6 Takeaways from Monday Night's NBA Action
It's not often that the Sacramento Kings warrant first mention, but Monday's NBA takeaways have to begin with the terrific trio of performances from DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams and Isaiah Thomas.
Don't get too excited, though. Rudy Gay will soon ensure that rip-roaring, highlight-laden games like the ones the Kings put together against the Dallas Mavericks will be a short-lived trend.
Elsewhere, the Charlotte Bobcats did their best to withstand Stephen Curry's second-half onslaught, the Memphis Grizzlies continued to search for ways to win without Marc Gasol, and the Washington Wizards simply refused to accept the Denver Nuggets' generosity.
Plus, the Portland Trail Blazers went deep on the Utah Jazz, and DeAndre Jordan needed a tailor.
Take it away, takeaways!
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To
With J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock all unavailable for the Los Angeles Clippers game against the Philadelphia 76ers, it already appeared as though the Clips were coming apart at the seams.
And then the stitches on DeAndre Jordan's jersey literally snapped.
Early in the first quarter, Sixers guard Tony Wroten got ahold of the front of Jordan's jersey in a scrum under the boards. As Wroten tried to keep DJ from getting off the floor to secure the rebound, he tore the "Los Angeles" right off of the front of his jersey.
With injuries starting to mount, the Clips probably didn't need such an on-the-nose reminder of their fragility.
In the end, Chris Paul posted 25 points and 13 assists to easily lead the Clippers to a 94-83 victory on the road. And Jordan was able to quickly secure another jersey. So, all's well that ends well.
Moving forward, the Clippers are about to receive some reinforcements, as veteran free agent Stephen Jackson reportedly agreed to terms with the team. That'll help shore up the lack of depth on the wing.
Now, the Clips will have to focus on strengthening the thread they use in their uniforms.
One thing at a time, I guess.
Washington Doesn't Accept Handouts
In what will almost certainly go down as one of the ugliest games of the year, the Denver Nuggets took a late lead and held on to beat the Washington Wizards by a final score of 75-74.
Washington was in control for most of the game, but the Nuggets edged closer as the fourth quarter wound down, eventually pulling ahead by one point with 3:24 remaining. Washington retook the lead with a bucket, but Kenneth Faried scored in the lane to give Denver a 75-74 advantage with 32 seconds left.
From there, the Nuggets did everything they could to give the game back to John Wall and Co. But the Wizards simply wouldn't oblige.
Andre Miller floated a pass that Glen Rice Jr. snatched with 22 ticks left, but Wall missed a layup on the other end. Then Wilson Chandler stuffed Garrett Temple's point-blank attempt. Washington again corralled the offensive board, calling a timeout with 12 seconds left to play.
Trevor Ariza missed a corner three with five seconds remaining, but Faried clanked both free throws on the other end, giving Washington yet another shot to win the game.
Wall lost the rock at the right elbow as he attempted to get off a look at the rim. A fitting end to a game the Wizards just couldn't get a handle on down the stretch.
Memphis Is Making Do
When Marc Gasol went down with a sprained MCL, everyone knew that the Memphis Grizzlies were in trouble. After all, it's not like big men who win Defensive Player of the Year and control the offense on the other end grow on trees.
Well, maybe they do in Spain. But they don't in Memphis.
As such, the Grizz have employed a committee approach in their efforts to compensate for the absence of their best player.
In a 94-85 win over the Orlando Magic, Memphis got 16 points and 12 rebounds from backup forward Jon Leuer. Nick Calathes also chipped in six points and eight assists, while Jamaal Franklin (Who?!) contributed eight points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.
You'll note that all of the aforementioned contributors came off the Grizzlies bench. In all, Memphis' reserves outscored Orlando's by a margin of 38-4.
Naturally, Zach Randolph (19 points and 12 rebounds) and Mike Conley (13 points and seven assists) led the charge for the Grizzlies. But the bench was integral in making up for the massive void left by Gasol's absence.
There's no telling how long this kind of all-around productivity will last for Dave Joerger's squad, and the Grizz certainly won't have the benefit of playing against the Magic every night. But for now, it's impressive to see Memphis pulling together.
The Blazers Are Spacing Out
One of the biggest reasons behind the Portland Trail Blazers' remarkable start to the 2013-14 season is their firm understanding of the value of the three-point line.
Given that understanding of space and high-value shots, it was a little surprising that Nicolas Batum stationed himself about 10 feet beyond the arc with just over a minute left and his team clinging to a five-point lead over the Utah Jazz.
With the shot clock running down, you'd think he would have found a more reasonable spot-up location. After all, it's tough to be a real threat when you're as close to half court as you are to the three-point arc. What did he really expect to do if the ball found him in that situation?
Well, the ball did find Batum, who promptly buried the impossibly deep triple, giving the Blazers an eight-point cushion that ultimately turned into an 11-point, 105-94 victory.
This is how things have gone for Portland this year, and at some point, we'll all just have to accept the notion that the Blazers are enjoying a charmed season.
Batum finished with seven points, 11 assists and eight rebounds on 3-of-5 shooting in 33 minutes. And thanks in part to his stunning late-game bomb, the Blazers improved their record to an incredible 18-4.
The Bobcats Might Be Built to Last
Everybody keeps waiting for the Charlotte Bobcats to slip from their lofty position among the league's best defenses.
At first glance, you might assume that the season-high 111 points the Kitties surrendered to the Golden State Warriors was the first sign of an inevitable defensive decline. But the Bobcats—who beat the Warriors 115-111 on Monday, by the way—defended brilliantly in first half.
The Dubs managed just 41 points in the first two quarters.
But then Stephen Curry found his happy place, piling up 32 points on a series of acrobatic drives and long-range heaves. He finished with 43 points on 14-of-32 shooting.
There's really not a defense on the planet that can stop Curry when he gets into one of his grooves, but the Bobcats did well to limit everyone else in a Warriors jersey throughout the contest.
In the end, head coach Steve Clifford was happy with his team's defensive effort.
"Steph Curry made some shots that are unguardable," Clifford said, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. "Sometimes you watch film and say, ‘This is what’s great about my job.'"
Not so great that Clifford would want to coach against Curry every game, but Clifford was proud of how his team compensated for the loss of three players to injury.
"They’re very hard to guard and our pick-and-roll coverages were so good," Clifford said of the first half.
Charlotte currently ranks third in the league with a defensive rating of 97.7, per NBA.com. That's a fantastic sign for a rebuilding team, because installing a sound defensive scheme is one of the toughest tasks in any stage of NBA development.
With Clifford preaching defense and the entire roster buying in, it's starting to look like the Bobcats (10-11) have entered the realm of the respectable for good.
Kings Fans Don't Know What's Good for Them
I get it: Sacramento Kings fans are awesome. They've somehow stayed positive through an incredibly dark decade of mismanagement and awful on-court results.
But on a night when DeMarcus Cousins erupted for 32 points and 19 rebounds, and Isaiah Thomas posted 24 points and 12 assists in his first start of the season, it didn't make a whole lot of sense for the assembled masses at Sleep Train Arena to cheer Rudy Gay.
Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray didn't play in their first game since being acquired from the Toronto Raptors, but they walked past the bench and into the tunnel as the game wound down.
As a general rule, cheering for recent acquisitions is a cool thing. Good fans should try to stay positive, and it's a good idea to make the new guys feel at home. But when Gay gets into the lineup, he'll almost certainly take the ball out of Cousins' hands.
And his penchant for isolation attacks will make it nearly impossible for Thomas to run the offense.
Plus, Derrick Williams really seems to be blossoming. His 31 points Monday night were a career high, and his crazy series of highlights made him look nothing like the player who languished in Minnesota for three years. Gay is going to cut into his touches, as well.
So if Kings fans were excited by the performances of their young cornerstones, they should probably be concerned about the negative effect the trade is going to have on them. Hopefully, Sacramento supporters enjoyed the 112-97 drubbing their young guns put on the Dallas Mavericks.
They might not get to see another performance like that after Gay gets involved.