What we learned last night in the NBA
Here’s what we learned on the night the Lakers got their first win:
Blake Griffin had the season’s best game — a 50-point outing with a game-winner — for less than 24 hours.
Late Wednesday night, Stephen Curry went totally nuclear, scoring 51 points in just three quarters, pulling up from anywhere in the East Bay to bury the Washington Wizards at Oracle Arena.
Even Curry was aware of the ridiculousness, turning to the sidelines for the famous Michael Jordan shrug.
Austin Rivers, who had the bad fortune of trying to guard Curry late in the third quarter shrugged too — this time after Curry pulled up in transition and launched from 35 feet with Rivers’ hand in his face.
Curry might be the best player in the world. He might not even be the best player on his team. That should tell you everything you need to know about how good the Warriors’ 1-2 punch is with Curry and Kevin Durant.
In the third quarter, Curry was in transition and tried to throw a lob to Durant. Washington’s Bradley Beal made a great play and stopped the dunk. But he deflected the ball back to Curry, who raced behind the three-point line and canned the shot — while getting fouled. It was one of 11 that he made.
A viable defense against Curry Wednesday night would’ve been letting other players simply dunk. Those are only worth two.
Lance will make ’em dance.
The Lakers finally got a win, stomping the Phoenix Suns in the desert, with Lance Stephenson having his best game as a Laker — 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The numbers were great — the Lakers as a whole moved the ball with terrific unselfishness — but the entertainment value was even better.
When Stephenson is playing well, he’ll high-step his way up the court, shake-and-bake defenders and throw behind-the-back passes. They might end up in the front row; they might be assists.
It’s an experience that Lakers fans should savor.
The beasts in the East.
I was in Toronto on Wednesday night, getting an up-close look at the Raptors, who look like the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Kawhi Leonard has shaken off any rust, and new coach Nick Nurse has a versatile frontcourt that he can mix and match based on need. Add in Kyle Lowry, who loves the early-season approach of his team, and the Raptors look the real deal.
Milwaukee has been just as sharp, maybe, and picked up another win, beating Philadelphia, who was on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Bucks have taken to Mike Budenholzer’s system, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has been outstanding (32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists).
Toronto plays in Milwaukee on Monday night in a must-watch game.
Story of the day
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard profiled David Stern in terrific fashion, with Stern taking a shot at New Orleans GM Dell Demps in the process.
Response of the Day
The New Orleans Pelicans weren’t fans.
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