Thursday's schedule was a light one in the NBA. There were just three games on the schedule, two of which filled time on TNT.
Not that there wasn't still occasion enough for strange occurrences. One player registered a plus-40 in the box score, while another nearly tallied a quadruple-double with turnovers. One team couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a basketball, while another couldn't help but tally an assist every time the rock went through the hoop.
And, somehow, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, both in action on this night, played brilliantly, but weren't so near the headlines as their respective performances might suggest they should be.
Oh, and Charles Barkley wore a snapback—a New York Knicks snapback, no less (h/t CJ Fogler).
Not even the Mayans could've predicted all of this taking place on such a light night. Then again, it seems as though they didn't do so well figuring out when the world would end, either.
The Oklahoma City Thunder saw their 12-game winning streak snapped at the Target Center by the plucky Minnesota Timberwolves.
This, despite another brilliant performance by Kevin Durant, who extended his thus-far-spectacular season with 33 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
The culprits for OKC's shortfall on this night are many. The Thunder's bench contributed a meager seven points to the cause, with Kevin Martin sidelined by a quad injury. They were playing the second of a back-to-back. Just 17 of their 33 baskets were assisted, and they turned the ball over 16 times.
Don't be surprised, though, if the attention turns once again to Russell Westbrook. On the one hand, Westbrook fell one assist shy of a triple double, with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists (and three steals).
On the other hand, another two turnovers would've landed Russ in quadruple-double territory, and those 30 points of his came on 28 shots, 19 of which were missed. Durant, meanwhile, finished the game with 21 attempts from the field.
So, naturally, the loss will be pinned on Westbrook because he shot too much, handled the ball too wildly and didn't defer to Durant enough.
That aside, kudos to the Timberwolves for pulling out a marvelous victory while on national television. Nikola Pekovic was a beast inside (24 points, 10 rebounds) and J.J. Barea was a pest down the stretch, with 18 points off the bench.
But the real story here was the way in which Minnesota shared the ball. The T'Wolves racked up 27 assists on 37 made baskets, including 20 on 22 in the first half and 26 on 30 prior to the fourth quarter. Kevin Love tallied seven helpers along with his 28 points and 11 rebounds, though his total paled in comparison to the 12 dimes that Alexey Shved dropped.
Strange to think that Ricky Rubio, who contributed three assists, could be so overshadowed during such a pass-happy affair.
Not that it was the first such occasion for the T'Wolves or will be the last. According to NBA.com's stats database, 61.8 percent of Minny's makes have come off assists—the fourth-highest mark in the league.
All in all, the Miami Heat's 110-95 win over the Dallas Mavericks was a rather forgettable affair. Miami dominated from start to finish, building a lead that expanded to 36 points during the third quarter.
A disappointing show for native Texan and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who was in attendance at the American Airlines Center (via ESPN's Marc Stein).
But not so for Dwyane Wade, whose impact on the outcome apparently was far greater than any bare-bones stats might suggest. Wade chipped in 19 points on a mere 13 shots, along with five rebounds and six assists, in 26:14 of playing time.
For his time on the court, Wade registered an outstanding rating of plus-40 in the box score—tying the best such mark of his career.
Which, in a way, made this particular blowout one to remember for the long-time Heat superstar.
As for the Mavs, it's clear that they're anxiously awaiting the return of a certain German elephant in the room.
Dirk Nowitzki returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during training camp. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com, there's no exact timetable for Dirk's return, though he won't be back in action until after Christmas.
Though, the sooner his return, the better for Dallas' ultimate fate. That much was clear against Miami. The Mavs shot a slovenly 32.9 percent through the first three quarters and missed 19 of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc. O.J. Mayo, the team's leading scorer this season, contributed a paltry eight points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field.
Nowitzki wouldn't have made up the entire difference, but, surely, he could've helped. As it stands, it's a testament to Rick Carlisle's acumen as a head coach that Dallas has a 12-14 record as is. With the way the Mavs have managed to tread water in Dirk's absence—amid putrid point-guard play and piled-up injuries—it seems reasonable to expect that they'll climb back into the Western Conference playoff picture by season's end.
Shooting has been anything but a specialty for the Denver Nuggets this season. Their 32.5 percent mark from three-point range is the third-worst in the NBA, and they're shooting well under 40 percent from nearly every other conceivable space outside of the restricted area, per NBA.com.
As bad as they've been all season in this regard, the Nuggets struck a new low on Thursday in their 101-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. They scored a whopping 74 points in the paint, but hit only a single shot outside the lane in 32 tries. Their 0-for-22 performance from three therein set a new record for the most misses without a single make in an NBA game.
Coincidentally, the previous mark was set in the very same building on Dec. 10, when the Blazers clanked all 20 of their long-range attempts during a win over the Toronto Raptors at the Rose Garden.
In any case, the Nuggets will be hard-pressed to turn around their disappointing season if they can't hit at least a few of their shots from the perimeter.