It’s a new NBA. Shooting is the most valuable skill. Three is greater than two.
Those are the basic principles behind the era of pace-and-space basketball, a world in which the Warriors have been king for roughly half a decade.
Golden State and Sacramento took that long-distance philosophy to record-breaking horizons on Saturday, combining for an NBA record 41 made 3-pointers (21 for the Warriors, 20 for the Kings) in the defending champs’ 127-123 victory. Stephen Curry accounted for nearly one-quarter of those treys, sinking 10 of a career-high 20 attempts, including this jab-step gem that absolutely paralyzed the Kings’ defense.
Just as impressive was the Kings’ ability to keep pace until the final buzzer. Buddy Hield, who has quietly become one of the best outside shooters in the league, hit 8 triples en route to 32 points. Justin Jackson added five 3s off the bench, but admitted after the game he was hurting from the aforementioned Curry shake.
Ice bucket on deck… thanks man @StephenCurry30 smh 🤦🏽♂️😂😂 good one tonight SCORES!! We’ll bounce back!!
— Justin Jackson (@JJacks_44) January 6, 2019
Both teams needed the win, albeit for different reasons. The Warriors remain 1.5 games behind Denver for first in the West, while the Kings’ fourth straight loss drops them to 10th, just one game ahead of Memphis, Dallas and Minnesota.
Mitchell, Jazz finding swagger?
It’s been a rough year for the once-darling Jazz. Since last season’s second-half rampage and run to the Western Conference semifinals, Utah has floundered under an anemic offense and a bottom-five turnover rate. Donovan Mitchell has suffered the brunt of outside question marks after many assumed he would make a second-year leap instead of hitting a sophomore slump. The former No. 13 overall picks’s shooting numbers are all down, leaving Utah scrambling for points they could ill afford to lose.
Christmas might have brought Utah the gift of optimism. Since Dec. 25, Utah ranks top-10 in both offense and turnover rate while maintaining a top-five defense. Mitchell’s efficiency is up, his own miscues down. The Jazz have won six of their last nine, with Saturday’s win over Detroit pushing them to .500 for the first time since Dec. 6.
Most importantly, Mitchell looks like the late-game killer who stormed the league last season. The Jazz guard nailed the game-clinching jumper with 22 seconds remaining — then let a Pistons player know his verbal sparring had inspired the crunch-time success (presumably Andre Drummond, who exchanged words with Mitchell during the previous timeout). Mitchell appeared to say, “You did it. It’s your fault.”
I just wanna be like … James?
While Curry was setting records with his 3-point attempts, one of them was ultimately negated by traveling.
The two-time Kia MVP didn’t agree with the call, which arrived after a double-step-back move to make space.
If the sequence looks familiar, that’s because it Rockets star guard James Harden pulled it off less than three weeks ago.
Curry clearly felt the move must be allowed only to Harden, as he mockingly held a No. 13 in front of his jersey to plead precedent.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s 7-foot, 250-pound Serbian center Nikola Jokic!
🚨 NIKOLA JOKIĆ HAS DUNKED TWO GAMES-IN-A-ROW 🚨 pic.twitter.com/hjQ11qEgRI
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 5, 2019
Denver’s excitement over their airborne big man is understandable. Saturday’s jam was just his fifth of the year.
Jokic’s 39 points, 12 rebounds and six assists were pretty good, too.
Wings in the Alamo
Speaking of birds, a pigeon decided to steal some camera time during the Spurs’ 108-88 rout over the Grizzlies:
Unfortunately for San Antonio, Manu Ginobili wasn’t around to recreate his trademark bat swat.
More Spurs flashbacks, this time courtesy of LaMarcus Aldridge. The six-time All-Star has averaged fewer than two assists per game over his career, but the Spurs big man turned in a beauty against the Grizzlies.
This dish got us wondering whether Aldridge had spent any time with a certain Laker legend…
Down goes Doncic
No Mavs fan wants to see his/her prized rookie go down in a heap, but man, can we have a moment of silence for the poor camerman?
The 19-year-old immediately checked on the team employee during the next break in play, which isn’t surprising. This is the same guy who, earlier this season, consoled a 10-year-old fan he’d similarly bulldozed with his game-worn jersey.
— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) December 23, 2018