Thursday night NBA grades: ‘Melo did all he could do. Dwight Howard… not so much

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Our grades from around the NBA Thursday night, or what you missed while figuring out how to win at The Price is Right

source:  Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks. He’s played a few good games in a row now… I’m still not fully going to buy into him yet but if you want to make the case he’s finding his groove you have a legit argument. Bargnani finished with 24 pints on 9-of-12 shooting plus he played good man defense in the post against Dwight Howard. He’s not getting an A because his help defense was non-existent and that’s one of the reasons the Rockets won, but he played a generally good game.

source:  Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. It was basically Carmelo Anthony vs. the Rockets — and Anthony almost won. Check out his shot chart from the first half.

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Anthony finished with 45 points on 17-of-30 shooting, he had 10 boards, and if you ask me that was a continuation foul with five seconds left (Harden did get an early slap and bump in there but those didn’t strike me as a fouls you call that late in the game, plus you could argue ‘Melo had started his motion). Anthony is going to have to carry this team for a while and this kind of effort would have won most nights.

source:  Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets. He got pushed out of his position and couldn’t get comfortable in the post; he couldn’t get the ball and make plays, while guarded by Andrea Bargnani. The Knicks did throw doubles at him in the first half trying to get the ball out of his hands (which worked but just opened driving lanes) but by the second half Knicks coach Mike Woodson thought just Bargnani would be enough to control the guy thought of as the best center in the game. And it was. Howard can’t disappear like that on offense. His grade bumps up thanks to his 15 rebounds and defensive presence, but we expect more.

source:  Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors. Grades can come down to how you did on your finals. How did Iguodala do on his final shot?

source:  Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. Anyone want to tell me again how he is not all the way back? This was his best game since his return, with 31 points hitting 13-of-20 shots, plus 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Plus he almost had a game winner, if Iguodala hadn’t spoiled everything. It’s just good to see Westbrook back and playing like this.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.

Frustrated Gregg Popovich calls all three referees “f****** blind”

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The Spurs completed an amazing comeback win against the Thunder Friday night, coming from 23 down to knock off the Thunder when Carmelo Anthony‘s game-tying three was just a two because his toe was on the line.

Gregg Popovich was into this one.

So much so that when he didn’t like an out-of-bounds call he made sure all three officials knew exactly how blind he thought they were.

The best part of this is Popovich covering his eyes, just to really emphasize his point.

We’re really going to miss Pop when he steps away to live at a winery full time.

Lakers/Suns have minor skirmish, Lonzo Ball just walks away

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If you’re on the court when your team gets in an NBA “fight” — what the rest of us would call a shoving match where nobody really wants to throw a punch — should you run into the fray and help your teammates?

Friday night, with just more than three minutes to go in Phoenix’s eventual win, the Suns called a timeout, and Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one of those silly shoving matches. Players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up.

The Suns’ rookie Josh Jackson picked up a technical for his role racing in and escalating the matter.

Watch the video again, and you’ll see Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball just walk away from it all and head to the bench.

That has led to criticism of the rookie from some Lakers’ fans, who see a guy who didn’t rush in to protect his teammates — that’s seen as part of the sports locker room culture. A “band of brothers” or “us against the world” mentality. Ball, frankly, gave a more mature answer than that.

Ball is right, nothing was going to come of this. It was meaningless posturing. Walking away was the mature move.

However, the question is how is this perceived in the Lakers’ locker room? Do the players care that Ball shrugged and walked away? Do they think he needed to race in and try to look tough like everyone else? That can impact his standing on the team — as a guy Magic Johnson brought in to be a leader — more than anything.

Also, with all his shooting woes, is this the first sign of some Lakers fans starting to turn on Lonzo? It’s a little early for that.