Tuesday night NBA grades: DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors go to guy

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wishing you had watched the Winter Olympics in a snow fort…

source:   DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. He is the guy the Raptors go to in the fourth and what’s different than the Rudy Gay era is how he gets his points — it’s not isolations. He’s coming off picks and getting the handoffs, or he’s working off what Kyle Lowry is doing, but the bottom line he is getting it out of sets. Tuesday night DeRozan delivered — he had 16 points in the fourth quarter (33 for the game) including an impressive driving reverse slam and the Raptors beat the Cavaliers because of his play. He may settle for too many jumpers but when they fall good luck stopping him.

source:   James Harden, Houston Rockets. Most players get pumped to play in Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center — James Harden was up for Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Harden dropped 22 points in the first quarter, pushing the Rockets out to an early 25-point lead over the Kings. From there it was basically over — Harden had 43 points and didn’t even play the fourth.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus, just between you and me, you’ve done a better job this season of letting the bad calls and injustices on the court — perceived and real — roll off your back. You really have, you’re becoming one of the game’s top big men. Call it maturity, call it needing to lead your team, call it whatever you want. But when you have setbacks like you did Tuesday night it hurts the team and you (they needed you to body up Dwight Howard to have any chance of a comeback). That’s 15 technicals now, one more this season and you get a forced vacation from the league. I know it’s not in your nature, but you can’t let the refs or opponents get under your skin like that. You can’t get in the referee’s face.

source:  Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks. His team lost but his 11 fourth quarter points — 10 of the team’s 13 at one point in the final frame — kept the in it at all. But then he made a couple mistakes that sabotaged the Hawks hopes — getting stripped when the Hawks were going for a tie. Or stepping out of bounds with less than 20 seconds left. Don’t let that completely overshadow a strong game — 26 points (on 10-20 shooting) and 7 assists — but he just couldn’t close and neither could the Hawks.

source:  Indiana Pacers in third quarter. Whatever it is Frank Vogel tells his team at halftime, he could make him a mint with it on the motivational speaking circuit. In the third quarters this season the Indiana Pacers have outscored their opponents by an NBA best 4.9 points on average — more than double what the second best team does (Portland at +2.2). Or to look at it another way the Pacers outscore their opponents by an average of 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter. Or, you can just ask the Lakers — Indiana outscored Los Angeles by 18 in the quarter, shooting 58 percent while holding the Lakers to 33 percent. It went from a close game to a rout where the Pacers starters got a lot of rest.

By the way, Evan Turner looked pretty good for the Pacers — 6-of-12 shooting and he was doing it within the offense.

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John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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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.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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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 starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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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.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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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.