Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while getting your dinner out of the burrito vending machine….
Brooklyn Nets. For the first third of the season the Nets were listless, seeming adrift, and continually beset by injuries. Well, the injuries are still there but these Nets are playing with a real fire and winning — four in a row now, capped off by beating Golden State and snapping their 9-game win streak. Joe Johnson has been key to this resurgence and he had 27 against the Warriors, 10 in he fourth quarter. We’ll see how long it lasts but this is more what we expected out of the Nets this season.
James Harden, Houston Rockets. The Beard makes the list not just for the 38 points he dropped on the Lakers, and not just for his 17 points in the third quarter when the Rockets blew this game wide open. He’s also here because he’s the first Rocket player to score 37 or more points in three straight games since Hakeem Olajuwon back in 94-95 (one of the Rockets’ title seasons).
Indiana Pacers’ offense. They shot just 40 percent and put up 87 points against a fairly average Hawks defense, with an offensive rating of 89.7 points per 100 possessions. The problem is this hasn’t been a one-game thing — Indiana has an offensive rating of 92.7 points per 100 possessions in its last five games, which ranks 27th in the NBA in that span. As good as their defense is — and it’s very good — the offense needs to find a better groove in the second half of the season.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. In the first half (more than that, really) the Magic single-covered Aldridge to stay home on the Blazers’ shooters, and the result was a 14-point first quarter for Aldridge and 21 points by the break. Still, when Orlando switched strategies — double Aldridge, make outside shooters make their threes. That failed miserably. The Blazers took the lead and Aldridge came in late to seal it. He finished with 36 points.
John Wall is one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. J.R. Smith found that out the hard way on Tuesday night when Wall sent him flying with a behind-the-back dribble before making an easy layup.
The Wizards beat the Cavs, who are now 13-5 on the season.
Kobe Bryant‘s pregame tribute video stole the show in Philadelphia, but Tuesday night was Moses Malone tribute night. The former league MVP and Hall of Famer passed away in September, and his legacy was honored by the Sixers during a halftime ceremony. During the festivities, Malone’s son announced that his No. 2 will be retired by the organization next season.
There’s no question that Malone, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, deserves to have his number retired. The only relevant question is: why didn’t this happen years ago? The ceremony next season should be good, but it would have been better if they had done it when Malone was alive to participate in it. No Sixers player has worn No. 2 since Malone anyway, but it’s been over 20 years since he last wore a Sixers jersey. Why couldn’t they have found some time in those two decades to have a ceremony and hang a banner?
Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:
Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game — but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.
In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.
Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.
That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.