8 Takeaways from Friday's NBA Action
Two players scored at least 40 points on the night of Friday, Jan. 31...and neither of them was Kevin Durant.
Amazing, isn't it?
Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry scored 44 points in a win over the Utah Jazz and Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson 40 points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Durant's 30-point streak ended at 12 on Friday, as he scored 26 points in the Oklahoma City Thunder's win over the Brooklyn Nets, but he'll take the win over the points any day.
The Milwaukee Bucks Missed a Chance for a Rare Victory
The two worst teams in the NBA met on Saturday night. League rules mandated that one of them had to win.
Predictably, that team was not the Milwaukee Bucks. With their 113-102 loss to the Orlando Magic (13-35), the Bucks (8-38) have a four-game "lead" on the league's worst record.
Caron Butler (20 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (15 points) led Milwaukee in scoring. But the Bucks allowed the Magic to shoot 51.8 percent from the field as a team.
With the loss, the Bucks finished the month of January with a 1-14 record. They established themselves as the league's worst team early in the season, and have only gotten worse since then.
But at least each new month brings Milwaukee closer to the draft.
The Atlanta Hawks Didn't Need Paul Millsap to Play Like an All-Star
In his first game since being named to his first All-Star team, Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap certainly didn't score like an All-Star. He managed only 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field.
But the Hawks make sure Millsap didn't need to score in Atlanta's 125-99 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Five other Hawks (DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Teague, Elton Brand, Mike Scott and Lou Williams) scored at least 12 points in a balanced and dominating offensive effort.
Millsap may not have shot well, but he made his presence felt on the defensive end, grabbing six steals. He is an All-Star for more than just his scoring.
Kevin Durant Can Pass as Well as Score
Dude is just too darned good.
Durant didn't play in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City's resounding 120-95 victory, and was forced to "settle" for 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting. Durant spent much of the game playing the role of facilitator. He had a team high with seven assists to go along with those 26 points.
Durant spoke of his playmaking responsibilities after Friday's win, per NBA.com's Justin Einhorn:
I'm just trying to do whatever my team needs, night in and night out, to figure out what we need to do to win a basketball game...I trust in my teammates a lot more. No matter what happens, keep having faith in those guys.
The Thunder have now won 10 games in a row. They win when he scores, and they win when he passes.
The Memphis Grizzlies Are Road Warriors
Few teams in the NBA are as hot as the Memphis Grizzlies, who pushed their road winning streak to six games with a 94-90 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Grizzlies lost a double-digit lead and point guard Mike Conley—who turned his ankle and left the game—but still managed to hang on and beat the Timberwolves.
Zach Randolph had 26 points and 12 rebounds for Memphis.
The Grizzlies are now one win away from tying the franchise record for consecutive road wins. But that record won't come easy—their next road game is Monday, Feb. 3, at Oklahoma City. The Grizzlies better hope Conley is healthy enough to play in that game.
The Utah Jazz Didn't Quite Win One for Jerry Sloan
When a team honors the winningest coach in franchise history during halftime, they better go out in the second half and win that game.
The Utah Jazz were 12 minutes from honoring legendary coach Jerry Sloan with an upset of the Golden State Warriors. Utah came into the fourth quarter leading by five, but fell apart down the stretch, allowing Golden State to take the game, 95-90.
The Jazz simply couldn't stop Warriors star Steph Curry, who torched Utah for 44 points. But they were still in position to win, leading 88-87 with two minutes left.
But the Jazz offense crumbled down the stretch, bricking shots and turning the ball over numerous times. Surely Jerry Sloan would have asked for better.
The Sacramento Kings Have a Dallas Problem
The Sacramento Kings wasted a six-point fourth-quarter lead and a monster performance from Rudy Gay, losing yet again to the Mavericks in Dallas, 107-103.
Per NBA.com's Micah Powell, Dallas has not lost at home against Sacramento since Feb. 27, 2003, a stretch of 19 games.
Gay did his best to stop that streak, scoring 35 points to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. It was a feat no King has accomplished in nearly a decade, per ESPN Stats:
Rudy Gay is the 1st Kings player with 35 pts, 10 reb, 5 ast since Chris Webber on Jan. 15, 2005— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 1, 2014
But the Kings were done in by All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and his 34 points. The Mavericks have been a quality team during Nowitzki's career, and they always seem to have Sacramento's number.
The Charlotte Bobcats Are Playing Tough out West
It's never easy for an Eastern Conference team to play out West, particularly when the Western Conference is stronger by far. But the Charlotte Bobcats have won their first two games of their West Coast road trip after Friday's 110-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bobcats center Al Jefferson tied a career high with 40 points in the win. After the game, he waxed philosophically on the incredible zone he found himself in on Friday, per NBA.com's Joe Resnick:
I have those moments. They kept running plays for me and I kept scoring. In the first quarter, they weren't going down for me, but I just kept staying with it because I knew sooner or later it would start going down for me.
Their next two West Coast games will not be nearly as easy, however, as they will face the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
DeMar DeRozan Didn't Miss a Beat
The Toronto Raptors welcomed back All-Star DeMar DeRozan, who missed the previous two games with an ankle injury suffered on Jan. 25 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Raptors won both games in DeRozan's absence, and he was interested in getting back into the lineup without rocking the boat, per NBA.com's Michael Kelly:
I didn't want to force myself early on. I wanted to fit into what the guys have been doing the last two games, try to get my rhythm back. I picked it up in the third quarter.
And pick it up he did. DeRozan led the Raptors with 19 points in a 100-90 win over the Denver Nuggets.
The Raptors may have won two games without DeRozan, but they're surely happy to have their leading scorer back in the fold.