NBA Breakfast Special: Lonzo Ball’s Triple Double Problem

Lonzo Ball makes no sense at all.

Not for nothing do we call him the dollar-store knockoff version of Russell Westbrook around here, because in many ways, Ball’s game is patterned after the Thunder’s far superior player. Same great nose for the rim, same eye for making the defense pay for overcommitting to him by finding an open teammate, same ability to soak up minutes and keep coming back for more.

But on the other hand, even when Ball is good, his complete inability to shoot stares you in the face and won’t let you look away.

Ball had 11 points on 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) shooting in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 127-109 win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday night. He took sixth place in the all-time competition for fastest to his second triple-double in his career, even as his fellow rookie Ben Simmons did it twice by Game 9:

Which means we get to talk about a key point here. Even as Ball has flirted with either side of zero for Win Shares, he has been quietly becoming a legitimate defensive force. Every point that he costs the Lakers with his utter garbage shooting, he gives them back on the other end.

Ball is 13th in the NBA in Defensive Win Shares, and that was before Sunday’s game. He also came into the contest 18th in Defensive Rating.

But again. He’s hot garbage on offense. Which is why his triple-doubles are a result of him throwing the ball at the rim desperately just trying to get it to go in five times. He can’t draw contact to save his life, and his free throw shooting is more Shaquille O’Neal than Russell Westbrook. His three-point shooting is cringeworthy in the extreme. And you can take him out of his game just by forcing him to his right when he has the ball.

But a triple-double is a triple-double, so feast your eyes on the highlights for Dollar Store Westbrook even as this column repeats its call to (a) send Ball to the G-League to learn how to shoot and (b) have LaVar Ball on “First Take” when this happens so he and Stephen A. Smith can make asses of themselves.

We’ll have the counting stat talk on here. Just not today.

Speaking of Makes No Sense, It’s the Indiana Pacers

What on earth was that second half in Miami? The Pacers came out as they do, scrapping on the road but in no way looking like they were going to put a weak opponent (Miami is 7-9) away. It was 58-55 at the major break.

Then…well, things went crazy go nuts, the Pacers won the third quarter 30-13, and they pulled away in the fourth quarter to ultimately win 120-95.

Myles Turner is back in a big way after battling the cobwebs of a concussion suffered in the season opener; he had 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, pulled down seven rebounds, blocked four shots, and the best part of all, completely neutralized Hassan Whiteside while going plus-30 during his time on the floor.

Bojan Bogdanovic got overshadowed by Turner’s explosion, but he had possibly his best game in Indiana thus far, going for 26 points on 9-of-14.

Thaddeus Young was plus-27; his 12 points in a support role came on 6-of-10 shooting.

And oh yes, Indiana was 51-of-85 (60 percent!) from the floor. The Pacers have these games sometimes, it seems, when their shooters all get hot at once, and it is one heck of a sight to behold.

Indiana is now 9-8, and in the process, we’ve watched the team learn how to command the boards (Domantas Sabonis had ten rebounds, and Indiana out-rebounded Miami 42-35 overall) and find their teammates (33 assists, including ten from Darren Collison and five each from Cory Joseph and Victor Oladipo.)

Highlights from the dual threat out there:

Dinosaur Jr.

When you get the Washington Wizards without John Wall, and you’re on your own floor, it is imperative that you get the job done, because you won’t get many better chances to beat those guys.

And sure enough, despite Bradley Beal going for 27, the Wizards just didn’t have the weapons to beat the Toronto Raptors, who triumphed north of the border with a 100-91 win.

DeMar DeRozan had the most DeRozan-ish game in getting to 33 points; he was 15-of-26 from the field, 2-of-6 beyond the arc, and 1-of-1 from the line, a jump shooter’s line if ever there was one.

Despite an 11-of-19 (57.9 percent!) shooting night from Washington, the Raptors still played great defense, in part because their rim protection was so good at cutting off interior penetration that the DC Family shot only 23-of-62 (37.1 percent) on two-pointers.

Toronto had four players (DeRozan, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas) with at least seven rebounds, and they won the battle on the boards overall 48-43.

They also got some help from terrible free-throw shooting; the Wiz were 12-of-21, and their starting five managed only five free throw attempts (going 2-of-5.)

It wasn’t a good game. But it was good enough to beat a Wall-less Wizards squad.

Highlights from the man of the match:

Andre Drummond, Destroyer Of Worlds

Just a thought, but you might want to box out the league’s leading rebounder when his team puts up a shot.

Andre Drummond had nine (!) offensive rebounds and 16 boards overall, scoring 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting.

And even though all five Detroit starters had negative plus/minus numbers, the bench stepped up and played solid defense while scoring only 18 points; when you score that infrequently and still end up atop the scoreboard while you’re out there for nearly a third of the game, that’s a sign the other team’s bench isn’t getting it done, and indeed, the Minnesota reserves, with the notable exception of Nemanja Bjelica (who outplayed Taj Gibson despite the latter starting and playing 31 minutes), did nearly nothing with the ball.

Minnesota shot 35-of-56 (62.5 percent) on two-point shots. Unfortunately for them, they were only 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from three and killed themselves at the free throw line by hitting only two-thirds (12-of-18) of their shots from there.

Detroit wasn’t great (.470/.320/.700), but they won the battle beyond the arc and at the line, and that was enough to power a 100-97 squeaker of a win.

Highlights:

The Warriors’ Brooklyn Problem

Golden State always seems to struggle at Barclays Center, and only winning by seven, 118-111, despite 39 points from Stephen Curry seems a prime example.

Sure, Kevin Durant sat this one out, and Omri Casspi‘s 12 points and eight rebounds weren’t exactly MVP material, and sure, Allen Crabbe played out of his mind (25 points on 9-of-19) for the home team…

…but still. Giving up 42 third-quarter points and 69 overall in the second half, nearly blowing a 22-point halftime lead?

You have to start wondering if the Warriors are back in that mode where they get bored against bad teams, the one bugbear that’s plagued them despite being 220-43 since the start of the 2014-15 season, when Steve Kerr took the coaching reins.

Highlights for the man of the match, because Steph Gonna Steph:

And I’m just going to go ahead and point out that Zaza Pachulia ought to get onto the Harlem Globetrotters for this:

And Finally…

If two garbage teams play in the desert, and nobody’s around to see it, did it still suck?

OK, fine, the Suns shot 50.6 percent, but fans didn’t get to see Devin Booker at his best; Booker was 5-of-15 shooting and ended up with just 15 points.

T.J. Warren led the way with 27, and Phoenix took advantage of a horrifying 42-of-101 (41.6 percent) shooting night from the Bulls, but it was a fairly clean game (only 36 free throws between the two teams) that wasn’t too sloppy on ball handling (11 turnovers for each team).

I mean, that’s not awful, right? And the Suns took care of business at home, 113-105, to go to 7-11 compared to 3-11 for the Bulls.

So…yeah. NBA basketball! Sort of.

Highlights from Warren, the man of the match:

Features return this week, including a couple of Black Friday specials. So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!