Sunday NBA grades: Nene, Aldridge lead day where big men shine

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while reading about teenage sneakerheads….

source:  Nene, Washington Wizards. Chicago’s vaunted big men — Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson — were simply outplayed by the Wizards front line Sunday. Nene was at the heart of that. The Brazilian center finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and while he had officially three assists his passing was brilliant and brought movement and a confidence to the Wizards’ offense. Nene was 4-of-4 inside 8 feet plus hit some jumpers to end up 11-of-17 shooting. He wasn’t alone — Marcin Gortat was fantastic with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Washington’s young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal looked young — combined 7-of-25 shooting — but the big men saved the day for Washington and has them up 1-0.

source:  LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. When you talk about the best power forwards in the game, don’t leave him off the list. Aldridge set a Portland record scoring 46 points in the Blazers’ dramatic win over Houston (the old record had been Bonzi Wells at 45). He also had 18 rebounds. He did a lot of his damage late, with 19 points in the fourth quarter and three more in overtime before he fouled out. He also did most of his damage inside, shooting 12-of-16 from inside 8 feet. To be fair, he also knocked down a couple threes from the left corner. He did anything and everything the Trail Blazers needed and they are not up 1-0 without him.

source:  Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. He was attacking and that led to 31 points on 19 shots. What was best about that was he did it in the fourth quarter and overtime — he had 11 in the fourth quarter and another 5 in overtime, including the game winning free throws. By the way, the last teammates did what Aldridge and Lillard did — one guy scores at leaf 45 the other 30 — was Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. That’s some good company.

source:  LeBron James, Miami Heat. It wasn’t his best day but he had 27 points (on 16 shots) plus 9 rebounds as he helped make sure the Heat were not part of the parade of home losers on Sunday. It was just another day at the office for LeBron, which is still a pretty spectacular thing to watch.

source:  Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio closed Sunday’s game on a 19-2 run to come from behind and pick up the win — Duncan had 9 of his 27 in that fourth quarter during that run. It was vintage Duncan all night, when the Spurs needed a play Duncan made it. Also, good news that he is apparently fine after banging knees with Monta Ellis.

 

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.