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…
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.