Pay attention and every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons. Here’s what you missed while thinking clearly you have a lot of movies to see before the Oscars….
1) LeBron being out isn’t Cleveland’s biggest problem. Maybe we didn’t actually learn this tonight, we had a pretty good idea already, but getting just thrashed 103-84 by Sacramento really drove the point home. This feels like the old Cavaliers — they need LeBron James to carry them because the rest of this team isn’t near good enough. That shouldn’t be the case, with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love this team should be respectable. But they have lost five in a row and after Sunday players admitted they didn’t really play hard enough (while the Kings players did and owned the game because of it). Cavs coach David Blatt is going to take the heat and maybe the fall for this play, and clearly he is not reaching this roster, but also those players haven’t really given him a chance. A coach should be able to count on hustle, on effort from professional players — this isn’t some “rah rah” college kids, these guys should be able to motivate themselves. They are not. And ultimately it has to fall to LeBron to both hold them accountable and lead by example, the latter of which he was not doing consistently before his shut it down for a couple of weeks.
2) Damian Lillard owns fourth quarters against the Lakers. For the second time this season a Kobe Bryant-less Lakers team hung around with the Trail Blazers for a little more than three quarters. And then Damian Lillard said “screw this” and just took over — he had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the final frame, leading Portland past the Los Angeles Lakers to a 106-94 win. Oh, and he did this to the rim and Jordan Hill.
And earlier in the game he did this.
3) Hassan Whiteside cannot be stopped by mere mortals. Well, at least for a day. Sunday afternoon Hassan Whiteside looked more like DeAndre Jordan than DeAndre Jordan did (or, more accurately, he looked like the DeAndre Jordan the Clippers wish they had consistently this year). Whiteside came off the bench for Miami and was the second best big man in the game, putting up 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting), 16 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. (The real problem for the Clippers is the best big man on the court in this game was Miami’s Chris Bosh, who had 34 and hit everything, contested or not.) Whiteside, who was in the D-League earlier this season, has scored in double digits in the last four games for Miami and has brought a real energy off the bench, something the Heat needed. He keyed a quality road win for them.
4) The Atlanta Hawks remain the best team in the East. We can debate if the Hawks can hang with the best of the West for seven games (they’ve beaten Memphis, Portland and the Clippers recently). Honestly, I don’t think they can if they get to the Finals — but make no mistake they can get to the Finals. They went up against a solid Washington team Sunday and just destroyed them — eight Atlanta players scored in double figures, the ball movement and player movement left the Wizards defenders lost, and the Hawks forced turnovers on 21 percent of the Wizards’ possessions (19 total). Maybe come the playoffs, when teams can really focus on the Hawks offense, they can slow the team down. Maybe. We thought that might happen to the Spurs in the playoffs last season and….
5) Marc Gasol is the best double overtime player in the league. Apparently. This was not a great night overall for the Spaniard, he was outplayed by Alex Len for most of the game. Then in the second overtime he poured in seven points on 3-of-4 shooting and the Grizzlies pulled away from the Suns for a 122-110 win. Despite the high score this was actually one of the better defensive games from Memphis in a while, which is the end of the court where they need to turn things around. Oh, and if you want some fancy shooting from Gasol, we can show you this: