Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while finishing up your Christmas shopping…
Philadelphia 76ers. They have a winning streak — two in a row. Tuesday night was the Sixers’ best win of the season, they were down 23 to the Heat and fought back for the victory. The key was their defense, which has quietly improved all season and has climbed all the way up to 11th in the NBA in points allowed per possession. That defense shut down the Miami Heat in the second half, holding them to 21 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and just 30 points in the entire second half. That was enough to give even the anemic Sixers’ offense an advantage and they won the game 91-87 behind 20 from Michael Carter-Williams. The Sixers aren’t good, but they aren’t as bad as their reputation anymore.
Damian Lillard. He’s a beast. And clutch. The point guard scored 18 points of his 40 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, plus had four assists in that window. Kevin Durant was out for a third game with a sprained ankle, but this was still a big win for Portland, and it was all about Lillard, who forced overtime with the shot of the night.
Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe? Kobe Bryant? We don’t need no stinkin’ Kobe Bryant. In his last five games Kobe had shot just 29.2 percent and said after the last few games he was exhausted, so Byron Scott finally got the hint and sat him for a night to rest. But here’s the dirty secret about the Lakers — they have been 22.3 points better per 100 possessions when Kobe sits this season. His ball dominance makes them easier to defend (and he doesn’t defend that well any more), other guys play tight around him. I’m not saying the Lakers would be better without Kobe, but it’s more that they don’t play a good system with him around.
He wasn’t around Tuesday and the Lakers upset the Warriors 113-105 but it wasn’t really that close — the Warriors went on a 19-3 run to close out the game and make the score look more respectable than hit should have.. No team the Warriors had faced in its last 27 games had shot more than 50 percent against them — until Los Angles dropped 51.7 percent on Tuesday.
Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic. It was the guard for Dallas — Rajon Rondo — who garnered all of the attention, but the Suns guards owned this game and got their team the win, 124-115. Dragic led the Suns with 25 points as he got into the paint and knocked down his left-side jumpers on 10-of-17 shooting. Bledsoe wasn’t quite as efficient but he had a triple double of 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds — and he really wanted that triple double and wasn’t going to let anyone stand in his way. Including Dragic.
Him smoking a cigarette while draining that half-courter is the only thing that would have made it more Vlade Divac.
Yes, that is former NBA All-Star and flopping Hall of Famer Divac knocking down a half court shot between the third and fourth quarters of the Lakers upset of the Warriors Tuesday night at Staples Center. The man the Lakers traded for one Kobe Bryant was in town and got a chance at the team’s usual promotional event where someone can win an increasing jackpot by hitting a half courter. Thing is, Vlade used to practice that shot. Seriously. So he had an advantage.
He said after the game he is donating the money to charity.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are already thin up front — Anderson Varejao’s numbers have not been great this season, but he’s the best center they have. By a mile.
And they could be without him for a while.
Varejao left the Cavaliers eventual win over the Timberwolves Tuesday in the third quarter when he came down awkwardly on his left leg and went to the ground with what the team tried to say later was a sprain. He had to be carried to the locker room, he couldn’t put any weight on his leg. Varejao did not return to the game and will have an MRI on Wednesday.
But the Cavaliers are worried this is something more serious, reports Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein at ESPN.
Initial tests weren’t able to determine the severity of the injury and Varejao was forced to leave the arena on crutches, with league sources telling ESPN.com that the Cavs fear one potential outcome is a torn Achilles.
Hopefully it’s not that, but it sounds like either way this could be something more serious that could have him out for a while. That would mean the Cavaliers would need to start Brendan Haywood or move Tristan Thompson to the five spot. Which is another way of saying Cavaliers coach David Blatt doesn’t have any real good options. Varejao is averaging 10 points a game on 55 percent shooting, plus pulls down six rebounds a game. He’s often the big setting the pick for LeBron James out high. His +/- numbers aren’t good, but they are drastically better than the other centers on the roster.
Cleveland has been active on the trade market trying to upgrade at center for this season, the loss of Varejao for any legnth of time would force them to push harder, reports ESPN.
The team has been seeking additional help for their front line going back to the summer, having specifically targeted Timofey Mozgov of the Denver Nuggets and Kosta Koufos of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Sources say that the Cavs, in recent days, have been in contact with the Boston Celtics about working as a facilitator in three-team trade scenarios. The Celtics, blessed with frontcourt depth in the wake of their recent acquisition of Brandan Wright in the Rajon Rondo deal, have been aggressive recently in their attempts to acquire future draft picks.
The best possible news for Cleveland would be that this injury is not that serious. Cleveland would continue to shop around for an upgrade at the five spot, but there would be a lot less pressure to do so quickly.