10 Takeaways from Wednesday Night's NBA Action
Upon reflection, there was a lot to learn from the 10-game slate of NBA action on Wednesday night.
Ramon Sessions taught us that the line between a pass and a shot is blurry, Luol Deng got a lesson in perspective and Kyle Korver reminded everyone that it's never wise to pigeon-hole players—no matter how one-dimensional they might seem.
Elsewhere, DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors gave Vince Carter some instruction in humility, while John Wall gained some knowledge he probably would have preferred to avoid.
The New York Knicks didn't teach us anything new, though. So you can forget about learning from their latest embarrassing loss.
Open your minds, folks. The NBA has a lot of wisdom to impart if you're willing to absorb it. We'll start the instruction with 10 takeaways.
Ramon Sessions Is a Pioneer
Ramon Sessions has never been much of a perimeter shooter, so it's possible that the air-balled floater he tossed up with about 25 seconds remaining in the Charlotte Bobcats' 95-91 win over the Los Angeles Clippers was just an errant attempt by a subpar marksman.
Then again, maybe we should be crediting him with coming up with a new weapon.
As Sessions' floater sailed well to the right of the rim and came up a good foot or two short, every Clippers player within shouting distance leaped with arms extended to contest it. That left Gerald Henderson wide open beneath the bucket, where he casually caught the missed shot/brilliant pass, gathered and dunked to put the 'Cats up by two.
The Clips couldn't counter on the other end.
Most likely, Sessions just botched the attempt. But Henderson was camping out under the hoop. And he was wide open. Maybe Sessions is just a step ahead of everybody else.
In news from that game that doesn't involve feats of inventiveness, Al Jefferson led Charlotte with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Blake Griffin contributed a game-high 27 points while adding six assists and seven boards.
Finally, DeAndre Jordan—who was responsible for Sessions' shot more than anyone else—gobbled up 20 rebounds in 32 minutes.
The Feeling Might Not Be Mutual
Luol Deng definitely misses playing for the Chicago Bulls. Based on what we saw Wednesday, it doesn't seem like the feeling is mutual.
According to The Associated Press (via ESPN), Deng's phone isn't making it easy for him to forget how good he once had it:
I've been trying to change it, but I don't know how. It's really annoying when you get updates of the Bulls on your phone. I'm trying to change getting all these Joakim Noah double-double updates. I gotta get rid of that.
The Bulls, though, are now 7-2 since trading Deng away to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They picked up win No. 7 on Wednesday, defeating Deng's Cavs by a final score of 98-87.
Taj Gibson started for an injured Carlos Boozer, and all he did was log a career-high 26 points in 42 minutes. The aforementioned Joakim Noah missed out on another double-double by a single point, but he managed to contribute 18 rebounds and six assists.
Thanks to some shoddy Cavaliers defense, D.J. Augustin also got loose from beyond the arc. He nailed five triples on the way to a game-high 27 points as Cleveland's guards inexplicably went under screen after screen up top.
Deng, meanwhile, was just 2-of-11 against his former team.
It's safe to say Chicago has moved on pretty well since losing one of its most beloved players. Hopefully, Deng's fortunes will improve in the future as well.
Failing that, he should at least get a new phone.
Never Underestimate the Element of Surprise
Everybody knows Kyle Korver can shoot the ball. As a matter of fact, he's made at least one three-point shot in every game he's played since the Clinton administration. Or, you know, 110 consecutive contests—I forget which.
Either way, that's impressive.
But Korver buckled down on the other end in the Atlanta Hawks' 112-109 road victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, swooping in to block Jameer Nelson's runner with 23 seconds remaining. Atlanta was down by one at that point, and a pair of Pero Antic free throws gave them the lead on the ensuing possession.
Then, with a three-point advantage, Korver played terrific one-on-one D against Nelson, who couldn't get a good look at a potential game-tying three at the buzzer. It was a pretty impressive showing for a guy with a one-dimensional reputation.
In reality, Korver is actually a pretty solid defender. He's not going to shut down any of the league's elite wings, but he can be a valuable player in the right scheme. He's a true team player who is now also emerging as much more of a vocal leader.
Best of all, he's contributing at key moments and in ways most wouldn't expect.
Even in his 11th year, Korver is full of surprises.
Do Not Anger DeMar DeRozan
Vince Carter answered the chorus of boos in his return to Toronto with a dunk over DeMar DeRozan. And while it probably felt pretty good for the only man Canadians have actually decided to hate, the jam turned out to be a disaster for the Dallas Mavericks because DeRozan got a little angry.
In a 93-85 win, the Toronto Raptors shooting guard poured in 40 points on 22 shots. I think we can agree he had his revenge.
The first word that comes to mind when thinking of DeRozan's heavy reliance on a mid-range attack is "unsustainable," but his arsenal of off-the-dribble jumpers sure was effective on his career night against the Mavs.
John Wall Had the Best Bad Day Ever
Yet again, the Washington Wizards failed to climb over the .500 mark, dropping a 113-111 overtime contest at home to the Washington Wizards. This was the fourth time during the 2013-14 season in which Washington had a shot to get its head above water.
As was the case in their three previous tries, the Wizards sank back below the surface. It seems the streak of .500-or-worse records that started all the way back in 2009 for Washington will never be broken.
Don't fault John Wall, though; he notched a triple-double with 28 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds in the loss.
Unfortunately for the Wizards' soon-to-be all-star, Jeff Green pumped in 39 of his own that included eight made threes—one of which was an impossible one-legged bomb that helped send the game to OT.
To make matters even worse, Wall wasn't named to the 28-player pool that will eventually make up the roster for USA Basketball's next two years of international competition.
It was another sub-.500 record, a wasted triple-double and a painful exclusion from an elite club. Sounds like a rough day to me.
If you see Wall over the next few hours, I don't think a hug would be out of order.
There's Nothing More to Say
Oh, don't worry; the New York Knicks did plenty of talking after dropping a home tilt to the Philadelphia 76ers by a final score of 110-106. It's just that none of the Knickerbockers—not J.R. Smith, not Carmelo Anthony and not Mike Woodson—actually said anything.
Check out these blurbs from The Associated Press (via ESPN):
Smith: "This is the time right here to make up ground and we're not. We're playing better on the road than we are at home and it should be the other way around if anything."
Anthony: "I really don't know what it is, why we can't play well on our own home court. This should be the time where we gain some momentum, gain some confidence as a team playing here on our own home court, but that don't seem like it's the case right now."
Woodson: "We've got to believe that we can win a game."
Anybody see any actual, concrete answers in that cliche-ridden tangle of verbiage? Yeah, me either.
The Knicks lost a game at home to a team that, on average, loses by 8.4 points per contest—the second-worst differential in the league. These Sixers are actively trying to lose basketball games, and even they managed to take a victory from New York.
Credit Evan Turner for a career-high 34 points and rookie Michael Carter-Williams for working through an ugly night from the field to finish three assists shy of a triple-double. But otherwise, blame the Knicks team that was out-executed, outcoached and outplayed by one of the league's very worst teams.
That's it. We're done here. The Knicks have no answers, and there's nothing left to say. Check back for more empty updates on Jan. 24 when the Bobcats visit MSG.
This Is Why the Kings Can't Have Nice Things
Everyone who thought the surprisingly productive streaks both DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay had been enjoying were a little too good to last turned out to be right.
But for the wrong reasons.
Cousins and Gay didn't turn in rough shooting nights or earn ejections for popping off at officials. Instead, both suffered injuries that knocked them out of a 119-98 loss to the Houston Rockets.
In the first quarter, Gay injured his Achilles on a relatively innocuous non-contact play. He came normally underneath the basket but grimaced as he ran back up the court on defense. Shortly after that, he determined he couldn't continue and headed to the locker room.
Then Cousins grotesquely rolled his ankle in the second period. He was in so much pain that he couldn't even shoot the free throws he'd earned on the play when Patrick Beverley hacked him on a drive.
It's not like Sacramento was on fire overall, but it had been playing respectable ball since flipping the calendar to 2014. Now, it appears the two players most responsible for that return to mediocrity will be sidelined for a while.
This, folks, is why the Kings cannot have nice things.
They Call Him Tuff Juice for a Reason
Caron Butler's "Tuff Juice" nickname is easily one of the best in the NBA and almost certainly the top juice-related moniker.
Two days removed from a root canal, the Milwaukee Bucks' veteran small forward tallied a season-high 30 points in a 104-101 win against the Detroit Pistons that put a halt to the Bucks' nine-game slide. And he did it all on the night of his bobblehead giveaway.
On the year, Butler is averaging just 10 points per game on 36 percent shooting. But he was clearly motivated to impress fans who were treated to take-home plastic trinkets that bore his face (and oversized head).
I suppose it would also be pertinent to mention that Brandon Jennings dropped 30 points against his old team but lost the "Battle of the Brandons" because Brandon Knight, who replaced Jennings, notched 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a winning effort.
OK, I'll concede it's ridiculous to assert that the Oklahoma City Thunder don't need Russell Westbrook. After all, they're just 9-5 since he hit the pine with yet another knee surgery.
But with the way Kevin Durant has been playing lately, it might be a little bit of a downer when OKC's No. 2 star returns.
Durant scored 36 points to lead the Thunder in a 111-105 win over the San Antonio Spurs, clearly taking advantage of the situation when Kawhi Leonard broke his finger after just 22 minutes. Durant had been struggling to take care of the ball against the Spurs' dynamite wing defender (he finished with 11 turnovers) but went off for 24 points after Leonard left the game.
OKC has now beaten the Spurs three straight times this year.
And while the Thunder certainly look forward to getting Westbrook back, fans who have enjoyed watching Durant go off for huge scoring totals night after night would probably prefer he take his time in returning.
You know, just for entertainment's sake.
There Are Two Sides to Every Story
The easy narrative (and the one I covered here) is that the Phoenix Suns showed the world just how dangerous they could be by destroying the Indiana Pacers in a 24-point blowout on Wednesday.
It's hard to ignore the way Phoenix pushed the ball, scored in transition, drilled 11-of-16 from long range and shot well over 50 percent for the game. At the same time, though, there's a flip side to games like the Suns' 124-100 drubbing.
It's also fair to say that the Pacers simply didn't player very well.
That's what Ben Gibson of Eight Points Nine Seconds argued:
If Phoenix wasn’t dropping bombs from beyond the arc against the Pacers, a team that normally defends the arc with a league best .321 opponent shooting percentage, they found other ways to score. Paul George played well, but Indiana was completely out of sync defensively and it showed in a season high 62 points allowed in the first half.
It was only one game, but the Indiana performance left little to be positive about until they get back on track, most likely in their next game, and look like the championship contender they are.
That's an equally valid take.
In truth, blowouts like this one don't happen without contributions from both sides. The Suns were fantastic, but the Pacers didn't look anything like themselves. So before we all go getting caught up in Phoenix's scary potential as a playoff spoiler, we should also consider the fact that Indy just had an off night.