Monday night NBA Grades: Ty Lawson, LeBron James get top marks

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We know you might have missed some NBA action Monday night as you chased a flock of feral turkeys around New York City, so we bring you grades from the night to help you get caught up.

source:  Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets. Lawson spent the first half of this game deferring (J.J. Hickson had 12 points in the first quarter), but in the third quarter he took charge with 13 points, sparking a 16-4 run that solidified Denver’s eventual win. Lawson finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting plus he dished out 11 assists. Denver is playing well again and Lawson is at the heart of that renaissance.

source:  LeBron James, Miami Heat. Just another LeBron James dominant performance — 35 points on 11-of-14 shooting — but this one game is not why he is here. Rather, it is this  stat: On the season LeBron is shooting 60.9 percent. That with a usage rate near the top of the league at 28.3 (percent of team possessions he uses). Insane. If you’re a fan of the game of basketball, savor getting to watch him play at this level while we can.

source:   Samuel Dalembert, Dallas Mavericks. He was benched at the start of the Mavericks’ game Monday after sleeping through shootaround. That happens to guys out on the road when in Miami or New York (the night before has something to do with that), but at home in Dallas? Come on, you’re a vet.

source:   The Indiana Pacers defense. Another day, another team with a lot of offensive weapons just shut down. The Timberwolves shot just 32.6 percent overall, and thanks to the “Roy Hibbert effect” they shot just 40 percent inside 8 feet of the rim. Minnesota finished with an offensive rating of 79.8, which is well off their season average of 102. Indiana is 13-1 and while they will not sustain that pace all season with their defense they can sustain winning deep into the playoffs.

source:   Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers. When people talk about the Blazers hot start it’s all about LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, but people are looking past Batum who is hot and key to all of it — he had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against the Knicks Monday. In Portland they have been waiting on him to live up to his potential (and contract), well he has been lately.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

“I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home,” LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.

Chris Paul out for Rockets-Warriors Game 6

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The Rockets bought themselves margin for error by earning home-court advantage and taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

They’ll need it.

Chris Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow with a strained hamstring.

Rockets release:

The Houston Rockets announced today that guard Chris Paul will miss Saturday’s game at Golden State with a right hamstring strain that occurred during the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Warriors. He will be re-evaluated after the team returns to Houston.

Golden State was already heavily favored at home. This will tilt the odds even further in its favor.

But the Rockets aren’t completely incapable without Paul. They went 15-9 without him this season. James Harden and Eric Gordon can assume extra playmaking duty.

Still, this is a massive loss. When Harden is overburdened offensively, his defense suffers. Gordon is already playing a lot of minutes, so greater responsibility will come in role, not playing time. To fill Paul’s minutes, Mike D’Antoni will have to expand a rotation he had masterfully tightened. Gerald Green could play more. Luc Mbah a Moute could return to the rotation.

A Game 7 looks increasingly likely. Will Paul return for that? The 2018 NBA title might hinge on that question.

Given how quickly the Rockets announced Paul would miss Game 6, there isn’t much reason for optimism about Paul’s availability three days from now, either.

Report: Chris Paul’s hamstring injury ‘not good’

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The question looming over the Western Conference finals: How is Chris Paul?

The Rockets revealed little last night about Paul’s hamstring injury. Time to see how his body responded would provide clarity.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

That stinks. It’s also a fairly expected development. Paul appeared to be in rough shape before leaving the court.

The Rockets have bought themselves margin for error, but a sidelined or even hobbled Paul would sap a lot of it.

If Paul can’t play in Game 6 tomorrow, expect Eric Gordon and James Harden to receive a larger offensive roles (though not necessarily more minutes). Gerald Green could play more, and maybe Luc Mbah a Moute gets back into the rotation.