Monday night NBA grades: All-Stars shine and a new-look Pelican


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while trying to buy jeans for an Olympic skier

source:  DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. He certainly looked like an All-Star before hopping on a plane to New Orleans — 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, five rebounds, three assists. Granted, he was being covered by Kyle Korver for chunks of the game, but the NBA is about exploiting mismatches and DeRozan did that. With a vengeance.

source:  New look Pierre the Pelican. I get that he’s brown now — he’s a brown pelican and all — but he has fur. Do pelicans have fur? He looks like Abe Vigoda to me. The new Pierre friendlier than the nightmare fuel guy before, but I don’t know. You decide for yourself.


source:  Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. This wasn’t a showdown with LaMarcus Aldridge to see who was the best power forward in the game, but if it was this round went to Griffin. He was attacking and aggressive, shooting 9-of-13 at the rim and drawing fouls all night. He finished with 36 points on 21 shots, plus he was able to hold Aldridge in relative check after the Blazers’ hot start. With that, the Clippers got a nice win.

source:  Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings. Jimmermania came to New York City. He had 15 in the second quarter and 9 in the fourth to help the Kings to a nice win over the struggling Knicks. Of course, the Knicks helped by going under every screen and sagging off Jimmer, even when it was clear he was feeling it. Fredette has shown flashes in recent years but he is not consistent even quarter to quarter, but he was Wednesday night. He knocked down six three pointers. It was his best game of the season, hopefully for his sake he can keep it up after the break.

source:  Indiana Pacers’ offense. With their defense the Pacers offense doesn’t have to be great, but it can’t be manure either. Lately it has been — in their last 10 games they have averaged 99 points per 100 possessions, 26th in the league. We saw it against the Mavericks when the Pacers shot 32.1 percent, hit 7-of-24 from three and scored 73 against Dallas. They still had a chance at the end (until a silly Lance Stephenson foul 90 feet from the basket) because of that defense, but their offense has already gone on vacation for the All-Star break. They need to get it back when games resume.



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

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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.