Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while trying to decide if powdered alcohol was brilliant or just pure trouble, or both….
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. It was far from a perfect game for the Raptors forward as he struggled defensively to contain Joe Johnson, but DeRozan led the Raptors in scoring and hit key free throws down the stretch to make sure they got the win. That said, he showed a diverse offensive repertoire that let him score from anywhere when the Raptors needed it. Toronto got important games from Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson and Landry Fields (who was better than more John Salmons) but without DeRozan’s scoring it all goes to waste.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers. Early on there was too much isolation, but like the rest of the Pacers — particularly George Hill — he found his groove when they needed him. He finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists as part of a Pacers team that found its groove. At least for a half.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards. That was not exactly how coach Randy Wittman wanted the game to go — blowing a 17 point lead and needing overtime — but Bradley Beal was huge when they needed him, with 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and the Wizards have a commanding 2-0 lead over the Bulls heading home. It wasn’t a perfect effort from Beal for sure — his double technical with Kirk Hinrich fired up the Bulls, and Beal missed a free throw and a shot to win it in regulation — but he was a guy they went to in the clutch for a reason. He was making plays.
The Lakers initially called LeBron James day-to-day with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas.
He missed more than five weeks.
Maybe he should have sat even longer.
Karen Joubert, via Complex Sports:
Maybe LeBron returned too soon. This injury allowed that, even if it put him at risk of reaggravation if not fully recovered.
Maybe LeBron just healed especially quickly. Even among world-class athletes, he is an elite athlete.
Maybe Joubert is exaggerating. People tend to do that with LeBron’s body.
There’s plenty of room for interpretation, but it sure looked like LeBron was still hobbled.
What does this mean for LeBron and the Lakers going forward?
The pessimistic spin: LeBron did lasting damage to his body by returning so soon. This (failed) attempt to get the Lakers into the playoffs this season will undermine him in the future.
The optimistic spin: LeBron has still been excellent these last few weeks. If he gets fully healthy during his longest offseason in 14 years, he should be even better next season.
Kyrie Irving spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers. He developed into a star with them. He won a title with them, even hitting the championship-winning shot.
With Irving’s Celtics playing in Cleveland tomorrow, Irving reflected on his time there.
Jared Weiss of The Athletic:
Irving is so clearly over the Cavs.
He was probably over the Cavs even while playing for them.
The Lakers have had a rough season.
Last night went pretty well, though – especially for one fan.
The Lakers beat the Kings, and this fan swished a halfcourt shot to win $45,000.
The Lakers need more outside shooting. Maybe they could turn to some of their fans.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is undeniable.
Watch this video. He’s the only Bucks player in sight on the court. All five Cavaliers appear. Antetokounmpo dunks anyway.
He dribbles past Jordan Clarkson then through David Nwaba and Tristan Thompson. Nik Stauskas and Brandon Knight are shading close enough to narrow his potential path. None of it matters.
Antetokounmpo scores inside unlike anyone anyone we’ve ever seen.