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Thursday NBA Roundup: Warriors on Pace to Have Top Offense in League History
The Golden State Warriors were held in check by an inspired effort from Rudy Gobert during a 17-point third quarter.
But they were their typical high-scoring selves for the other 36 minutes of Thursday night's road matchup with the Utah Jazz.
The result? Not just a 106-99 victory, but also further affirmation we're watching the best offense this league has ever seen. Just think about the fact that you may be disappointed in 106 points from a team when, heading into Thursday's action, only eight other squads were averaging so many points.
This was exactly the kind of situation that should've resulted in offensive struggles for a typical scoring juggernaut: The Dubs were coming off a road game against the Los Angeles Clippers' top-ranked defense one night earlier and traveling to higher altitude for a contest with the Jazz, who entered the affair sitting at No. 6 in defensive rating. Though Utah was missing plenty of key pieces, head coach Quin Snyder's team always seems to prevent points.
But at this point, it's impossible to hold Golden State in check.
Monday, Klay Thompson exploded for 60 points as the Warriors dropped 142 in regulation. Wednesday, they put up a 115-spot against a Clippers squad that had only allowed so many points in the Staples Center once all year. Thursday, they sprinted out of the gates to throw up 35- and 30-point quarters before halftime.
What do you expect from a team that, as relayed by Nylon Calculus' Nicholas Sciria, leads the league in so many different offensive categories?
Utah got to witness all the different weapons, even suffering as Patrick McCaw came off the bench to score in double figures for the first time.
Kevin Durant was unfair (as always), going for a smooth 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on 7-of-15 shooting, which was highlighted by his ferocious slam in traffic.
Draymond Green flirted with a triple-double (13 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four steals), and he might have gotten there if he didn't have to retreat to the locker room with a foot injury that kept him out briefly. Thompson couldn't find his outside stroke, but Stephen Curry made up for it with 26 points, five rebounds and two assists.
How do you stop this?
Or, better still, this type of defensive effort and the accompanying transition performance?
Golden State is a machine.
It records assists on nearly every one of its made buckets, racking up dimes more efficiently than the Coinstar kiosk in your local grocery store. It doesn't turn the ball over too frequently, given how many possessions it uses during its average contest. It's solid at earning and making free throws, and the same applies to its offensive-rebounding proclivities.
But most importantly, it can shoot the basketball.
You never know from which direction the damage will come, but come it will: Someone is going to rain down threes, and plenty of others will capitalize on the inevitable spacing to put together efficient performances around the rim. That, more than anything else, is why NBA Math's numbers had the Warriors entering Thursday as the best offensive team in NBA history.
This won't change either.
If anything, the Warriors will keep distancing themselves from the pack as they learn to maximize their unique talents. Remember, we still haven't seen that one special game where Green, Durant, Curry and Thompson are all clicking.
Kyle Lowry Rolling
The best point guard in the Eastern Conference hasn't been Kyrie Irving, no matter how dominant he's looked on the offensive end. Nor has it been Kemba Walker, John Wall or Isaiah Thomas.
Just as was the case in 2015-16, Kyle Lowry has asserted himself as the best player at his position in his half of the NBA. We have numbers to prove it, per NBA Math. And this was before he went off in Thursday night's 124-110 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Lowry's scores will only trend in the right direction after he exploded for 25 points, two rebounds and 11 assists. He knocked down eight of his 14 shots from the field, went 5-of-7 from downtown and connected on four of his six attempts at the charity stripe. As if that weren't enough, he played strong defense against Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn while turning the ball over just twice.
And, as the Toronto Raptors point guard so often does, he took over down the stretch.
This isn't anything new.
Lowry started the new campaign slowly, struggling to find his shot as DeMar DeRozan's mid-range heroics took center stage. But Lowry's rediscovered confidence has keyed Toronto's ascent up the offensive-rating leaderboard, to the point that it entered Thursday trailing only the red-hot Warriors.
Over his last seven games, the floor general is averaging 23.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 60.7 percent from the field, 65.3 percent from downtown and 84.9 percent on his freebies. If this were NBA Jam, he'd have flames shooting out of his body.
Despite their strong start, the Timberwolves became his latest victim.
They won't be his last.
Memphis' Win Masks Flaws
Toney Douglas gave the Memphis Grizzlies life down the stretch against the Portland Trail Blazers by knocking down two pairs of free throws, including the final two to win the game with 0.5 seconds remaining after a terrible shooting foul by Damian Lillard. The recent signee finished with 11 points and three assists during his team's 88-86 victory.
But Memphis shouldn't celebrate, even if the win moved its record to 16-8 on the season—and 5-1 since Mike Conley went down with a transverse process fracture in his vertebrae. The defense has won games without the starting point guard, but this was the first time the offense looked downright terrible.
The Grizzlies were playing against the team with the league's worst defensive rating. They were going to work in front of their hometown faithful at the FedExForum. They'd had a night off in preparation, but their opponents were traveling from Milwaukee for the second half of a back-to-back.
Plus, Portland's defense routinely made bad decisions, like the one by Haralabos Voulgaris.
It didn't matter.
Marc Gasol scored 36 points, going 13-of-24 from the field, 4-of-6 from downtown and 6-of-9 from the charity stripe. But he was the only consistent bright spot, to the point that Rip City could throw double-teams at him and force the other Grizzlies to make plays.
This streak simply isn't sustainable.
The defense can't play this well every night, and it's tough to foresee much improvement from an offense that only has one reliable scorer. Brace yourself, because the losses are coming.
At Long Last, a Sixers Road Win
The Philadelphia 76ers should savor this one.
They won their fifth game of the 2016-17 campaign with a 99-88 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the Smoothie King Center. But this was even more significant than the four prior successful outings, because it ended a rather lengthy streak of road futility.
Philadelphia had gone winless during its first seven road games of the year, and that's not nearly as bad as it gets: Last year's squad dropped each of its final 16 contests away from the City of Brotherly Love. In fact, you have to go all the way back to a 96-87 win over the Orlando Magic on Jan. 20 for the last road win.
This latest victory prevents the Sixers from becoming the 21st team in NBA history to drop 24 consecutive outings away from home, and it won't even stand alone in the franchise's own record books. (From the end of 2014-15 to the beginning of 2015-16, Philly also lost 23 road games in a row.)
These process-trusters probably can't count on more 23-point outings from Ersan Ilyasova as they try to build a winning streak in enemy territory, but at least they continue to get strong showings from Joel Embiid.
The presumptive Rookie of the Year favorite had yet another well-rounded performance, going for 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, three steals and four blocks in his 27 minutes. Better still, his team outscored the Pelicans by 27 while he was on the floor, per ESPN.com's box score.
And Another Streak Ends
"We're not a very consistent team," head coach Gregg Popovich said about his San Antonio Spurs after their 95-91 loss to the Chicago Bulls, per The Athletic's Sean Highkin. "We haven't learned as a team that the game is 48 minutes."
San Antonio struggled during the first 24 minutes, entering halftime on the wrong end of a 13-point margin. And even though Kawhi Leonard led an inspired comeback late in the proceedings—highlighted by the dunk below—it was too little, too late.
Rajon Rondo (12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists) nearly had a triple-double, while four other players scored in double figures: Dwyane Wade (20), Jimmy Butler (13), Taj Gibson (12) and Robin Lopez (12). But most importantly, this ended the Spurs' undefeated record on the road, stopping them one game shy of tying last year's Warriors for the longest streak away from home to start a season:
There's good news, however.
If you include the Spurs' final road victory in 2015-16, they still finish with the third-longest streak in NBA history:
1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers: 16 wins
1994-95 Utah Jazz: 15 wins
1961-62 Boston Celtics; 1996-97 Miami Heat; 2015-16 Golden State Warriors; 2016-17 San Antonio Spurs: 14 wins
Just imagine what would happen if they learn to play more consistently.