12/06/17 – That’s Good, Mate


In yesterday’s episode of The Bonus, I wrote that it would be telling to see how they responded after their horrific loss to the Jazz the night before. They got just the response they needed, as Bradley Beal erupted for a career high 51 points on 21-37 shooting, leading them to a 106-92 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. They needed it, as the rest of the Wizards starters managed to shoot a combined 7-30. Damian Lillard did his best to keep the Blazers in the game, finishing with 30 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists, but the onslaught from Beal was just too much to handle.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell continued his fine play, netting 31 points and 5 steals, but Utah fell to the Thunder, 100-94, thanks in part to yet another triple double from Russell Westbrook, who finished with a 34-13-14.

Trailing 80-68 going into the final quarter, Westbrook got to work, and led the Thunder to a 32-14 advantage in the fourth.

“We stayed with it,” said the reigning NBA MVP. “Teams are going to make runs. It’s about what you do when you get hit in the mouth. We learned our lesson, and we know that we have to continue to fight, and we did that tonight.”

Added Steven Adams, who was quite helpful with 20 points and 9 rebounds on 9-10 shooting, “That’s good, mate. Good stuff.”

Devin Booker, who has been really lighting it up lately, pulled up lame late in last night’s 126-113 loss to the Raptors, and apparently has a strained left abductor.

“I’ve seen guys get carried off and play the next day and guys not,” said Suns coach Jay Triano. “I’ll let the doctors figure out the severity of it. I’m sure they’ll have to do an MRI or something to see and make sure we take care of him the right way.”

Booker finished the night with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists. Hopefully he will be back in action soon.

In other news from the injury front, both Steph Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr are expected to be out at least two weeks. Curry, who rolled his ankle late in Monday’s game against the Pelicans, underwent an MRI that showed now structural damage to his ankle. He’ll be reevaluated in two weeks. Meanwhile, Hardaway Jr has a stress injury in his left leg, which will also be reevaluated in two weeks. The Warriors, of course, have the depth to go without Curry for a bit, but it’s particularly troublesome news for the Knicks, who have also been without Kristaps Porzingis as of late.

An arrest has been made in the seven year old murder case of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, who was killed in Memphis in 2010. Wright played in the league from 1996-2009, and hopefully this means his family can get a little sense of closure and justice.

Finally, and just coming in this morning, Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford will be taking a leave of absence to address some health issues. Whatever he’s dealing with, we here at The Bonus wish him a speedy recovery.


Game of the Night – Dallas Mavericks at Boston Celtics (7:30 pm, League Pass)

The best team in the league, my Boston Celtics, are back in action tonight, hosting the Mavericks. Earlier this season, the Celtics visited Dallas and the Mavs took them to overtime. Despite their unfortunate record, the Mavs always give you a worthy effort, and they’ve won two in a row. Their trip up to Boston kicks off a three game road trip.

If you ain’t got League Pass, the Warriors are visiting the Hornets at 8:00 pm on ESPN. Golden State’s annual visit to Charlotte is usually a homecoming of sorts, as Steph Curry is a native of The Queen City. Unfortunately, he’s of course out with that ankle injury, so we’ll be getting our first glimpse of the Warriors led solely by Kevin Durant. Charlotte faces a tough task going against the Warriors, and carrying on without their head coach.


12/1/17 – Thrill Barton


The Cleveland Cavaliers won their tenth straight game, defeating the lowly Atlanta Hawks, 121-114. Dennis Schroder had 27 points and 5 assists for Atlanta, while Marco Belinelli came off the bench to score 22 on 8-11 shooting. It mattered not, as Kevin Love sprung for 25 points and 16 rebounds, and LeBron James chipped in with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 12 assists on 8-11 shooting.

“We know it’s 10 because everyone talks about it and everyone’s on social media and things of that nature,” said LeBron after the game. “But we understand how we got here. And that’s defense and the way we’ve been playing offensively. … If you win 10-plus games in any sport, major sport, that’s very, very good.”

The streak is the longest current winning streak in the NBA, and the Cavs will look to keep it going on Saturday against the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.

“Saturday, it’s another struggling team, and we understand that,” James added. “But we understand we’re going to get their best in Memphis, so we look forward to the challenge.”

The Denver Nuggets, already without Paul Millsap and Wilson Chandler, were dealt another blow last night when Nikola Jokic injured his ankle. It happened towards the end of the first half when he stepped on Jerian Grant’s foot, badly turning his ankle. He was fouled on the play, and was slated to shoot free throws, but he instead tried heading straight to the locker room. The Nuggets had to call a timeout, and veteran Richard Jefferson had to corral him, and explain that if he left the game without shooting his free throws, he’d be unable to return for the rest of the night.

“It was chaotic. It was a timeout, and he was saying he was done,” said Jefferson. “I was like, ‘Dude, if don’t go and shoot the free throws, one, the other team gets to pick who shoots them, and two, if you go back in the half and you start feeling a little better, you can’t come back.”’

It ended up not mattering. After Jokic sank his two throws, he left the game and was not seen again, finishing the night with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 15:55 of action. Thankfully, X-Rays were negative, and hopefully, all he has is a sprain. He’ll be looked at again today.

As for the game itself, it came down to a wild finish in the final seconds. First, Chicago’s Kris Dunn drove to the hoop for a layup with 9.6 seconds left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead. But then…

Will Barton finished the night with a career high 37 points off the bench on 13-19 shooting, taking over in the absence of Jokic.

“There’s Will Barton and there’s Thrill Barton,” said Nuggets coach Mike Malone. “And tonight you saw Thrill Barton.”

“I was telling my teammates give me the ball and get out of the way,” said Thrill Barton after the game.

It was a big win for the Nuggets, who had to finish the game without their entire starting front court. A loss at home to the lowly Bulls would be too much to take, but Barton ensured that at least for one night, panic was averted. That being said, Denver cannot afford to go any significant amount of time without Jokic, who leads them in points, rebounds and assists.

In our Game of the Night, the Celtics pulled away from the Sixers down the stretch for a 108-97 victory. Kyrie Irving scored 36 to lead Boston, and as he often does, led the charge as the C’s put the game away.

“Some guys think a lot quicker than others. I was just fortunate enough that my mind works a lot quicker than other people in the fourth quarter,” explained Irving, whose quick mind has been known to postulate that the world is flat.

Marcus Smart had high praise for his teammate, and a comparison to last year’s heroics from Isaiah Thomas.

“It’s tremendous. Like I said about Isaiah, sometimes you just get caught watching the way he’s able to score the ball. [Irving] came in and it is refreshing to see a guy come in and give you what you need. He gets to where he wants to go. He doesn’t stop until he gets there. When you’ve got a player like that, it’s hard to stop.”

Al Horford added 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists on 9-12 shooting for Boston. The Sixers played without Joel Embiid, who is still restricted from appearing in the second night of a back to back.

Rounding out the night, the Jazz defeated the Clippers, 126-107, in a battle between injury plagued teams, and the Bucks got a win on the road in Portland, 103-91.


Game of the Night – Detroit Pistons at Washington Wizards (7:00 pm, League Pass)

The Wizards, a team that considers itself a major player in the East (just ask them), have stumbled out of the gate, and are currently without the services of John Wall, a predicament that might send them spiraling further down the Eastern standings. They’ve lost five of their last seven as they suffer through these trying times. Meanwhile, much has been made of the Pistons fine play of late. Winners of four of their last five games, they seem to be getting better and better each night. They’ll be looking to continue the trend against a team currently headed in the opposite direction.

Another intriguing matchup is between the Raptors and the Pacers. Toronto’s been flying under the radar a bit this season, but they’ve won six of their last eight and have been looking like their usual solid selves. The Pacers will be looking to bounce back after a big loss to the Rockets, which snapped them back to reality after having won seven of their last nine coming into that game. Nevertheless, they’ve been one of the league’s pleasant surprises this season, and they’ll face another good test against the steady Raptors at 7:30 pm on League Pass.



11/30/17 – It’s A Complete Joke


Kristaps Porzingis had to be helped off the court after an ankle injury, but the Knicks still won, soundly defeating the Heat, 115-86. Enes Kanter led the way with 22 points and 14 rebounds on 7-9 shooting, but nobody cares because everyone is holding their breath about Porzingis. The injury occurred a mere two and a half minutes into the game when Justise Winslow stepped on his foot, severely turning the Knicks star’s ankle.

“It snapped bad,” said Porzingis, who was 2-2 with four points in his brief time on the court. “I felt it right in that moment, but I didn’t want to show any emotions.”

Luckily for the Knicks, X-Rays on the ankle came back negative, and they were able to run away with a big victory. As for now, there’s no word on how long Porzingis will be out. New York’s next game isn’t until Sunday, when they host the Orlando Magic.

Another night, another big ejection. One night after LeBron got tossed, this time it was none other than Anthony Davis who found himself sentenced to an early exit.

As you can see in the video, it was a close game at that point, with Davis having already contributed 17 points and 5 rebounds on 7-13 shooting. Things went downhill from there, as the Timberwolves pulled away for a 120-102 victory.

“You could feel the momentum shift,” Andrew Wiggins (28 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 10-18 shooting) said, referring to Davis’ ejection. “It helped ignite a big run that we were able to outscore them.”

“It’s a joke. It’s a complete joke,” said DeMarcus Cousins (17 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists), himself no stranger to ejections. “What I don’t understand is that players are punished for playing off emotion or showing their emotion… but other people are allowed to and it’s totally fine.”

Jrue Holliday led New Orleans with 27 points and 5 assists, but they weren’t able to recover from losing Davis. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, had seven players reach double figure scoring, led by the aforementioned Andrew Wiggins.

Our Game of the Night turned out to be no contest, as the Rockets easily took care of the Pacers, to the tune of a 118-97 victory, putting the finishing touches on an excellent November in which they went 12-1, good enough to find themselves atop the Western Conference. James Harden, who has to be the frontrunner for Western Conference Player of the Month, finished with 29 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists. Thaddeus Young scored 23 points on 11-15 shooting to lead the Pacers.

It required overtime, but the Warriors were able to outlast a valiant Lakers effort, on their way to a 127-123 victory down at the Staples Center. Steph Curry set the tone in OT by hitting a pair of three pointers to give the Warriors a quick six points and an important boost. He finished with 28 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, while Kevin Durant led the way with 29, 7 & 5. Brandon Ingram led everyone with 32 points, to go along with 5 rebounds for the Lakers. Jordan Clarkson (21-6-8) and Julius Randle (20 points, 9-13 shooting) provided excellent sparks of the Los Angeles bench, but it wasn’t enough to get them over the hump against the defending champs.

The Orlando Magic put an end to a nine game losing streak, notching a 121-108 win over the struggling Thunder. The game was close until the end of the third quarter, when the Magic embarked on a 28-5 run that lasted well into the fourth. Aaron Gordon was magnificent, finishing with 40 points and 15 rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, while shooting 7-10 from downtown, but OKC’s struggles continued.

After the game, Westbrook took responsibility for the Thunder’s lackluster play, saying, “To get us out of this funk we’ve got to lock in. That starts with me and I’ll take ownership because I’ve been here…I know the standards we set.”

The 76ers fended off the Washington Wizards, 118-113, in a game that featured over 100 free throws. Down 84-65 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Wizards employed some intentional fouls, sending lousy free throw shooter Ben Simmons to the line over and over again to see if they could close the gap. While they outscored the Sixers, 48-34 in the final quarter, they still fell just short. When all was said and done, Simmons had shot 29 free throws, hitting 15 of them, on his way to a stellar 31 point, 18 rebound performance. Joel Embiid also visited the line often, racking up 18 free throws, sinking 13 and finishing with 25 points and 14 boards. Kelly Oubre led the Wizards with 22 points and 7 rebounds off the bench, while fellow reserve Jodie Meeks scored 21, a figure that was matched by starter Bradley Beal.

As is always the case with a game like this, the Intentional Foul Debate was once again swirled up. My official stance is that if a horrendous free throw shooter like Andre Drummond, the owner of the worst career free throw percentage in NBA history, can boost his performance at the line to the point where he’s no longer considered a liability down the stretch, as he’s done this season, then we shouldn’t have to change the rules for other players who haven’t been able to improve their free throw shooting. Also, watching a crummy free throw shooter go to the line over and over again doesn’t seem to bother me as much. There’s a certain drama to seeing if they can make their opponents pay for trying to exploit their weakness.

A big night from LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs to a 104-95 victory over the increasingly depressing Memphis Grizzlies, playing their first game after firing coach David Fizdale. Aldridge was hot from the start, sinking 3 three pointers in the early stages of the game to get himself rolling. He ended the night with 41 points and 6 rebounds on 17-24 shooting. Tyreke Evans led the Grizzlies with 22 points and 5 assists, while Marc Gasol, after his benching in the fourth quarter in their last game touched off the David Fizdale Ruckus, played a team high 35:43, racking up 10 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.

Lastly, the Raptors got a huge contribution from their prized back court, leading them to a 126-113 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 66 points on 26-40 shooting, which would be tough for any team to overcome. Adding difficulty to their situation, the Hornets were without Kemba Walker, and on top of that, their starting back court of Nicolas Batum and Michael Carter-Williams managed to combine for a paltry 19 points on 4-19 shooting. Yuck.


Game of the Night – Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (7:30 pm, NBA TV)

For some reason, there’s no TNT doubleheader tonight, but National Basketball Association Television has one, and it kicks off with the Sixers visiting the Celtics. Firstly, it’s great to have both of these ancient rivals fielding worthy teams at the same time. The Celtics are looking to bounce back from dropping a home game on Monday against another one of their old enemies, the also worthy Detroit Pistons. Meanwhile, the Sixers have won four of their last five, and have established themselves as a must watch. Unfortunately, this being the second night of a back to back, Joel Embiid will not be participating for the Sixers. Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer before he is free of these restrictions. The NBA is a better place with him in it, and it’s a much better place when the Celtics and Sixers are both good.