Biggest Takeaways from Thursday Night's Uneven NBA Action

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterDecember 28, 2012

Biggest Takeaways from Thursday Night's Uneven NBA Action

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    The appetizer turned out to be the main course on Thursday night, with a thrilling Mavericks-Thunder game giving way to a snoozer of a Clippers-Celtics game.

    Blame the Clips, they've been too good of late. Broadcasters keep putting them on national television, and they keep putting their foes (and the viewers) to sleep. 

    Oklahoma City provides more entertainment when things aren't going smoothly because we expect near perfection from Sam Presti's machine.

    Russell Westbrook has been a good passer so far this season, but his last two games have given critics plenty of fodder. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant makes an MVP argument seemingly every night. 

    Chris Paul is also making his MVP case. He's just doing it with subtlety on a team that isn't subtle about smashing opponents into the ground. It was a far from perfect double-header, but there was individual brilliance to behold. 

    Read on to see the biggest takeaways from the two games.

Darren Collison's Hopscotch Miracle Shot

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    It's so sad that this was all for naught, because Darren Collison's buzzer-beater was the coolest one of the season. This can't be how Dallas drew it up with the score 98-95, though.

    Off the inbounds, a no-look Vince Carter tap pass gets to Shawn Marion, who then inexplicably drives toward the hoop.

    The panicked Marion flings it to Darren Collison with hardly any time to do anything, prompting Collison to hurl a one-legged desperation three. 

    The three ended being meaningless in the game-deciding sense. Dallas fell apart in overtime, losing by six because its offense stagnated. It wasn't meaningless, though.

    The nutty shot was a reminder of just how fun this game can be, and it will live on in highlight lore. 

Bad Russell Westbrook and Good Russell Westbrook

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    Russell Westbrook was a maddening 7-of-20 on Thursday night, though he was 2-of-3 in overtime. He also made several key defensive plays in high-leverage moments. 

    We need to find a middle on this whole Russell Westbrook debate.

    People who yell that a team will never win it all with Westbrook as point guard are probably the same people who doubted that LeBron James could ever get a ring. "Will never" is usually a flawed place to start an argument or discussion. 

    I'm also not with the people who say that we must accept the bad Westbrook plays because it's all part of his aggressive style. Why sell the guy short if we believe he can be great?

    There's no reason why Westbrook has to take contested pull-up threes with 20 seconds on the shot clock. He should cut that out because it'd be a mighty squandering of talent not to. 

The Clippers Have Been the Best Team

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    Another game, another thwacking of a playoff team.

    Los Angeles ran away from Boston from the outset and coasted to a 106-77 victory. The Clippers have been basketball's best team in 2012-13.

    The Clippers lead the league in record and margin of victory. They've won 15 games in a row, and they have the best bench, the best point guard, a talented center and possibly the game's best power forward. 

    Declaring them to be the best regular-season team so far is different from predicting a title for Donald Sterling.

    There's still a lot of basketball to be played, and the strength of a good bench wanes in the playoffs (when rotations tend to shorten). But if you're a serious basketball fan, you're taking these Clippers seriously as title contenders. 

The Boston Celtics Have Some Decisions

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    Twitter impresario Jose3030 snapped the above picture of Danny Ainge looking forlorn. Boston does not have a bad team, but for a franchise with championship aspirations, this isn't going to cut it. 

    Though Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have all played well this season, the peripheral parts aren't helping much. Boston's once-vaunted defense has slipped significantly, and it hasn't improved enough on offense to make up for it. 

    If the Celtics continue this way, perhaps some changes need to be made to extend a window which looks to get less promising with each passing game.

It's Kevin Durant's MVP to Lose Still

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    He's just so leisurely with his dominance. It's incredible just how good Kevin Durant can be without ever forcing the action.

    He coasted to 40 points on 28 shots against the Mavericks, hitting four threes and going a perfect 10-of-10 from the line.

    Part of what makes KD such an intriguing player is that he usually averages far fewer three-point attempts (despite shooting an ungodly 43.3 percent).

    Durant averages only 3.9 treys per game. Why did he shoot eight against the Mavericks? Because those shots were open. That's the Durant way: Read the defense, react accordingly.

    Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant will make compelling MVP cases at points of this season, but nobody's playing better than Kevin Durant right now.