Tuesday Night NBA Grades: We fail the entire Atlantic Division

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Our grades for what happened around the NBA Sunday, or what you missed while you were turning in your neighbor who stole monkeys and grew marijuana

source:   The entire Atlantic Division. With the losses Tuesday of the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics, Atlantic Division teams have now lost 14 games in a row. As a division the Atlantic is 19-36, a winning percentage of 34.5 percent. The Philadelphia 76ers are on top of it at 5-7. It’s not going to stay this way all season… please, don’t let it stay this way all season. The idea of a sub .500 team as the No. 4 seed in the East because makes me queasy. This losing streak will end Wednesday — the Raptors and Sixers play each other and by NBA rules one of the teams has to win. (Hat tip to Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers for pointing this out.)

source:   New York Knicks offense. We warned you earlier in the day that for all the issues with their soft-as-a-Twinkie defense, New York’s offense could be a bigger issue. The team proved that point Tuesday night. The Knicks went up against a Pistons team with the worst defense in the NBA so far this season (allowing teams to shoot 49 percent) and could only manage 86 points on 43.4 percent shooting. For those of you scoring at home, that works out to less than a point per possession (the Pistons have allowed 107 points per 100 possessions this season, the Knicks scored 98.9). Yes, Raymond Felton was out, but it was more than that and wasn’t pretty: Carmelo Anthony had 25 points on 20 shots, J.R. Smith 18 points on 15 shots. Wednesday night the Knicks get the Pacers — the team with the best defense in the league. Cover your children’s eyes, they don’t need to see that.

source:   Chris Bosh, Miami Heat. This is what Miami needs out of Bosh. He had been in a funk for a few games, had only taken four shots in the Heat’s last game, but with Dwyane Wade out he stepped up. Bosh finished with 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He had a corner three but his other buckets all came within 15 feet as he stretched less and just went after the Hawks. He played solid defense and pulled down five boards as well.

source:   Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets. Great line from him — 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting, plus nine rebounds and a couple of blocks. Jones was aggressive and attacking the Celtics inside, all but one of his makes came inside five feet of the rim (the other was a three). Jones is making a good case that with Dwight Howard in the center spot he is the best choice on the roster to play power forward because of his athleticism and you have to respect him from the outside. The Rockets have looked much better with him starting.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. Good stat line — 27 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, 2 blocks — and he did it playing through a shoulder injury. Cousins tweaked his shoulder in the second quarter and wore a brace the rest of the game. He also had three points, a block and a steal in the Kings’ 10-0 run at the end of the game to get the win. He also had a turnover and an offensive foul in that stretch, it wasn’t always pretty, but (as tends to be the case with with him) there was more good than bad, and in this case he carried the Kings to that win. Bad shoulder and all.

Sixers upgraded to “probable,” will decide after warm ups

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.

PBT Podcast: NBA first round playoff series breakdowns

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LeBron James‘ Cavaliers looks to be in a battle royal in the first round — and they could lose to Victor Oladipo‘s Pacers.

Miami’s defense and versatility is challenging the Sixers and shaking the faith of all those that just jumped on the bandwagon.

Utah stole a game in Oklahoma City showing great grit and resolve, not to mention a lot of Donovan Mitchell.

Anthony Davis has done everything but walk on water for the Pelicans.

The first round of the NBA playoffs has been filled with fascinating storylines — and we are just two games into each series. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all eight first-round series in this podcast, starting in the East and the tight races there, then move into the West. There’s even some “who wants to pay Jabari Parker this summer?” talk thrown in.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

James Dolan says Knicks must build around ‘great’ Kristaps Porzingis, offers fair rebuke of meddling charges

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Phil Jackson received a standing ovation in his first game at Madison Square Garden as Knicks president. Don’t forget how excited New York was for Jackson, who coached the Bulls and Lakers to 11 championships and played for the Knicks’ last title team. He was welcomed as a potential savior.

The common refrain: Jackson would have a chance to succeed if Knicks owner James Dolan didn’t meddle.

Immediately, Dolan said he would cede control to Jackson “willingly and gratefully.” Dolan later pledged to honor Jackson’s full five-year contract.

But fans turned on Jackson as he did an awful job and the Knicks struggled. Dolan opted into the final two years of Jackson’s contract, anyway, as he said he would all along. Fans got angrier. When Jackson publicly flaunted Kristaps Porzingis trade talks, outrage reached a fever pitch. Finally, Dolan stepped in to fire Jackson.

Dolan, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“A great player in hockey is the difference, but a great player in basketball is the team.

“And I think we have a great player in Porzingis. We just have to build around him.”

“Everybody who wants to talk about the Knicks wants to ask me about Phil Jackson,” Dolan said, smiling and shaking his head. “The entire market wanted to me to hire him and when I did, the entire market said it was a great move. The only thing was, everyone said that I shouldn’t interfere with him.

“Three years later, everyone wanted to know when I was going to do something about Phil. The same people who told me not to interfere wanted me to interfere. But that’s OK. I just think that Phil underestimated the job.”

Dolan makes a salient point about how people perceive his involvement. The problem isn’t that Dolan meddles. It’s that he makes poor decisions.

Hiring Jackson – an out-of-touch former coach with no front-office experience – was a poor decision. I’m not enthused about Steve Mills as Jackson’s replacement, either, though we’ll see how that plays out.

Building around Porzingis is a better decision. He’s an extremely talented 22-year-old.

But it’s hardly a foolproof plan. Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL. Dolan said Porzingis could return in December – or miss next season entirely.

Either way, the Knicks must surround Porzingis with better teammates. Dolan will and should be a part of that process. Whether he’ll positively affect it is another matter.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.