5. Anthony Davis' dunk
There isn’t a ton that needs to be said about this play. Anthony Davis outruns most of the Dallas team, catches the ball at the three-point line, and dunks without dribbling. It’s self-explanatory. But one thing I particularly appreciate about this dunk is that Davis didn’t dunk over the front of the rim, like most players do when they jump from so far out. He dunked over the side, showing just how easy this play was for him.
4. Atlanta handling its business
Before the season started, I picked the Hawks to go 41-41, saying ”They’re just average.” In a way, they’ve proven me right, by going 1-4 against teams with a winning record to this point. But they’ve also been crazy consistent, winning nearly every game that they should win en route to a 15-6 start. Last night’s win against the 76ers was a perfect example – they were expected to blow out a terrible Philadelphia team in Atlanta and they did.
They’ve won their last 8 games (all against teams with a losing record) through even scoring, shooting the crap out of the ball, and, most importantly, doing what they’re supposed to do.
Good teams beat good teams, and the Hawks haven’t proven they can do that yet. But they have proven that they will bring it every night. In the East, that might be enough.
3. Wiggins back-to-back 20 point games
This isn’t quite a story yet, but Wiggins has been more aggressive of late and you can see the results. He went for 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists against the Warriors two nights ago before improving against the Trail Blazers last night. He scored 23 points (16 shots), grabbed 10 rebounds, and handed out 4 helpers while snapping the Blazers’ five game winning streak. But it wasn’t just the fact that he had those statistics, it was the way he did it, flashing the full arsenal. Check this out:
He posted up smaller defenders like Steve Blake, pulled up in front of bigger defenders like Nicolas Batum, and finished at the rim over an elite rim protector in Robin Lopez. He didn’t make a three, but he currently leads all rookies in three-point shooting percentage (38.7%). He also didn’t convert his free throws (5-of-10), which has been a struggle for him all year. Right now, he’s making just 65% of his attempts – a number that ranks 123rd of 130 qualified players.
This seems to be a problem for a bunch of rookies, though, and Wiggins made 76% of his shots in college, so that number will go up as he continues to play, and is a small thing compared to how well he’s been playing of late.
2. Beal alley-oop
This is a great play, and a difficult play for a 6’4” guard to make. The pass is late because Andre Miller has to throw the lob over DeWayne Dedmon, and it allows the super-bouncy Oladipo to at least make a play on the ball. Still, this play gets penalized for one reason – what were the Magic doing? Not only did they not switch any screens (something most teams do late in the clock), Nikola Vucevic doesn’t even hedge the screen, leaving Oladipo at a huge disadvantage with no help behind.
With .8 seconds left, the Wizards were left with only catch-and-shoot options, and their best shooter was running at the basket. It’s inexcusable that the Magic should chase John Wall so far away from the basket and leave Beal wide open under the rim.
Just play zone. It’s not complicated.
1. Warriors’ Streak Continues
By tip-off last night, everyone knew the Warriors were good. They’d won 13 straight and led a cannibalistic Western Conference by 2 games. But they hadn’t really been tested by a very good team. Sure, they’d had close games – they were just one Steph Curry three-pointer away from losing to the Magic at home – but the only team with a winning record they’d beaten during the streak were the Chicago Bulls. They hadn’t beaten anyone who would be a force in the Western Conference… until last night.
Even without Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones, the Rockets have been very good all year. James Harden is a legitimate MVP candidate, Trevor Ariza has been a great addition, and they’ve found ways to score enough while playing great defense.
Over the last four minutes of the game, though, Houston just looked outclassed. After Harden hit a three to tie the score at 89-89, Golden State went on an 11-0 run in two minutes to put the game away. The one thing that struck me was just how long and disruptive the Warriors are. Check out this series late in the fourth:
The Warriors get two blocks in two seconds, and look at that lineup – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes. They’re ultra-small, and yet they get another rejection two minutes later, wiping three shots in just four minutes. They’ve been the best defense per possession all season, and when they lock in, it’s easy to see why.