Lessons from a Crazy NBA Friday
It was a great day for NBA fans yesterday, with three of the nine games going into overtime.
There were a few surprising outcomes such as the Washington Wizards-Denver Nuggets game, where the Nuggets lost on their home floor and the Houston Rockets' ongoing struggles, as they have lost six straight games.
Among the all the games on the schedule, the three games that went into overtime were the most exciting and all featured spectacular clutch moments and individual performances.
James Harden Needs Help
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It was evident early in the season that James Harden was a superstar-caliber player, but can he honestly lead a mediocre team by himself day in and day out?
By no means are either of these two teams a walk in the park—Indiana is actually leading the league in defensive efficiency, so it's not surprising that Harden had a difficult time trying to score against their suffocating team defense.
However, it's more apparent now than ever that Harden is wearing down. He needs help, and although Omer Asik had a fairly good game today as well (22 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks), the team certainly needs other players to step up their games.
Jeremy Lin only attempted seven shots, and some of his opportunities are possibly taken away because of Harden's ball-dominant presence, but every player will need to adjust their game to contribute to the team in other ways to end this losing streak.
Jrue Holiday Is the Real Deal
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Jrue Holiday is having the best season of his career by far. Through 36 games, he's posting career high averages in points, rebounds, assists and field-goal percentage and is quickly making his name known as one of the elite point guards in the NBA.
Then in overtime, he single-handedly (literally) took over the game by scoring all 12 of the Sixers' points in overtime. He proceeded to finish the game with 33 points on 13-of-23 shooting and 14 assists.
If there were any doubters about Holiday being one of the top point guards in the league, they must be swallowing their words right now.
John Wall Is a Game Changer
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Nobody really talked about John Wall much after his excellent rookie season where he lost the Rookie of the Year award to Blake Griffin. Maybe it's because all of his Washington Wizards' teams for the past three seasons just weren't that good.
Even with his stress injury this season, there were doubters who didn't think his return to the court will actually benefit the team all that much. It's still out in the water how good (or bad) this Wizards team could be with Wall in the lineup, but since his return the team has gone 3-1 in their last four games.
They earned wins over the playoff-contending Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets and had a blowout win against the Orlando Magic. Their only loss was a one-point defeat at the hands of the Sacramento Kings.
Against the Nuggets, Wall came off the bench and registered 14 points and 12 assists in only 25 minutes of playing time. He also got the game-winning block on Corey Brewer, and sealed the Wizards' victory with two free throws with three seconds left in the contest.
Not only is he helping the team win, his teammates have seen much easier shots with Wall playing. Bradley Beal, who was struggling mightily before Wall's return, averaged 20.5 points on 56.6 percent shooting for the past four games while playing with Wall.
The Chicago Bulls Play with Effort Every Game
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This might've already been quite obvious and we probably realized it before their game against the Boston Celtics, but it should be repeated because the Chicago Bulls don't get enough attention for their play without Derrick Rose.
This game was a grind-it-out affair and a close game through all four quarters and overtime, with 10 lead changes and eight ties. They lost Luol Deng early in the fourth quarter after he re-aggravated a hamstring injury.
When it came down to the last few seconds in regulation, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah tied up Paul Pierce and didn't even let him get a shot off. They proceeded to tie the game and send it to overtime with a wide-open Kirk Hinrich jumper after Marco Belinelli got stripped and lost the ball.
Then in overtime, with a relentless defensive effort and playing Pierce and Kevin Garnett as physically as possible, the Bulls grinded out a victory after a tough, fadeaway jumper from Belinelli.
Without Deng, the Bulls played exceptional team defense and did whatever they could to win the game. Coach Tom Thibodeau definitely deserves a lot of credit for working with a team of eight new players since last year and making them play hard in a system that helps them win games.
The Dallas Mavericks Are Improving
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I don't know if losing to arguably the best team in the league by three points in overtime is a good thing or a bad thing for this team. It would definitely be a bad thing if the expectations for this Dallas Mavericks were high to begin with—but alas, they aren't.
Besides being the victims of an insane, career-high performance from Kevin Durant, the Mavericks have showed that they can definitely compete with some of the best teams in the Western Conference.
Before this loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavericks had won their previous four games, including wins against playoff contenders in the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies.
Although they're far from being a legit championship contender in the West, the team is turning the tables for the better, as Dirk Nowitzki is still working his way back from an offseason knee surgery.
The team has some quality, cheap players who provide great veteran leadership and can contribute to a winning team like Elton Brand and Chris Kaman, but it all depends on how well this group can mesh into a cohesive unit if they want to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs.