Here are our nightly grades from the night’s action around the Association, or what you missed while reading why Los Angeles is the best food town in America (it is)…..
Memphis Grizzlies. California isn’t the “Bear Republic” anymore; it’s the “Grizzlies Republic.” With their 88-81 overtime win Wednesday at Golden State, Memphis became the first team since 1985 to sweep all four California teams on one road trip — the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Warriors. They did it at both ends with their defense becoming more lock down and their offense finding a new level of efficiency. After a slow start they have found a groove under new coach Dave Joerger.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers. He wasn’t efficient for much of the night but he was when it mattered — George hit 7 of 11 field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime and finished with a game-high 35 points. He added to his superstar resume by out-playing Carmelo Anthony at both ends of the court.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats. Walker has struggled with his shot to start the season — 32.9 percent overall, 26 percent from three — but he found his groove against the Nets slow, old defense. Walker had 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting and hit 4-of-7 from three. More importantly he was at the center of the Bobcats third quarter run when they pulled away to take charge of the game — Walker hit three threes in the quarter and had 13 points. Hopefully he builds on this and the slump is a thing of the past.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz. There is a lot on his shoulders with this roster, maybe too much. He’s a very good young player, just not the No. 1 option he is forced to be, which is why we end up with nights like this — he was 1-of-17 shooting. He had a worse shooting night than the Jazz’s record (1-12 now), which is tough to do. He did dish out 10 assists, so we will cut him a little slack. He has a lot of fans in NBA front offices, but Wednesday was just not his night.
Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks. When Ellis is efficient (and he has been more efficient this season than at any time in his career) he is nearly impossible to stop. He was very efficient Wednesday against the always-soft Rockets perimeter defense — 37 points on 13-of-18 shooting, getting to the free throw line 12 times, and scoring 8 of those points in the fourth quarter when Dallas came from 14 down to win. His biggest play may have been an assist — with 50 seconds left in the game Ellis drove baseline, drew a couple defenders then made a jump pass to Shawn Marion for a corner 3 giving Dallas its first lead since the game’s opening minutes.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.