I have very few rules in life, but one of them is that whenever I get a hole-in-one the day before, I take a trip around the NBA to write about things I find fascinating. (Fact-check: The hole-in-one was at a par 3 course, so I am not sure it really counts. But a golfer with my limited skills has to take ‘em however they happen. 100 yards out, two bounces, in.)
Almost as odd as my hole-in-one is the Eastern Conference standings in my Sunday morning LA Times. Did anyone else notice that almost half of the teams have exactly 17 losses?
Perhaps you say that maybe 17 losses is a pretty normal number to have at this time of the season, with everyone having played between 30 or 35 games (except the Spurs and Memphis, who are at 29). But how many teams in the Western Conference have 17 losses? As of this morning — none.
Also note that the Spurs’ twelve losses on the season would tie them for the fewest of any team in the East. The Spurs would be all alone in fourth place in the East, with five fewer losses than the teams actually in fourth, Toronto and the Knicks.
Wait a minute, the Knicks are in fourth place, playing .500 ball! When did that happen?
And if the Knicks being at .500 isn’t odd enough, there have been several games recently that have been equally inexplicable. See the team in first place in the East? Favorite ex-Spur Danny Green’s Philadelphia 76ers. Saturday night they played the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers, who are being outscored by over 8 points a game on the season, worst in the league — even worse than the 7-27 Timberwolves. So naturally the Cavs beat the first place 76ers, despite Joel Embiid’s 42 points and Ben Simmons’ second three-pointer of the season (he is now 2 for 7). And if you assume the Cavs fluke win occurred because they got hot from three, think again. Cavs were only 8 for 24 from three.
Another odd game occurred Thursday night when the tenth place Memphis Grizzlies beat a full-strength LA Clippers squad. The outcome was not the stunning thing — the score was. The mediocre Grizzlies (outscored on the season) won by 28 points, 122- 94, over an outstanding Clippers team. While the Grizzlies did shoot well from three, that doesn’t explain the result, as they only took 19 threes, making 11 for 59%, while the Clippers made more threes, going 12 for 34, a not terrible 35%.
Good teams can occasionally lose to weaker teams, as shown by the 76ers close loss to the Cavs. But good teams should not lose by 28 points to weaker teams — he says while conveniently ignoring the Spurs back-to-back losses to Memphis a month ago, by 17 and 31 points. (Fact check no. 2: 31 points is more than 28, though the Spurs are not the Clippers.)
In another upset Thursday night, the Wizards beat the Nuggets, in Denver, 112-110. What makes that game especially painful for the Nuggets was the ending. A 4-on-1 Denver fastbreak, which should have resulted in a game tying dunk or a lay-up, instead resulted in all four of those Denver players standing outside the three-point line, and the rushed three was bricked. The play was so bad, they showed this highlight (lowlight) in the first quarter of the Spurs - Pelicans game:
That is the type of play that leads coaches to immediately take all four of those Nugget players out of the game. Unfortunately, Mike Malone missed that teaching moment because the game ended. Just as my golf game good luck did after that quasi hole-in-one yesterday.