Clippers vs. Thunder
This game can be explained in two quotes.
Scott Brooks said that OKC's second half was "as well as we can execute a game plan and execute on both ends of the floor, on offense and defense." The Thunder had 17 assists vs. five turnovers in the half, on their way to a 105-91 romp over the Clippers.
Compare that with Doc Rivers' description of L.A.'s first quarter: "'You could see we didn't have it offensively. Everybody was kind of missing shots. We didn't have any rhythm, no speed. When we don't have any pace by anybody, you know that's not a good sign. We didn't tonight.'' It wasn't a complete loss for fantasy owners, naturally -- Blake Griffin wound up with 27 points and 10 boards (the tenth time this year he's notched at least 20 & 10), while Chris Paul had 17 points and 12 assists (his 13th consecutive game with 10+ points and 10+ assists to begin the year, setting a new NBA record).
The Clippers' non-superstars didn't fare as well. J.J. Redick scored eight points on 3-of-11 shooting with zero assists, DeAndre Jordan grabbed 12 rebounds but only scored four points with one block, and Jamal Crawford's 18 points came on inefficient 7-of-16 shooting.
The numbers broke along familiar lines for OKC. Kevin Durant led the way with 28 points, six rebounds and eight more assists, continuing his playmaking tear since Russell Westbrook (12 points, six rebounds, five assists) made his unexpected season debut. Durant averaged 1.0 assists in the Thunder's first three games, but in the eight games since then he's notching 7.1 dimes per game. His assists have climbed each of the past four seasons, peaking at 5.5 last year, but he's on pace to blow away that number.
The Thunder bench deserves special commendation after last night's effort. Steven Adams earned praise from opposing coach Doc Rivers after coming off the bench for six points, seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 24 minutes (Kendrick Perkins started again but only played 20 minutes). Reggie Jackson has scored 9+ points in six consecutive games, finishing Thursday with nine points, six boards and three assists. Jeremy Lamb added 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting with one 3-pointer, and veterans Derek Fisher and Nick Collison rounded out the bench effort.
Not counting Perry Jones and Andre Roberson's brief appearances, the Thunder used the 10-man lineup which has become the norm for Scott Brooks. Jeremy Lamb, who barely played last season, is averaging 19 minutes per game. Steven Adams is also averaging 18 minutes per game for a coach who has never shown an inclination to trust his young players. Part of it is necessity -- with Kevin Martin gone, for example, Jeremy Lamb gives OKC necessary spacing from the SG position. In this article from the Oklahoman, however, beat writer Darnell Mayberry argues that "[Scott Brooks] is coaching with more confidence and creativity and, as a result, showing continued growth and maturity on the sideline."
Speaking of growth and maturity on the sidelines, I continue to be impressed by Warriors coach Mark Jackson. I developed an intense dislike for him as a commentator and wasn't convinced that he'd make a great head coach, but there's no denying his leadership and solid in-game decision making. Witness him benching his entire second unit in the final minutes of this week's game vs. the Jazz, saying afterward that they gave an "embarrassing effort" by allowing the starters' lead to be whittled away. Jackson has coached around injuries to Harrison Barnes and Steph Curry, he draws up beautiful inbounds plays, he's done well managing his veterans' playing time (Andre Iguodala leads the team with 38 minutes per game, Steph Curry is under 33 per game), and his team currently ranks fourth in the NBA in defensive efficiency by allowing 95.0 points per 100 possessions, behind only the Bulls, Spurs and Pacers. The defense is solidified by Andre Iguodala, a now-healthy Andrew Bogut, underrated Klay Thompson, and guys like Jermaine O'Neal and Toney Douglas off the bench, but Jackson has been preaching defense from Day 1 and surely influenced some of the Warriors' personnel decisions. Well done, Coach.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Friday night's games. It's just $10 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Friday. Here's the link.
Bulls vs. Nuggets
The late game featured the Bulls vs. the Nuggets, a game which was close until Denver hit a barrage of 3-pointers to kick off the fourth quarter. Most of them came from Nate Robinson (11 points, three assists, two 3-pointers) and Jordan Hamilton (17 points, six rebounds, three 3-pointers). The solid play of Denver's reserves limited starting SG Randy Foye to just 13 minutes -- he scored 12 points but didn't have any rebounds, assists or steals.
Kenneth Faried posted a skeletal double-double, and J.J. Hickson just missed his own with 14 points and nine rebounds, but that's where the good news ends. Wilson Chandler vanished offensively, going scoreless on two shot attempts in 27 minutes. He was facing an elite defense and is still getting up to full-speed after missing six games with a hamstring injury, so don't panic and cut him. If he is cut by an impatient owner in your league, pick him up immediately. Danilo Gallinari's return date remains uncertain, and Chandler is capable of helping you in points, 3s, rebounds, steals and even blocks, while shooting solid percentages.
Ty Lawson was nearly as disappointing, scoring 10 points with seven assists and four turnovers in his worst game of the season. He ranks 12th in the NBA in 'touches per game', according to NBA.com's new SportsVU tracking, as well as being sixth in assists per game (and third in 'assist opportunities' per game...knock down those jumpers, Faried!). To explain Lawson's hot start this year, beat writer Christopher Dempsey points to his centrality in the offense, decreased reliance on spot-up shots, improved ambidexterity, and stellar transition game. Check out the full column.
The Bulls fell to 6-4 with the loss, despite having four starters in double-digits. Derrick Rose led the way with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists, but tellingly he attempted just one free throw all game while shooting 9-of-20 from the field. He's averaging 2.8 FT attempts per game this season, down from 6.1 per game in 2011-12, and it's hard to dismiss the role his ACL surgery might be having on his willingness to attack the rim with unbridled fury. Fantasy owners would probably be forced to trade him for lesser players at this point, and further patience is warranted.
Mike Dunleavy started at SG with Jimmy Butler (toe) out for roughly two weeks, scoring 15 points with two 3-pointers, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. I'd view this as a best-case line for Dunleavy, who is worth a pickup if you need 3-pointers. Kirk Hinrich logged 31 minutes off the bench, scoring seven points with four assists, and he also stands to gain in Butler's absence. The only starter to miss double-digit scoring was Luol Deng, who shot an appalling 3-of-18 from the field. He grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds but that will hardly assuage his fantasy owners' disappointment.