October 18, 2018

By James Holas

In ancient times, salt was used as a preservative—keeping perishables edible in the same manner that size and a shooting can keep an aging player on the court. But even hickory cured bacon eventually goes bad, and Dirk Nowitzki seems to be near his own expiration date.

The 37-year old’s raw numbers (16 points, seven rebounds in 25 minutes) seem fine, but watching him creak around the court with the same amount of defensive resistance as the chair that YiJilian and Darko Milicic once dominated in pre-draft workouts is just a reminder that the end is coming.

Today, salt is merely something that DeAndre Jordan rubs in open wounds. Jordan continued to torment his spurned offseason romance, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking four shots. The pogo-stick center’s reneging altered the course of both team’s seasons, keeping the Los Angeles Clippers firmly in “Finals or Bust,” mode, while sending the Mavericks spiraling towards a lottery pick (they need to stay within the top seven to retain it).

With so much uncertainty, the Mavericks will be prone to dizzying highs and crushing lows—as evident by their 88-104 loss to the Clippers after their rousing opening night victory over the Phoenix Suns. As for the Clippers, while #SmallSampleSizeTheature remains in effect until Thanksgiving, there’s plenty to take away from last night’s game:

  • With so much focus on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Stephen Curry entering their primes, it’s easy to forget that Blake Griffin won’t be 27 until next March and is also still improving. He’s been scintillating in his first two games of the season, attacking more decisively than ever and unveiling a smoother jumper. His ability to grab a rebound and initiate the break himself brings to mind LeBron James, and the psychological effects of frequent posterization of the opposition is a real thing.
  • Chris Paul may have been surpassed on the point guard pecking order by the likes of Curry or Westbrook, but the yo-yo dribble move he pulled off so casually is a good reminder of how devastating he can be:

Though the competitive balance is decidedly one-sided, the Clippers-Mavericks rivalry is real. Not that the Clippers lack for bitter enemies. Between the vocal, swaggering Paul and the incessant chirping by Doc Rivers, the Clippers are the most hated team in the NBA. Boogie Cousins detests them. The Warriors can’t stand them. And the casual fan is sick of them. National writers keep track with “Hate Rankings”.  

Way to keep things salty, Los Angeles.

The Porzingis Fun House

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks

By Matthew Way

The bright lights of Madison Square Garden are unlike any other, magnifying moments to the point of distortion. A blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks sent expectations soaring, only to be grounded by a lopsided loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

But even within that bitter disappointment, the spotlight manages to highlight moments of hope from some of their offseason additions.

Kristaps Porzingis is no stranger to distortion. His rail-thin, long-armed 7-foot-3 frame looks like it came right out of a fun house mirror.

Last night, the Knicks rookie drew a tough match-up with Paul Millsap, but managed to get the best of it in the third quarter.  Inexperience notwithstanding, Porzingis generally displayed a high IQ while on the floor, positioning himself well defensively and making good decisions offensively.  He showed that good basketball IQ on this play, anticipating the pass to Millsap and getting into the passing lane.

But, perhaps more impressive was his spin and slam against Millsap in transition. Sure, it wasn’t the most graceful move of the night, but his ability to win a one-on-one opportunity against a quality defender and finish with authority showed some real athletic ability. Exaggerated through the New York viewpoint, it was the stuff future Hall of Fame careers are made of:

 

Myles Spells Momentum

 

By Jesse Blanchard

Through much of the opening quarter, the Indiana Pacers moved bodies and ball from side-to-side with great haste, keeping with their newfound philosophy; but as the late, great John Wooden once said, never mistake activity for achievement.

For much of the game, the Pacers were simply unable to puncture the Memphis defense in any meaningful way, with Tony Allen hounding Paul George. All the early pace and movement lacked one significant ingredient—direction.

Enter rookie Myles Turner.

In his NBA debut, Turner provided a quality spark off the bench—smothering a Jeff Green shot attempt and following a Monta Ellis missed layup with a tip dunk for his first points.

The Pacers are attempting to move away from their signature bully-ball of the past few years, playing fast and free. Turner offers a potential bridge between identities, blocking shots, finishing at the rim, and hitting step-back jumpers off the dribble.

Turner played just under 18 minutes, picking up as many fouls (four) as he had made field goals, scoring eight points, four rebounds, two steals and a block.

“[Head coach Frank Vogel] wanted me to establish myself in the post, so he started running some plays for me,” Turner said. “I don’t want to settle for that jump shot every time, but if it’s there for me, I’m going to take it.”

Turner displayed compelling aggression on both sides, accounting for his four fouls. And while the inexperience rookie offered very little in the way of direction the Pacers lacked in the opening quarter, he at least provided something on the path to it: momentum.

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