Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while getting sucked into a replay of Shawshank Redemption…
Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks. Apparently pregame Marion hopped in the Hot Tub Time Machine and the 2003 version of himself showed up for this one — 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting, plus he pulled down six boards. Marion had 21 of those points in the first half including a buzzer beater to have Dallas up 19 at the break. But the theme of the night was Dallas giving away leads and they did that one, so Dallas needed someone to make plays in the fourth quarter. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki combined to go 3-of-14 in the fourth, but Marion hit two key threes to give Dallas the lead back. Oh, and to top it all off it looks like he got away with a foul on Kevin Love on an attempted game tying shot.
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans. The final shot, the game winner, was all Tyreke Evans (props to Monty Williams for not calling the timeout, if you have guys who can create don’t let the defense set). But Pelicans were in a situation for that shot to matter due to Holiday — 31 points in the game, 15 of them in the fourth quarter plus he had a key assist for an Anthony Davis dunk. Plus he had 13 assists. Not the most efficient night ever (14-of-28) but he was creating and making plays.
Phoenix Suns’ defense. At the start of the season the season the Suns were winning game in large part because of a strong defense (5th best in the NBA through the first 10 games). Then it went to… well, I can’t use that word here. Let’s just say the defense fell apart for a stretch and the Suns won because their offense was clicking. But the last five games heading into Monday night the Suns had a top-10 defense again (allowing 97.8 points per 100 possessions). Against a good Clipper offense the Suns allowed them to shoot just 36.5 percent and have an offensive rating of 85.9 points per 100 possessions. They played well and look legit. Count me among the many eating crow about how well the Suns would do this season.
Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are just falling apart. They have lost five of six and each of those by double digits — and Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards may be the ugliest of the group. The Pistons led by 9 entering the fourth quarter and then proceeded to get outscored by the Wizards 28-12. The Pistons shot 20 percent in the fourth. Even in the East this slump has Detroit close to falling out of the playoffs at 14-19 (tied for the 8 seed) and it looks like they could keep dropping.
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.