Some very familiar names on top of the three stars list to NBA fans tonight. Sorry to overlook Chandler Parsons dropping 32 out of the blue, or Carmelo Anthony getting 32 in a losing cause, or David West putting up an impressive 31 against the Bulls defense. But these guys had big games and sparked key wins.
Third Star: Russell Westbrook (29 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds)
After Serge Ibaka punched Blake Griffin in the nuts (I still don’t see how Ibaka stayed in the game after that) and the Clippers got a seven-point play to take the lead with less than 2 minutes to go. That’s when Westbrook took over. He broke down the Clippers defense for a lay-up. He set up Serge Ibaka for the and-1. He knocked down the baseline jumper. He made sure his team won.
Second Star: LeBron James(29 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds)
After a pretty quiet first half, LeBron put up a dozen in the fourth quarter to lead the Heat to a hard-fought win. (This on the heels of dropping 16 in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies last Heat game.) More than just put up points LeBron does it all (5 rebounds 3 assists in fourth quarter). LeBron looked like the MVP on the big stage. In the last month he has made that award his again.
First Star: Kobe Bryant (34 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists)
The Lakers are back to .500 for the first time since just after Christmas and you can thank Kobe for that, as he played another game where he was key down the stretch with 11 in the final frame. That included a great play on the game-winning layup where he blew past Al Horford, got to the lane before Josh Smith could fully rotate, Kobe took the contact and made the play, Kobe has played with a desperate passion the past few weeks as he has led the Lakers back into the playoff hunt. This game was another example of that.
I told them in there – that was the first thing – we’re not playing together at all. I thought it was a very selfish performance, and guys wouldn’t just pass the ball to open men. They wanted to see if they could take one more dribble to get their own shot, so the passing angles were gone. I just thought we forced play after play after play. We’re not willing to move the ball
On Reggie Jackson, who scored seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with six assists and six turnovers, and was coming off Achilles soreness:
He was not good at all. He was forcing everything.
On injuries to point guards – Jackson, Brandon Jennings and Steve Blake – hindering the team’s flow in practice and that carrying over to the game:
We could probably make a lot of excuses for our guys, but we were selfish.
Van Gundy is clearly trying to send a message, and the preseason is the best time to do it.
But it’s somewhat troubling he had to do it after this game.
We’ll never how Howard would have performed if fully healthy, but he averaged 14.4 points and 14.4 rebounds in 35.1 minutes per game against the Warriors during the conference finals. How bad could the injuries have been?