NBA Breakfast Special: The Pacers Make No Sense

The Indiana Pacers are 3-3, looking as maddeningly inconsistent as ever. Victor Oladipo has been the lone constant, somehow managing to appear the superior of Paul George in the Oklahoma City trade from the offseason, the one that was supposed to send Indiana into full Tank Mode as the youth movement developed around Myles Turner.

And sure, this team is legitimately horrifying on defense—24th in Defensive Rating, 28th in opponents’ FG%, and 26th in opponent’s 3PT%, but then they go out and do something like beat the Spurs in a slugfest 97-94, exactly the kind of game they always seemed to lose when it was PG’s job to make the last shot.

And they’ve done all this with Turner out for all but the opening game of the season, still under the NBA’s concussion protocol after a knock to the dome.

Oladipo’s stepped up. Far more surprisingly, so has Domantas Sabonis; the throw-in is actually leading the team in Win Shares/48 Minutes (not counting Turner, who’s only played one game) at .217. Oladipo is at .202. .200 is, roughly, the “legitimate All-Star” line.

Oh, there is one thing, though. Lance Stephenson smells like the freezer broke at the morgue. 71 Offensive Rating and minus-.149 WS/48. That is catastrophically bad. That is wouldn’t start in the Letter League bad.

But seriously. Check out this ice-in-the-veins dagger from the guy who puts the Victor in Victory:

97-94 on a come-from-behind win. For Pacers fans, this makes no sense at all.

DEE-TROIT BASKETBALL

Wait, Detroit is 5-2? Really?!

Sure enough, your Detroit Pistons just went into Oakland and beat the Golden State Warriors by a 115-107 count despite allowing the Dubs to shoot 57.1 percent from the floor and 10-of-27 from long range.

How, you ask?

Turnovers.

Golden State committed 25 turnovers in this one to Detroit’s 13. The weird thing? 22 were committed by the starters and only three by the bench.

Even weirder, how many times do Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant go for 27, 29, and 28 points, respectively, shoot a combined 33-of-50 (66 percent!) from the field and 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) from long range…and the rest of the team scores 23 points combined?

Detroit didn’t even play exceptionally well. Andre Drummond was 4-of-17. Tobias Harris was 6-of-18. Detroit got killed on the defensive glass, pulling down only 20 defensive rebounds, in part because the Warriors missed so few shots and in part because Golden State grabbed 10 of their own misses back.

Yet they won. Turnovers kill.

Go ahead and watch the unsung genius of Stan Van Gundy, whose ability to coach defense usually manifests itself near the rim but here showed itself on the hustle plays:

Cleveland Cadavers

Uh-oh. The Cleveland Cavaliers are 3-4 and that means Tyronn Lue should be looking over his shoulder as Cavs GM LeBron James looks to make changes. He didn’t come back to Cleveland to suck two years after winning a championship.

Losing to Orlando, Brooklyn, and New Orleans? OK, fine, at least one of those teams and possibly all three might end up being sneaky-good. Aaron Gordon has been a revelation for the Magic, the Nets are scrappy as all hell, and the Pelicans might finally be figuring out how to use DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis together.

But the New York Knicks? And Cleveland got blown out on their own floor, 114-95?

Kristaps Porzingis had 32 points and 12 rebounds to lead New York. Enes Kanter had 18 and 12, and Courtney Lee added 15 and 10. Three guys posting double-doubles, and they’re all rebound-based? Plus, Tim Hardaway Jr. lit up the defense for 34 points and eight assists, and Jarrett Jack, who shouldn’t be starting on any quality NBA team, scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting but ended up with a game-high plus-22 out there.

The Knicks aren’t that good! There’s no excuse for watching four of the five opposing starters have solid outings and the fifth one play beyond the box score during his time on the floor.

The Cavs shot 38.3 percent from the floor. LeBron simply disappeared, scoring only 16 on 7-of-15 shooting; that was just a lack of aggressiveness from a guy who’s become afraid to shoot free throws and attempted only one during the game (he made it.)

You don’t see whoop-ass cans opened like this very often:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Shoots 100 Percent. Dear Gods, The End Is Nigh.

OK, fine, MKG was 4-of-4. But it was that kind of night for the Charlotte Hornets against the 4-2 Orlando Magic, who have in the early going shown a bit of the old “young team can’t win away” blues; they’re 3-0 at home and 1-2 on the road on this tiny-sample-size season.

But Charlotte shot 54.1 percent from the floor in this one. If they hadn’t missed nine of their 17 free throw attempts, this would’ve been a blowout. Or, if they’d played some defense, it wouldn’t have been as close as the 120-113 final.

Kemba Walker had 34 points and 10 assists to lead the way, but double-doubles came in tandem from Marvin Williams (13 points, 10 boards) and Dwight Howard (22 points and 10 rebounds) as well. Williams, who’s put together one of the quietest 13-year careers this sport has ever seen after the Atlanta Hawks pissed off their fan base by passing on Chris Paul to draft Williams second overall in 2005, does nothing exceptionally well but has never been truly terrible (a career .104 WS/48 puts him right in the range of “decent NBA-level starter” conversations.)

Sure, he’s got zero chance of making the Hall of Fame and is still in search of his 10,000th point and 5,000th rebound despite having 867 games to get after it, but here’s to him.

What, you wanted some profound insight? Sometimes a regular-season game is just one team shooting the lights out when the other team can’t quite get itself together defensively away from their own building.

Oh, and Jonathon Simmons had 27 points. Unlike a certain squad in Detroit, the Magic know what to do with Spurs castoff fan favorites:

The Khris Middleton Show

Middleton missed his first six shots, going scoreless in the first quarter.

He was 9-of-13 after that, ending up with 27 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, and a mind-bending plus-26 in a game the Milwaukee Bucks only won by 11, beating the Atlanta Hawks 117-106.

Giannis Antetokounmpo got all the press after his 33-point explosion to lead all scorers, but Middleton was the man of the match.

I mean, we love Giannis here at Breakfast Special HQ, but you can’t tell me there wasn’t an uncalled travel and an offensive goaltend in this four-shot sequence to start the game:

But like I said. Man of the match was Middleton, so he gets the highlight love:

And oh yeah, Milwaukee lost the 10-minute stretch of the game Middleton wasn’t out there by 15 points. Any questions?

Nuts to the Nets

The Denver Nuggets have a hole as deep as a mine shaft at point guard thanks to their own poor drafting. The Brooklyn Nets have one because Jeremy Lin’s knee quit on the season early.

But holy crap, I think D’Angelo Russell might be completely incapable of holding his own, because the Nets lost the point guard battle in insane fashion.

Jamal Murray was 8-of-14 for 26 points as the starter. Emmanuel Mudiay was 6-of-12 and added 15 off the bench despite putting up a minus-23 in a game his team won by 13 (this has been your daily reminder that Mudiay sucks.)

Russell? He was 3-of-12 for 12 points (thanks to 6-of-10 from the line), probably should’ve just let Spencer Dinwiddie play the point since Dinwiddie scored a team-high 22 off the bench on 5-of-10 shooting and posted a plus-1, and needs to find a teammate’s mom to sleep with so he can go full Delonte West and get himself blackballed.

Stat of the night, besides Mudiay breaking plus/minus as a stat? Trevor Booker was plus-20 for Brooklyn. They lost 124-111. Small sample sizes are fun!

Also, Nikola Jokic throws such wonderful passes:

And Finally…

I predicted the Sacramento Kings would be sneaky-good this year and possibly even hang around the fringes of the playoff race.

Well…they’re 1-5. And they just got destroyed at home by the Washington Wizards 110-83. De’Aaron Fox was 1-of-8. Buddy Hield was 3-of-11. And there are two guys in the NBA named Bogdanovic and one is named Bojan and the other is named Bogdan and holy crap is that ever confusing.

Bogdan Bogdanovic had 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Frank Mason III hit 5-of-10 for 11 points. The rest of the team was 20-of-63 (31.7 percent.) Ouch.

Meanwhile, the Wizards get the Total Team Effort award. 12 guys played. 12 guys hit at least one shot from the field. Nobody had more than 20 points (John Wall led the team with 19) but they put 110 on the board.

Big win for the DC Family, half a game back of Detroit and tied with the Celtics in second place in the East.

Want to watch a whole bunch of dudes shoot three-pointers and make them? Here you go!

SITE STUFF

I know I promised a statistical breakdown article this weekend. The trouble was, when I actually wrote it, it was mind-explodingly packed with dry numbers like an Excel spreadsheet, broke no new ground and reached no interesting conclusions, and there was nothing I could do to punch it up for any but the hardest core basketball nerd (and even they would roll their eyes at a display of arriving at the bleeding obvious.)

So…yeah. That’s why there hasn’t been a feature in a few days. I’m hoping to get one out tomorrow. A day job and a freelance gig haven’t made that easy, but thanks for reading my daily omnibus roundup of the previous night’s games. I get the news out there, at least.