We know you were busy Sunday night trying out the new Cinnabon vodka (why does that exist?) so we kept our eye on the NBA for you and are bringing you some grades.
Brooklyn Nets in the third quarter. Brooklyn was up 7 over Detroit… then the third quarter happened. Again. Sunday the Nets shot 26.3 percent in the third on their way to 15 points, the Pistons shot 66.7, and by the end of the quarter the game felt over. Problem is, this is a Brooklyn trend. On the season, in the first half the Nets shoot 44.8 percent and play their opponents basically to a standstill (-0.4 points in the half). Then in the third they shoot 40.7 percent, their defense gets worse and they normally get outscored by an average of 5.2 in the quarter. In the second half they shoot 41.7 percent on the season and get outscored by 7.1 on average. Nets players say all the right things about fixing this, but their actions are nowhere near the rhetoric.
Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns. The 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting is good. The 13 assists were nice (Gerald Green certainly appreciated them). There were the late buckets when the Magic made a run — a driving lay-up on possession, then recognizing Nikola Vucevic had switched on to him he hit a step back three putting the Suns up three, that was the dagger. But the real key? No turnovers. If your point guard takes care of the rock took things happen.
Rodney Stuckey, Detroit Pistons. They are still trying to figure out the offense in Detroit, but Stuckey has thrived of late in his sixth man role — 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting on Sunday, he gets to the line and he dished out six assists as well. He had 17 of those points in the fourth quarter, after the Pistons built up a lead and he made sure there was no Brooklyn comeback.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic. He’s not getting this grade for this performance (6 points on 3-of-8 shooting in 16 minutes), he was rusty. Which is to be expected with a guy getting his first game action this season due to an ankle issue. It was just good to see him back on the court — we could use some good young players coming back off injuries, not going down with more.
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.