7 Takeaways from Saturday's NBA Action
The evening of Saturday, Jan. 25, continued the NBA's recent trend of incredible scoring performances.
One night after Carmelo Anthony's 62 points, Terrence Ross, the 22-year-old Toronto Raptors small forward, shocked the basketball world by scoring 51 points in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The league hasn't seen this kind of scoring outburst in nearly two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
The last time the NBA had consecutive days with a 50-point scorer? March 13-14, 2009: LeBron James (51) & Dwyane Wade (50)
Out West, the Pacers continued to struggle, while the Timberwolves failed to build off Friday's close victory.
Terrence Ross Introduced Himself to the World
The Toronto Raptors came up on the short end of Saturday's game of the night, an instant-classic 126-118 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
But Raptors fans will take the loss; they gained a potential star at small forward. On a night when Toronto's top scorer, DeMar DeRozan, left the game with an injury, second-year player Terrence Ross picked up the scoring slack and then some. Ross tied Vince Carter's franchise record with 51 points.
This may have been the most unlikely 50-point game in NBA history. Per ESPN Stats & Info:
From @EliasSports: Terrence Ross is the 1st player in NBA history with a 50-point game who was averaging less than 10 PPG
Ross is only 22 years old, and has already matched Carter, the greatest scorer in franchise history. The future is bright.
Kevin Durant Can Do It All
The Durant offensive juggernaut suffered a brief, one-game hiatus as the league's scoring leader sat out Oklahoma City's 101-83 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday night with a sore shoulder. But Durant returned just 24 hours later, just in time for the Thunder to stretch their winning streak to seven games with a 103-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
So how did Durant perform in his first game back from injury? Not bad...by Durant standards. He only scored 32 points, but made up for it with 14 rebounds and 10 assists, good for his second triple-double of the season.
In a post-game interview with Matt Pinto, Durant spoke of trusting his teammates, per the Thunder's official website: "My teammates do a great job for me. I just try to find them & be aggressive for myself."
So Durant is trusting his teammates and being aggressive. The rest of the league is in trouble.
The Memphis Grizzlies Have Figured out the Houston Rockets
The Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets met twice in the first two months of the 2013-14 season, and both time the Rockets walked away with the win.
But that was a different Memphis team.
The Grizzlies are playing their best ball of the season in January, and completed a two-game, home-and-home triumph over Houston with an easy 99-81 victory on Saturday in Memphis. The Grizzlies won a tight 88-87 contest on Friday in Houston.
In both games, the Grizzlies shut down Houston's high-powered offense. Houston averaged 105.5 points per game coming into Saturday, per Basketball Reference, but Memphis held them to an average of 84 points in their two-game sweep.
These teams have finished their four-game season series. If the Grizzlies continue to improve, Houston should thank its lucky stars they caught Memphis twice early.
Joakim Noah Won't Stop Grabbing Rebounds
Another day, another double-digit rebounding performance for Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. Noah finished two assists shy of a triple-double, with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in Chicago's 89-87 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
According to NBA.com's Derek S. Smith, Noah has grabbed at least 10 boards in 16 straight games, the longest streak of his career.
Bulls point guard D.J. Augustin led the team with 28 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter.
With Noah and Augustin playing well, the Bulls have scoring in the backcourt and toughness in the frontcourt. That's more than enough to win some games in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers Are Struggling out West
There is no shame in losing the second game of a back-to-back in the high altitude of Denver, as the Pacers did in falling to the Nuggets, 109-96, on Saturday night.
But the Pacers are one foul call on a last-second three-pointer away from riding a three-game losing streak. Indiana was blown out on Wednesday night in Phoenix, 124-100. They needed a four-point play from Paul George (on a dubious foul call) to force overtime in Sacramento, where they eventually knocked off the Kings. And they were handled fairly easily by the Nuggets.
George did not play up to his lofty standards in Denver, scoring 18 points on 6-of-18 shooting (0-of-4 from three) and four turnovers.
A three-games-in-four-nights road stretch is not easy, but the Pacers haven't been facing the cream of the crop. Phoenix and Denver are good teams, but the Suns are still missing Eric Bledsoe. And the Kings were missing both DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.
The Pacers have hit a bit of a lull out West. They need to get back to Indy and regroup.
The Washington Wizards Are Allergic to a Winning Record
For the 10th time since 2009, the Washington Wizards has a chance to finally climb above .500 on the season. And for the 10th time, the Wizards came up short.
If ever the Wizards had a shot to crack that .500 barrier, it was on Saturday, against the Utah Jazz, who came into the game with a 14-29 record. Instead, the Wizards crumbled down the stretch, and the young Jazz played like the more poised team in the 104-100 Utah victory.
Jazz forward Enes Kanter came off the bench to lead all scorers with 24 points.
According to the Associated Press, the Wizards last won a game to go above .500 on Oct. 31, 2009, when they beat the New Jersey Nets to improve to 2-1. Perhaps the Wizards are suffering from the most powerful Halloween curse in sports history.
The Trail Blazers' Bench Is Coming Together
Saturday's matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves was billed as a clash of star power forwards, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love.
But the star of Portland's 115-104 win was the Blazers' bench, which took the lead from Minnesota in the second quarter and helped put the game away in the second half.
The Blazers' bench outscored the Timberwolves reserves, 34-15. Veteran Mo Williams led the reserves with 16 points and six assists, while C.J. McCollum and Thomas Robinson each chipped in six points.
Portland is known as a team with a superb starting five, but a weak second unit. But McCollum, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2014 draft, is starting to acclimate himself after missing the first two months with an injury.
No team can win long term without a decent bench, and the Blazers might just be finding the right mix on the second unit.