There are two types of teams in the NBA: the Golden State Warriors and everyone else.
For everyone else, a 127-107 win over any opponent, even the middling Detroit Pistons, might qualify as a noteworthy night. For the Dubs, it’s a ho-hum evening—the 12th one in 2016-17 that’s ended with their winning by 20 points or more.
Golden State’s offensive performance against the Pistons would be a picture of efficiency for most. The Warriors shot 56.2 percent from the field, including 51.7 percent from three, while notching 39 assists on 50 baskets. But this star-studded squad has hit at least 55 percent of its field goals and half of its threes six other times and has topped 40 assists in a game on three occasions.
What about the third quarter, when Golden State outscored Detroit 41-19, that all but put the game out of reach? That’s practically par for the course for these Warriors, who lead the league in third-quarter scoring (30.9 points, per NBA.com) and margin (plus-5.6).
And where all but a spoonful of squads would kill to have three players crack the 20-point mark in one game, Golden State has already seen Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson do it 13 times counting Thursday’s domination of Detroit.
Curry dropped 19 of his 24 points in the first half, Thompson tallied 12 of his 23 in the third quarter and Durant finished with a game-high 25 along with nine assists and six rebounds.
Draymond Green didn’t come anywhere near that plateau (two points, 0-of-4 shooting), but he didn’t need to with all the other work he put in (13 assists, nine rebounds, two blocks).
That quartet—along with reliable reserves like Andre Iguodala (eight points, two assists), Shaun Livingston (10 points) and Ian Clark (14 points)—gives head coach Steve Kerr enough leeway to play around with different player combinations. Against the Pistons, he trotted out lineups that featured duos of Curry-Durant and Thompson-Green as superstar fulcrums next to subs, with mixed results, as the Mercury News‘ Tim Kawakami noted:
Curry +32, Durant +24… Kerr is going to like that part of the rotation tweak. But Draymond/Klay + 2nd unit wasn’t so good.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) January 13, 2017
Those are the sorts of tests the Warriors will have to try out not only to determine their true capabilities, but also prepare for the challenges that await them in the coming week, let alone the playoffs.
After a three-day weekend, Golden State will resume play at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday and Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday before heading out to face the Houston Rockets on Friday.
In truth, Golden State hasn’t had as many chances to duck into the lab during live action of late. This win over the Pistons was the Warriors’ first true blowout victory since Dec. 20, when they crushed the Utah Jazz by 30. In the 10 games that followed, the Dubs won five times by single digits, lost twice while up double digits in the fourth quarter and never came out ahead by more than 16 points.
Those are results to which the rest of the NBA can relate and that make Golden State look less than invincible. But these Warriors, a work in progress though they may be, are a league-best 34-6, with just over half a slate left to iron out the remaining wrinkles and work in others.
That doesn’t mean the Dubs can dilly-dally their way to a third straight Finals or assume four more victories once there. Still, if Golden State can make crushing NBA competition look easy, if it can flip a switch and scurry away with one good quarter and another outstanding one, imagine what this group might do once it gets its act together and has more complete efforts.
In the meantime, that these Warriors can mess around and win by 20, with a trio of 20-point scorers, is evidence enough that this club is as much a cut above the Association as its prodigious talent would suggest.
Knicks Show Signs of Life
Between Derrick Rose’s mysterious disappearance, Kristaps Porzingis’ sore Achilles and a stretch of nine losses in 10 games, the New York Knicks would’ve been pleased with any victory, including a 104-89 result over the short-handed Chicago Bulls.
“I’m just happy to win,” Rose said, per the Knicks on Twitter.
New York was happy to have him back in the lineup too. After missing Monday’s loss to the Pelicans while stealing away to Chicago, Rose followed up his 25-point outing against the Philadelphia 76ers with 17 at his old team’s expense. Fellow former Bull Joakim Noah finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds—his fifth double-double as a Knick.
Carmelo Anthony led the way with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, though that didn’t stop fans at Madison Square Garden from showering him with boos after he air-balled an isolation three-pointer. With Porzingis on the pine, rookie forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas delivered a career-high 19 points.
The most encouraging result for the Knicks, though, was their defensive performance. For just the sixth time this season, New York held an opponent under 40 percent from the field and now has back-to-back games of that caliber under its belt.
“We are very optimistic of what we can do,” Anthony said, per the Knicks’ Twitter feed.
Granted, the Bulls aren’t an offensive juggernaut with Jimmy Butler (illness) and certainly aren’t one without him. Nor would the Sixers—dead last in the league in offensive efficiency, per NBA.com—be mistaken for a powerhouse on that end, despite Joel Embiid’s eye-popping skill.
Still, the Knicks are in no position to nitpick whatever signs of progress they can find, however easy they may be to pick apart. If New York is going to climb back into the East’s top eight, it’ll have to find a way to extend its recent defensive results against conference foes such as the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards—each of whom the Knicks will see over the next week.
Spurs Stars Catch Fire Against Lakers
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images
What better way for the San Antonio Spurs to lick their wounds from a stunning 109-107 loss to the nearly Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday than by hosting the Los Angeles Lakers, with their league-worst defense, on Thursday?
The Spurs nearly put together a 60-50-90 shooting night (60.5 percent from the floor, 47.6 percent from three, 89.7 percent from the free-throw line) en route to a 134-94 flattening of the Purple and Gold. They wouldn’t have approached those gaudy numbers, though, without historic nights from Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol.
The former torched the Lakers for 31 points on 10-of-13 shooting in just 26 minutes, giving him yet another of the most efficient scoring performances seen in 2016-17.
Kawhi Leonard put up 31 points in just over 26 minutes.
He’s 1 and 2 on the list of fewest minutes played in a 30-point game this season. pic.twitter.com/MuRkNtpaLr
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 13, 2017
The latter lit up his old team for 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists while knocking down all nine of his attempts from the field. Gasol tied Jeff Lamp for the second-best perfect shooting performance in team history, per the San Antonio Express-News‘ Jeff McDonald, and became just the third player ever with a stat line of his kind, as the Spurs’ Jordan Howenstine noted:
Pau Gasol is the third player in NBA history to record 22/9/6+ while shooting 100% in a game. Anthony Mason in 1997, Steve Francis in 2003.
— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) January 13, 2017
Along the way, Gasol slipped past Bernard King into 43rd place on the league’s all-time scoring list. Better yet, he and Leonard did all that without so much as lifting a finger during the fourth quarter while they and the Spurs starters watched Gregg Popovich empty the bench.
Nuggets Annihilate Pacers in London
Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Last week, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone took his team’s defense to task following a 120-113 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
“Offense sells tickets; defense wins championships,” he said, per ESPN. “Right now our defense is the worst in the NBA.”
That didn’t change much for the Nuggets in London, where they hosted the Indiana Pacers at O2 Arena as part of the NBA Global Games. But with all the international firepower on hand, Denver didn’t have to dominate on both ends to stop a five-game skid.
The Nuggets ran roughshod over the Pacers, 140-112, with six double-digit scorers tied to five different countries. Serbia’s Nikola Jokic led Denver across the board with 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Wilson Chandler, who played in China, followed close behind with 21 points, eight boards and four assists. Italy’s Danilo Gallinari chipped in 18 points with four threes.
Denver will have until Monday’s date with the Orlando Magic in the Mile High City to see if it can scrounge up some semblance of defense. If not, the Nuggets will have to hope their prodigious offensive output follows them back across the pond.
Booker Blows Up Below the Border
Devin Booker did all he could to lead the Phoenix Suns back from a double-digit second-half deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in Mexico City. The second-year swingman turned into a human torch during the fourth quarter, exploding for 28 of Phoenix’s 32 points in the final frame on 9-of-11 shooting (5-of-6 from three).
But that epic late-game output, part of a career-high-tying 39-point night for Booker, wasn’t enough for the Suns to avoid a 113-108 loss to the Mavs in the nightcap of Thursday’s NBA Global Games.
While the 20-year-old went bonkers, Dallas’ older heads came through south of the border. Deron Williams, 32, paced Dallas in points (23) and assists (12). Dirk Nowitzki, the league’s fifth-oldest player at 38, went for 18 points and six rebounds. Harrison Barnes, Dallas’ designated youngster at 24, and Wesley Matthews, who turned 30 back in October, combined for 40 points.
Young or old, neither team can be all that proud of where it stands. With identical 12-27 records, the Mavericks and Suns are tied for last place in the Western Conference.
Pelicans’ Healthy Depth Downs Nets
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
These days, there’s no place like Brooklyn for an NBA superstar to watch his teammates shine while taking the night off.
Granted, Anthony Davis had good reason to rest during the New Orleans Pelicans’ 104-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Three nights earlier, the Brow hurt his left hip on a hard foul from New York’s Kyle O’Quinn during the Pelicans’ 110-96 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
On Thursday, Davis sat in support while Terrence Jones, his frontcourt backup and college teammate at Kentucky, totaled 24 points and 12 rebounds in his stead at the Barclays Center. Tyreke Evans put together the best game of his young campaign, scoring 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting with three assists and four steals off the bench.
Davis’ absence even cleared the way for Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca to play. Both snapped lengthy DNP streaks—eight games for Asik, seven for Ajinca—though they combined for all of two rebounds, a steal and a turnover in eight minutes.
At this point, the Pelicans might not need Davis to hold their own against the bumbling Bulls in Chicago on Saturday, though you know he’d like to put on a show for his hometown if he can.
Thursday’s Final Scores
- Denver Nuggets 140, Indiana Pacers 112
- New Orleans Pelicans 104, Brooklyn Nets 95
- New York Knicks 104, Chicago Bulls 89
- San Antonio Spurs 134, Los Angeles Lakers 94
- Dallas Mavericks 113, Phoenix Suns 108
- Golden State Warriors 127, Detroit Pistons 107
All stats via NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and listen to his Hollywood Hoops podcast with B/R Lakers lead writer Eric Pincus.