Post Up: MVP! MVP!
LeBron might be creating some space in the MVP race with his recent play.
by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz
On Friday night LeBron James continued to shred defenses, James Harden dominated the Blazers and the Lakers barely got past the Bobcats.
Wizards (14-35) 89, Nets (29-21) 74
The Nets record looks fine in the standings, but they’ve got plenty of problems. First and foremost, the Deron Williams-Joe Johnson backcourt has not delivered. Last night, Williams (41 FG percent this year) shot 7-of-20 from the floor and finished with 20 points. Johnson (42 percent) hit 6-of-12 shots for 14 points. Neither stat line is too bad, but they took a long time to get going.
Brooklyn forgot to show up in the second quarter, where they shot 4-of-22 and got outscored 30-11 by a suddenly tough Wiz team. Nene paced Washington with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Martell Webster scored 16 and John Wall finished with 15 points, 9 assists and 4 steals.
The Nets made some decent pushes in the fourth, but this game was Washington’s the whole way through.
Lakers (24-27) 100, Bobcats (11-38) 93
Charlotte led by 10 points after the first quarter and by about 20 for parts of the third quarter. But LA fought back late, and dominated the fourth period. They outscored Charlotte 31-15 in the fourth to pull off the come-from-behind W.
Dwight Howard was big with 12 points (4/7) and 11 boards. Kobe Bryant was scoreless in the first half, but wound up with 20 points, 7 boards and 8 assists. He shot 6-of-15 from the field and 8-of-8 from the stripe. Earl Clark (10 boards) and Steve Nash each scored 17, while Jodie Meeks knocked down 4 threes on his way to 14 bench points. The Lakers moved to just 9-17 on the road for the season.
Charlotte had four starters with double-digit rebounds. Byron Mullens played very well against Howard, and finished with 20 points and 12 boards. Gerald Henderson scored 20 with 10 rebounds and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo combined for 20 boards but just 12 points. Kemba Walker dropped 18 and 8, and former Laker Ramon Sessions added 12 and 7 off the bench.
Raptors (18-32) 100, Pacers (31-20) 98
Indiana seemed to have this game locked up late before choking. The Pacers led 90-86 with 7 seconds left, when Rudy Gay missed a layup for Toronto. Amir Johnson got a tip-in to go with six seconds left, and then stole a long inbounds pass from David West. He missed a floater in the lane before again getting an offensive rebound and scoring just as the clock expired.
The game went into OT, and was tied at 98 with ten seconds left. George Hill—who missed late free throws in both regulation and overtime—stepped out of bounds, giving Toronto the ball. With one second left, Rudy Gay hit a game-winning jumper.
Gay’s night sums him up pretty perfectly. He was ineffective from the field, still managed to score 20+ and was clutch late. He made 9-of-25 shots to score 23 points. Johnson totaled 14 points and 14 boards before fouling out in overtime. DeMar DeRozan was his typical self, too. He scored 22 points and did nothing else. Kyle Lowry had an off-night and finished with 2 points in 32 minutes. Jonas Valanciunas double-doubled off the bench.
David West continued his big season for Indiana, scoring 30 points on 20 shots. Paul George was great, too, dropping 26 points on 8-of-19 shooting (5-of-10 from deep). He added 14 boards and 5 assists. George Hill and Roy Hibbert had quiet nights.
Hornets (17-33) 111, Hawks (27-22) 100
Atlanta led by five at the break before New Orleans dominated the second half. NOLA won the third quarter 29-16. Greivis Vasquez, who had a legitimate case to be an All-Star, triple-doubled. He scored 21 points, handed out 12 assists and grabbed 11 boards. He’s been one of the NBA’s great surprises this season.
Eric Gordon led the team with 27 points and Ryan Anderson hit 4 threes and finished with 19 points off the bench. Anthony Davis was mediocre with 8 points (4/11) and 7 boards.
Josh Smith, who will face plenty of trade rumors over the next couple of weeks, scored 23 with 8 assists and 6 boards for Atlanta. Jeff Teague posted 21 points and 9 dimes, but committed 6 turnovers. Kyle Korver kept on rolling with 17 points and 3 treys.
Pistons (19-32) 119, Spurs (39-12) 109
San Antonio was never really in this game. They were without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and couldn’t stop Detroit all night.
Greg Monroe (26 and 16), Brandon Knight (24 and 5) and Charlie Villanueva (21 and 8 ) were all big for the Pistons. Kyle Singler and Rodney Stuckey chipped in 14 and 11, respectively. Detroit shot just shy of 52 percent overall, and 10-of-22 from three.
Tony Parker had a nice game for San Antonio, scoring 31 points with 8 assists. Kawhi Leonard added 16 and Danny Green hit 5 threes for 15 points.
Cavaliers (16-34) 119, Magic (14-36) 108
The Cavs got nice contributions from a bunch of guys last night. Kyrie Irving led the way with 24 points (9/17) with 8 assists. Marreese Speights amazingly hit 12-of-12 free throws in 22 minutes off the bench. Rookie Dion Waiters dropped 15, Tristan Thompson scored 16 and Wayne Ellington added 14. Cleveland attempted 41 free throws on the night, and knocked down 34 of them.
Orlando got some big performances, too. Nikola Vucevic (25 and 13), Arron Afflalo (23), Andrew Nicholson (9/13, 21 and 8 ) and Jameer Nelson (15 and 13) were all big. The Magic hit over 52 percent of their shots, but 19 turnovers did them in.
Heat (33-14) 111, Clippers (35-17) 89
Miami’s offense didn’t give Red LA a chance last night. Granted the Clippers scored only 39 points in the second half, but the Heat were just on fire.
LeBron James scored 30 points on just 11 shots. He shot better from the floor (9/11) than the free throw line (8/11). So far in February, LeBron has scored 28 (9/17), 30 (10/16), 31 (13/14), 32 (11/18) and now 30 on 9-of-11 shooting. It’s nice to think that there’s a competition for who the best player in the NBA is, but nobody is on LeBron’s level right now. It’s scary.
Dwyane Wade added 20 with 7 dimes, 6 boards and 4 steals, but didn’t make a three. That was a rarity for Miami, as they knocked down 15-of-27 attempts from downtown. James and Shane Battier each hit 4 threes and Mario Chalmers connected on 5.
Chris Paul returned for the Clippers but made only 1-of-5 shots from the field and recorded 2 assists with 3 turnovers. Hopefully it was just an off-night and not a sign that he came back too early from his knee injury. Blake Griffin was great early on but then disappeared. He finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds. DeAndre Jordan was the Clippers best player, and finished with 17 points and 6 boards.
Also, I can’t get enough of this guy—
Grizzlies (31-18) 99, Warriors (30-20) 93
A solid third quarter from Golden State setup a great fourth quarter in Memphis on Friday. The two teams went back and forth in the final period, but a 15-4 Grizzlies run gave them a comfortable lead with under a minute remaining.
Marc Gasol led the Grizz in scoring with 20 points, and snagged 11 rebounds. Zach Randolph also double-doubled with 16 and 12, and Tony Allen scored 17. Mike Conley had a strange game, as he scored 7 points and tallied 10 assists and 5 turnovers. Jerryd Bayless scored 14 off the bench and newcomer Austin Daye was solid with 12 points.
Stephen Curry was amazing with 32 points and 8 assists for the Ws. He’s stayed relatively healthy this season and is averaging over 20 points per game to go along with 6.5 assists, 4 boards and 1.6 steals. Starring on one of the West’s toughest teams, he’s an obvious All-Star snub.
David Lee scored 26, but had just 6 boards. No other Warriors player hit double-figures in the loss.
Rockets (28-24) 118, Blazers (25-25) 103
I wonder if Houston had any idea who they were getting when they traded for James Harden. Everyone knew he was good—even really good—but he’s quickly becoming great. Last night, the Beard shot a LeBron-esque 13-of-16 from the field on his way to 35 points. He added 11 assists and 7 boards. In four February games, he’s averaging 9 assists and 8 boards. LeBron-esque indeed.
His okay field goal percentage (44.4) and bad assist-to-turnover ratio (5.6-to-3.8) made me nervous about calling him a top-10 player for awhile, but I’m shedding those fears. In fact, after LeBron, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, I’m not sure there’s anybody in the League I’d take over Harden. Cases can certainly be made for guys like Griffin, Westbrook, Irving, Deron, Tony Parker, Dwight Howard and a few more, but Harden is right there. He can shoot the lights out, lives at the line, makes his teammates better and comes through in the clutch. Tough to beat.
Other guys played, too. Chandler Parsons scored 20 points, Jeremy Lin and Patrick Patterson added 16 each and Omer Asik did his thing—13 boards and 4 blocks.
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 31 points and 11 rebounds. Nicolas Batum dropped 24 with 4 threes and rookie Damian Lillard added 18.
Thunder (38-12) 127, Suns (17-34) 96
Nobody turns a real game into a laugher quicker than OKC. With nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Thunder led 60-55. With 3:25 left in the third quarter, the Thunder led 81-55. For those of you scoring at home, that’s a 21-0 run in 5 minutes and 35 seconds.
Everybody chipped in during the stretch. Kevin Durant (5/11, 21) led the team in scoring once again. Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin each scored at least 16.
When Sefolosha and Perkins combine for 35 points on 15-of-20 shooting, the other team doesn’t have a prayer. The Thunder hit 57.5 percent of their shots overall and an absurd 14-of-21 (66.7%) from downtown.
Michael Beasley scored 25 off the bench for Phoenix. He’s been scoring very consistently over the past couple of weeks—a big turnaround from his awful start to the season. Goran Dragic added 19.
Knicks (32-16) 100, Timberwolves (18-29) 94
The T-Wolves led by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter before letting a tight game slip away. An 87-76 lead disintegrated into a 95-92 deficit. Minnesota had chances in the final minute but couldn’t convert.
Carmelo Anthony hit 13-of-26 shots from the floor for 36 points. He was only 2/9 from deep but 8/9 from the stripe. JR Smith scored 14 off the bench, and Amar’e Stoudemire hit 5-of-7 shots for 11 points. He’s been very consistent for New York since returning from injury.
There was some fear that he might ruin the Knicks chemistry when he joined the club, but Amar’e's been a major piece for them. Their record hasn’t really reflected his impact, since they were playing about equal ball without him, but he gives the team a new dimension. If the Knicks want to make a serious title push—and I think they probably can—they need STAT to be playing at the top of his game. Or, at least, at the top of what’s left of his game. They can’t do it with only Melo and a bunch of three-point shooters.
Luke Ridnour was Minnesota’s high-man with 20. Nikola Pekovic double-doubled while holding Tyson Chandler to only 7 rebounds. Ricky Rubio tallied 11 assists, and is coming on in a big way. He’s racked up 36 assists over his last three games. I love to see that.
Bulls (30-20) 93, Jazz (28-23) 89
Chicago played their sixth consecutive road game on the heels of a Thursday night blowout in Denver last night. They didn’t show it.
Chicago led by eight at halftime, but Utah, 19-5 at home entering the game, battled back and tied the score entering the fourth quarter. The teams were neck-and-neck in the fourth, but Chicago was able to go ahead by three with 21 seconds left. Paul Millsap hurried a three and missed it, effectively ending the game.
Carlos Boozer scored 19 points in his return to Utah. Nate Robinson scored a big 18 and Joakim Noah and Luol Deng both double-doubled for Chicago.
Al Jefferson was huge for the Jazz, posting 32 and 13. He played 41 minutes, and probably should have gotten a touch instead of Millsap’s forced three. Millsap finished with 21 and Randy Foye added 14. Utah isn’t the same squad without Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward.
Chicago is tough as nails, and owns the East’s best road record. They were without Kirk Hinrich last night, and what they’ve done without Derrick Rose is really amazing. I’m glad I’m not in charge of deciding whether or not to rush Rose back. That’s a tough, tough call. I’d err on the side of caution.