Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns

Thursday night NBA grades: Gerald Green just couldn’t seem to miss


Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wondering how you could read a novel in 90 minutes, well, there’s an app for that…

source:  Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns. If all you think Gerald Green can do is dunk, you need to watch the tape from Thursday night. It may have been true a couple years back but against the Thunder Green scored a career high 41 points on 12-of-22 shooting overall, 8-of-13 from three. All night long the Thunder played poor perimeter defense as the Suns got looks, and to their credit they knocked down their jumpers — Phoenix shot 20-of-36 (55.6 percent) beyond 16 feet. Green was sticking with what the stats guys told him to do — 19 of his 22 shots (and all his makes) were either at the rim or threes, no midrange jumpers for him.

source:  Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. Like his team was all night, Duncan was an efficient assassin against the Heat — 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, plus he pulled down 11 boards. This game was classic Spurs, where following the Gregg Popovich mantra their ball movement led to the one extra pass and great not good shots. Duncan was consistent all game — Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, other guys made some plays at points during the game, but Duncan was just a consistent force. A rock in the middle. One the Heat could not contain.

source:  Los Angeles Lakers defense. That. Was. Ugly. The Clippers undoubtedly have a good offense but this looked like they were playing a high school defensive team — and not a good high school team like Mater Dei (in Orange County). I mean one of those high school teams where the tallest guy is 6’3”. The Clippers simply did whatever they wanted on their way to a true shooting percentage of 63 and an offensive rating of 123.8 (points per 100 possessions). Worst news for the Lakers? They now face the toughest back-to-back in the NBA having to fly to Denver to play the Nuggets Friday night at altitude.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.