Thursday night NBA grades: Any more questions for LaMarcus Aldridge? Didn’t think so.

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Our quick look around the association on a busy Thursday night, or what you missed while worrying about what could happen to Santa’s home due to global warming

source:  LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. I’ve been saying he is the best power forward in the game all season (yes, better than Kevin Love) and he showed it — 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting, plus 25 rebounds in the win over Houston. The list of guys who have done that in the last 30 years has only a handful of names like Barkley and Olajuwon. Actually, Aldridge shot 1-of-8 to start the game but was 11-14 the rest of the way, and  had 9 points and 7 boards in the fourth quarter when the Blazers took a tie game and pulled away for the win. Amazingly Aldridge did most of that damage from the outside — he was 3-of-8 inside 8 feet but 9-of-14 from the midrange. The Blazers may be a jump shooting team but when they hit the watch out — just like Aldridge.

source:   Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets. He had 32 points and 17 rebounds, which most nights make you the player of the game. He had 12 of those points in the fourth quarter and the Rockets tried to mount a few comebacks (Howard, as well as James Harden, were on the bench for the Blazers 10-0 run to start the quarter that really decided the game), and they got within a bucket but couldn’t get over the hump. Howard was also 4-of-6 from the free throw line and had three blocks.

source:   Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets. For the past couple seasons Williams has hobbled around while Chris Paul has carried the “best point guard in the game” mantle. These two used to have a rivalry and on Thursday night D-Will rekindled it. Williams owned the end of the second quarter when the Nets took control of the game, putting up 12 points in less than 6 minutes. His overall numbers may not impress — 15 points and 4 assists — but he put Paul on skates a couple times and rested the fourth quarter of an easy win. He looked like the D-Will Brooklyn needs.

source:   Jared Dudley, Los Angeles Clippers. Before the season I was very high on the Clippers signing of Jared Dudley — he had a better career three point percentage than J.J. Redick, smart team defender, good glue player who can do everything. But not lately. Dudley was 1-of-7 in this game and is now shooting 34 percent overall and 22.2 percent from three in the Clippers last nine games. Not good enough, especially with them counting on him to step up from three with Redick out. Dudley knows he isn’t playing well. That said, expect him to turn it around, the guy can shoot.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

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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.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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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 starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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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.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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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.