12/06/17 – That’s Good, Mate

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

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.

THE NIGHT AHEAD

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.

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12/5/17 – I Got To Be More Poised

Apologies for not writing anything in a few days. I got ejected, and then tweaked my ankle, just like everyone else in the NBA these days. Actually, I’ve just been busy. It’s a busy time of year, and that’s true in the NBA as well. Rest assured, I’ve still been watching a lot of basketball, so let’s get right to it…

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

The Golden State Warriors trailed the New Orleans Pelicans at halftime, 69-49, and came back to win, 125-115. However, nobody cares due to the craziness of the game itself. Likely foremost on people’s mind is Steph Curry, who badly rolled his ankle towards the end of the game.

“I hadn’t done that one in a while,” said Curry (31 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists), who was seen in a walking boot and using crutches after the game. “Sprained my ankle. See how it feels tomorrow and kind of go from there. Obviously a sucky situation, but I’ll be back.”

The injury happened when Curry and E’Twaun Moore crossed paths with just over a minute left.

“It was a dumb play because I tried to go for a steal,” explained Curry. “And then obviously it was just a bang-bang [play]. I got caught on E’Twaun’s shoe as I went by him and couldn’t catch myself. So obviously it hurt, but wanted to kind of get back here, get ice on it and get the rehab process started as soon as possible.”

That wasn’t the only noteworthy event in the latter stages of the game. Not long before Curry’s injury, this happened…

The two had already earned technicals earlier in the game, and something like this had been brewing throughout the evening.

“I thought he just threw us out pretty quick, to be honest,” said Durant (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists). “We got in each other’s faces, but that’s just how it is, you know what I’m saying? It’s late in the game. Every time I get ejected I make sure it’s late in the game. I’m not messing up like that in the first or second quarter — make sure it’s late in the game if I want to do something.”

Durant, who has now been ejected three times already this season, admitted, “I got to be more focused, I got to be more poised. I can’t let anybody take me off my game. I’ve been in the league too long. Especially somebody like Cousins, we know that he’s feisty, we know that he’s emotional. We know that he plays that way so I can’t get involved in that. That’s who he is, I got to be me.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr summed up his team, saying, “We’re not composed out there. We’re a championship team. We got to be poised and we got to execute out there. We’re getting way too emotional. Myself included. I got to do a better job of that, too. We’ve got to show some poise when things aren’t going our way and stop worrying about everything else and just worry about the game.”

Frankly, this is the most irritating thing about the Warriors. They’re about the whiniest team in the league, and quite often, they tend to have a longer leash than others. Draymond Green does stuff on a nightly basis that would get other players a technical, or tossed. At least, that’s how it looks to me. The more interesting thing is whether or not this lack of composure will have any sort of serious effect on them going forward.

Devin Booker scored 46 points on 17-32 shooting, following up his stellar 38 point performance in Boston over the weekend. This time, it was even enough to get the Suns a win, 115-101 over the 76ers.

“Shooters never stop shooting,” Booker explained. “I’ve been living by that motto since I was three years old.”

So far this season, Booker is averaging career highs across the board with 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game on 45.9% shooting. While watching him light it up against the Celtics on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but look forward to a day where he’d be going off in a playoff series, which makes it even more depressing that he’s toiling away on the directionless Suns. Hopefully they can get their act together, because Booker,NBA fans everywhere, and the Phoenix Suns as a franchise, deserve better.

Giannis Antetokounmpo notched 40 points and 9 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to get the Milwaukee Bucks over the hump against the Boston Celtics, who won, 111-100. Kyrie Irving dropped 32 points for Boston, and Al Horford chimed in with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists on 8-10 shooting.

The Grizzlies losing streak has finally come to an end after 11 excruciating games, thanks to a 95-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jimmy Butler scored 30 for Minnesota, but Marc Gasol countered with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, for now providing a moment of happiness in what’s otherwise been a dire season down in Memphis.

In another close one, the San Antonio Spurs came back for a 96-93 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Reggie Jackson scored 27 for Detroit, but the Spurs showed up with their usual balanced effort, with seven players scoring in double figures.

Finally, Rudy Gobert returned to action for the Utah Jazz, and what a triumphant return it was. In 21:09 of action, he hauled in ten rebounds, in Utah’s hilariously one-sided 116-69 victory over the Washington Wizards, who are really struggling without John Wall. For a team that fancies itself one of the best in the East, they really are fragile. Now, missing John Wall would be a crushing blow to any team, but the Wizards, now just 12-11, have shown just how precarious their position in the East really is.

THE NIGHT AHEAD

Game of the Night – Washington Wizards at Portland Trail Blazers (10:00 pm, National Basketball Association Television)

After last night’s bevy of games, tonight features just three, and we’re sticking with the Wizards theme. Life for them doesn’t get any easier, as they pay a visit to Portland, the second game of a five game road trip. Under normal circumstances, a matchup between these two teams would feature two of the most scintillating back courts in the league, but without John Wall, Washington is lacking much of its firepower. It will be quite telling to see how they respond tonight, on the heels of that wretched loss against the Jazz. Meanwhile, the Blazers have strangely lost their last two games, both at home, as they’re midway through a four game home stand. They too will be looking to get back on track, though they’re far healthier than their opponents tonight.

 

12/1/17 – Thrill Barton

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

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.

THE NIGHT AHEAD

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.