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Last Night In The NBA: Some Honeymoon Stages Last All Year, Others Not So Much

Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets

Morning everybody happy Monday and welcome to another edition of Last Night In The NBA where we catch you up on everything you may have missed from the night before in the Association. I couldn’t think of a better situation than to have 5 games on a lazy rainy Sunday for a little recovery,  and thankfully most of the games were fairly entertaining. In the event you were doing chores or watching golf or had things to do any couldn’t watch that’s OK, here’s what happened.

Hornets (27-33) 114 vs Pistons (28-31) 98

Juuuuuuuuust when you thought maybe the Hornets were dead and were preparing for their lottery decision, they go off and win 4 in a row to make things sneaky interesting. I don’t want to overly excite you if you’re a CHA fan, there is still a long road ahead over the last 22 games for them to make up the 4 game difference for that final playoff spot, but credit where credit is due they are playing some of their best basketball of the season right now. Normally when you go on the road and turn it over 18 times, you get run out of the gym. Instead, CHA won by 16 points and they did it through good shooting (47/45% splits) and a balanced approach. Their three best starters combined to go 18-31 and both Batum and Howard were great

and then when it came time for the second unit, they had 4 players in double figures which is pretty impressive, especially Frank The Tank who had a solid 13/8 with a couple made threes. He’s been big for them over their last two wins and it’s important if CHA wants to end up in the top 8 that they do what they’re currently doing. They haven’t beaten any world beaters during this streak (ORL/BKN/WSH/DET), but they are defending. No team has gone over 105, and two of the teams have been held under 100. When you defend like that and have an engaged Dwight and locking in Kemba, you can go on little runs like this. Personally, I thought Steve Clifford summed it up well

For DET, I bet you anything they’d like to go back to their honeymoon stage right after their big trade where they won 5 in a row. Since then, they’ve lost 5 of their last 6 and have fallen completely out of the playoff picture. Maybe this is where they are missing Reggie Jackson, but things have taken a dip rather quickly after it looked like Blake coming over was going to keep them in the top 8 and perhaps even move them up a couple seeds. The problem really is on the defensive end, during this skid they’ve held a team to under 100 points just once (98) and have given up over 108 in all their 5 losses. That stinks. A team that had been known to play decent defense at some point, if the Pistons miss the playoffs they can point to that end of the floor as a main reason why.

Blake and Drummond showed up for the most part although Griffin’s 6 TOs didnt help much but this play but Andre was pretty sweet

but I’d say the 22% shooting from three, 17 turnovers and overall lack of defense is going to get you beat more often than not. What exactly is a team like DET who struggles to score going to do when they give up 70 points in the first half? If not for a 27-18 fourth quarter when the game was already decided, this would have looked much worse.

Pelicans (33-26) 123 vs Bucks (33-26) 121 F/OT

Now this was a fun game. On one side you have the Pelicans, who somehow have won 5 in a row and find themselves currently in the 6 spot in the West, and on the other you had MIL, a team who is also a 6 seed in the East and had been playing well over their last 10 games (6-4). While it looked early like NO was going to be in a bit of trouble, boy did they have a second half/OT for the ages. For me it doesn’t start in the usual place either, yesterday’s game was really about the guard play of the Pelicans, and it was solid as hell

You had Jrue Holiday dominate regulation and then Rondo come up huge twice in the OT to pull out the win. During this win streak Holiday has been playing perhaps the best basketball of his season, averaging 26.4/6.0/8.6 on 51/35% splits. That’s a pretty healthy bump from his season averages and production this team desperately needs now that Boogie is gone. This team could have mailed it in and gone south, but you have to give them credit with how they’ve responded. Given the injury to MIN, you could blink and see this team as high as a 4 seed if they keep playing like this, which is not something many people thought would happen.

Obviously they also got some pretty great production from this dude named Anthony Davis. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, many people think he’s pretty good at basketball. I tend to agree with those people

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, look at his current run

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That is utter insanity.

For MIL, a tough loss at home no doubt, and not just because Jason Terry’s game winning three came just a littttttttttle bit too late. They went with their nomal formula, lets Giannis/Bledsoe/Middleton do their thing and hope the other guys do just enough to pull it out. Those three held up their end, combining for over half the points (65)

but that brutal 3rd quarter really made it all for nothing as the Bucks blew their giant lead. As is the case with basically every team in playoff contention, the Bucks are still right there in the thick of things and could be as high as 3rd in a matter of weeks. If you’re a Bucks man maybe you’re a little down so allow me to cheer you up. You know who looked good? Jabari Parker

He’s only playing around 18 minutes a night in his first 8 games back but is averaging 10/4 with a PER of over 18. People already thought this Bucks team was dangerous before his return, and if he’s going to be back to his old self, even if they stay where they are at 6 and have to play CLE, that’s a pretty interesting series if you ask me. I’m not sure CLE has more talent if we’re being honest. The next handful of games will tell us a lot about MIL and where they may end up, as every team for the most part on their horizon is playing good basketball at the moment (IND/DET/WSH/HOU/PHI).

Spurs (36-25) 110 vs Cavaliers (35-24) 94

This is confusing ya know? I was led to believe the Spurs were dead, this Kawhi situation was the start of their downfall and that the Cavs had formed the greatest basketball team on the planet over the deadline. A team that was completely different from the one that sucked before the trade deadline. A couple wins when they were in the prime of their honeymoon stage was supposed to be who the Cavs were. Well I’m sorry CLE fans but guess what, you’re team is basically the exact same. It still has the exact same defensive issues and before you knew it you’re prized new toys have for the most part turned into pumpkins.

But let’s start with the Spurs who snagged the big road win. A team that had lost 6 of their last 7 heading in they were clearly struggling. You couldn’t tell last night though as they got great performances from LMA who is having an extremely underrated season in my opinion

New starting point guard Dejonte Murray did a little bit of everything in his 34 minutes and finished with an impressive 13/9/5/4/3

and then missing the previous game with food poisoning, when it came time for someone to step up on the second unit, especially with Manu out, there was Danny Green to pour in 22 big points of the bench

It’s not exactly a secret that the Spurs struggle on the road where they are now 14-19 and they had lost every game on this current trip outside of the game against PHX. But this is why the Spurs are who they are, because even during their worst stretch of the season they can still come into the Q and completely dominate the defensive end and pull out a win. They own the tiebreaker against MIN for that 3rd seed and this defense looked a whole lot more like the one currently giving up the fewest points per game in the NBA. So sorry, the Spurs are not dead.

For CLE, it’s true they looked fantastic immediately after the trade. It’s also true basically 95% of the internet cummed their pants just a little too soon with this group. Outside of beating MEM (wow!), they have lost 2 of their 3 games after the break giving up 110 points in each. George Hill has been worse than Isaiah Thomas as a starter with 36/25% splits and 94/114 ratings. I don’t see everyone rushing to burn his jersey and ship him out of town so that’s a little weird. I for one am also surprised that a 31 year old PG who was never good at defense this season continues to be not good at defense. Very odd.

Yes, Lebron was Lebron and he was fucking ridiculous

but I cannot say the same about every other starter

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Well, at least they have the new guys right? Well, Rodney Hood went 2-6 and Larry Nance Jr went 1-1 so not really. Jordan Clarkson was good though, he had 17 points off the bench which is interesting. You mean Clarkson played well off the bench for a team that lost and gave up 110 points? And he’s not on the Lakers? Strange.

A lot of what I hear is that this team needs time to gel, which is true and was still true when they won their first two games and everyone claimed they are fixed. No, this team still has big time defensive issues and a lot of the same problems we saw before the trade. Don’t look now but the Cavs are very close to not even having home court in the first round. I know when you have Lebron it really doesn’t matter, but looking at this team after the break, it sure looks like the honeymoon is over.

Wizards (35-25) 109 vs Sixers (32-26) 94

Look I do not think the Wizards are better without John Wall, but they certainly are playing some good basketball. They’re now 7-3 over their last 10 and have won 4 of their last 5. Last night was one of those nights where they didn’t really miss a shot, finishing with 54/48% splits and big time shooting performances up and down the roster

Scoring 67 points in a half is pretty impressive, especially against a PHI team that had Embiid on the floor. WSH is now just 0.5 games behind CLE for that 3rd spot, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they leap frog them given how they are playing right now. When Wall went down there was talks about them trading a 1st rd pick in order to keep the season alive which would have been very dumb. They didn’t, and the season did not fall apart, in fact it went the other way. There are still questions around their bench, as Oubre Jr is really the only consistent player, but the overall talent on this roster is still there. Then add Wall come playoff time and I don’t see WSH being an easy out.

For PHI, this is mostly a whatever game in my opinion. Teams get hot like this at home and there’s nothing you can really do. This was their first loss in what feels like a month so no need to overreact or anything like that. Their young studs still showed out

they rest of the team just couldn’t hit a shot. You aren’t overcoming that sort of Wizards performance by shooting 36/27%. It is a little crazy though, even with their 8-2 run over their last 10, the Sixers still find themselves in the 7 seed, with just a 2 game lead over the 8th. I think it’s safe to say one of their issues is just playing on the road, but that’s normal for young teams in the NBA. I’m not sure how high they can climb in the East given who they have to jump, but it’s also fair to say if for whatever reason this team misses the playoffs not only would that be a shock but also extremely embarrassing given the talent on this team.

Also, yikes Marco Belinelli. You’re on a good team now so you need a little bit more than a 3-10 (2-7) performance. He’s probably still in tanking mode or something from his time in ATL.

Rockets (46-13) 119 vs Nuggets (33-27) 114

For whatever reason, the Nuggets simply cannot handle the Rockets. Other elite teams in the NBA no problem, but once they play HOU they get that business.

Now the Rockets are a team whose honeymoon phase has lasted essentially the entire year. They’re on a 12 game winning streak and something stupid like 31-3 when their full roster plays or something close to that. That’s insane. Just as good on the road (22-7) as they are at home (24-6), watching them play really is something special. Harden had like 27 by the half which was big because Eric Gordon didn’t play, and it’s wild that they can beat a good team like DEN on the road with just three players in double figures. But that’s why they’re sitting on top of the NBA right now.

For DEN, man it sucks being in the West. Where else can you go 7-3 over your last 10, won 4 in a row prior to this game, and still be fighting for your playoff lives? They hold just a 1 game lead over LAC for the final playoff spot, so things are starting to get a little tense. The good news is Jokic is still a monster

Will Barton is providing some help as that third guard, he had 25/7/6

and if you really wanted to spinzone things to make yourself feel better as a DEN fan, the Rockets barely beat you when Gary Harris went 2-12. That doesn’t happen very often so you should actually be pleased that things were as close as they were. They’re still 24-8 at home which is no joke, and they are 0.5 games from being matched up against SA who is a much better matchup for them. No need to freak out because you were beat by the team with the best record in the NBA.

This game just reinforced my stance that if you can, tune into Nuggets games, especially at home. With how that offense looks you will not be disappointed.

And that’s it! You’re now all caught up on everything that happened last night in the NBA. We’re right back at it again tonight with 10 games in total but there aren’t a ton of great matchups. I’d say UTA/HOU, DET/TOR, and MIN/SAC are probably the best matchups so feel free to do other things with your night and just check back tomorrow and I’ll bring you up to speed with everything that went down.