Thursday night NBA grades: Steve Blake, Ty Lawson come up big late

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Our grades from Thursday night around the NBA, or what you missed while playing Call of Duty Ghosts like everyone else….

source:  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.

source:  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.

source:  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.

 

source:  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.

source:  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

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.