Biggest Takeaways from Wednesday Night's NBA Action
It feels like the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets have played each other 13,049 times this season (Note: It might be closer to "three"). All 13,049 of the games have been fun, including Wednesday night's 100-86 New York blowout of Brooklyn.
Cracks are emerging in Brooklyn, as Deron Williams' shot has gone errant and Iso-Joe-Johnson is stalling its offense. The teams looked like mirror images in the beginning, but they're currently headed in different directions.
In the Knicks, we have the embodiment of the league's direction. They spread the floor, run pick-and-rolls, shoot threes. Brooklyn's a team of the past: Big, slow, isolation-oriented. Perhaps that dichotomy accounts for the relative success between those squads.
5. Bucks Need to Choose
Enough already, Milwaukee. Stop foisting this Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis backcourt on us. You tried it, it didn't work, it's time to move on. Choose Jennings or Ellis, because it can't be both.
During the (bizarrely) nationally televised game between Milwaukee and Memphis, ESPN played a Brandon Jennings interview. He was upbeat but essentially made mention of trying out for other teams. It makes sense, given how the Milwaukee Bucks did not sign Jennings to an extension. Still, it's not something you often hear from a currently employed player.
If Jennings is auditioning, he certainly could have done better than Wednesday night's effort. The slight point guard went 9-of-26 shooting as his team got bested, 90-80, by the Grizzlies. That was bad, but so much better than what Monta Ellis offered. The PG-sized offguard put up a miserable 1-of-14 shooting (four points), reminding audiences everywhere of why this offensive eyesore of a team near-always plays on League Pass.
4. Rajon Rondo vs. Kyrie Irving
Rajon Rondo versus Kyrie Irving is what amounts to must-see League Pass TV. The two did not disappoint, even if Kyrie's team is massively disappointing.
With Anderson Varejao out, Tristan Thompson played 38 minutes. Can we get the #FreeKyrieIrving hashtag going? Irving was splendid amid the muck, grabbing 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He only had two assists, but his teammates were especially good at converting easy makes.
Rajon Rondo has been playing well this season to very little buzz, and a lot of that has to do with the losses incurred by Boston's mediocre defense. In this game, Rondo thrashed his way to the hoop and the line, getting 20 points and 10 free-throw attempts en route to the 103-91 Boston victory. That's the kind of healthfully selfish play Boston needs from its oft-too-unselfish point guard.
3. The Clippers Are Dominating
A twist on an old riddle: If a team in Los Angeles was dominating, and it didn't make a sound, would it still be great? This about spells out the dynamic:
The Los Angles Clippers secured their 11th win in a row on Wednesday over the hapless New Orleans Hornets. Over that 11-game streak, the Clippers haven't just been beating teams—they've been killing them. Of those 11 games, six were double-digit wins.
This might be an easy stretch of the schedule for Los Angeles, but it's more than impressing. After all, that other Los Angeles team just came off a near-loss to the Charlotte Bobcats—at home.
2. Not Having Bargnani Might Be MVP
The Toronto Raptors may not have a lot of talent, but they have a force even more powerful than some of the better All-Stars in this league: They have the lack of Andrea Bargnani.
Without their injured big man, the Raptors have won four in a row, all the while sporting a more spirited defense. The offense hasn't been bad either, with Jose Calderon claiming a whopping 17 assists in Toronto's latest win against the Detroit Pistons.
Actually, my only complaint about the Raptors Wednesday night would be that their announcers reacted in a ho-hum fashion to the tallest block of the season. Andre Drummond, you are ridiculous:
1. Kevin Durant Is Your MVP
Enough with the Carmelo Anthony MVP talk. Cool it, at least for now. ESPN.com's Justin Kubatko (pay-for-content) made the compelling case for Durant over Anthony, and I'm inclined to agree. Obviously, Carmelo's been great. It's just that Kevin Durant has been transcendent.
Wednesday night was another reminder of that particular scorer vs. scorer dynamic. Anthony had a fine game on national television, claiming 31 points on 22 shots. Kevin Durant, on the other hand, had a ridiculous game on Wednesday night, burning the Atlanta Hawks for 41 points on 23 shots in OKC's 12th straight win.
The reason Carmelo Anthony isn't playing better than Kevin Durant right now is because almost nobody in the history of basketball plays that well. LeBron does, at his peak, but he hasn't been getting to the line or hitting his free throws lately. At this juncture of the season, it's clearly Kevin Durant's MVP to lose.