NBA Breakfast Special: LeBron Goes Full Dark Ages

Before we begin, a nod to my favorite tweet by an NBA social media account so far this season:

There is just so much to love about that. A Skyrim reference. Dragan Bender in a plastic mask. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ uniforms, which look like nothing so much as the FEV vats in Fallout 1.

Sure, Minnesota won that game based mainly around winning the turnover battle 18-3 (!), but props to the Suns’ Twitter person. That is world-class intersection of Jock Street and Nerd Avenue right there.

(I mean, it’s not Pistons writer Duncan Smith’s love of Star Trek TNG-level nerdy, but it lives in that neighborhood.)

Now then. Let’s breakfast.

We Need To Talk About This Dark Ages Crap

Is it my imagination, or are way too many NBA superstars starting to venture into this Iversonian Dark Ages territory where they have more shot attempts than points?

Russell Westbrook has followed up an MVP season by legitimately regressing to 2002, and on Sunday, it was LeBron James‘ turn to engage in crap on a cracker masquerading as a great counting stat night.

Yes, he had a triple-double—20 points, 12 boards, 15 assists—but he took 23 shots, making eight, and only attempted three free throws.

This isn’t one of James Harden‘s weird-as-hell games where the Bead will shoot something like 6-of-19 but all six makes will be threes and he’ll go 12-of-12 from the free throw line and end up with 30 points. Harden doing that just means it’s a day that ends in Y.

This is LeBron, who is otherwise shooting a career-best 57 percent from the field, going out there and scoring 0.87 points per field goal attempt.

League-wide, field goal percentage is the highest it’s been since 2010-11, and three-point percentage is the second-best it’s been all-time and the best since 2008-09. It’s a far cry from 2003-04, LeBron’s rookie year and the darkest Stygian void of the NBA Dark Ages, when the league shot 43.9 percent, the lowest since the ABA merger and the worst the league had shot since 1965.

Nobody wants to go back to the bad old days. Someone please stop these players from bringing back the 30 points on 30 shots era.

Highlights from the Cavaliers’ 106-99 win over the Washington Wizards:

The Beautiful Toronto Ball Control

Man, you just gotta love the Raptors and how they take care of the ball. If you hate watching guys like Boogie and Russ and LeBron (the top three in the league for most turnovers) give the ball away, just watch Kyle Lowry (only 2.5 turnovers per game) and DeMar DeRozan (2.4) hold onto the ball.

OK, maybe not DeRozan, who continues to take The Worst Shot In Basketball, the midrange jumper, like he thinks it’s 1986. His team-leading 21 points came on 6-of-17 shooting and 9-of-12 from the line; he missed the one three he attempted.

Lowry, on the other hand, scored his 16 on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-8 from three. That’s more like it.

Jonas Valanciunas added 13 points and 16 rebounds, the Raptors shot 43.3 percent from beyond the arc, and they took 28 free throws as a team (making 23) against the Kings only going 6-of-8.

Put it all together and you have the recipe for a 108-93 win and a season-long point differential of plus-8.5. The Raptors may be three games back of Boston in the standings, but on the scoreboard, they project as the No. 1 seed when all 82 games are played.

Highlights include the big Lithuanian..

…and DeRozan’s Dark Ages Spectacular:

DEE-TROIT BASKETBALL

Pistons 114, Magic 110, logjam secured in the Eastern Conference; if the season ended today, it’d be Pistons-Pacers in a fantastic first round series.

Orlando lost despite an unorthodox Triple 20 from Mario Hezonja (28 points on a ridiculous 8-of-12 three-point shooting night), Nikola Vucevic (24, plus 14 rebounds), and Jonathon Simmons (23). They shot 51.7 percent from three as a team…and still lost.

So how did Detroit win? Well, for starters, they hit half of their own three-pointers. They also made their free throws (13-of-16 vs. 11-of-17), made the Magic bench look like fools (Orlando reserves shot a combined 4-of-20), and took care of the ball (13 turnovers vs. 16.)

You put all that together and the little things led to the four-point difference. You don’t see wide stat disparities in close games.

Reggie Bullock led Detroit with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, Anthony Tolliver added 17 off the bench on 5-of-7, all of them from three-point land, to go with a pair of free throws, and the team managed 11 steals to keep the ball going the other way for easy points off turnovers.

Highlights from Bullock, the man of the match:

And from a Pistons team that matched a franchise-record 17 threes made on 34 tries:

And Finally…

I swear the Pacers win every game I don’t watch. I got dropped like a sack of potatoes by a migraine yesterday and had to take a nap just as the game was on.

I woke up to discover Indiana had beaten the Brooklyn Nets 109-97 behind 26 points from Victor Oladipo, 16 from Myles Turner, 17 from Domantas Sabonis, and one of those signature Pacers shooting nights where everything seems to go in; the team shot 56.6 percent overall and 60.3 percent on two-point shots.

Everybody on the Pacers was at least neutral in terms of plus/minus. Good Lance Stephenson showed up to shoot 3-of-6 and power the second unit.

And Brooklyn? Oh, what a mess they made. Only two starters were in double figures, as DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Spencer Dinwiddie shot a combined 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) from the field and 1-of-10 from three.

The Pacers defense locked down the Nets, and that’s the stuff that big road wins are made of. Indiana is now 7-7 on the road; last season, they went 13-28 away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

You want some highlights? Let’s finish the show with some highlights, beginning with the Pacers’ All-Star and frontrunner for Most Improved Player, Mr. Indiana Basketball himself, Victor Oladipo:

And just for fun, a monster dunk from Turner:

Migraines suck. League Pass replays of Pacers wins? They’re so much nicer.

We’ve got plenty of good fun this week, from Pacers coverage to Is He Any Good to a week’s worth of highlight breakfast, and there may just be a bit of blast-from-the-past as well as I dig through the Pace and Space archives to find old wine in new bottles.

So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!