Only two games on the slate on TNT Thursday, but we still managed to find three stellar performances nonetheless. And they all had dominant offensive performances.
Third Star: DeAndre Jordan (21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, in 28 minutes)
I was a bit disgusted with the way DeAndre Jordan handled himself on the bench late during Wednesday’s win over the Spurs, but it would be difficult to find any flaws in the way he performed in Portland on Thursday. Jordan was a dominant scorer from the low block, showing patience and solid footwork when making his moves to the basket. His athleticism was under control on this night, and he even hit five of his seven free throw attempts — which raised him to 38.5 percent now from the line for the season.
Since there are no embeddable highlights available from this game at the moment, go ahead and watch Jordan prank some folks with a large fake spider at Venice Beach. (Yeah, I don’t know, either.)
Second Star: Kevin Durant (24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, game-sealing Dirk dagger)
The Bulls are one of the better defensive units in the league, so even without Derrick Rose, they’re still able to stay close with elite teams like the Thunder. OKC’s attack was balanced all night, until the fourth quarter came along and Kevin Durant decided it was winning time. Ten of Durant’s 24 came in the final period, none prettier than the one-legged fadeaway with under 20 seconds left that effectively sealed it.
First Star: Jamal Crawford (25 points on 9-of-17 shooting in 28 minutes off the bench)
Anytime a player returns to the place he played the previous season as a member of the opposing team, and leads his new team to victory while scoring more than everyone else in the building — and hearing the boos from the home crowd in the process — I’d say that’s a pretty stellar performance.
Gregg Popovich on Fox News pundit attacking LeBron James: “Unbelievable”
This instance of LeBron speaking up apparently struck Ingraham in some type of way, enough to invoke a shot at James’ intelligence and speaking mannerisms in thinly-veiled comments. Ingraham told James to “shut up and dribble” which sparked the ire of many around the league. LeBron responded in kind, and most considered Ingraham’s racially-tinged tirade to be par for the course from that particular outlet.
Ingraham, who failed to do basic research on LeBron’s background, community leadership, and charitable contributions, also drew criticism from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Speaking before San Antonio’s game against the Cavaliers, Popovich told a crowd that Ingraham’s comments said more about her than about LeBron, and that he was happy the game had such a positive role model for young fans in James.
Shoutout to Popovich for continuing to be a voice from such a prominent position within sports and pop culture. Guys like him and LeBron haven’t exhausted themselves even though the discussion about what they say is undoubtedly tiring.
Jimmy Butler has surgery on right meniscus, no timetable for return
Reports out of Minnesota was that Butler had suffered a right meniscus injury, ducking what many had feared was an ACL tear. According to the team, Butler had successful surgery on his right meniscus this weekend.
As of Sunday morning they did not have a timetable for his return.
NEWS: Jimmy Butler underwent successful meniscus surgery this morning on his right knee. The operation was performed by Team Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Diane Dahm at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Butler will be sidelined indefinitely. #Twolvespic.twitter.com/J7ZhxHhXvF
Minnesota currently stands third in the West but they will have a hard time fending off the rest of the playoff hopeful teams below them without their star player.
For his part, Butler is hoping he will be back in time for the playoffs. Early reports were that the team was thinking his recovery had a 4-to-6 week timeline, but again nothing has been set. Meniscus recovery times vary greatly depending on the issue at hand and the procedure done, neither of which we have details on at this time.
The Timberwolves have the 15th most difficult strength of schedule ahead of them according to Tankathon.com, with games against major Western Conference opponents ahead of them as well as bottom-dwellers like the Memphis Grizzlies.
Minnesota has been a good story all season long. No doubt many will bring up Tom Thibodeau’s workload once again with Butler injured, something compounded by Butler apparently requesting to rest during the 2018 All-Star Game.
Wolves fans have been waiting a long time for this. They don’t deserve this kind of punishment at this late a date, but the Basketball Gods are cruel and unceasingly unforgiving.
Isaiah Thomas on Cavaliers trade to Lakers: “They were in panic mode”
Thomas is now a member of the Lakers after being part of the worst section of the season in Cleveland. The Cavaliers, with their revamped roster, have just one loss since the trade deadline. LeBron James & Co. have moved on, and Thomas appears set for free agency this summer and yet another team.
A move for the Cavaliers seemed inevitable, even if the return for Kyrie Irving from Boston — conveyed through consequent trades — was less than ideal. Meanwhile Thomas, who didn’t appear to enjoy his time in Ohio, has now said that he was surprised Dan Gilbert’s team bailed on him so quickly.
“I didn’t think they would pull the trigger that fast, 15 games,” Thomas told ESPN’s E:60 in an interview that will air March 11. “But again, it’s a business. And the Cavs were, I mean, they were in panic mode. We were losing — a lot. And I think they felt like they needed to make a move, and they, they basically cleared house.”
Thomas went on to say that he didn’t think he had enough time to find a rhythm not only coming back from a hip injury but on a new team in a new system. Thomas also mentioned that he harbored no ill feelings toward the Cavaliers.
We’ll see if that’s the case when the Lakers take on Cleveland on March 11 in LA.
Coach Tyronn Lue says not to expect LeBron James to have “rest” games
LeBron James has not missed one Cleveland Cavaliers game this season. At age 33 in his 15th NBA season, LeBron is fourth in the league in total minutes played, third in the league in minutes per game at 37, and is top 10 in the NBA in usage rate.
Don’t expect that to change.
LeBron doesn’t want to take games off — he even dominated the All-Star Game — and do you really think Lue is going to force him to sit while the Cavaliers try to adapt to a radical roster shakeup at the trade deadline? From Dave McMenamin at ESPN.
“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs’ 112-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”
LeBron said this last month and things have not changed.
“I told you I want to play every game,” James said. “If my health continues as it is right now, then that’s what it is.”
While “load management” is a buzzword around the NBA — one ignored in Minnesota — LeBron has responded to his increased workload with an MVP level season. LeBron is averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, is shooting 35.9 percent from three, and has the highest value over replacement player in the league. (His less energized play in January likely cost him any real shot at his fifth MVP.) With the league emphasizing not resting players — particularly in nationally televised games, which the Cavaliers have a lot of — LeBron is not getting much if any rest. He wants to play in a full 82.
The only concern is will he wear down. LeBron is going to have to dominate in the playoffs for the Cavaliers to come out of the East. How much gas will LeBron have in the tank come May? There’s a reason Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, and a lot of other elite coaches give players a night off. That’s not going to happen with LeBron, at least not likely in a meaningful way.
Consider it something to file away and remember if the Cavaliers and LeBron look a step slower in the postseason.