7 Takeaways from Tuesday Night's NBA Action
Do you like rookie triple-doubles and monster comebacks? If so, then Tuesday, December 3 was the night for you!
Tuesday was short on marquee matchups, but long on excitement as the underdogs gave the NBA's elite all it could handle. The Sacramento Kings nearly knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the Detroit Pistons finished off the Miami Heat and their 10-game winning streak.
The Toronto Raptors were in a good position to upset the Golden State Warriors, until Golden State put on a three-point shooting display for the ages.
In Philadelphia, a pair of big-name rookies pull off a feat unmatched in NBA history.
Let's get to the action!
Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo Are the Two Best Rookies...by Far
Tuesday's game between the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers figured to be a showcase between the two best rookies of the 2013-14 season thus far: Orlando's Victor Oladipo and Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams. Often in the world of sports, these kinds of showcase games turn out to be disappointing.
Not this game.
Carter-Williams (27 points, 12 rebound, 10 assists) and Oladipo (26 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) both notched triple-doubles in the Sixers' 126-125 double-overtime win. How rare is it for two rookies to get a triple-double in the same game? Once-in-a-lifetime rare.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo are the first pair of rookies to each record a triple-double in the same game in NBA history.
It also marked the first time opposing players had a triple-double in the same game since Nov. 23, 2007, when Baron Davis of the Golden State Warriors and Caron Butler of the Washington Wizards each recorded one.
If this game was for front-runner status in the Rookie of the Year race, than neither player really distanced himself from the other. All Carter-Williams and Oladipo did on Tuesday was put every other NBA rookie on notice: This is a two-rookie race.
The Celtics' Brad Stevens Might Be the Most Underrated Coach in the NBA
The Boston Celtics traded away three of their best players to the Brooklyn Nets. They traded away their title-winning head coach to the Los Angeles Clippers. Then they signed college coach Brad Stevens.
So far, the Celtics are making out like bandits.
With Rajon Rondo still on the shelf, who is the Celtics' best player? Jordan Crawford? Jeff Green? Jared Sullinger? None of those players inspire a lot of confidence in the casual NBA fan. But Stevens has his Celtics playing way above expectations. If the Celtics keep this up, he might just be a dark horse candidate for Coach of the Year.
The Detroit Pistons Have a Win to Build on
Before Tuesday the Detroit Pistons had been quietly pulling themselves out of their early-season doldrums, winning three of their last five games. But the Pistons still didn't have a marquee victory to their name.
They do now.
The Pistons went into Miami and shocked the Heat, building a big lead and holding off a furious charge from LeBron and friends for the 107-97 win. The Heat had been the league's hottest team, coming into Tuesday riding a 10-game winning streak.
It should go without saying, but the 8-10 Pistons are in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. But they are an inexperienced team, and they need to build confidence. Well there's no better way to build confidence than to go into the champs' building and beat them when they're hot.
The Brooklyn Nets Set the Perfect Tone for Thursday's Knicks-Nets Matchup
It had to be this way, really.
The Brooklyn Nets had just been too good recently, too free of controversy. They had won two of their past four games.
That's no way to set up the Battle for New York—the epic struggle to decide whether they or the New York Knicks are the most embarrassing team in the Big Apple.
On Tuesday, though, the Nets got back to old-fashioned humiliation. They started the day off by announcing that assistant coach Lawrence Frank would be reassigned, and ended the day with a textbook New York basketball dud, losing 111-87 to the Denver Nuggets.
Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd didn't like the attitude of his team, according to the Associated Press:
"Guys are starting to look like they had been in games that we had let go of the rope," Kidd said. "So that's something that we've got to address and get better at."
"Let go of the rope." That's pretty much been the story of New York basketball thus far this season.
No Lead Is Safe from the Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were expected to win at home against the lowly Toronto Raptors, and they did.
No big deal, right?
But along the way, they overcame a 27-point second-half deficit with an astonishing display of three-point shooting, ending the game on a 64-28 run to take down Toronto, 112-103.
Just check out this fourth-quarter shooting chart, courtesy of ESPN Stats. It defies belief.
This is the beauty of Warriors basketball. When all those dead-eye shooters are on, the Warriors can put up points like no other team in the league.
Timofey Mozgov Is Rebounding Like a Monster
On December 1, Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov set a new career high with 15 rebounds. Two days later, he beat that career high by five boards, grabbing 20 in Tuesday's win over the Brooklyn Nets. That's 35 rebounds in two games.
Until recently, Mozgov was better known for being one of the dozen-or-so throw-ins in the Carmelo Anthony trade. But as the Nuggets have hurt for size in the absence of JaVale McGee, Mozgov has stepped up.
Tuesday's win against the Nets was a perfect demonstration of Movgov's value. Brook Lopez was killing the Nuggets down low until Mozgov entered the game. If Mozgov can continue to play like this, he'll be a key component off the bench for the surprising Nuggets.
The Scaramento Kings Really Need to Close out One of These Potential Upsets
The Sacramento Kings are an exciting young team, a team capable of putting a scare into an elite team on any given night.
Now if only they could win a game or two.
The Kings rode the back of Isiah Thomas to a narrow 97-95 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a feat which SB Nation writer Tom Ziller think should count for more than just another "L."
Isaiah outscored the Thunder 21-19 in the fourth. Can the Kings get like 0.5 wins for that or something?— Tom Ziller (@teamziller) December 4, 2013
This is the fourth time in the last two weeks that the Kings have suffered an achingly close loss to a Western Conference contender; they couldn't quite finish off the Warriors or the Clippers (twice!).
Moral victories are all well and good, but the Kings need to get a few wins.
The Grizzlies Have Enough Frontcourt Depth to Survive Without Gasol and Randolph
The Memphis Grizzlies have long been known for their powerful frontcourt. It is a huge part of their identity as a Western Conference contender.
On Tuesday, with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph out, the Grizzles showed off admirable depth up front, with Kosta Koufos (14 points, 12 rebounds), Ed Davis (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Jon Leuer (23 points, 9 rebounds) all putting up monster games in the Grizzlies' 110-91 win over the Phoenix Suns.
After the game, Jon Leuer talked about the added pressure to perform with Randolph and Gasol on the shelf.
Per Marlon Morgan of NBA.com:
"We know with Marc and Zach out, obviously it's going to be a tough loss for us. Those are two guys that are a huge part of this team. When they go down, everybody else has to step up. That's what we were able to do tonight."
While Randolph will be back soon, Gasol will still be out for a while. And in the ridiculously deep Western Conference, the Grizzlies will need every bit of that front depth to keep pace.