Thu, Dec 12, 2019

It was a super exciting night around the NBA on Monday. We’ll start with LeBron and the Lakers and go from there. 

Prior to this season, the best record a LeBron James team had ever posted to start a season was 13-3, which was accomplished by the Cavaliers of both 2016-17 and 2008-09, and the 2013-14 Miami Heat. 

The Lakers, after a 114-104 win over the Spurs on Monday, now own that record at 15-2. It’s the best mark in the league, and the way they are dominating second halves, and particularly fourth quarters, is the mark of a great team that knows when, and how, to crank things up. 

LeBron was again sensational, posting 33 points and 14 assists on an efficient 13-of-24 shooting, including 4 of 7 from three. He hit a pair or triples in short order to really separate the Lakers midway through the fourth quarter. This seems kind of good:

The Lakers continue to be dominant defensively, as well — top five in overall rating, and No. 1, by a mile, in fourth quarters. That stems directly from theri two best players committing to both ends of the quarter. Anthony Davis, everyone:

And one from LeBron for the road:

Joel Embiid held scoreless

This is almost impossible to believe, but it’s true. Embiid, in 32 minutes of action, went 0 for 11 from the field and 0 of 3 from the free throw line in Philly’s 101-96 loss to the Raptors (who improved to 12-4, by the way) on Monday. It was the first scoreless night of Embiid’s career. 

Spacing is a serious issue for the Sixers, and Embiid particularly. So is Marc Gasol, who made life miserable on Embiid in the playoffs last season and is now the most responsible party for holding him scoreless. Gasol seems like a pretty nice trade chip, but with the way the Raptors are playing and the way he’s proven he can frustrate Embiid, Toronto is probably thinking very hard about hanging onto Gasol for that one potential matchup come playoff time. 

Meanwhile, this is not the company Embiid wants to be in:

Adding insult to injury, Embiid tallied five fouls and four turnovers. He did have 13 rebounds. Cut the man some slack. 

Obviously this is an anomaly stat line, and Embiid has been great again this season. But the Sixers are not right. I continue to wonder if they will ever reach their collective potential as long as Simmons and Embiid are playing together. They just feel like those two puzzles pieces you keep trying to jam together. You want them to fit. It’s so close. But deep down, you know they just don’t belong together. 

Giannis hangs 50 on Jazz

Check out this stat line: 50 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and two steals on 55 percent shooting, including 3 of 8 from three. That is now 10 straight games, in fact, that Giannis has made a 3-pointer, and his ability to consistently make that shot is starting to become downright scary. He is not just making stat-stuffers, either. These shots are coming in crucial situations:

Giannis hit another triple in a tight fourth-quarter stretch. It’s incredible how great this guy is, and to think he’s getting better at every part of the game is hard to fathom. He’s a better shooter. A better playmaker. He’s reading defenses better and attacking more on his terms, at his pace. The Bucks, by the way, have won eight straight. 

Giannis, who has to be the MVP favorite at this point, has now started the season with 17 consecutive double-doubles, which is the second-longest such streak since the merger passing the 16 straight Moses Malone posted to start the 1981-82 season. The only guy Giannis is chasing is Bill Walton, who registered 34 straight double-doubles to begin the 1976-77 season. If I had to bet, I’d say Giannis breaks that record. 

Enjoy the highlights:

Carmelo Anthony shines in Chicago

Anthony put up 25 points and eight boards on 10-of-20 shooting as Portland snapped a four-game skid with a win in Chicago Monday night. Melo continued his solid shooting from distance, going 4 of 7 from three — where he is now at 39 percent over his four games back. 

That number is deceiving, too. Melo went 0 for 8 from three against Cleveland on Saturday. Throw that one game out, and he’s shooting 60 percent from deep. Say what you want about his defense (which has been predictably bad), but Melo can clearly still shoot and score, and the Blazers need both. 

“I’s starting to get my feel and my flow back,” Anthony told reporters on Monday. 

You can already see the driving lanes starting to open up for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as defenses have to honor Melo as a floor spacer. He’s still a guy who can go get a bucket for a team that struggles to find any kind of consistent offense outside its two guards. You love seeing stuff like this, too:

To suggest this guy “can still play” is an insult. That much is obvious. He’s a turnstile defensively and won’t be much of a plus player when he’s not making shots, but when he is making shots, it’s still a beautiful sight to see. 

Buddy Hield pours in 11 threes vs. Boston

Hield’s 11 triples is a Sacramento franchise record, and per ESPN Stats and Info, it ties the record for most 3-pointers made in a loss. Stephen Curry has hit 11 threes in a loss twice in his career. The Kings lost in Boston 103-102. 

Hield is not in Curry’s class, but he has turned into a big-time player. He was averaging 20 points a game on just under 40 percent from three prior to Monday, when he finished with 41 points on 11 of 21 from downtown. My bet is he’ll finish the season around 23 points a night, and that 3-point percentage will end up around 42 percent. He’s had a tough time finding his shot of late, but this game should go a long way toward getting him going. 

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