Charlotte Hornets vs Atlanta Hawks

The Charlotte Hornets were on a three-game losing streak heading into this Sunday evening matchup with the Atlanta Hawks—a bad loss to the Rockets in overtime, a sluggish and overmatched defeat against the Bulls, and a buzzer-beating loss at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. LaMelo had a standout game against the Bucks and before Giannis’ game-winning layup, he hit a beautiful leaning three over Pat Connaughton to tie the game. Sometime after their loss to the Bucks, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, and Mason Plumlee were placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. At the time of that announcement, Ball was leading the Hornets in points, assists, steals, and rebounds per game. Heading into this contest, I was bummed to not get a chance to watch these two teams compete at something closer to full strength. But as is so often the case with the Hornets, they did the unexpected, beating the Hawks 130-127 with two of their best four players sidelined.

Don’t spit the bit was the directive from Eric Collins—after the Hornets coughed up leads against the Rockets and Bucks. Collins—the team’s television play-by-play announcer and rising star in the NBA universe—brought his full bag of phrases for this road game. It was almost like Collins was trying to will the undermanned Hornets to a victory by unloading his full clip of quips—and it worked! (Miles Bridges might have helped)

1st Quarter (8:59): Nick Richards!! Long arm of the law! This putback dunk was Richards’ only score of the night, Collins did not let it go by unremarked. Richards started in place of the sidelined Mason Plumlee, but played only seven minutes and accumulated a modest stat line of two points, three rebounds, and one block.

1st Quarter (8:42): Collins punctuated Smith’s transition attack and finish with one of his pet phrases, Ish Smith, quicker than a small-town rumor! (Link does not include Collins’ audio, sorry!) Ish Smith started in place of LaMelo Ball and played the role of steward for Charlotte’s offense. Smith stepped up and had a nice game, finishing the contest with 18 points (8-14 FG, 2-4 3PT), five rebounds, seven assists, and one steal.

1st Quarter (3:59): Oh yeeaaahh!! Miles Bridges, first thunderbolt! This driving dunk as Solomon Hill tried to go under Kelly Oubre’s screen is an example of just how much Bridges’ game has grown. With an improved handle, Bridges can take on more self-creation responsibilities and should feature in more inverted pick-and-rolls, especially with Ball and Rozier sidelined.

Miles Bridges was the unquestioned star of this game and a breakout week for Bridges could be a small silver lining as the Hornets try to win games short-handed. Bridges was arguably the best player on the floor, for either team, on his way to a final stat line of 32 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one block. While he hasn’t been as hot as he was the first few weeks of the season, this is the new Miles Bridges and here’s here to stay. If someone in your fantasy league tries to get you to “sell high” on Bridges because he’s having an outlier season, don’t believe it. Bridges’ ball-handling, playmaking, shooting touch, and athletic gifts give him an offensive floor that you can count on as long as he’s healthy.

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4th Quarter (5:26): Got it, and a foul!! Hum diddle dee!!

Kelly Oubre continues to rain fire from behind the arc. He started and finished this game, contributing 28 points (11-17 FG, 4-6 3PT), three rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Over the Hornets’ last five games, Oubre is averaging 24.2 points and shooting 54.8% from the field and 44.9% from three on 9.8 attempts a game. It would have been hard for Oubre to shoot worse than he did at the start of last season, but he’s exceeded all but the most optimistic expectations for him in Charlotte. All indications are that Oubre is loving Charlotte and wants to make it his long-term NBA home.

Gordon Hayward had a solid, but inefficient evening. He finished the game with 18 points (5-15 FG, 1-5 3PT) five rebounds, and three assists. It was interesting to see the Hornets play the majority of the fourth quarter with Hayward on the bench. He logged just under four and a half minutes in the final period.

P.J. Washington and Cody Martin chipped in 13 and 19 points respectively. JT Thor remains scoreless as an NBA player, but his size and defense kept him on the floor for nearly the same amount of time as Gordon Hayward in the fourth quarter.

Some other broadcast gems:

  1. Dell Curry joked that his electricity bill might be a little bit higher this month because his son, Seth Curry, was staying with him for the past couple of days as the Philadelphia 76ers wait to play the Charlotte Hornets on Dec 6th.
  2. After a Hornets player fouled Kevin Huerter early in the game, Collins quipped, Kevin Huerter is asking for directions to the free-throw line, hinting at the infrequency of Huerter’s trips to the line. (Eric Collins is really into free throws, players that can shoot them, and players that generate a lot of them. He said as much on his appearance on the Lowe Post this week.)
  3. Collins used Lou Williams chicken wing and strip club-inspired nickname, Lemon-Pepper Lou frequently throughout the broadcast.
  4. Early in the third quarter, after Ish Smith spun home a contested layup, Collins’ cheekily asked, Did he major in English at Wake Forest!?
  5. Spit the Bit was said multiple times.

Hawks Notes:

The Hawks losing this game was certainly a missed opportunity and maybe a sign that the team has not fully returned to its best self, the one we saw in last year’s playoffs. There was a lot of great shot-making in this game, but I’m sure both coaches will be touting the need for more engaged, locked-in defense whenever this game is examined in film sessions.

John Collins led the Hawks in scoring with 31 points (12-22 FG, 2-4 3PT) and added 12 rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Huerter side-stepped and stepped back away from one Hornets close-out after another en route to his 28 points (9-14 FG, 7-11 3PT) two rebounds, and three assists.

Although his final line is somewhat eye-popping, it never felt like Trae Young fully put his signature on this game. He finished the contest with 25 points (9-22 FG, 4-10 3PT) 15 assists (damn!), one steal, and six turnovers.

Danilo Gallinari continued his old-man-at-the-open-run routine in the NBA, taking advantage of mismatches with laborious drives and smooth high-release jumpers. He finished the game with 17 points (7-12 FG, 1-4 3PT) four rebounds, and three assists.

Clint Capela‘s had a quiet Sunday evening for the Hawks. He did his expected dirty work on the boards, but his defensive presence was not felt as acutely in this game. He finished with eight points (4-7 FG), 14 rebounds, and no blocks or steals.

 

Utah Jazz vs Cleveland Cavaliers

The Utah Jazz beat the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers 109-108, behind a strong offensive performance from Donovan Mitchell and some clutch two-way play from Rudy Gobert, who blocked two of Darius Garland’s late fourth-quarter layups and had a thunderous dunk over Jarret Allen, which proved to be a crucial basket in the final minute of the game.

Donovan Mitchell led the charge for the Utah Jazz, scoring 15 of his game-high 35 points in the first quarter. He finished the game with 35 points (12-21 FG, 4-8 FG) three rebounds, six assists, one steal, and seven turnovers. Mitchell is rounding into form after a somewhat slow shooting start to the season. His field goal percentage has improved with each new month of the season and he’s averaging 27.2 points, three rebounds, six assists, and one-point-four steals a game, with shooting splits of 50/41/94 in his last five games.

Rudy Gobert had the kind of game that engenders to teammates, the coaching staff, and any intelligent, discerning viewer. His late-game dunk would be the only highlight-worthy offensive play on the night for Gobert, but the value of his work on the boards and his presence as an immovable object in front of the basket cannot be understated. He finished the game with six points (3-6 FG), 20 rebounds, three assists, one steal, five blocks, and just one turnover.

Mike Conley, ever the example of a good teammate, was content to play make, space the floor, and defend while Mitchell cooked. He finished the game with 11 points (4-9 FG, 3-5 3PT) two rebounds, six assists, and four steals.

Rudy Gay has played well since returning from injury. He had another solid game in this one, finishing with 15 points (5-10 FG, 3-7 3PT), eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points (6-14 FG, 4-9 3PT), three rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Royce O’Neale (4-7 FG, 4-6 3PT) notched 12 points, six rebounds, and two assists.

Cavaliers Notes:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are fun to watch. All Jarret Allen does is smile, dunk, and block shots. Evan Mobley is the connector piece that can also block shots and knock down an open three. Not only does Mobley make the right pass the majority of the time, but he also makes it immediately. Darius Garland is blossoming into the jitterbugging, deep-shooting guard draft experts predicted he’d be a few years ago. Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love are still Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love, but they mostly slink around the three-point arc, serving the role of basketball accouterment and leaving the meat and potatoes to Garland, Mobley, and Allen. Ricky Rubio is good for a highlight or hair flip at least once a game. He plays an impressively ground-bound game for someone who is just 6’2″. Ed Davis is manning the bench, looking like a passable YG doppelganger and Cedi Osman is running high pick-and-rolls with occasional success—it doesn’t really make sense to me either.

Darius Garland was on fire in this game, scoring an efficient 31 points and orchestrating the offense, nearly leading the Cavs to victory. He finished the game with 31 points (11-19 FG, 5-8 3PT), four rebounds, five assists, four steals, and one block. He looked particularly disappointed after his last-second three-point attempt came off the front of the rim, but this is a building block in what’s shaping up to be a breakout season for the third-year guard.

Jarret Allen and his afro poured in 17 points (7-12 FG)—mostly by way of dunks and smooth high-arcing hook shots over Rudy Gobert—and added 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks.

It wasn’t Evan Mobley‘s best game, but he continues to show why he’s a truly modern big-man, capable of operating all over the floor on offense and anchoring the defense on the other end. He finished the game with 14 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block.

Ricky Rubio scored 15 points (6-11 FG, 2-6 3PT) and added four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block. Cedi Osman chipped in 11 points (4-7 FG, 2-5 3PT), five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

 

Washington Wizards vs Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards 102-90, in a game that they led by 25 points at one point. After this win, the Raptors have won back-to-back games for the first time since October 27th. The Raptors put together a well-rounded performance, with five players in double figures.

Pascal Siakam spearheaded the Raptors’ attack and finished the game with 31 points (10-21 FG, 1-1 3PT) six rebounds, and three assists.

Chris Boucher added 14 points (5-7 FG, 0-1 3PT) six rebounds, and one assist off the bench.

Scottie Barnes had a quiet but efficient 11 points (5-10 FG, 0-2 3PT) six rebounds, one assist, and one block.

Fred VanVleet added 10 points (4-12 FG, 2-6 3PT) and four assists.

Precious Achiuwa had a productive and efficient night in this one. Achiuwa has gotten more opportunities and made more plays this season, but he’s really struggled with his efficiency. It’s good to see him put the ball in the basket more reliably in this game. He finished the game with 10 points (5-10 FG, 0-1 3PT) 14 rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

Wizards Notes:

It is either a really good sign or a really bad sign if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leads the team in scoring. In this case, it spelled doom for the Wizards as neither Bradley Beal nor Spencer Dinwiddie could get it going. Caldwell-Pope finished the game with 26 points (8-9 FG, 4-4 3PT), two rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

Bradley Beal finished the game with 14 points (4-12 FG, 1-3 3PT), one rebound, and seven assists.

Kyle Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie each scored nine points. Kuzma finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. Dinwiddie tallied nine points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Dinwiddie will sit out the second leg of the back-to-back for injury management.

It was an unusually quiet night for Montrezl Harrell, who has played well up to this point in the season. Harrell finished the game with six points, 14 rebounds, two assists, and one block.

 

New Orleans Pelicans vs Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets hold the NBA’s longest winning streak at six games after defeating the still Zion-less New Orleans Pelicans 118-108.

Christian Wood has looked a lot more like himself in recent games. After rumblings of Stephen Silas being on the hot seat, he de-coupled the Rockets two big men, Wood and Daniel Theis, moving Theis to the bench. Wood has thrived with the added space on the floor. However, with the Rockets missing Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Usman Garuba, and John Wall (tanking), Theis was back in the starting lineup this game. Wood still managed to exceed his season average in points and keep the good times rolling. He finished the game with 23 points (7-13 FG, 5-6 3PT) five rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks. Over his last five games, Wood is averaging 20 points, 11.8 rebounds, one-point-eight assists, zero-point-four steals, and one-point-eight blocks, with shooting splits of 53/54/66.

Don’t be like me and drop Jae’Sean Tate. I don’t care if he gets benched or goes scoreless for a week, don’t do it! Tate is the kind of versatile player that any team could use. His role would merely be scaled up or down based on team strength and depth. Tate is markedly better than the recent Oklahoma City Thunder lottery pick Darius Bazley, and come to think of it, that might be the sort of trade the Thunder should make if they’d like to increase the competence level of this year’s team. Tate would also be right at home on the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, or literally any other team in the Association. If you are about average height for your competition level, possess average to above-average athleticism, can dribble, pass, and shoot you’ll be a useful player. It doesn’t matter if the environment is high school basketball, pickup basketball, or the NBA. Tate has defended LeBron JamesAnthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook competently this season and can play point guard in a pinch. The good vibes alone are enough of a reason not to drop Tate—he has a well-rounded, defensive-minded game, clearly has an impeccable skin-care routine, and I haven’t heard a bad word said about him. In fact, Mirin Fader wrote many good words about him. Don’t be like me! Oh, you want numbers, asshole!? Tate tallied 32 points (11-15 FG, 1-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and five blocks against the Thunder on Dec 1st. Over his last five games, Tate is averaging 17.8 points, six rebounds, six assists, one-point-two steals, and one-point-two blocks. Oh, and KPJ and Jalen Green are out right now—Green it appears, for an extended period of time. Tate finished this game with a cool 11 points (5-8 FG, 1-2 3PT) five rebounds, and seven assists.

Me after dropping Jae’Sean Tate in hopes of strengthening a solid fantasy team:

Eric Gordon started and notched 23 points (7-14 FG, 3-7 3PT) and five assists. Daniel Theis got the spot start and tallied 12 points (4-6 FG, 2-4 3PT) three rebounds, and one assist.

Pelicans Notes:

The Pelicans’ season was derailed the moment Zion got hurt this summer. Brandon Ingram is having a good year, but he’s had to miss some games due to injury as well. Jonas Valanciunas has been one of the few bright spots alongside Ingram. Valancuians might be having the best year of his career. Devonte’ Graham is not having a great season and it certainly looks like the organization should have retained Lonzo Ball. Nickeil Alexander-Walker remains intriguing, yet inefficient and I’m starting to worry that “inefficient bucket getter” might be all that’s in the cards for him. At least Herbert Jones looks like a playmaker on the defensive end. Trey Murphy III is living up to his reputation as a three-point shooter (39%), but he’s not doing much else. Jaxson Hayes received a DNP- Coach’s Decision in this game—not great considering his draft position.

At least they have Brandon Ingram and in theory Zion Williamson. Ingram poured in 40 points and did his best to keep the Hornets in this game. He finished the contest with 40 points (15-28 FG, 3-10 3PT), five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block.

Valanciunas had another solid game in this one, finishing the contest with 17 points (7-11 FG, 0-1 3PT), 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. Though he will have to be careful about missing threes, lest he lowers his ridiculous 46% from three on low volume, for the season.

Alexander-Walker finished the game with 10 points (3-13 FG, 3-8 3PT), one rebound, five assists, and one block. Alexander-Walker is a skilled player with plenty of funky moves and finishes in his bag, but it feels to me like his lack of functional athleticism forces him to rely too heavily on those skills and limits him to the most difficult shot attempts. That’s a really difficult way to score points in the NBA.

Graham finished the game with nine points (3-13 FG, 3-11 3PT), three rebounds, four assists, and one steal.