Sunday NBA grades: LaMarcus Aldridge looks good, as to Blazers

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while telling your wife to be you want to spend $3,000 to live tweet your wedding

source:  LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. Aldridge returns to the lineup and the struggling Blazers rattle off three straight wins. It’s not a coincidence. Aldridge finished with 28 points (10-of-20 shooting) against the stout front line of Memphis, and he was the fulcrum of the Blazers offense that put up 105 points on the night. He also had a good defensive night. This was a big win for Portland, giving them a game on Golden State (which unexpectedly lost to the Knicks).

source:   D.J. Augustin, Chicago Bulls. With the game on the line Augustin came alive — 15 of his 33 points came in the fourth quarter (he scored more than half of the Bulls 29 in the fourth quarter) as the Bulls held on to beat the Celtics. Augustin’s quickness was on display on the shot that proved to be the game winner with the game tied 96-96. Augustin got the ball out top Joakim Noah came out to set a pick and Augustin took a step toward Noah then used a crossover to go the other way that shook Rajon Rondo just enough for Augustin to have space and he rose up and drained the three.

source:   New York Knicks playoff hopes. The Atlanta Hawks keep presenting the Knicks with chances to catch them (Atlanta lost its sixth straight Sunday) in the stumbling, bumbling Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Knicks finally took advantage of it with a big road win over the Warriors Sunday — the Knicks are now just 1 game back of the Hawks (the Cavaliers are 1.5 back of the Knicks). The Warriors were sloppy Sunday — remove Curry from the mix and the Warriors shot 31 percent and were turnover prone — but the Knicks played good enough defense when they needed to and they got good nights from J.R. Smith (21 points) and Amar’e Stoudemire (15 points, 13 boards, some solid defense) to get the win. The Knicks schedule the rest of the way is tougher than Atanta’s, but so long as the Hawks keep losing the Knicks can have hope.

source:   Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. His season has been this good: He scored 31 against the Jazz and I almost didn’t include him here because that seems almost pedestrian for him. But the fact he put up those numbers on 9-of-13 shooting shows you just how efficient he has been this season. This is his 38th consecutive game with at least 25 points. That’s ridiculous. That’s your MVP.

source:  The Lakers are screwing with other team’s playoff chances, their own lottery odds be damned. While some people forget Kaman has some skills inside and the undersized Suns front line had no chance of stopping him, which is how he ended up with 28 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists. Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks played well for LA but the Lakers’ win was mostly the Suns imploding and shooting 38.5 percent overall and 8-of-36 from three (22.2 percent).

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.