Welcome to the first edition of The NBA Nutshell. The Nutshell is a new daily segment here on dunksndank.com, in which I will attempt to cram all the previous night’s NBA action – all the important stuff, anyway – down into a digestible little “nutshell” of a column for the convenience of today’s modern, semi-literate fan. Think of it like ESPN.com’s old Daily Dime segment, only a little more readable. It’s the NBA in a nutshell.
Nuggets steal one from Pelicans in 2OT
Despite the incredible, unprecedented eruption of Unibrow Davis, the seemingly directionless Denver Nuggets were able to top Davis’s Pelicans in double-overtime on the road last night, winning by a score of 118-111. Davis finished with a mind-numbing line of 36 points, 14 boards, 7 dimes and 9 blocks – all while shooting an efficient 16 of 28 from the floor, no less – but the crowd at the idiotically-named Smoothie King Center still went home grumbling, as he appeared to run out of gas in the second extra session and allowed the Nuggets to sneak off with the W.
This was a dagger of a loss for New Orleans, who at 36-30 are still in contention for a playoff spot out West, but find themselves being leapfrogged from behind. With 16 games left to play, they now sit on the outside of the playoff picture looking in – one game back of the 8th place Thunder, who won yesterday and appear to be close to getting Kevin Durant back on the floor – so the Pelicans are going to need to win all their winnable games if they want to keep themselves within striking distance of the postseason down the stretch.
I don’t want to discredit the Nuggets, here, but a home game against a 26-41 Denver team with an interim head coach definitely qualifies as “winnable.” The Pelicans let one slip out of their giant beaks last night.
As for the Nuggets – who were paced by an energetic 20 and 10 from Kenneth Faried – there’s really not much to say about them at the time being. To be fair, they’ve now won four in a row and are playing much more inspired basketball since Melvin Hunt took over for Brian “What-Do-You-Mean-It’s-Not-The-80’s-Anymore?” Shaw, but it’s just too little too late at this point, as they’re not going to sniff the postseason this year even if they go undefeated from here on out.
If nothing else, I suppose they’re building their confidence and chemistry for next season, which is good. But this writer wonders if they wouldn’t be better off simply focusing on development of their young players now (and perhaps picking up a few extra ping-pong balls in the process). Just a thought.
Rockets top Clippers to spoil Blake’s return
Blake Griffin was back for the first time in over a month, the Staples Center was a madhouse, the Clippers were fired up coming off their worst loss of the season… and the Houston Rockets weren’t fazed by any of it. Led by the wizardry of one James Harden – 34 points, 7 boards, 7 dimes and 18 FT attempts – the Rockets launched into the Staples Center and took care of business there, hanging on for a thrilling 100-98 win in a game that had a playoff-type feel to it.
That last part shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as if the season ended today, these two teams would be squaring off in the first round as the fourth and fifth seeds on the Western bracket.
The win for Houston went a long way towards keeping them in that fourth seed, which is particularly key since the top-four teams get home-court advantage in the first round. Coming into yesterday’s game, they had only a 1.5 game cushion on the fifth-place Clippers, so the victory nearly doubled their margin for error up to 2.5 games with only 16 to play. It also moved them a half-game closer to the third-place Blazers, who were off yesterday.
For the Clippers, yesterday was something of a bittersweet symphony, as they suffered a crucial loss but also got their best player back from injury and still had a chance to win the game even though they looked sloppy and out of sync for most of it. Blake put his fingerprints all over this one – he finished with 11 points, 11 boards and 8 assists – but even if he had been awful, his mere presence alone seemed to energize the Clippers, particularly DeAndre Jordan.
His teammates seem to recognize the fact that playing Big Baby Davis extended minutes is simply not a recipe for success, and thus were more than happy to see Blake back out there. They’ll put this one behind them and look to get back on track against the Hornets tomorrow night.
Last Night’s MVP: Russell Westbrook
With apologies to the afore-mentioned Unibrow Davis and James Harden, who both had spectacular games yesterday, the inaugural Nutshell MVP award goes to Russell Westbrook, who led his Thunder to a victory over the gritty Bulls with a line of 36 points, 11 boards, and 6 assists. Stat lines like this are almost becoming old hat for the Thunder PG. In the past 12 games – all of which Durant has missed with injury – Westbrook has set himself ablaze like a protesting monk, heating up to the degree of 33.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 10.7 dimes and 1.8 steals per contest.
However, his usage rate has been a whopping, ball-hogging 40% during that stretch, and though they’re a respectable 8-4 overall, his team has suffered a pair of losses in games they probably should have won. Both times, it appeared that Westbrook was primarily responsible for the outcome. The first was against the Suns, a game in which Westbrook took 38 shots and made only 12 of them, and the other was against the Bulls, when Westbrook missed a wide-open Serge Ibaka in the final minute and instead tried to muscle up his own shot against a triple-team.
Yesterday, Westbrook appeared to have learned from his over-aggressive transgressions, which is why he earned the inaugural Nutshell MVP award. With his team clinging to a one-possession lead in the final minutes, Westbrook was double-teamed as he made one of his wild charges to the basket. Instead of forcing up a hopeless shot and praying for a whistle, Westbrook trusted in his teammates and rifled a pass out to a wide-open Anthony Morrow on the wing, who rewarded him by burying the shot and essentially sealing the game for the Thunder.
If Westbrook continues to find a balance between his hyper-aggressiveness and fostering ball movement amongst his teammates, the rest of the league better watch out. Like, “Durant-may-be-taking-a-backseat-to-this-guy-when-he-gets-back” type of watch out. Russ is on a roll right now.
WTF Stat Line of the Night: Unibrow Davis
The “WTF State Line of the Night” is exactly what it sounds like: it’s just a stat line from last night’s games that makes you go “WTF” when you look at it. The WTF Stat Line isn’t necessarily a good line or bad line – it just has to make you go WTF. That’s the only criteria.
So on that note, the inaugural WTF Stat Line of the night goes to Unibrow Davis, for his otherworldly line of 36/14/7 with 9 blocks last night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he was the first player to record numbers that high in a single game since… well, forever. Nobody has ever done that since they started recording blocks over 30 years ago.
Say it with me now, people – WTF? Anthony Davis, you are a beast my friend.