/About Last Night: Spurs ring in New Year in style

About Last Night: Spurs ring in New Year in style

The Spurs entered the break in Monday’s home game with the Celtics down by six points. Not the worst situation in the world, but bad enough to incur the wrath of coach Gregg Popovich. 

Whatever Popovich said and/or diagrammed worked pretty well as the Spurs responded with their most productive quarter since 1993. Seven members of their roster hadn’t even been born the last time they scored as many in a period as the 46 points they unloaded on the hapless Celtics in the third, paving the way for a 120-111 victory

The Spurs sank 19 of 25 shots (76 percent) in the period, and their point total was 12th-highest among the 16,712 quarters in their history. (For the record, the NBA mark for most points in a single quarter is 58, scored by the team formerly known as the Buffalo Braves against the very same Celtics.)

At one point, a frustrated Brad Stevens yelled at his team, “Guard somebody!”

 

It was a far cry from their miserable start, in which they missed 21 of 27 shots en route to a season-low 17 points in the opening quarter. That improved to 29 in the second period, paving the way for their Tyson-esque upper cut in the third. 

Amazingly, the Celtics were still in it at that point, cutting the deficit below 10 on multiple possessions in the fourth. But the Spurs, riding their interesting blend of veterans and young prospects, had an answer each time to secure their 10th victory in the past 13 outings. 

“(Give up a) 46-point third quarter, you’re going to get beat,” Stevens said. “They were tremendous. It started with them physically overpowering us, getting to the rim. And once we started really sucking in, then they started spraying it all over and making every shot. They did a great job of exposing us throughout that whole quarter.”

 

Serious roll

James Harden’s Scorched Earth Tour continues. 

Having averaging 39 points per game over his previous nine outings, Harden outdid himself with 43 points and 13 assists in a 113-101 victory over the Grizzlies. 

His fourth straight 40-point outing marked only the third time in the past 30 years that a player has scored at least 400 over a 10-game stretch. (The others? Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.)

Harden also set an NBA record, previously held by Oscar Robertson, with his eighth straight game of at least 35 points and five assists. 

“He’s by far the MVP,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Nobody does what he does on a nightly basis.”

Said Austin Rivers, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon: “What he’s doing is a Kobe, man, that Kobe run (in 2003, when Bryant had nine straight 40-point games). He’s doing it so effortlessly. … You can’t stop him. He’s going to end up winning this s— back to back. Nobody in the league can do what he’s doing right now. He’s winning back to back MVPs.”

As his assist totals indicate, Harden is doing far more than just score. Indeed, the Rockets’ de facto point guard had a hand in 78 points against the Grizzlies — absolutely staggering production for a team playing without its second-best player, the injured Chris Paul.

Strike that. Thanks to Harden — who also had 10 rebounds in the 39th triple-double of his career — the Rockets aren’t just playing, they’re thriving. 

 

Answering the call

The Thunder dropped a two-point heartbreaker to the Mavericks on Sunday in which perennial All-Star Russell Westbrook shot a horrific 4-for-22 en route to nine points. He was hsi own biggest critic afterwards, describing his performance over the past month as, simply, “s—.”

“I’ve got to help my guys out,” Westbrook said. “I’ve been letting them down, man, just not being consistent on the offensive end. Missing and making shots is a part of the game, but I’ve got to do a better job, and that’s on me. I’m going to definitely do that, so I’m not really worried. We play tomorrow, and I’ll be better from then on. It’s on me.”

So how’s this for a response: 32 points on 13-for-24 shooting with 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his 114th career triple-double in a 122-102 rout of those same Mavericks. 

For good measure, he gifted one lucky fan with the bright pink Nikes off his feet.

 

Paying the price

Myles Turner was arguably the difference in Indiana’s 116-108 victory over the Hawks with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. The most impressive part: He did it in only 23 minutes, his afternoon cut short by a broken nose. 

Not that he got much sympathy from his teammates. Victor Oladipo, who tied for game-high honors with 22 points, described the injury as “nothing major.”

“He’ll be fine,” Oladipo added. “He’ll be all right with the mask but he’s going to have to get used to it.”

The Pacers hope so, at least. Turner has shaken off a slow start to play some of the best basketball of his young career, averaging 14.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks since mid-November. 

 

Air raid

What did the rim ever do to you, Malik Monk? 

 

Fan boy

Believe it, young man. That is none other than Wardell Stephen Curry II.