7 Takeaways from Monday Night's NBA Action
Paul's been out with a knee injury, and no one is certain as to when the superstar point guard returns. In the meantime, LeBron and KD are running this league. It's hard to even fit another guy in for fourth place, behind CP3. Options like Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love have all suffered injuries.
Both LeBron James and Kevin Durant were brilliant, as they almost always are. There are many teams, and many storylines, but with the NBA's two elite superstars isolated on an evening, it's hard not to feel like their teams are again headed on a collision course in the finals.
Felton Fuels the Knicks
Sometimes, the Knicks are just impossible. It's as though the opposition has no choice but to lose. What's an opponent to do when New York starts hitting threes in bunches?
That's what a three-point-oriented team can do on a given night, especially now that this particular three-point-oriented team has Raymond Felton back.
The Knicks steamrolled the Pistons in a game that wasn't as close as the 99-85 score would indicate. There were many positive developments for Knicks fans, including a newly spry Amar'e Stoudemire schooling Andre Drummond in the first half.
Without Felton, the Knicks lack a ball-handler who can penetrate and kick out to Carmelo Anthony for shots. Nutty as it sounds to say it, but Felton is a vital piece of this team.
Portland Beats Minnesota in NBA's Saddest Rivalry
Blazers-Wolves is a strange, sad rivalry. There's acrimony over how Minnesota tried to poach Nicolas Batum and a shared sadness over how Brandon Roy couldn't get his career back in either city.
Right now, the Wolves are owners of more depression, and the Blazers are riding high (relatively). Portland has been winning more than people expected, and they closed out the injured, shaky-shooting Timberwolves, 100-98.
LaMarcus Aldridge gets the game ball for an excellent 12-17 performance and a big late bucket. Though, his closing minutes challenged the murky concept of "clutch."
Aldridge makes two great defensive plays to seal the win, also misses two free throws that could have iced it. Was he clutch???— Eric Freeman (@freemaneric) February 5, 2013
LeBron Rules the Painted Area
It was the Charlotte Bobcats, but still, LeBron James impressed all by shooting 13-of-14 from the field. It's not every night in the NBA where the Internet passes a shot chart around.
As you can see, James lived in the paint. He's come a long way since people questioned his ability to develop a post game.
The Miami Heat sleep-walked through most of the game against Charlotte, which was close up until Miami ran away at the very end, securing the 99-94 victory. Chris Bosh looked polished offensively, but he also didn't rebound (only four boards).
Perhaps, that doesn't matter because Chris Andersen looked good yet again. If he continues to be competent, a decent big man is an incredible boon for Miami.
OKC Has a Perfect Offense, Run by Imperfect Russell Westbrook
Westbrook gets a lot of criticism for being an inefficient, frequent shooter, but sometimes, we forget that he runs sets for basketball's best offense. The Oklahoma City Thunder are basketball's second-most accurate three-point shooting team, and they get to the line more than any other offense.
On most nights, a mediocre team like Dallas has no chance. Monday's game was like most nights. Westbrook finished with 24 points, seven assists, and the two Kevins combined for five three-pointers. That's Thunder basketball.
Eric Bledsoe Is Good, but He's No Chris Paul
Eric Bledsoe has big shoes to fill, and it's no surprise that he cannot. It's far from his fault, too—Chris Paul's just that good.
Bledsoe ran the Clippers to the tune of 17 points and nine assists. Without Blake Griffin and Paul, it just wasn't enough against the fully stocked Washington Wizards, as the home team came out on top, 98-90.
Bledsoe has had the run of the team with Paul still out with injury, and it's probably decreased EB's trade value. We should focus on the bigger picture, though. Bledsoe isn't quite there yet as an elite point guard, but this season has been a big foot stomp in that direction.
The Kings Squander Talent
If you're good at reading lips, take a crack at it:
The Cousins saga, again, looks like it's headed to a bleak end. Otherwise, the Kings claim a lot of squandered talent. Guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas might be good elsewhere, but it's not working out so much in poorly run Sacramento.
I was impressed, however, by Tyreke Evans' ability to slither for 10 free-throw attempts and 20 points. His secretly good season continues.
Paul George Rises
Paul George was the most important player on the floor in Indiana's 110-101 win over the Chicago Bulls. He claimed 21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and also knocked down a huge three-pointer to secure the victory.
That's all gravy because his dogged defense was enough to justify floor time, even without those numbers. I'm still wondering whether David West deserved that All-Star spot over his teammate, but one thing seems fairly certain—it will be a shock if George doesn't return to the All-Star game in subsequent years.
This has to be great news for Indiana Pacers fans. Especially those who feared that their team was on the "pretty good, not good enough to contend" treadmill. George could vault this squad to new heights.