Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs. The Pelicans are without Jason Smith for the rest of the season and that means New Orleans usually had Greg Stiemsma or Alexi Ajinca on the court — San Antonio got those guys involved as defenders in the pick-and-roll all night long and Tony Parker carved them up like Prime Rib. He finished with 32 points and 9 assists, leading the Spurs to a needed win.
Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons. Tonight’s Josh Smith shot chart (courtesy @CoupNBA) sums up Smith’s night, season and career fairly well. There was too much Smith on the perimeter, not enough Andre Drummond inside.
Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks. It’s been a while since a Buck made the night grades (at least with a passing grade next to their name), but Knight earned it. He finished with 25 points (on 10-of-23 shooting) plus seven assists. He also sank the game-winning three, getting the shot he wanted (even though he’s shooting 31 percent from that spot on the floor this season) and knocking it down over Raymond Felton. It was a big game for Knight.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. He tried to get a sluggish Knicks team a win — he scored 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter to spark the Knicks comeback to tie the game. Then Brandon Knight drilled a game winner that was a punch to the Knicks gut (or a kick to a spot a little lower than that, if you prefer). Anthony had those 36 points on 25 shots, plus he had 5 boards.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets. He hustled his way to 28 points and 11 boards on the night, plus did a pretty good job defending Blake Griffin (nobody is really stopping Griffin now, he is on a role). When I say Faried hustled his way to the points I mean he does what he always does — crashes the offensive glass like a beast and makes nice baseline cuts. This may have been the best game I remember Faried playing.
Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball
Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.
The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.
Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.
The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.
We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.
The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.
The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.
Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.