<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Kevin Love, Zach Randolph

Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: Kevin Love seems to be fitting in just fine suddenly

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while getting Waffle House food delivered to your door

1) Kevin Love looks like he fits just fine; Cleveland routs another team from the West. Tell me again how Kevin Love isn’t going to fit in with the Cavaliers. He fit like a perfect puzzle piece on Wednesday night — 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, plus grabbing 10 rebounds. Oh, and he did a quality job defensively on Marc Gasol, which was key to Cleveland picking up maybe their most impressive win of the season, easily handling the Memphis Grizzlies 111-89. You don’t want to read too much into one regular season game, but the Cavaliers looked like contenders and Love looked like a guy finding his spots in the offense. Love’s versatility was on full display as he scored inside, hit threes from the left side of the court and caused trouble wherever he was on the court.

2) George Hill hits game winner against questionable Wizards defense. Indiana was down 10 points midway through the fourth quarter against the Wizards and came back to force overtime. In OT, the Pacers had the ball and the chance to win, they isolated George Hill and…

Wow, that was easy. Too easy. Remember the Warriors Mo Speights said they knew the Wizards would quit if they got punched in the mouth, this seems video evidence of that. It was a complete breakdown defensively — after the game coach Randy Whittman said the Wizards were supposed to trap the ball right when Hill first caught it. They didn’t. Nene got burned off that pseudo pick. But Whittman didn’t have Marcin Gortat in the game for that final play to protect the rim. Why? It’s all just very Wizards.

3) DeAndre Jordan was dunking all over the Knicks. The Clippers big man didn’t get to compete in the Dunk Contest when the All-Star Game came to New York this February. So Wednesday night he decided to put on a dunking exhibition all of the Knicks to show fans what they missed. (Yes, I know the Dunk Contest took place at the Barclays Center, work with me here.)

4) Dwight Howard is back, that didn’t slow James Harden one bit. Dwight Howard was back on the court for the Rockets Wednesday, something they will need come the playoffs. But he was being eased back in, playing four-minute spurts at the start of each quarter, finishing with four points and grabbing seven boards. He was not changing the game. That was left to James Harden, who had another impressive game of 25 points and 10 boards as the Rockets hung on for a 95-93 win over the Pelicans. (New Orleans closed the game on a 12-3 and made it interesting, Anthony Davis finished with 24 and 14). Houston just keeps on winning.

5) Lionel Messi, rest of Argentinian national soccer team, show up to support Luis Scola. The most famous athlete in the world — sorry LeBron, that’s Lionel Messi — was in attendance in Washington to watch the Pacers take on the Wizards. Why? Luis Scola, why else? Either way he got to see an entertaining finish.

Kevin Hart’s Saturday Night Live audition included an Avery Johnson impression (VIDEO)

New Orleans Hornets v Dallas Mavericks, Game 4
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This is brilliant. Admittedly, the audience for it may be a bit small, still it is fantastic.

Comedy superstar — and four-time NBA All-Star weekend celebrity game MVP — Kevin Hart once auditioned to be part of the Saturday Night Live cast. He missed out. Which in hindsight seems a huge miss, but Hart said he understood why he missed out.

Because he did an imitation of Avery Johnson during the audition. The little general. Former NBA player and Spurs coach. While Avery Johnson’s voice is actually pretty funny, you are aiming at a pretty narrow demographic. And Lorne Michaels isn’t in it.

Still, pretty good impression.

Hat tip to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie.

It’s official: Dwight Howard will return to Rockets’ lineup Wednesday

Dwight Howard
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We knew it was coming; now it is official.

Howard has played just 32 games for the Rockets this season; it has taken all of James Harden’s will — and ability to draw fouls — to keep the team in the top three. Howard’s return should help the Rockets up front, especially with Terrence Jones out with a partially collapsed lung. Howard’s rim protection is needed as the Rockets head to the playoffs.

This stat may be the real key: Houston is 9.8 points per 48 minutes better when Harden and Howard are on the court together. That is what they need come the postseason.

Howard and Harden had a long talk in Denver — with Jason Terry in attendance — where Howard told Harden not to let up when he returns. Keep attacking. It’s on Howard to adjust to what is working, not Harden to change that. If Howard is true to his word, the Rockets just became a much tougher out

Dwyane Wade on MVP race: “I would say James Harden”

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat
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This is the most fun the MVP race has been in years. You can make a legitimate case for five guys at least — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. And that leaves off guys who should get mentions and votes like Chris Paul.

Everyone has an opinion. Mine keeps changing every 48 hours it seems as I study it more.

Former NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade has an opinion — he likes the guy who goes to the rim knowing how to draw contact and put pressure on the opposing defense. From friend of this blog Shandel Richardson of the Sun-Sentinel.

“Right now, I would say James Harden,” Wade said before Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. “It’s tough. Any one of those top guys could be MVP. I would say James Harden from everything he’s done for the full season, the entire season. With the injury to Dwight Howard and carrying that team in the tough Western Conference and being right up there. That’s pretty impressive and he’s done it all season long.”

Watching Harden draw fouls can be reminiscent of Wade circa 2006. No wonder he likes him.

For the record, Kevin Love would vote Westbrook, while Andrew Bogut would vote Curry. Well, if they had a vote (they don’t).

Harden’s case rests on the fact that he has played more minutes and scored far more points (257) than anyone else in the NBA — the Rockets are the three seed in the West because he has carried them all season long. Houston is lost without him stepping his game up to a new level. (And if you are going to argue “he doesn’t play defense” I suggest you watch some Rockets games — he’s improved on that end. He’s not a stopper, but he’s improved.)

But again, you can make a very good case for other guys, too. Stephen Curry is more than the best player on the best team; the Warriors are 18 points per 100 possessions worse when he is off the court (a higher number than Westbrook or Harden). Westbrook has been a triple-double collecting force of nature who will carry the Thunder into the playoffs on the strength of his play. LeBron remains the best player on the planet and has played like it at both ends since he came back from those couple weeks off. Davis has been the best player in the NBA over the course of the season and done it efficiently — his PER of 31.4 so far this season would rank in the top 10 all time, putting him in Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain territory.

Wade and other players don’t have a vote on MVP (much to the dismay of Kevin Durant) but they wouldn’t have an easier time than the media this year. There is no clear-cut leader.

J.R. Smith ate chicken with some Cavs’ fans

USA Basketball Men's Team Send-Off Powered By Ciroc
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In the world of odd NBA promotions, this is going to slide into the Top 10.

The Cavaliers worked with a local chicken-themed restaurant on a promotion — people threw rubber chickens at a bulls-eye at midcourt, and if you hit it you got to eat chicken wings with J.R. Smith. (Cleveland is a very different nightlife than Manhattan, J.R.)

One guy nailed it. Here’s his story.