What we learned from the NBA on Sunday
Here’s what we learned on a night when Serge Ibaka was almost perfect:
Jimmy Butler, the NBA’s answer to a husband who has asked his wife for a divorce but has to sleep on the couch for two months before he gets it, didn’t play in an embarrassingly lopsided loss for Minnesota in Portland.
Butler said earlier that he might skip one of the team’s next two games, and that he’d let his team know because they don’t know how his body feels.
An injury at this point, and Butler is not immune to those, would submarine his trade value, which also decreases with every day he spends in a Timberwolves uniform.
Butler, a free agent at the end of next season, has no long-term future in Minnesota. “They need to just trade him already,” one rival scout said while watching the blowout loss in the Staples Center media room Sunday.
Miami seems to have been the team closest to getting him, while Houston had a draft-pick-centric offer get leaked. But maybe another suitor, perhaps Philadelphia, will get involved.
Markelle Fultz continues to struggle as Philadelphia’s starting shooting guard, and the 76ers look like they’ll be a tier below Boston and Toronto as long as that continues.
Butler might or might not play Monday in Los Angeles against the Clippers — he’ll let the Timberwolves know.
The Lakers bottomed out
Sometimes, the scoreboard lies.
The Lakers lost to Toronto by 14 Sunday night — a respectable enough margin. With LeBron James watching from the bench, the Lakers put together a strong few minutes in the fourth quarter, but that stretch shouldn’t erase what we saw before — and that was total domination by Toronto.
The Raptors looked fresher — the Lakers’ win Saturday in Portland certainly played a role in that — but more strikingly, they looked just a ton better.
Toronto is probably the second-best team in the NBA right now, trailing the Warriors. The Raptors have tremendous versatility, young players with lots of room to grow and, seemingly, the right coach, who has injected new ideas into an established contender.
Oh, and they’ve got a MVP-caliber player in Kawhi Leonard, who they didn’t even need to run the Lakers off the floor on Sunday night (even drawing the first boos of the season).
The Raptors are real (sorry, fossil deniers).
One of those days
Sunday was a weird day around the NBA, as a bunch of teams that had been playing well all lost (with Milwaukee and the already-mentioned Raptors as exceptions).
Phoenix beat Memphis 102-100 in one of those rare games in which a team below 107 points gets a victory. The Bucks trounced the Kings in Sacramento before heading off on a West Coast trip with four games against tough teams.
The 76ers were blown out in Brooklyn, and the Magic hung on to beat the Spurs in San Antonio.
And to cap off the weirdness, the Wizards actually won.
Line of the night
Serge Ibaka 34 PTS, 15-17 FG, 10 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL
Ibaka scored 20 in the first quarter (at one point twice as many as the Lakers had as a team) and didn’t miss a shot until the second half.
Quote of the night
“He’s going to finish the season, unless something drastic happens, which it won’t.” — Magic Johnson on Luke Walton
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