Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers

In a game that was billed as a mini-test for the Warriors before they matched up against the big bad Phoenix Suns, Steph Curry decided against taking the test and instead lit the exam on fire in some form of avant-garde performance art. Curry and the Warriors defeated the Clippers 105-90 on Sunday, extending their winning streak to seven games and pushing them to a league-best 18-2 on the season. A decade ago, their upcoming matchup against the Suns would have been an easy Western Conference Finals preview, but as the demands of the regular season continue to diverge from those of the playoffs, it can be hard to make projections with any sort of confidence. In any case, it will be a marquee matchup, well worth tuning in for. But back to Sunday’s game, where the Warriors beat the Clippers behind the strength of their defense—holding the Clippers to just 90 points and 40% from the field—and the brilliance of Steph Curry. Curry finished the Sunday matinee game with 33 points (12-22 FG, 7-13 3PT), five rebounds, six assists, and six steals. He put the Clippers away for good after a no-call in transition in the fourth quarter set him off, nearly leading to an ejection. Curry responded with a hockey assist that lead to an Otto Porter Jr. three, three threes of his own (another three was wiped away by an offensive foul call), and a teardrop over Isiah Hartenstein later in the quarter for good measure. Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter, and Jordan Poole rounded out the rest of the major offensive contributions for the Warriors in this game. Wiggins tallied 12 points (4-12 FG, 2-5 3PT), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks. Poole finished the game with 17 points (6-16 FG, 4-10 3PT), three rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Much of Poole’s damage came after Hartenstein blocked a reverse layup attempt of his and then taunted him as he was on the ground—there were some real “F*** You” stretches in this game for the Warriors. Porter finished the game with 18 points (5-10 FG, 3-7 3PT), 10 rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Gary Payton II was on his worst behavior once again, committing highway robbery with four steals (Steph Curry might have even gotten credit for one or two steals that GPII caused), to go along with his four points, four rebounds, and one assist.

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While the Warriors were taking control over the fourth quarter after Curry’s emotional outburst, Paul George was doing his level best to keep the Clippers in the game canning tough shot after tough shot. George finished the game with 30 points (11-24 FG, 3-7 3PT), five rebounds, five assists, and eight turnovers. George is unquestionably having a great season, but his dropoff in efficiency is a predictable result of the increase in usage. He’s currently carrying a 33.7% usage rate this season, a career-high. George is turning the ball over more with 4.2 turnovers this season compared to 3.3 last season. He’s also shooting worse from the field (42.8%) and from three (33.3.%) than he did a season ago. He finished last season with shooting splits of 46/41/86. The price most scorers pay for volume is efficiency and so far this season George hasn’t been good enough to avoid that efficiency tax. Unfortunately for the Clippers, George didn’t get much help in this game. Marcus Morris has played in the Clippers’ last three games but hasn’t yet found a great rhythm. He finished this contest with 13 points (5-13 FG, 2-5 3PT), six rebounds, and five assists. Bledsoe also added 13 points (4-9 FG, 2-9 3PT), 10 rebounds, and one block. Reggie Jackson was off all night and failed to score in this game.


Milwaukee Bucks vs. Indiana Pacers

Excluding the upstart Washington Wizards, the Eastern Conference standings now look largely as expected heading into the season. The Nets, Heat, and Bucks are all within the top four spots in the conference and the Bucks as they slowly get their full complement of players back are surging. After defeating the Indiana Pacers 118-100 yesterday, the Bucks are now on a seven-game winning streak. Jrue Holiday has been playing particularly well of late and that strong play continued in this game as he finished with 23 points (11-21 FG, 1-7 3PT) seven rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Giannis Antetokounmpo was as steady as always, finishing the game with 26 points (10-15 FG, 0-2 3PT), 13 rebounds, three assists, and one block. As someone who has Khris Middleton on one of his fantasy teams, I’d like to see him return to the potency and efficiency of previous seasons. As he’s been for much of the season–a season interrupted by a bout with Covid—Middleton was solid if not spectacular in this game. He tallied 14 points (6-13 FG, 1-5 3PT) five rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Here’s to hoping Middleton can find his form as the season continues. Bobby Portis continued his strong play in Brook Lopez’s absence and finished the game with 15 points (5-10 FG, 1-3 3PT), six rebounds, two assists, and one block. Portis is the 58th ranked player in per-game value this season, according to Yahoo.

The Indiana Pacers dull soreness of a season continues. This may be one of the league’s least exciting teams. Their best players are constantly injured, two of their best five players are centers, and they haven’t seemed to settle on an identity. It’s unlikely to happen, but it feels like a shakeup is in order. An organization and a fanbase can only settle for “boring, but good, but definitely not great” for so long, right? At least Caris LeVert showed some signs of life in this game. LeVert has not had a strong season so far, but he was surprisingly efficient in this game, finishing with 23 points (9-13 FG, 4-5 3PT) two rebounds, and one assist. Domantas Sabonis had an uncharacteristically bad game against the Bucks, finishing with four points (1-8 FG, 0-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, and five assists. Myles Turner was similarly ineffective, finishing the game with 2 points, eight rebounds, and one assist. Malcolm Brogdon tallied 16 points (4-12 FG, 2-8 3PT), three rebounds, and two assists.

Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors

The Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 109-97, behind a well-rounded scoring attack. Five players scored in double figures, including Josh Richardson off the bench. Jayson Tatum was the only starter not to score in double figures. Tatum finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds, 10 assists, and one steal. Tatum’s subpar shooting season continues. For the year he’s averaging 24.3 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, and 0.8 blocks, with shooting splits of 39/31/80. Marcus Smart led the Celtics in scoring with 21 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Jaylen Brown tallied 16 points (7-16 FG, 4-10 3PT), three rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Al Horford continued his bounce-back season with a steady well-rounded performance. He finished the game with 17 points (5-9 FG, 1-4 3PT), 11 rebounds, and two assists. Richardson, who looked washed in two previous stops in Philadelphia and Dallas, is playing better this season under Ime Udoka. Richardson has managed to be efficient in a slightly smaller role this season and he finished this game with 18 points (6-11 FG, 1-4 3PT), one rebound, two assists, one steal, and one block.

The Raptors appear to be squarely in development mode this season and were unable to secure a victory playing short-handed in this game. The Raptors were without OG Anunoby, Khem Birch, Gary Trent Jr., and Goran Dragic. Dragic has been given permission to handle a personal matter and there’s no timetable for his return. After this loss, the Raptors are now 9-12 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. This game and their season as a whole, are not without positives, however. Fred VanVleet is having a nice season and finished this game with 27 points (8-16 FG, 5-10 3PT), six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Scottie Barnes has been as good if not better than Raptors’ fans could have hoped and he finished this game with 21 points (7-16 FG, 4-9 3PT), seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. In a league where big, versatile, playmaking wings are the most valuable and hard-to-find archetype, Masai Ujiri and the Raptors have to be ecstatic about what they’ve seen from Barnes so far this season. Pascal Siakam seems to be rounding into form as he recovers from shoulder surgery. He finished the game with 18 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Svi Mykhailiuk, who started in place of Trent, added 12 points (5-14 FG, 2-7 3PT), eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block.

Sacramento Kings vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies comfortably defeated the Sacramento Kings 128-101. Both teams were without key cogs, as the Grizzlies were without Ja Morant and the Kings were without Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes, and Maurice Harkless. The Grizzlies started the game on an 11-0 run and never looked back. Dillion Brooks led the charge with 21 points (8-17 FG, 1-6 3PT) six rebounds, one assist, and two steals. It was Brooks and Desmond Bane who did much of the heavy lifting early on and Bane finished the game with 18 points (7-12 FG, 4-7 3PT), five rebounds, two assists, and one block. Jaren Jackson Jr. tallied 17 points (6-13 FG, 1-4 3PT), nine rebounds, and two blocks. De’Anthony Melton added 14 points (4-9 FG, 3-6 3PT), five rebounds, and four assists. Steven Adams did not provide much offense, but was a formidable deterrent at the rim and was all over the glass. He finished the game with three points, 12 rebounds (four offensive), four assists, one steal, and three blocks.

It appears, that all is not fixed after the firing of Luke Walton. The Kings shot 34% from the field and 21% from three in this game. Buddy Hield led the Kings in scoring with 14 points (5-17 FG, 1-9 3PT) and added six rebounds and one assist.  Both Tyrese Haliburton and De’Aron Fox had quiet nights. Haliburton finished the game with five points (1-4 FG, 0-1 3PT), one rebound, and two assists. Fox managed to tally 12 points (4-12 FG, 2-5 3PT) four rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Davion Mitchell finished the game with 11 points (5-12 FG, 1-5 3PT) four rebounds, six assists, one steal, and one block. None of the Kings’ starters played more than 23 minutes as the game was decided long before the final whistle. Marvin Bagley III has played seven of the Kings’ last eight games. He’s not necessarily making an impact, but he’s at least seeing some time on the court. Terence Davis, Chimezie Metu, and Alex Len started for the injured Kings, although Metu had been starting previously.

Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons 110-106 to move to 11-11 on the season. The Lakers continue to do just enough to make giving up on them seem unreasonable. They sit in the 8th spot in Western Conference, but with the Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, and Clippers immediately ahead of them in the standings, I’m sure they’re confident they can secure the 5th or 6th seed by season’s end. The Lakers have battled injuries and lineup fluctuation as a result of those injuries all season long, but LeBron James seems to be playing his best ball after returning from his abdominal injury. He’s scored at least 30 points in the Lakers’ last three games, including Sunday’s contest against the Pistons. James finished this game with 33 points (12-20 FG, 4-9 3PT), five rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and one block. Anthony Davis had a strong game as well, tallying 24 points (10-15 FG, 2-2 3PT), 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks. The three-point shooting and free-throw shooting haven’t been great for Davis this season, but the rest of the box score numbers are strong. It’s possible that Davis will be more of a 73-75% free-throw shooting going forward, which is still solid for a big but is also a significant drop from the multiple seasons he’s had at 80%. Russell Westbrook seems to be turning a corner and stringing together more consistent performances as LeBron and the rest of the Lakers’ roster gets healthy and starts to get some rhythm. Westbrook finished this game with 25 points (10-16 FG, 1-3 3PT), six rebounds, nine assists, and one steal. Talen Horton-Tucker turned in a decent game: 12 points (4-10 FG, 1-4 3PT) eight rebounds, four assists, and one block.

With this loss, the Detroit Pistons are now 4-16 (14th place in the Eastern Conference) and have now lost six games in a row. It’s been a difficult season for the Pistons as Cade Cunningham has gotten off to a slow start to the season after recovering from an ankle injury. Killian Hayes has had some moments, but doubt still remains about what sort of player he’ll be in the long term. The shooting improvements haven’t come for Isaiah Stewart, Jerami Grant has regressed some, and Kelly Olynyk is now injured. Though they took the loss, Jerami Grant had one of his better games of the season against the Lakers, scoring 32 points (11-20 FG, 4-6 3PT), and adding six rebounds, four assists, and one block. Frank Jackson scored 17 points off the bench and added two rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Cade Cunningham finished the game with 15 points (6-16 FG, 3-9) 11 rebounds, two assists, and one block. Isaiah Stewart tallied just five points, six rebounds, one assist, and one block. Killian Hayes chipped in 6 points, three rebounds, and eight assists.