Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Russell Westbrook had a new team to destroy Sunday
If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while trying to figure out where Jeopardy puts all the daily doubles…
1) Russell Westbrook is raining destruction on the NBA. Five out of his last six games Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double. The one game he didn’t he had a line of 43 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Sunday he dropped 30 points, 17 assists, and 11 rebounds and the Thunder beat the Raptors 108-104. The key part is the win — OKC had missed out on a few of those lately despite the big numbers from Westbrook, and even after tonight the Pelicans are lurking one game back of that eighth seed in the West. Westbrook is carrying the Thunder to that until Kevin Durant returns.
2) The Tony Parker that should frighten the rest of the NBA was back Sunday. Last week if you looked up and down the eight teams in the playoffs for the West and said “who is the weakest link?” you should have said San Antonio. They were just coming off a 2-7 Rodeo road trip and even Tony Parker was admitting he wasn’t playing well after returning from a hamstring injury. Then Sunday happened — vintage Parker showed up and dropped 32 on the Bulls to lead the Spurs to a win. This is what everyone in the West quietly fears — Tony Parker gets right and the Spurs flip the switch the last month or so of the season and then be a force come the playoffs. One game does not make that so, but it will have teams paying attention. Nobody is going to say the Spurs are too old. Not yet, anyway.
3) Charlotte looks like a playoff team. The Hornets have won five in a row and that includes wins over Brooklyn, Toronto and on Sunday Detroit. With those wins Charlotte is the seven seed in the West as you read this, and they likely hold that position. While the offense has been great lately (thanks Mo Williams!) it’s the defense getting back to one of the best in the NBA over the past 15 games. The defense is something the Hornets can sustain (they did last season) and that will keep them in the playoffs in the East.
4) Kobe Bryant was back. On the bench. And that couldn’t have been easy to watch. At the request of coach Byron Scott, Kobe was in a suit on the bench for the Lakers’ Sunday. There have been some in LA saying, “Why isn’t Kobe on the bench teaching these guys?” First off, if you could skip watching the Lakers this season you would, too. Second, who on this roster currently playing are the Lakers going to keep around long term? Jordan Clarkson and... nobody, really. This roster is not part of the Lakers future. That said, Kobe was on the bench Sunday, and got to witness another Lakers collapse — Dallas went on a 16-1 fourth quarter run to take the lead and win the game. Kobe couldn’t do anything about it. Nobody can.
5) Don’t tell anyone, but the Jazz have won seven of their last nine. They have become a very good defensive team (you can thank Rudy Gobert’s developing), one that is now getting enough offense to win games. Like Sunday over a Brooklyn team that should have played desperate but have no answers. This season was always about development of a young roster in Utah, we are really starting to see that.