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