.8 percent!) shooting and 4-of-20 (20 percent) from three.

Utah won the rebound battle 52-31, shot 56.6 percent from the field and 47.1 percent (16-of-34) from three, allowed only nine assists total—Marcin Gortat, with three, was the only Wizard with more than one assist—and despite missing only 33 shots, grabbed 10 of the 29 available offensive boards (34.5 percent).

Alec Burks led the way with 27 points off the bench, while rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell had 21.

Which basically means that Quin Snyder and the team learned something, and now they’re going to unleash those lessons on an unsuspecting NBA.

Highlights, first of a ridiculous alley-oop from Ricky Rubio to Mitchell…

…and then of Mitchell’s man of the match night:

Miss Shots, Lose Game

You don’t have to be as utterly awful as the Wizards were to lose a very winnable game.

You could hold LaMarcus Aldridge to 17 points on 5-of-17 shooting, hold San Antonio overall to 42.7 percent, and still lose because you got murdered on the boards (51-42, with three Spurs in double figures rebounding the ball), couldn’t make a free throw to save your life (15-of-24, 62.5 percent, against the Spurs’ 12-of-12), and shoot 8-of-27 from three (29.6 percent) while you let the other guys shoot 14-of-31 (45.2 percent.)

Do that, and you too could be the Detroit Pistons, who lost 96-93 to drop their third straight, sixth out of ten, and who fell to 14-9, fourth in the East and only two games above the eighth-place Wizards.

Perhaps more alarming is Detroit’s weak plus-1.8 point differential; over the course of 82 games, that’s broadly consistent with a 46-36 team, not the juggernaut they looked like when they started 10-3, which is a 63-19 season pace.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are 16-8, headed for 55-27 at that rate, with a 3.6 to the good difference, an expected rate of 51-31. So they’re not the only overachievers in the yard here.

But really, what is point differential this early in the season? Boston is 21-4 and at plus-7.2 looks like a 61-21 team, not a 69-13 team, while Toronto has that exact same differential but is 14-7 and on pace for 55 wins instead of the 61 their margin says they deserve.

And that’s before Houston and Golden State both break basketball by running out to 11-point-plus positive differences; sure, Houston might win 70 games (52-8 is doable over their last 60 if they have a long winning streak), but the Warriors would have to go 51-6 the rest of the way out.

Anyway, I digress. Gregg Popovich is Coach of the Century, and if this team ever gets its MASH unit sorted, they’re going to be a mess for some team in the second round of the playoffs:

The Nuggets Are A G-League Team on the Road

We’ve seen some wild home-road swings in the NBA this year. Charlotte is 8-3 at home and 1-10 away. Utah is 11-4 at home and 2-7 on the road. Oklahoma City’s splits are 8-3 and 2-9.

And sure enough, Denver is terrible below 5,000 feet, as they dropped to 3-8 on the road against 10-2 at home, losing to the dead-last Dallas Mavericks 122-105 despite a weird Triple 20 from Jamal Murray (22 on 7-of-12 shooting), Gary Harris (21, 7-of-17), and Will Barton (23, 9-of-20.)

Look, guys, volume scoring is great, but not if you’re tossing up bricks left and right.

Meanwhile, Dallas rode a double-double from Harrison Barnes (22 points, 10 boards) and a solid outing from Dennis Smith Jr. (20 points on 9-of-16) to an overall 57 percent shooting night and 46.2 percent (12-of-26) beyond the arc.

Denver? 41.8 percent from the field and 38.9 percent (14-of-36) from long range.

Even crazier? Both teams had seven turnovers. Smith had three for Dallas; Mason Plumlee had two for Denver. Nobody else had more than one on either team.

Highlights from a clean game:

Grit. Grind. Beat Timberwolves.

The Memphis Grizzlies may be a team in free fall, but even a dead cat (or bear) will bounce if you drop it from high enough.

The Grizz snapped an 11-game losing streak with an old-school knock-down drag-out fight, winning 95-92 as Jimmy Butler missed a game-tying three at the buzzer.

Minnesota shot 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) from three, while Memphis wasn’t much better at 6-of-21 (28.6 percent.)

The Timberwolves actually won the turnover battle 16-9, but they were outrebounded 41-34, watched Memphis shoot 21-of-24 (87.5 percent) from the line against their 18-of-19 (94.7 percent) and just committed the wrong kinds of fouls; the refs whistled Memphis 22 times to Minny’s 16.

This was a close game in every sense. Highlights:

And Finally…

LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Dwyane Wade had 24, 23, and 24 respectively, putting up a winning Triple 20 and leading Cleveland to their 12th straight win to consolidate their hold on second place in the East at 17-7.

Cleveland beat the woeful Chicago Bulls 113-91, holding Chicago to 9-of-34 (26.5 percent) from three while shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 13-of-36 (36.1 percent) from the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Love added 13 rebounds for a double-double. Meanwhile, LeBron continues his ridiculous career-best shooting season; he’s in his 15th year in the league and still making magic happen.

Bron was 9-of-14 from the field, 2-of-4 from long range, and 3-of-4 from the line; his .584/.416/.773 slash line is the best field goal and three-point percentage of his career and the second-best (he shot 78 percent in 2009) mark from the line.

And his 28.0 points per game? That’s the most he’s averaged since his last season in Cleveland before “The Decision” in 2010.

We are all witnesses, folks.

Highlights:

Pacers feature coming later today; statistical test still on the shelf for now (writers and migraine headaches don’t go together.)

Anyway, stay tuned and thanks for reading!