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 figuring out what happened to the Mayans…
Kobe Bryant. The Lakers are evolving. Or, maybe more accurately, Kobe Bryant is evolving this season, is dragging Byron Scott into that light, and the Lakers are better for it. As Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding put so well, at the start of the season the Laker offense was a shrine to Kobe. He was asked to do everything, to do anything he wanted, and he can’t carry a team like that anymore. That offense made the Lakers defendable. But after a few games off to rest, Kobe has come back as a much more of a facilitator, a guy really leading the team and making them more difficult to defend because he trusts his other options — and that has made him a more efficient scorer. That is why the Lakers beat the Nuggets Tuesday night behind 23 points (on 6-of-11 shooting), 11 assists and 10 rebounds from Kobe. Sure, there were nine turnovers from Kobe. Sure, the Lakers are still a wretched defensive team. But when Kobe plays like this and other guys hit shots (Ronnie Price had 18, Carlos Boozer 19) they can win some games. Certainly enough games to make Suns fans happy.
Jodie Meeks and Detroit Pistons. Note to teams playing Detroit — do not leave Jodie Meeks alone at the arc. Do not help off him. In the Pistons’ win over the Magic Tuesday Meeks had 34 points shooting 11-for-16 overall and a ridiculous 9-for-11from three. Thing is he was 9-of-10 on uncontested looks, he’s just too hot a shooter right now to leave open. This is three wins in a row for the Pistons — yes, all since Josh Smith was waived — and it wasn’t all Meeks. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 22 rebounds as he just owned the paint. Oh, and he did this:
Mike Conley. He was simply the best player on the court as the Grizzlies beat the Spurs Tuesday. He owned this game from the start, with 16 points in the first quarter as the Grizzlies built a double-digit lead. Bottom line is that as nice as Corey Joseph and Patty Mills are backup points in the Spurs system, they are not Tony Parker — Conley realized early he could dominate and control this game and he did, finishing with 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. He is the most underrated point guard in the game today.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers. When it rains it pours. Consider this a reminder Cavaliers fans that Kevin Love has missed 125 games to injury over the course of his career (much of that for a broken hand and other, unrelated issues) and he was to be expected to miss a few here. Hopefully this back issue is not serious, but it comes at a rough time for the Cavs. There’s plenty of pressure and turmoil around the Cavaliers, there are questions about chemistry and they just need some wins. But it’s hard to get those when LeBron James sits out injured and Love has to leave the game. Kyrie Irving went Uncle Drew (35 points) but it’s not enough. It’s not like the Cavaliers can fall back on their defense to get them through this rough patch.
Atlanta Hawks. We need to put them here because this wasn’t all about the Cavaliers losing — Atlanta won that game. The Hawks are very good and they did this one without Al Horford. Jeff Teague and Paul Milsap were destroying that Cavs defense with the pick-and-roll, Teague had 23 points and Milsap 26. Atlanta has won 16 of 18 and Mike Budenholzer has this team playing like one that is not going to fold in the playoffs (as has been the Hawks history).
Brook Lopez. If you’re showcasing him for a trade — and of the big three the Nets are trying to move he is the most likely to go — this was a good way to do it. Lopez had a big night against the Bulls’ big front line, shooting 6-of-8 inside eight feet of the rim but also hitting 6-of-11 from the midrange. The Nets picked up a nice win to snap the Bulls win streak and Lopez along with Joe Johnson keyed that.