With the Super Bowl taking a stranglehold over the sports world this week, the NBA did its best to loosen that grip with an entertaining slate of games. This week featured noteworthy NBA performances from both the past and present, with even the president getting a slice in the action.
So without further adieu, here’s TSFJ’s top five performances of the week.
5. Kobe Bryant 38 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 119-111 win vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
With an organization that seems to be lost in the past nostalgia of yesteryear, it was fitting that the Lakers’ brightest star of the last 20 years brought fans a touch of what used to be. On Tuesday, 38-year-old Kobe Bryant turned back the clock, becoming the oldest player to put up at least 35 points, five rebounds and five assists since a 40-year-old Karl Malone dropped 40 and pulled down nine boards while dishing out seven assists in his last season with the Jazz.
Kobe’s night was played mostly on the perimeter Tuesday, as seven of his 10 field goals came from beyond the arc. He did give us, however, one of his patented fade-aways over Andrew Wiggins with 26 seconds to go. Bryant’s fade-away was symbolic not just because it came from his favorite spot on the right wing, but it was the capper on a duel between Bryant and Wiggins that looked an awful lot like a passing of the torch between the elder statesmen his eager student.
Though Kobe’s better days are certainly behind him, he added to his legend with a performance that reminded the Staples Center crowd of better days.
4. John Wall 41 points, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 134-121 loss vs. Golden State Warriors
Being overshadowed is nothing new to John Wall. With Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Steph Curry (we’ll get to the Chef in second) getting most of the headlines at the point guard position, it’s easy to forget about the former Kentucky Wildcat. The trend continued Wednesday in D.C. as Curry went on a scoring barrage to start the game, putting the Warriors up by as much as 17 in the first half.
With his team down big, Wall’s game got bigger. He willed the Wiz back into the game with a series of jumpers, acrobatic finishes and even a couple threes, cutting the Warrior lead down to two. While Curry’s performance ruled the night, Wall’s exploits reminded us that he is still a force to be reckoned with.
3. Russell Westbrook 24 points, 19 rebounds, 14 assists, 117-114 win vs. Orlando Magic
Throughout his career, Russell Westbrook has won many over at TSFJ with his insanely tenacious play. His tenacity was in full force Wednesday night, as he was everything for the Thunder, working the pick-and-roll, abusing Elfrid Payton in the post and grabbing damn near every rebound in his area.
Russ was so dominant through the first three quarters that he had folks wondering if a 20-20-20 game was even possible as he amassed 20 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists with 1:15 left in the third quarter. His performance against the Magic highlights the tear that Russ has been on in the last month. In his last 15 games, he’s averaging a triple-double, averaging 21 points a game to go along with 11 assists and 10 rebounds. With Westbrook on his current pace along with Kevin Durant’s outright savagery, OKC could be a problem come April.
2. Stephen Curry 51 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 134-121 win vs. Washington Wizards
Over the past three seasons, Stephen Curry has shown a propensity for doing the spectacular. Wednesday in our nation’s capitol was no different, as the Chef threw in 23 first-quarter points.
Now, we’ve seen 20-point quarterly outbursts before from the likes of Kobe, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and even Curry’s backcourt mate Klay Thompson. What made Curry’s performance special was the sheer ease with which he got his points. He hit seven threes in that first quarter, shooting from all over D.C., with half of the DMV trying to guard him. His last three of the quarter, shot from the Shaw-Howard metro station, put the crowd in a frenzy and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Curry’s exploits continue to leave jaws on ground, and Wednesday’s performance in D.C. is sure to keep them there for the foreseeable future.
1. Barack Obama
A day after the Steph Curry torched the hometown Wizards, the Warriors were invited to White House by President Obama to celebrate their 2015 NBA title. In his speech, Obama was as cool as ever. He expressed regret over Riley Curry’s absence, excitement for the presence of Steve Kerr and sympathy for assistant Luke Walton, who went 39-4 as interim coach in Kerr’s absence, yet none of the wins went on his coaching record.
Obama’s speeches for championship teams over the years have become must-see TV, and this year was no different. All hail Obama!
A Bay Area resident rooting for all things Los Angeles.