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.
Lakers fans give Dwyane Wade standing ovation, check out L.A. tribute video
Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).
Washington learned that the hard way.
Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers
The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.
J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.
The Rockets have expressed exploratory interest in acquiring JR Smith, according to league sources. Smith is currently on hiatus from the Cavaliers as Cleveland seeks a new home for the veteran shooting guard via trade
While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.
Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.
Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.
Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.
Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.
Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery
Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.
But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”
It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.
The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.
The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.