10 Takeaways from Sunday's Lengthy NBA Action
With the NFL finishing up like somebody flicked a light switch off on their season, the NBA will start to dominate Sundays—games stretching from early afternoon into the early morning.
Soak it all in while it's still here.
We started out with a 42-point performance in a loss by Carmelo Anthony, another ho-hum 32-point game from LeBron James, and we had barely scratched the surface of what was to come throughout the rest of the night.
What remained in store was a triple-overtime thriller between the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets, a lazy blowout by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a surprisingly close game between the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings, and plenty of other stuff to keep you from watching the Grammys.
Chris Paul's MVP Case Still Showed Some Life...
Why did the Los Angeles Clippers pull away from the New York Knicks so suddenly? To put it shortly: Chris Paul.
It was a fun run with Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford that gave the Clippers the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Paul took over and finished the game down the stretch.
He was finding guys for open shots, knocking down contested layups, stealing passes and drawing fouls to put a cap on his excellent game, and reminding us that he should still be an MVP candidate. Hell, for a second there, after remembering how bad the Clippers were without him, I had convinced myself that he's got a shot.
His 25-point, six-rebound, seven-assist, four-steal game was nothing short of stellar. There's a lot of ground for him to cover after missing a handful of games, but Paul must be the third pick for MVP right now.
...For a Few Hours
LeBron James had another game in which he scored a ton of points and only took a few shots, leaving our collective jaws drooping agape in the process.
James scored 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting, adding seven rebounds, four assists and three steals as the Miami Heat took down the Los Angeles Lakers, 107-97.
It was his third straight game scoring at least 30 points while shooting 60 percent from the field—something that's only been done two other times in league history.
Not only that, he's made 49 of his 65 shots over the past few games, just north of a cool 75 percent of his shots.
I want to somehow make up a narrative in which LeBron and Kevin Durant can have an MVP race, and Chris Paul can join in down the stretch. But the only way that comes about is if LeBron gets hurt, and that's not a storyline anyone wants.
Memphis and Toronto Get Different Positives
The Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors both came away from their respective games with a victory. There's a case to be made that both came about because of the trade they made a few weeks back.
Looking at Memphis, it's obvious the trade has worked out for them, at least in their 105-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye combined for 38 points while making 16 of their 20 shots.
That's something Rudy Gay wouldn't have done for them if he played another 1,000 games.
On the other hand, Gay had his usual inefficient yet high-scoring game for the Raptors, and you can make the case that he played a huge part in their win.
Gay scored eight points in the fourth quarter on six shots, and also came home with two offensive rebounds. He fought for points late, and the rest of his team followed.
There's a real presence of offensive leadership in the sense that the team is united behind a single person, rather than around a single person like they were with Jose Calderon running the offense.
We'll definitely have to see how this dynamic changes over the next few months.
It's Time for a J.J. Redick Trade
The Orlando Magic have fallen apart. They lost 12 straight games until their win over the Portland Trail Blazers and all they've got left to do is coast the rest of the way to a nice lottery pick.
J.J. Redick has told the team that he wants to stay there, but this definitely seems like a situation where they're going to get more value out of him in a trade.
In Orlando's 110-104 win Sunday, Redick made an impressive nine of his 13 shots, scored 22 points, had five assists and knocked down two three-pointers.
Basically, he's a dude who could help out nearly every playoff team in the league.
The Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies could all use a three-point shooter, but his skills go beyond that. There's a lot of value for his services outside of Orlando, and it makes more sense for the Magic to plan for the future.
Oklahoma City Accidentally Won by Almost 30
Watching the Oklahoma City Thunder play against the Phoenix Suns was like watching a guy hit a ping pong ball off the upright side of a ping pong table and losing.
The Thunder were uninterested, shot a meager 44.7 percent from the field, hit a few three-pointers here and there, were out-rebounded (53-40) and ran into a handful of steals, but they still took home a 28-point win over the Suns.
I'm not sure exactly what that speaks to. Was that proving how terrible this Suns team can be, or just how good the Thunder are? They can coast through a game and tear apart a team while yawning every step of the way.
By no means was this an entertaining game, but it was one to think about.
Carmelo Anthony Owns Sundays
The New York Knicks lost their first Sunday game of the year, which is shocking because the game went about how their Sunday games generally go.
Raymond Felton made himself a nice sidekick, and Tyson Chandler played defense. The only thing that was really missing was J.R. Smith hitting shots. He went 1-of-9 from the field.
Carmelo Anthony continued on his dominant trend on Sundays, however, scoring 42 points in the 102-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Anthony has averaged 32.7 points in nine Sunday games this season, and the Knicks have won eight of those nine games.
The Denver Nuggets Might Be an Ideal Playoff Team
Watching the Denver Nuggets take on the Boston Celtics in triple-overtime, one thing was clear: They were tired.
Even still, they continued to fight, they kept shooting their way back into the game, and they continued to attack the rim. Jumpers only came around when the shot clock wound down and their defense stayed stout.
All of this happened against the streaking Boston Celtics playing on a short homestand but with a full two days of rest.
The Nuggets were on the second night of a back-to-back after playing a hard-fought, fast-paced game against the Cleveland Cavaliers the night before.
What Denver proved in the 118-114 loss was that they had the capability to fight, and then fight some more. And when it looked like everything was going against them, they kept fighting.
There's a lot of defiance left in this Nuggets team, and they don't stop attacking at full speed until the final buzzer's sounded. That's a terrific mentality to have come playoff time.
There's No Doubt That It's Tony Parker's Spurs
For the longest time the San Antonio Spurs were Tim Duncan's team. Up until about 2009, Duncan was the man who led them. As he went, so did the team.
He fell off a bit, and it seemed like they were just a team. A great team, but a team united under a head coach now—it was Greg Popovich's team. That's the way it felt with the Spurs up until late last season when Tony Parker made a case to be included in the MVP race.
Coming into the season, Parker continued to play well, but it was still a cohesive unit.
I'm not going to pretend like this game, a 111-86 win over the Brooklyn Nets, was the turning point, but it was the first time I've ever identified these Spurs as "Tony Parker's Spurs," which has to be of some significance.
Parker has averaged over 30 points over the past three games—the three that San Antonio spent without Tim Duncan—and the Spurs are 2-1.
He's really turned into the leader of this team, and there's no question about it. Now we'll just have to see what the Spurs are capable of in the playoffs.
February Will Forever Be Jeremy Lin's Month
The Houston Rockets have played five games in February, and while it doesn't look like Linsanity is returning, it does look as if he's starting to hit his stride. Perhaps there's something about February that gets him going.
Lin scored just 12 points in the 117-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings, but he did it on just eight shots in 29 minutes, passed out six assists and had a steal and two blocks.
Lin is averaging 15.6 points and 6.0 assists on 50 percent shooting from the field through February thus far, and shooting an impressive 57 percent from three.
Somebody in the Rockets organization needs to periodically send Lin Valentine's Day cards to make him constantly think it's February. That way his February outbursts don't ever end.
It's the Inevitable Boston Celtics Run!
The Celtics really had us going this year, didn't they? Not only did they drop three games below .500 by the end of January, but they watched idly as Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger went down with season-ending injuries.
What could come about but the annual Boston Celtics run to remind us that they're still going to make the playoffs, and that they're going to do it in the most ugly way possible?
Paul Pierce could be 43 years old, and Kevin Garnett could be playing on one leg, but they are always going to muster up the energy to slap together a run long enough to put them far enough ahead to make their way into the playoffs.
Sunday's game against the Denver Nuggets was just one win, but it meant so much more. They beat a team who had just won nine games in a row (albeit on a back-to-back), after blowing a lead in the fourth quarter.
Two comebacks led to more free basketball, and the Celtics won 118-114 in triple overtime.
It was intense, it was relatively low scoring, and it was nothing but the Celtics reminding us that they aren't dead yet.
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