NBA Breakfast Special: Victor Oladipo’s Heimlich Maneuver

The Indiana Pacers did their level best to choke away the game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night, perhaps guilty of looking ahead to Cleveland on Friday and not focusing on the task at hand.

Whatever the motivation, they trailed nearly the entire game, but the part they led? Try the last 31.1 seconds, rendering the previous 47 minutes, 28.9 seconds moot.

Oladipo saved the night for Indiana:

Indiana trailed by 16 at the half and 14 after three quarters. Didn’t matter; they won the fourth quarter 29-13.

And to think, the 3-20 Bulls could’ve had this one if maybe they hadn’t missed 8 out of their 16 free throws; Indy shot 8-of-10 total.

This was another one of those Bad Lance games for the Pacers; Lance Stephenson shot 3-of-9, missed all three of his three-point shots, posted a team-worst minus-13, and showed why, no matter how much energy he brings this team, on the stat sheet, he’s hot garbage. It’s not Lonzo Ball bad—Lonzo doesn’t shoot his team into games, only out of them—but it’s that Dark Ages-flavored feast-or-famine overconfidence that infects guys today like J.R. Smith.

Chicago had one of their best close losses of the season, at any rate; shooting 47 percent from the field and 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from three, outrebounding the Pacers 46-39, and committing only 15 total fouls. That’s something to build on, especially with Kris Dunn playing uncommonly well in shooting 8-of-14 to lead his team with 28.

But it was Victor Oladipo who led the Pacers storming back, ending up with 27 points, and he’s the man of the match:

You Can’t Beat A Big Three

The Orlando Magic have a Big Three in the making, as Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, and Nikola Vucevic form the core of their Triple 20 attack, and with 24, 27, and 22, respectively, in a closer-than-it-should’ve-been win over the Atlanta Hawks to get back to 11-15 on the season.

Those three not only combined for 73 of Orlando’s 110 points in the 110-106 win, they also pulled down 35 of the team’s 52 rebounds as they won that battle 52-49.

Which is mainly to say the rest of the team did naff all to help out.

Orlando’s Big Three: 30-of-55 (54.5 percent) and 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from three.

The rest of the Magic: 16-of-43 (37.2 percent) and 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from three.

Atlanta got an inefficient 26 out of Dennis Schroder; he needed to take 26 shots (making 10 of them) to get there. Seven different Atlanta players had between five and seven rebounds, a contrast from Orlando’s concentration of stat power.

And Taurean Prince had a great offensive game, scoring 19 on 6-of-8, but he had a team-worst minus-13 out there.


Boogie On Down

How about DeMarcus Cousins getting it done with his second 40/20 game of the season for the New Orleans Pelicans?

The Denver Nuggets are utterly hapless on the road, and Smoothie King Center proved a house of horrors for them in a 122-114 loss, despite shooting 16-of-35 from three (45.7 percent.)

Boogie’s 40/20 put him in elite company; only Patrick Ewing and Moses Malone have had multiple 40/20 games in the same season since the NBA/ABA merger. And sure, Wilt Chamberlain once averaged 50.4 and 25.7 in a season (1961-62, and he then averaged 44.8 and 24.3 the next year), but he’s Wilt Chamberlain and the NBA was practically a different sport 55 years ago.

And while Boogie stole the headlines, Jrue Holiday quietly went for 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting to lend a hand in the victory.

Highlights for the big guy in a dominant performance:

LeBron James Vs. Father Time

LeBron is in his 15th NBA season. He is setting career highs for shooting percentage (58.7) and three-point percentage (43.0.) He’s averaging 28.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.0 assists a game, stuffing the stat sheet for anyone who owns him on their fantasy team. He’s led the Cleveland Cavaliers to 13 consecutive wins, often doing it through sheer force of will when his teammates, possibly the worst supporting cast he’s had since his last stint in Cleveland back in the late aughts, try to choke away games.

After all, without Bron’s 32 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists in 41 minutes (!), do they even beat Sacramento? The final score over the Kings was 101-95.

The Pacers had a trap game. Indiana’s Friday night opponent had one too? The Pacers are not a team that a three-time defending conference champion looks to as a marquee game (except for the revenge factor after Indy plastered Cleveland during the Cavs’ dark start.)

Point is, LeBron, with help from Kyle Korver off the bench (15 points, including 4-of-8 from three), overcame another G-League-quality game from the Cavaliers.

The rest of the Cavs shot 20-of-51 (39.2 percent) from the field and 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) from three.

LeBron and Korver combined for 17-of-27 (63.0 percent) overall and 9-of-16 (56.3 percent) from long range.

Zach Randolph had 18 points on 8-of-20, JaKarr Sampson pulled down 16 rebounds, and Buddy Hield was a bright spot off the bench with 17 on 7-of-13, but it wasn’t enough.

Oh, and by the way…


Kevin Durant Not Ejected, Golden State Wins

The suddenly hot-headed KD kept his temper under control and ended up with a triple-double, going for 35 points on 13-of-28 shooting, pulling down 11 rebounds, and dishing 10 assists, as the Golden State Warriors beat the Hornets in Charlotte by a 101-87 count.

With Stephen Curry out with an ankle sprain, Durant and Klay Thompson both stepped up; Thompson had 22 on 9-of-14.

Charlotte won the rebounding (49-47) and turnover (15-12) battles, but that doesn’t matter much if you can’t shoot. The Hornets were an ice-cold 34-of-97 (35.1 percent) from the field and 31.6 percent (6-of-19) from long range.

And you can’t attempt only 19 shots from the NASCAR track and expect to hang with a club that was 11-of-30 (36.7 percent) on what was for them an off night.

Kemba Walker had 24, but he went 8-of-21 from the field to get it. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was 3-of-11, Michael Carter-Williams was 2-of-9, and even Dwight Howard, who shoots from much closer, was only 4-of-10. Missing shots kills, especially against the Warriors.

Golden State becomes the second team to 20 wins; Boston, with 22, leads the league.


Speaking of the Celtics…

Boston continued the theme tonight of good teams narrowly beating bad ones; they squeaked out a 97-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks at home to go to 22-4 on the season, getting the bulk of the help from Kyrie Irving (23 points on 10-of-18), Jayson Tatum (a double-double with 17 and 11), and Al Horford (who flirted with a triple-double to add 17 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.)

The Celtics shot the ball badly as a team (.414/.353/.765) but got a little help from the Mavs shooting even worse (.395/.321/.765; note both teams were 13-of-17 from the line.)

Dennis Smith Jr. has been a nightmare on offense this season, and another dreadful shooting night (4-of-16) gives him an overall shooting line of .394/.306/.660. It’s not Lonzo Ball bad (although Smith is the only player in the league with fewer offensive Win Shares than Ball; Smith is at minus-1.2 while Ball is at minus-1.0), but it’s pretty bad.

Don’t get bamboozled by the counting stats; Smith may be averaging 14.4 points a game, but he’s doing it on 14.6 shots.

The Masked Man is your man of the match:

Boards of Education

The Memphis Grizzlies had 27 rebounds Wednesday night. As a team. That’s only five more than Boogie Cousins had by himself.

Meanwhile, the New York Knicks had 42, and that’s part of why New York got their 11th win at home by a 99-88 count.

Well, that, and Courtney Lee shot 10-of-17 to get to 24 points, while Enes Kanter (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Jarrett Jack (10 points, 10 assists) both had double-doubles.

New York shot 52.2 percent from the field and 64.3 percent (9-of-14; a touch of Scott-Hollins Syndrome may be afflicting Jeff Hornacek) from three.

Meanwhile, Memphis was hot garbage, making 29-of-70 (41.4 percent) from the field despite a solid 12-of-28 (42.9) from Long Island.

Contrast the offensive rebounding percentage. New York: 30.3. Memphis: 11.1. Yes, offensive rebounding is a dead art in the NBA (offensive rebounding percentage league-wide is at an all-time low of 22.3 percent, declining for the sixth straight year), but that’s just ridiculous.

And while we’re on the subject, what’s with the slow-as-hell pace of this game? Memphis plays at a 93.9 pace, slowest in the NBA, and when they drag the opponent down to their level, when there’s a combined 137 field goal attempts? That’s just dull.

This game was at an estimated 88 pace. Gods save us all.


Happy Birthday, Giannis

Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrated his 23rd birthday with a 104-100 home win for the Milwaukee Bucks over the freefalling Detroit Pistons. That’s four losses in a row for Detroit, and they’ve dropped to 14-10 after starting 10-3. The difference between Detroit in fourth in the East and Washington in eighth is only one game; the Wiz are 13-11.

On to the point at hand, the Greek Freak had 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, joined by Khris Middleton with 21 points on 7-of-10 (thanks to 2-of-4 from three and 5-of-5 from the line) and Eric Bledsoe (22 on a far less efficient 9-of-21.)

Meanwhile, Detroit had some star power of their own; Andre Drummond went 12-of-16 from the field on his way to 27 points and 20 rebounds, while Tobias Harris had 21 on 8-of-14 and Avery Bradley had 20 on 5-of-13, thanks to going 3-of-5 from long range and 7-of-8 at the line.

Detroit shot only 41.4 percent from the field (36-of-87), losing the percentage battle to Milwaukee’s 49.4 (39-of-79.) In addition, Drummond was terrible from the free throw line (3-of-8), marring his performance.

This game was as close on the stat sheet as on the scoreboard, so highlights are going to showcase just what a competitive matchup this was:

Spurs Continue to Defend Home Court

San Antonio is 12-2 at home. So despite a spectacular 54.2 percent shooting night for the Miami Heat in which the South Beach crew shot 18-of-34 (52.9 percent) from three, the Spurs managed a fantastic night of their own, shooting 52.9 percent from the field, 52.0 percent (13-of-25) from long range…and a night in which they won the turnover battle 18-11 and the rebound battle 34-29, including 10 offensive boards.

Extra possessions meant extra shots, and that made the difference. San Antonio took 87 shots and 14 free throws (making 12); Miami took 72 shots and 12 free throws (making nine.) That’s what seven turnovers and four offensive rebounds buys you.

Lacking in star power, the Spurs instead turned to Total Team Effort; eight Spurs scored in double figures in the 117-105 win. Danny Green was plus-31, leading the way.

Meanwhile, even Good Dion Waiters (22 points on 8-of-12) or a great bench performance from Tyler Johnson (25 points to lead all scorers on 9-of-12 shooting) couldn’t save the Heat.


And Finally…

Things continue to unravel for the Los Angeles Clippers, as they dropped to 8-15 with Chris Paul off to Houston and Blake Griffin out with an injury.

The Minnesota Timberwolves shot 54.9 percent from the floor, got double-doubles from Karl-Anthony Towns (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Taj Gibson (16 and 14), weathered a rare third 20-rebound game in the same night thanks to DeAndre Jordan‘s 18-point, 21-rebound outburst (including 12 offensive boards!), and held LA to 44.4 percent (44-of-99) shooting and got some help from the team’s awful 9-of-15 free throw shooting.

So even though the Clips won the offensive rebounding (17-8) and turnover (15-9) battles, they simply couldn’t take advantage of the extra possessions, squandering them while the Wolves made maximum use of the ones they got that ended in a shot attempt.

This ended 113-107, but the score wasn’t as close as the relative strength of the teams.

Highlights from the man of the match and league double-double leader, the KAT:

Stay tuned today; we’ve got Is He Any Good coming later on today, in which we take a look under the hood of one of the league’s most enigmatic players and see if making Lonzo Ball look like Magic Johnson is a broader sign that a star player just plain sucks.

No spoilers, but if you read the Breakfast Special regularly, you know exactly who I’m talking about. Thanks for reading!