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 wondering if modern athletes really are bigger, stronger and faster than in days gone by…
Memphis Grizzlies. In case their win over Golden State Tuesday didn’t convince you they earned the title as “best team in the NBA right now” then you should have watched the second game of the back-to-back against the Spurs. Memphis was in control early — they raced out to an 8-1 lead off the opening tip and led by 23 in the second quarter. But these are the Spurs, they of the relentless execution, so you knew there would be a comeback. What you couldn’t have seen coming was the huge shot by Danny Green that seemed like a game winner, only to have Marc Gasol bank in a leaning three to force overtime. This was a festival of big shots — Courtney Lee it one, Tim Duncan answered, and so it went. This was the best game so far this young season and in the end Memphis got the win after Manu Ginobili missed one late in the game. Gasol had 23 and played like an MVP candidate, while Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds. Consider this a reminder the Grizzlies are going to be a playoff force.
James Harden. Another night, another MVP-level performance (well, except for one defensive slip when again he lost focus on that end). Harden had 41 points on 11-of-21 shooting and was in attack mode all night, getting to the line 21 times (he was only 1-of-7 from three, it was all about getting to the rim for him). Denver tried a number of different defenders but even when they did things right it didn’t matter as he was 9-of-11 on contested shots.
Shelvin Mack, Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks went out and put a beatdown on the Cavaliers when Atlanta went on a 22-7 run in the third quarter to take control and beat Cleveland 127-98. When we say there are times we really worry about Cleveland’s defense, this is what we mean — Atlanta scored 147 points per 100 possessions on the Cavs this game. Shelvin Mack (he of some DNP-CDs lately) owned them for stretches, putting up 17 of his 24 points in the second quarter. Mack was 7-of-8 shooting on the night. That’s a quality win for the Hawks who are playing some beautiful ball-sharing offense.
Blake Griffin. The Clippers really had to work for a win over the Pacers at home (Indiana had their chances late but missed the shots). Griffin put up numbers again — 31 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists — and had strong first and third quarters. But you can pick apart a few things, like the 11-of-27 shooting or the missed key free throws late. But it’s a sign of how far he has come as a player that we might pick apart a 31 and 16 night where he keyed his team’s win. His game has reached some serious heights.
Dwyane Wade. Miami got crushed by Utah Tuesday night, 124-87, but when Dwyane Wade has a throwback night we have to point it out. He had 23 first quarter points and at one point in the second half scored 10 consecutive points to try and lead a comeback. It didn’t work, he got no help. But Wade finished with 42 and for a night Flash was back.