Our grades from Monday around the NBA, or what you missed while weeping that Lionel Messi will be out 6-8 weeks….
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers. He had a triple-double with 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. He has played the most complete, efficient basketball of his young NBA career this season and it showed in this game (and is another reason the Pacers are 8-0). He was a playmaker, he cleaned the glass and he got points. He even picked up the most ridiculous technical foul of the season. The way he is playing, Danny Granger becomes an expensive sixth man when he returns.
Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving. Meh. We were hoping for a showdown between two of the best young point guards in the game and we got nothing inspiring. Both had 16 points on the night, but it took Irving 19 shots to get there and Rose 21. Irving did have a dozen of his in the fourth quarter trying to keep it interesting, but by that point we were all watching Mike Dunleavy. That was a let down.
Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets. He is not the best player in the Mile High City (that honor goes to Ty Lawson) but he is the most savvy. He scored 9 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter when Denver went on a 21-5 run to pull away with this one. He picked apart the Utah defense, he put on a clinic on how to play point in the NBA. I hope Trey Burke was on the Utah bench, watching.
Rudy Gay, Toronto Raptors. He messed 26 shots in one game. Gay put up 29 points on 11-of-37 shooting — that is 29.7 percent shooting. That is the definition of black hole. It is worse than his 35.6 percent shooting on the season. Some will say that he scored 29 and he did hit the three that sent the game to overtime (which is why he doesn’t have a lower grade), but if he and DeMar DeRozan hadn’t combined to shoot 17-of-62 Toronto would have won in regulation.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.
His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.
Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.
Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.
As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.
Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.
Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.
Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.
Maybe a little too pumped.
That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.
Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.
(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)
The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.
While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.
Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.