What we learned last night in the NBA
Here’s what we learned on the night Cleveland ensured they wouldn’t go 0-82:
The Raptors stay hot.
When you talk about the best teams in the NBA, it should always be understood that the Warriors are in a tier by themselves. No team has that much talent, that much firepower, that much cohesion, and that’s why no one else can be the best in the league until they dethrone Golden State.
Still, the Raptors? They look like a team that’s right at the top of the next group.
They destroyed Philadelphia at home in Toronto on Tuesday night, moving to 7-1 (the lone loss came Monday when they rested Kawhi Leonard).
Leonard was great — 31 points and four steals — and all four other starters scored at least 10 with Jonas Valanciunas, a de facto sixth starter, scoring 23.
They’ve got as much defensive versatility as anyone in the league, and they have some young role players who should only get better. One name to watch? Pascal Siakam — he was a team-best plus-24 against Philadelphia.
The feud between Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook got reheated.
The Clippers had a chance to get a road win in Oklahoma City against the struggling Thunder, and looked like they were on their way before a disastrous third quarter put them on the other side of a blowout.
Oklahoma City outscored the Clippers 39-10 in the third, the largest margin in one quarter in Thunder history.
But the second-half collapse was overshadowed by another chapter in the Russell Westbrook-Patrick Beverley feud that dates to 2013.
With the Clippers down big in the fourth quarter Tuesday, Beverley dove for a loose ball, clipping Westbrook’s right knee in the process. Westbrook took exception with the chop block, and the two were called for technical fouls.
Beverley was called for a flagrant foul 1 after a review.
The play was similar to one during the 2013 playoffs when Westbrook tried to call timeout and Beverley swooped in to try and get a steal before the whistle could be blown. In the process, he again hit Westbrook on the knee, this time tearing his meniscus, knocking him out of the playoffs and forcing him to undergo surgery.
Earlier in the game Tuesday, Westbrook appeared to taunt Beverley after scoring on him by pretending to rock a baby in his arms. Later when Beverley scored, he looked at Westbrook and returned the gesture.
Westbrook, who had 32 points in just his team’s second win of the season, got the last laugh.
Two “playoff” teams might want to panic.
The Washington Wizards, who oozed toxicity in a loss to the Clippers earlier this week, went to Memphis, where they were beaten by 12 points — their sixth loss of the season.
And in Houston, the Rockets got embarrassed by Portland for their fifth loss of the year.
They’re the two biggest disappointments of the season thus far, but Washington’s situation is much more dire.
While Houston plays in the tougher conference, they’ve had their rotations disrupted by Chris Paul’s suspension and James Harden’s hamstring injury. They’ll get whole.
Washington, on the other hand, still needs to incorporate Dwight Howard into what they’re doing, adding another mouth to feed to an offense that’s already complaining about players wanting too many shots.
Don’t be surprised if you hear teams begin to sniff around Washington for possible trades.
Line of the night
Nemanja Bjelica 21 points, 8-13 FG, 3-5 3FG, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Bjelica, who stunned Philadelphia this offseason by backing out of a verbal agreement to sign there, has been great for the Kings this season, helping them go to 5-3 with a win in Orlando on Tuesday.
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