PBT’s Tuesday Night NBA Winners/Losers: Kobe, LeBron go off on night of the living legends

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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 reading Grantland’s Boogie Nights oral history

source:  LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the second time in a week, the Cavaliers knocked off the East leading Toronto Raptors (who miss DeMar DeRozan, especially at the end of games). What made this impressive was it was a fourth-quarter comeback on the second night of a back-to-back against a Raptors team that had won 39 straight when leading after three. But two things happened. One, Cleveland played more focused defense and held the Raptors to 13 points in the final frame (the Raptors helped out in that quarter). Second, this was one of those games LeBron James wins one for his team — he had 35 points overall, a team best 10 in the fourth quarter and he hit a key three late. He looked every bit the best player on the planet and as good as Kyle Lowry was (he saves his best games for facing Kyrie Irving) it was not going to be enough.

source:  Kobe Bryant. He scored 32 on the Kings, nine of those in the fourth quarter plus he had three key assists in the final frame as the Lakers used a late 9-3 run to come from behind and beat the Cousins-less Kings. Take that Magic Johnson. If the Lakers win it’s because Kobe is putting up numbers and his 32 Tuesday leave him just 31 back of Michael Jordan on the all time scoring list (he could pass MJ on Friday against the Spurs, but my guess is it’s not going to happen with Kawhi Leonard draped all over him).

source:  Memphis Grizzlies offense. While nobody was looking the Grizzlies have developed into a top five offense — they are scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions this season, tied with the Golden State Warriors. Did not see that coming and the question is can they sustain it against good teams — they did Tuesday scoring 114 points (a 125.6 offensive rating per 100 possessions) on Dallas Tuesday. They did it by just overpowering Dallas inside — Marc Gasol had 30 points, while as a team the Grizzlies got 42 of their 85 shots (49.4 percent) within eight feet of the rim. That pounding inside also led to the Grizzlies getting to the free throw line 29 times (hitting 25). Combine that with hitting 7-of-14 from three (Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince combined to be 4-of-7 from three) and you have a team that is hard to stop. And when things go right, Tony Allen will dance.

source:  Dallas Mavericks’ defense. They are 0-5 against the other members of the top eight in the West so far and the reason is their defense can be overpowered inside. Even with Tyson Chandler. On the season the Mavericks are giving up 105.2 points per 100 possessions, which is 22nd in the league. That’s got to improve if they plan to make any real noise in the brutal Western Conference.

source:  LaMarcus Aldridge. Fittingly doing it with a step-back three, Tuesday night Aldridge passed Terry Porter to move into second place on the all time Trail Blazers points list with 11,333. Aldridge had 23 points and 11 rebounds on the night as the Trail Blazers didn’t blow away but did handle the Pistons and win 98-86 on the road. Oh, you want to know who leads the Trail Blazers’ scoring list? Clyde “the glide” Drexler with 18.040.

source:  Chris Bosh. Miami snapped a four-game losing streak against a potential Western Conference playoff team (Phoenix is currently the eight seed). That’s a good night. And it was all Bosh who had 34 points on the night. Bosh was 7-of-8 shooting inside eight feet of the rim but he did more damage on the perimeter (he was 4-of-6 from three). While there are a lot of questions about Miami — you had to know the post-LeBron transition was going to be difficult — Bosh isn’t one of them. He’s been fantastic this season.

James Harden returns to 76ers Monday night, is on minutes restriction

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers
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The 76ers were able to keep their heads above water. For 14 games, James Harden was out with a right foot tendon sprain — both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey missed games in that stretch as well (Maxey remains out) — and Philadelphia went 8-6 with a +2.9 net rating and the best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

Monday night in Houston, Harden returns.

This wasn’t a surprise, nor is the fact Doc Rivers confirmed Harden will be on a minutes restriction at first.

Harden averaged 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds a game before his injury, and while his 3-point shooting percentage was down (33.3%) he was still efficient and finding his footing as more of a facilitator than scorer.

The 76ers are 12-11 on the season and sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the East (with the Pacers and Raptors). If Harden can spark the Philadephia offense there is plenty of time for them to climb into the top four, host a first-round playoff game and position themselves for a deep playoff run. But it starts with getting their starting guards healthy again.

Harden is ready to take that on.

Trae Young frustrated ‘private conversations get out to the public’ about missed game

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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Rumors and chatter of tension in Atlanta — about how Trae Young was adapting to playing with Dejonte Murray, and his pushback on coach Nate McMillan and his efforts to get the ball moving more — have been all over the league since the start of the season. Over the weekend, a little of that leaked out, with reports Young chose not to come to the arena Friday after McMillan gave him a choice of participating in shootaround or missing the game.

Young addressed the report and seemed more concerned that it got out than the report’s content.

“I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s sometimes we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations get out to the public, but I guess that’s the world we live in now. Yeah, I’m just gonna just focus on basketball and focus on helping my team win. And that’s what I got to be focusing on…

“Like I said, it’s a private matter, again, made public, which is unfortunate. And if it was to stay private, it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But like I said, it’s unfortunate in my job, and my goal is to win championships. And that’s what I focus on.”

Young went through shootaround  Monday and is set to play against the Thunder.

Murray has been professional throughout this situation, saying he didn’t see anything at the shootaround Friday and backing Young and McMillan when asked.

Bringing in Murray was supposed to take some pressure off Young and spread the wealth more on offense, ideally allowing Young to be more efficient. Instead, Young’s usage rate is nearly identical to last season, he is shooting just 30.3% from 3 and his true shooting percentage has fallen below league average. The Hawks as a team make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (stat via NBA.com). The Hawks’ offense is still a lot of Young, but it’s not as efficient as it has been in years past.

Atlanta is still 13-10 on the season, has a top-10 defense and sits fourth in the East — they are not struggling. But neither have they made the leap to become a team that could threaten Boston or Milwaukee atop the conference, and that’s what the Hawks expected.

There could be personnel moves coming in Atlanta — John Collins is available via trade, again — but if the Hawks can’t smooth out their internal, existing concerns (and get Collins and DeAndre Hunter healthy) other roster moves will be just cosmetic.

Nike, Kyrie Irving part ways, making him a sneaker free agent

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Here’s the positive spin for Kyrie Irving: He will have the chance to remake his situation into something he’s more comfortable with during 2023. As a player, he will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose where he wants to play in coming seasons (how many teams are interested and for how many years will be interesting to see).

Irving also is a sneaker free agent — Nike has cut ties with him, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Irving is happy with this.

The separation is not a surprise. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving after he Tweeted out support for an antisemitic film, did not apologize (at first), and was suspended by the Nets. Here was the company’s statement at that time:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Nike founder Phil Knight said it was likely the end of the company’s relationship with Irving.

That’s not a small thing by Nike, Irving has had a signature shoe line since 2014 and is reported to have a deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a season because his shoes are popular. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October 2023, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current controversy started.

Nike is already looking in a new direction, at Ja Morant.

Irving now has the chance to choose his new direction.

 

Cavaliers’ Dean Wade to miss 3-4 weeks due to shoulder injury

NBA: NOV 06 Cavaliers at Lakers
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In Cleveland’s search for a fifth starter to play the three next to Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Dean Wade might be the best of the group. Not that the numbers are great for him or anyone (Cedi Osman is the best statistically) but the eye test makes one think Wade could be the answer.

We’ll have to wait a while to find out as Wade will be out 3-4 weeks with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder, the Cavaliers announced. Friday night against the Magic he suffered an aggravation to a previous injury.

Wade has been a quality floor-spacer for the Cavaliers this season, shooting 41.1% from three, and is averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds a game, playing a little more than 24 minutes a night.

When he returns, hopefully coach J.B. Bickerstaff will give him a little more run with the rest of the Cavaliers core (when they are healthy).