Best game of the night was in Dallas, and we’ve got two from that game. Plus the hot hand that did in Boston.
Third Star: Chris Paul(33 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists)
For much of the game Dallas took the strategy of making Chris Paul the scorer for the Clippers. This is the same strategy teams used against Steve Nash at his peak — yes, he’s going to score a lot of points but his team is more dangerous when he is dishing and getting everyone involved. So Paul put up big numbers, eventually all the way to 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting. At the end Dallas went to double-teaming him 30 feet from the basket, and he still scored the Clippers final 10 points in regulation.
Second Star: J.R. Smith (32 points, 7 rebounds)
When that ridiculous 27-footer to end the third quarter fell, you knew it was Smith’s (and the Knicks) kind of night. Smith was aggressive and attacking, getting shots in the paint and knocking down jumpers. The Knicks cannot survive on ‘Melo alone, they need someone else to step up to have a chance in big games. Tonight it was Smith.
First Star: Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 9 rebounds)
The biggest key was the eight points in overtime — Nowitzki stepped up when Dallas needed him Tuesday. Dirk is back to being his fluid, smart and unguardable self. Dallas needs to get him the ball in the crunch — not go with Vince Carter or O.J. Mayo isolations (although that worked out pretty well for Dallas this time around. The Mavs they did a better job of that Tuesday. Especially in overtime. And the result is a Mavericks team right in the middle of a playoff hunt.
John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
This will be Kobe's first trip to Staples for a Lakers event since his last game. I asked if he wanted to be more involved with the team. 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/wi88qLGSNt
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.