LeBron James was trying to be factual. Complimentary, even.
When the reigning king of basketball spoke to reporters yesterday about the Minnesota Timberwolves, James declined the premise of a question about this "young" Minnesota team.
They're not young, James said. Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks, and Jeff Teague are league veterans.
James was trying to say that these Timberwolves must be taken seriously, and now. Then he said this: "Let's throw that narrative out. Wiggins is the only young guy. Him and Tyler Jones."
Of course, LeBron meant Tyus Jones, graduate of Apple Valley High School, NCAA national champion in his one year at Duke, and, usually, backup point guard to Jeff Teague. But Teague's out with a sprained knee, and Jones has hopped into the starting role with aplomb.
Through 42 games, he's fifth in the NBA in assists-to-turnovers, and leads the league in steals-per-48 minutes. It was those defensive thefts that led to a dramatic highlight couplet from last night's game.
In Act One, our protaganist takes the ball off Cleveland's Jeff Green and sprints the other way for a two-on-one fastbreak. But if LeBron is the one in your two-on-one, scoring is still about as likely as your being humiliated. This lesson was taught to young Tyler, or whatever, the hard way.
In Act Two, only minutes later, Jones again strips the ball, this time from Dwyane Wade, then takes off down the open court, where Jimmy Butler scoops and tosses it to him. Barreling behind Jones is LeBron James, the greatest closedown, steal-your-soul shotblocker in NBA history.
Watch both plays below.
As you watch these plays again (and again), you'll begin to notice the score: Minnesota was way out in front already, and thanks to a buzzer-beating Butler 3-pointer, would lead Cleveland 69-42 at halftime. The Timberwolves never looked back, cruising to a 127-99 win over the defending Eastern Conference champions.
Minnesota improved to 26-16 on the season, firmly installed as the fourth-place team in the Western Conference.
LeBron played only 27 minutes, and the Cavs were outscored by 39 points during that time, the worst plus-minus rating of his illustrious career.
Jones scored only six points -- two of them were very cool! -- but pitched in with eight assists and only one turnover. In his 28 minutes, Minnesota outscored Cleveland by 36 points, the best plus-minus rating ever.
If the purpose of basketball is to for your team to score more points than the other team, LeBron had the worst game of his career on the same night Tyus -- that's capital T, y, u, s -- had his best.
Does everyone know everyone's name now?
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