This was the most exciting night of NBA action this season. That sadly meant a lot of good performances get left off the list — Monta Ellis had 27 points and the game winner, DeMar DeRozan dropped 33, Tyson Chandler had 28 rebounds, and the list goes on. But these guys finished on top — and you knew early on Stephen Curry was going to be in the top spot.
Third star: Al Horford (34 points, 15 rebounds)
While we’ve all been watching that LeBron guy, Al Horford has quietly put up a monster February as well. In the Hawks 10 games this month he has averaged 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists, all while shooting 64.9 percent from the floor. To cap off the month he went out and dropped 34 and 15, and he dropped 16 of those points in the fourth quarter, killing any attempted comeback by the Jazz.
Second Star: Kevin Durant(18 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists)
What makes this impressive isn’t just the triple-double, it’s that he did it in 27 minutes — that is the fastest to a triple-double of anyone since 1985. He got there with four minutes left IN THE THIRD QUARTER. Yes, it was in a rout of a hapless Hornets team without two key players, but it doesn’t matter. KD can pretty much do this to anyone anytime he wants.
First Star: Stephen Curry(54 points)
Damn. That was as a Jordan/Kobe level of performance on the big stage of Madison Square Garden. He knocked down 11-of-13 from three. He had 54 points on just 28 shots. Curry showed off both fantastic handles and more explosive moves off the bounce than defenders expect. Plus, he is so, so quick with the release that defenders just do not get to contest like they think. Knicks defenders had no answers. No player has ever knocked down 10 threes or more and scored 50 points in a game before.
Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break
The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.
And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.
Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.
There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….
The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.
Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.
Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).
If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.
The reason it will be relatively quiet on Feb. 7 (the deadline day) this year is reflected in the five players to watch talked about in this PBT Extra. The bottom line: There are far more buyers than sellers.
Take Trevor Ariza in Washington, for example. A number of playoff teams are looking for wings on expiring contracts to help them out — the Rockets and Lakers are at the front of that line — but Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said the team the team will not tank, so is Ariza even available.
Or, what about Terrence Ross in Orlando? Another wing a lot of teams have interest in, but is Orlando selling?
And while the Dallas Mavericks have made public overtures about reconciliation with Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell me the plan on both sides is still to find a trade, it’s just right now the offers are lowball ones (because the Mavs have no leverage and there will be good young point guards such as Terry Rozier and D'Angelo Russell available in July as restricted free agents, and teams like them better).
Still, there will be trades. These are the guys to watch.
Report: Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to compete in dunk contest
Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.
But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.
The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.