Monday night NBA grades: Time to stop shoveling dirt on Anthony Bennett


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking this may be the best soccer goal celebration ever….

source:  Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers. You don’t know how a draft pick is going to pan out for three years. You just don’t. Some guys start fast but never really develop beyond that (Tyreke Evans, for example) and some guys start slow and find their game. Anthony Bennett is finding his game — 19 points and 10 boards as the Cavs beat the Kings. Bennett showed a real variety in his game — he knocked down threes, he attacked the rim and drew and and-one on DeMarcus Cousins. Bennett was injured all summer, was nowhere near in shape for the season, doesn’t bring his best energy every night, but he has skills. And he’s young, he has good shooting form and he could turn out to be a good pick for the Cavs.

source:  Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls. David Thorpe likes to say “energy is a skill” and Joakim Noah has it in bunches. That skill brought him a triple-double Tuesday — 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 dimes to lead the Bulls past the Hawks. He may be the ultimate Tom Thibodeau player with his defense, his grinding style and an ugly shot that just works.

source:  Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte was really moving the ball well against the usually stout Memphis defense — 42 assists on the 45 made baskets — and the big beneficiary of that Tuesday was Al Jefferson. He finished with 30 points on 14-of-23 shooting, he was getting the ball where he likes it — on the block, preferably left, about 8-10 feet out with his back to the basket — and was getting in close and finishing. He has played very well this year.

source:  LeBron James, Miami Heat. He apparently enjoyed his vacation in Utah — did you see him that game? — because he came back refreshed and with a new energy on Tuesday night. He played like a guy who might someday belong on NBA’s Mount Rushmore. LeBron finished with 37 points on 22 shots, plus he pulled down 9 boards. With Dwyane Wade out (migraine) more is expected of LeBron, and he delivered.

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City. His hot streak continues — 36 points on 15-of-28 shooting. It’s almost just expected. Durant gets his grade dinged a little for the 8 turnovers he had, but the man got buckets. He was just 5-of-9 inside eight feet but hit 7-of-13 from the midrange.

source:  Michael Jordan. Congratulations, new father. His wife gave birth to twin girls Sunday. Savor every moment, your daughters will grow up fast and you want to be present (in the Zen sense of the word Phil Jackson used to tell you about in meditations before games) for every minute of it. Also, I hope you can get by on less sleep.

Dwight Howard posts just second 30-30 game in last 36 years

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Dwight Howard never played for the Nets. He almost got traded to Brooklyn by the Magic, but the deal never happened.

Which puts a dent in Dennis Schroder‘s theory Howard gets up for games against only his former teams.

Howard dominated Brooklyn for 32 points and 30 rebounds in the Hornets’ 111-105 win tonight. That’s just the second 30-30 game in the last 36 years, Kevin Love notching the other in 2010.

All 30-30 games since Wilt Chamberlain, who had a ton:

  • Dwight Howard (Charlotte Hornets, 3/21/2018): 32 points, 30 rebounds
  • Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves, 11/12/2010): 31 points, 31 rebounds
  • Moses Malone (Houston Rockets, 2/11/1982): 38 points, 32 rebounds
  • Swen Nater (Milwaukee Bucks, 12/19/1976): 30 points, 33 rebounds
  • Elvin Hayes (Capital Bullets, 11/17/1973): 43 points, 32 rebounds

Howard helped Charlotte erase a 23-point second-half deficit and a 10-point deficit with four minutes left. The Hornets are playing out a lost season, and Brooklyn has looked overmatched most of the year, particularly at center. But no matter the situation, Howard says he still feels super-sized expectations.

Tonight, he exceeded them by leaps and bounds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo leaves Bucks’ loss to Clippers with ankle injury (video)

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The Bucks lost, 127-120, to the Clippers tonight.

More importantly, Milwaukee lost Antetokounmpo to an ankle injury.

He limped off in the second quarter and didn’t return. The Bucks called it a sprain.

Any more time Antetokounmpo misses would be a huge loss. Hopefully, he recovers quickly.

No matter how many other good players – Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe – Milwaukee has put on the floor, the team has struggled without its star. Antetokounmpo is a commanding force offensively who just does so much, and his defense impresses.

The Bucks (37-34) are eighth in the East. They’re safely in playoff position, five games ahead of the ninth-place Pistons. But this hurts Milwaukee’s chances of avoiding a first-round matchup with the excellent Raptors – though the way Toronto has regressed in the playoffs in previous years, that might not be so bad. Still, the Bucks should probably chase the seventh-place Heat, who are up 1.5 games on Milwaukee, and a likely first-round matchup with the injury-ravaged Celtics.

Obviously, a healthy Antetokounmpo would be central to that pursuit.

Cavaliers beat Raptors, become first team in 27 years to surrender 79 first-half points and win


The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.

But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.

Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.

LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.

And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.

It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.

Report: Becky Hammon staying with Spurs, not coaching Colorado State men’s team

AP Photo/Darren Abate

Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.

Alas, it won’t happen.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.

She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.

This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.