Our grades from Thursday night around the NBA, or what you missed while playing Call of Duty Ghosts like everyone else….
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat. For two straight games now we have had vintage Wade show up, which has to make Heat fans happy. He was attacking J.J. Redick on post ups or blowing past him to get to the rim where he finished well. Wade ended up with 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting, plus 7 assists. He keyed the third quarter run (while LeBron and Chis Bosh rested) that got Miami the win.
Clippers defense. The only reason this grade isn’t lower is because while the 109.1 points per possession surrendered in this game is unimpressive, it is actually better than they had done through their previous five games. Their defensive rotations were terrible and that left driving lanes open for the Heat all game. The Clippers and Doc Rivers have 76 games left to figure out how to play cohesive team defense if they have plans of getting past the first round.
Steve Blake, Los Angeles Lakers. He was 4-of-6 from three, but if you need to see why he is here just follow this link.
Los Angeles Lakers bench. The Lakers got 54 of their 99 points from their bench. Jodie Meeks was 5-of-7 from three on his way to 18 points. Wesley Johnson had 16, and Jordan Farmar had 11. When the bench for the Lakers has stepped up they have two nice wins (the Clippers and now Rockets). At the start of the season I never would have expected to have given the Lakers’ bench this kind of grade.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets. He had 10 of his 25 points in the final quarter to lead the Nuggets to their first win of the season, a 109-107 win over the Hawks. Lawson also pitched in with eight assists, and seven rebounds. You can make a case that the Nuggets bench really should be here, but they don’t get the chance without the big line from Lawson
Oklahoma City has more than a few adjustments to make after a brutal defensive effort in Game 1 of their series against San Antonio, but at the top of the list is sticking with LaMarcus Aldridge on defense.
He was killing them from the midrange, and more than half of his looks were uncontested — the Thunder know he can knock down that shot, right?
It was a fantastic performance from Aldridge; we’ll see if he faces tougher defense in Game 2.
Should we be preparing for Game 7 of the Trail Blazers-Clippers series today?
If the officials had called the final minutes of the last game correctly, maybe.
Portland won Game 6 to take the series 4-2, but a missed call a key missed call helped clinch.
With 1:45 left, Mason Plumlee got away with offensively fouling Jamal Crawford, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:
Plumlee (POR) sets the screen on Crawford (LAC) without giving him room to avoid the contact.
A correct call would’ve meant a Trail Blazers turnover. Instead, Damian Lillard ended the possession with two made free throws.
Portland’s advantage when the Clippers began intentionally fouling: two.
Would the Clippers have won if the refs called Plumlee’s offensive foul? Impossible to say. The final 1:45 could’ve played out much differently.
But this missed call, the only error in the Last Two Minute Report, certainly boosted the Trail Blazers’ odds.
It’s what the playoffs are all about — win or go home Game 7s. Pressure, drama, unlikely stars Sunday is going to have it all. Here are a few things to watch:
1) Can Miami’s jump shooters have another hot game? Dwyane Wade got the headlines (and he earned them) for his Game 6 performance (everyone except purple shirt guy was impressed), but the real key for the Heat to force a Game 7 was they were hitting their jumpers — or at least enough of them. In their three losses, Miami shot 33.7 percent from 3 feet out to the arc, but in Game 6 the Heat shot 43.5 percent in that range, plus knocked down eight threes. The Hornets have packed the paint all series, when the Heat hit their jumpers they win. It’s that simple.
2) Does Kemba Walker have one more big game in him? Walker was fantastic in Game 6 (37 points), and he’s been very good in the Hornets’ victories. He’s going to penetrate and get some shots inside eight feet, but will he be able to finish? And, more importantly, will he hit his threes when they pack the paint on him? If Walker has a huge game, Charlotte very likely moves on.
3) Is Toronto too far into their own head? No team has more pressure on them to advance out of the first round than Toronto after two previous years of getting bounced in the first round, and they will feel that weight at home in Game 7 against Indiana. Will Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan step up with big games in the biggest moments of their careers, or will they succumb to the moment and the Pacers defense? For all the Xs and Os that do matter in this game, how the Raptors handle the pressure will be key.
4) Can the Pacers again get a few quality minutes when Paul George sits? In the Pacers comfortable Game 6 win, George got a rest in the second quarter and the Pacers were +5 while he sat. That was a huge step up from Game 5, where the Pacers were -18 when he was out for less than 7 minutes. If Indiana — by playing some starters such as Myles Turner — doesn’t have a huge bench drop off when George rests a few minutes their odds of winning go way up. We know Paul George can handle the moment.
The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.