Hope everyone had a great, happy Thanksgiving! With the whole league off yesterday, we’ve got a full slate today - all 30 teams are in action, across 15 games. So get comfy on the couch, pop open a beer (it’s holiday weekend after all), and prepare for a great day of basketball.
San Antonio @ Boston, 1 pm. The Celtics, third place in the Eastern Conference at 9-6, have played way too many nail-biters for a top team, with ten of their fifteen games wrapping up with a margin of seven points or fewer. They’ve already banked seven close wins, but playing such tight games over-taxes Brad Stevens’ rotation and gives them such a razor-thin margin of error. It’s very hard to be a winning team in the NBA when one Marcus Smart brain cramp can throw away an entire game:
Or when they need every bit Al Horford’s singular brilliance at both ends of the floor to steal a game from Detroit in the final two seconds:
Washington @ Orlando, 7 pm. Against the third-easiest schedule in the league, Orlando is matched only by the lowly Mavericks in offensive futility. The Magic have recorded eight of the league’s 58 team-games scoring under 90 points this season, and average just 91.9 a game on an NBA-low 40.7 percent shooting. Last Monday, Orlando mustered just 69 points against an Indiana team that had allowed 79 IN THE FIRST HALF to Charlotte mere days earlier.
Mario Hezonja, last year’s fifth overall pick, struggled as a rookie but has regressed even more this season. The 6-foot-8 swingman shows no ability to get to the rim at an NBA level, and his outside shooting hasn’t been as advertised, or good enough to counter his other flaws. His true shooting percentage has dropped from .541 (right around the league average) to a sub-abysmal .364 - third-worst in the NBA among players who’ve played as many minutes as Hezonja. Unable to provide value from inside or out, and without the requisite strength, awareness, or intensity to defend opposing wings, the 21-year-old Croatian has found himself on the fringes of new coach Frank Vogel’s rotation, and has racked up five DNP-CDs in Orlando’s past seven games.
Chicago @ Philadelphia, 7:30 pm. Wednesday night, Joel Embiid was despondent about having to sit out the final frame in a 104-99 double-overtime loss to Memphis. Embiid, coming off of foot injuries that completely wiped out his first two NBA seasons, has his minutes capped at 24 per game by the Sixers training staff, and played 27 through the first overtime, a season high. The Rookie Of The Year front-runner scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Grizzlies, and knowing Brett Brown was going to sit him tonight for regularly-scheduled rest, took his displeasure out on a chair:
Last year, in Fred Hoiberg’s first season as an NBA head coach, his Bulls slipped to 23rd in offensive rating and 15th defensively, a steep drop at both ends from where the team resided in the Tom Thibodeau era. He’s got them scoring and stopping now, led by an unshackled Jimmy Butler, free from having to pay off of Derrick Rose in Rose’s hometown. I talked previously about how well Chicago has played when Butler and Dwyane Wade share the floor without point guard Rajon Rondo, and it was partly the point guard’s poor defensive effort that felled the Bulls in Tuesday’s 110-107 loss to Denver. He gambles for steals, fights his own teammates for rebounds, and pays no mind to help defense or staying in front of his man:
Dallas @ Cleveland, 7:30 pm. As the first quarter wrapped up at the Q on Wednesday, the line score read “Portland 31, Kevin Love 34.” Love hit 11 of 14 shots in the quarter, 8-of-10 from three, before cooling off to finish with 40 - his highest-scoring game as a Cavalier. That first quarter alone equaled his previous high in wine and gold (coincidentally, exactly one year prior in Orlando) and gave him the second-highest-scoring period in league history, trailing only Klay Thompson’s 37-point fireworks show against Sacramento in January 2015.
Love’s night overshadowed a 31-10-13 triple double from LeBron James, and Channing Frye chipped in with four triples and 14 points. My sincerest and most heartfelt condolences go out to Frye and his family - less than a month after losing his mother, the sharpshooter took to Instagram yesterday to announce that his father passed away. The veteran center will not play tonight, and it’s unknown when Frye will rejoin the team.
Charlotte @ New York, 7:30 pm, NBATV.
LA Clippers @ Detroit, 7:30 pm.
Atlanta @ Utah, 8 pm.
Toronto @ Milwaukee, 8 pm.
Miami @ Memphis, 8 pm.
Brooklyn @ Indiana, 8 pm.
Oklahoma City @ Denver, 9 pm.
Minnesota @ Phoenix, 9 pm.
New Orleans @ Portland, 10 pm.
Golden State @ LA Lakers, 10:30 pm, NBATV.
Houston @ Sacramento, 10:30 pm.