NBA Breakfast Special: James Harden Clowns Lonzo Ball

For the Houston Rockets, showing Lonzo Ball what a real NBA star looks like was always going to be on the menu.

For James Harden to play the best defense anyone has yet played on Flea Market Westbrook all season? Wait…did Mike D’Antoni really just get Harden to buy in so completely that now he’s emerging as a legit NBA defender, in gross contravention of his reputation? Was that just a thing that happened?

Ball was 0-of-4 from the field. His only two points came on his sole trip to the free throw line.

And Harden, with Ball trying to guard him? Good luck, kid. The MVP frontrunner had 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting, dished out nine assists, played a huge role in Eric Gordon‘s 22-point night, and contributed to a Triple 20 as Chris Paul scored 21 points of his own.

Oh, and Gordon was plus-37 in the Rockets’ 118-95 public humiliation of the Lakers at Staples Center. That’s five straight losses for the Lake Show, as playing 4-on-5 is no way to win NBA basketball games.

Highlights from Harden’s carving up of the pathetic scrub he got to work against:

Genuine Russell Westbrook

The real thing had a triple-double, as the Thunder are 7-3 at home this season. If they weren’t so utterly putrid on the road (as in 3-9), there wouldn’t be so much panic in Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs are utterly snakebitten. Kyle Anderson went down with a leg injury, and the scream he gave spoke to the severity of the impact. It does not sound good for the Spurs, who are already without Kawhi Leonard and who just got Tony Parker back. How that team is 15-8 absolutely boggles the mind.

But the day belonged to Westbrook; he had 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists for his seventh triple-double of the season. Steven Adams added 19, but no other Thunder player—not Carmelo Anthony, who had only nine on 4-of-10 shooting, and not Paul George, who despite a late clutch three only scored eight—got to double figures.

Neither team shot the ball well, both squads hanging around the low 40s overall and a point either side of 28 percent from three. It was an ugly ballgame, ending 90-87 for the Thunder, but we’ve got highlights of the whole contest:

Jimmy Butler Eat World

Butler had 33 to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 112-106 win over the Los Angeles Clippers at home, and the bigger question is what was Jeff Teague doing out there? It sure wasn’t playing defense; competent NBA defense tends to limit guys like Austin Rivers to less than 30 points.

The Clippers just had no answer without Blake Griffin. Wesley Johnson is just about finished, and went 1-of-10 for two points. Montrezl Harrell had ten points off the bench on 3-of-5, and Jamil Wilson had nine points on 3-of-8, all from beyond the arc.

Doc Rivers needs to figure out some kind of way to generate a frontcourt presence, because you’re not going to get DeAndre Jordan going 8-of-8 for 17 points and the coach’s son lighting up the scoreboard every night—and even if you do, the Clips didn’t win this game, dropping to 8-14 on the season.

For Minnesota, Taj Gibson had 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 and 12; Teague, as bad as he was defensively, did manage 10 assists to go with his nine points.

Plus, the Wolves won the turnover battle 16-7. Taking care of the ball on an elite level will take you far.

Highlights, and of course Jimmy G. Buckets is at the forefront:

Steph Gonna Steph, Miami Gonna Die

Man, just when you’re ready to write the think pieces about Houston stealing the reins out West by constructing the perfect roster for their style of basketball, the Golden State Warriors, led by 30 points on 11-of-16 and 5-of-9 from Fort Lauderdale for Stephen Curry, go out and thump the ever-loving crap out of the Miami Heat on the road 123-95.

The game was actually close—62-60 Warriors—at the half, but a 37-17 third quarter put the game away.

Kevin Durant had 24, Klay Thompson was a basket away from the trio’s eighth Triple 20, ending up with 19, and Golden State rode a 56 percent shooting night (47-of-84) and a massive rebounding advantage (41-28, with Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk proving they’re no Hassan Whiteside, who missed the game with a knee injury) to the win.

America’s Greatest Slovenian, Goran Dragic, had 20 on 7-of-10; Waiters Island was used for nuclear testing as Dion went Bikini Atoll and shot 1-of-10.

Highlights? Why yes, we have some of those. Enjoy!

And Finally…

The New York Knicks play the Indiana Pacers tomorrow with the winner grabbing the eight seed in the East for now. Indy is 12-11; New York dropped to 11-11 on the front half of a back-to-back at home, losing to the Orlando Magic 105-100.

Nikola Vucevic took full advantage of the Kristaps Porzingis injury to control the center position, going for 34 points and 12 rebounds on a game-high plus-13.

All five Magic players scored in double figures, providing 95 of the team’s 105 points.

Meanwhile, the Knicks got 18 points and 16 rebounds from Enes Kanter, and a 21-point night from Michael Beasley on 10-of-19 shooting.

The zebras had a lot to say about this one; New York shot 9-of-10 from the free-throw line; Orlando shot 25-of-29. Combine that with a 14-10 win in the turnover battle and that’s the way this cookie crumbled in Madison Square Garden.

While we’re on the subject, Orlando came into this game 28th in the NBA in Defensive Rating. Are we sure Frank Vogel’s OK? Did he take a knock on the head?

No matter. We’ve got highlights for the big Montenegrin international, helping his team try to dig out of a 9-14 hole with a win:

You may have noticed that the Sunday statistical test wasn’t in its usual spot yesterday. That’s because…well, OK, it’s because I got called away from my desk to go actually act like a socially competent human being for the day. These things happen!

Which, well, was also a bit convenient since I was out of ideas. There will, however, be two features this week in which I check up on the Total Team Effort and Triple 20 statistics, updating them with games that happened since the first time we brought them up here. So stay tuned for that, and thanks for reading!