News and notes from Friday's NBA action...• The Lakers found a way to save Kobe Bryant’s(notes) homecoming and extend their winning streak to four games behind strong efforts from Lamar Odom(notes) (28 points, 8 rebounds, 11-of-18 FG) and Matt Barnes(notes) (15 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 5-for-8 FG). Odom gave the 76ers all sorts of matchup problems throughout, while Barnes made a living off of hard weak side cuts through the lane. Andrew Bynum(notes) struggled once again (12 minutes, 3 points, 4 rebounds, 1-of-5 FG), and Phil Jackson estimates it will be another two weeks until he gets back to his old self as he goes through a preseason style process now.
• Kobe’s struggles (season-low 9 points, 3-for-11 FG) can be directly attributed to the sprained right pinky injury he sustained late in the fourth quarter after he mishandled a pass under the basket. He said his pinky was numb for about 20 minutes after. X-rays came back negative, and he should be ready to go for Sunday’s game against Toronto. The sprain was to the same finger which he tore a ligament and suffered an avulsion fracture in 2007-2008, but luckily to a different joint (middle, not the top knuckle). This might as well be a runny nose given Kobe’s propensity to play through injuries, but it’s still something to keep an eye on moving forward.
• The 76ers offense was just miserable as they finished with an efficiency mark of just 89.0 on 38 percent shooting (14 percent from deep). Spencer Hawes(notes) led the way with his best performance of the season and second straight double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 8-of-12 FG), while Andre Iguodala(notes) did a little bit of everything (18 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals). While I won’t ever feel confident endorsing Hawes for numerous reasons (track record, over-reliance on long twos and threes, middling rebound rate, free-throw rate), he’s clearly making the most of his opportunities and has posted top-40 value over the past two weeks. How long he keeps it up is another story, but (for now) he should be universally rostered. In other news, Evan Turner(notes) registered his first DNP-CD of the season. This year’s second overall pick currently ranks 24th in PER amongst 29 qualifying rookies. Ouch.
• After matching the Heat shot for shot in the first half, the Knicks collapsed in the second half, going just 13-for-43 from the field and getting outscored 34-56. Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) was largely held in check by Joel Anthony(notes), and saw his consecutive 30-point game streak come to an end at nine. So close, yet so far from Wilt the Stilt’s all-time record of 65 straight games. Yes, Amar’e managed to score 24 points and grab 14 rebounds, but it had to be one of the most inefficient lines of the season (28 FGA, 2-for-7 FT, 4 turnovers). Of the 238 players that played on Friday, Amar’e came in at 138th in value. While STAT struggled, Danilo Gallinari(notes) (25 points, 4 treys) and Wilson Chandler(notes) (17 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals) turned in strong performances.
• The Heat got 84 points from LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes), and Chris Bosh(notes) as they extended their win streak to 11 straight. James distinguished himself with an absurd +/- of +31 to go along with his 36th career triple-double (32 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists). It was his first ever triple-double against the Knicks. Bosh, on the other hand, finished with a season-high five turnovers. Carlos Arroyo(notes) returned to the starting lineup after a one-game absence and posted a solid overall line (11 points, 3 treys, 4-for-5 FG).
• Andrea Bargnani(notes) was lights out in the second half, scoring 24 of his 32 points after the break on 10-of-15 shooting to lead the Raptors to a six-point win over the Nets. He also added nine rebounds and two blocks in what was one of the most efficient lines of the night (14-for-26 FG, 3-for-3 FT, 0 turnovers). The tendonitis in his right knee is still an ongoing issue and he’s now dealing with a right ankle injury as well, so don’t be surprised if he misses a few more games at some point.• Linas Kleiza(notes) got his first start in over a month with Sonny Weems(notes) out with back spasms, and certainly made the most of the opportunity. He played a career-high 45 minutes and totaled 18 points, 12 rebounds, and three treys on 7-of-16 shooting. Kleiza has improved upon his three-point shooting and rebounding this past month, but hasn’t made any marked progress elsewhere to suggest some sort of turnaround. Unless he continues to get a consistent 28-30 minutes of action, he should remain on the wire in standard-sized leagues. Amir Johnson(notes) posted his second straight dud, fouling out in 21 minutes of play with six points and three rebounds. You have to take the good with the bad.
• One of my biggest pet peeves about the player analysis that certain news outlets offer is that it is often times way too reactionary. You’ll often times see add/drop recommendations based on a single performance – one big line or one dud. That approach is, in large part, the wrong way to manage a roster. A player’s track record and the context of those performances are the two most important factors in determining whether a player is a viable option moving forward. An example of that is Jerryd Bayless(notes). Yes, he had a three-game stretch where he amassed 68 points, but A) Jose Calderon(notes) was injured, B) he shot 61 percent during that span (career 41%), and C) he’s been nothing but hit-and-miss the entire season. Players like that have a very low long-term hit rate, yet they are often over-hyped for no apparent reason.
• When you see a player like Marcus Thornton(notes) blow up though, a guy who has proven to be a consistent force in the past, then it’s time to hit the wire and make a quick move. Thornton dropped 19 points off the bench in 24 minutes for the second consecutive game, and it’s become obvious that the Hornets desperately need his scoring punch. Not only have they won their last two games, snapping a three-game skid, but they’ve scored over 93 points both times, something they haven’t done since Nov. 28. Marco Belinelli(notes) continues to underwhelm, shooting just 36 percent from the field this month, down 11 percent from November. When is Monty Williams going to come to his senses and replace Belinelli with Thornton in the starting lineup?
• Those hoping to see some sort of epic showdown between Chris Paul(notes) and Deron Williams(notes) were sorely disappointed, as the Jazz were completely outplayed from the start. Utah put up multiple season-lows: points (71), rebounds (24), assists (13), field-goal percentage (36%), and free-throw percentage (50%), as the Hornets came away with a 29-point win, their largest of the season. David West(notes) led the way with an efficient line (23 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 7-for-9 FG, 9-of-9 FT), while Paul Millsap(notes) (14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 5-of-7 FG, 4-for-4 FT) led the way for the Jazz.
• Mehmet Okur(notes) made his season debut after missing the first 26 games with a left Achilles injury. He played nearly 11 minutes and scored two points. Okur said he didn’t suffer any setbacks in his return to the court.
• It hasn’t been the best of months for Danny Granger(notes). Entering Friday’s contest against Cleveland, he was shooting just 36 percent from the field in his last seven games and hadn’t made more than nine field goals in a contest. He finally put an end to the slump on Friday as he took full advantage of a hapless Cavaliers squad that has lost 11 straight. Granger posted his second double-double of the season (30 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 4 threes), good for the third best line of the night.• Mo Williams(notes) double-doubled for the third time this month (22 points, 11 assists, 5 turnovers), but remains a large disappointment due to his general inefficiency. He’s shooting 41 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line this season, the lowest marks since his rookie season in ’03. The reason? Only 30.7 percent of his field goals are assisted this season, meaning Cleveland’s offense is more stagnant than usual and Mo is opting for more isolation sets.
• After scoring in double digits in the last six games, Daniel Gibson(notes) posted a dud, totaling more rebounds (6) than points (4). His first field goal came with 3:22 left in the game. On a team that’s already second-to-last in offensive efficiency, that’s about the last thing they need.
• Random factoid: there were five technicals and an ejection handed out in the fourth quarter of this one. The guilty parties: Solomon Jones(notes) (2), Roy Hibbert(notes) (1), Jawad Williams(notes) (1), and Pacers coach Jim O’Brien (1).
• Joe Johnson(notes) somehow cut off two-to-four weeks from his original timetable and returned to the court just 15 days after undergoing surgery on his right elbow. It wasn’t the best of performances (5-for-16 FG), but you have to give him credit for gutting it out under the circumstances and putting up a respectable 15-and-8. Al Horford(notes) (16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 8-for-12 FG) and Marvin Williams(notes) (16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 threes) led the way for the Hawks, while Boris Diaw(notes) (22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 10-of-15 FG) paced the Bobcats with his highest scoring output in almost a month (Nov. 20).
• In his second consecutive start in place of Gerald Wallace(notes) (ankle), Dominic McGuire(notes) grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds. Problem is, he didn’t do much else (8 points, 3-for-12 FG, 2 assists, 1 block). McGuire has always inexplicably been one of Larry Brown’s favorites, but should return to irrelevancy once Wallace returns, which should be Monday against the Wizards.
• The Clippers picked up their first road win of the year on the heels of a 24-point, 17-rebound performance from Blake Griffin(notes). As has been the story all season, Griffin put up a largely negative free-throw percentage impact with a 2-for-6 showing. Ryan Gomes(notes) scored 18 points (two shy of his season high) on 8-of-13 shooting, but had scored just 21 points in his previous four games.
• Quote of the night: "Some lady was like, ‘Hey, Blake, this isn’t ballet!’ I didn’t think it was a ballet move. I thought it was pretty manly.”
• Owners are encouraged to ride the Charlie Villanueva(notes) hot streak while it lasts. In his last three games, Villanueva has averaged 19.3 points, 2.3 treys, eight rebounds, and two steals on 52 percent shooting. Just be forewarned that it may last for days, weeks, but certainly not months. Richard Hamilton(notes) and Rodney Stuckey(notes) combined for 10 points, four assists, and five turnovers on 4-of-20 shooting. Putrid, really.
• There were a few good counting stat lines in the Kings-Thunder game, but most were spoiled by general inefficiency. Tyreke Evans(notes) led the Kings with 22 points, six assists, and five rebounds, but shot just 8-for-20 from the field and 5-of-7 from the line. DeMarcus Cousins(notes) put up his fourth double-double of the season (19 points, 15 rebounds) but went 5-of-8 from the line and turned the ball over five times.
• Serge Ibaka(notes) has been a bit hit or miss lately, but managed to post a solid line (12 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) on the heels of a huge first half. Jeff Green(notes) struggled from the field (5-for-14 FG), but filled up the stat sheet nicely (11 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals). Nick Collison(notes) provided some quality minutes off the bench, doing all the little things like set screens, take charges, and create offensive rebounds. He finished with 2 points, eight rebounds, one block, and one steal in 22 minutes of action.• The Rockets pulled off an impressive 16-point win against the Grizzlies, their seventh straight at home, and put an end to the Grizzlies’ four-game winning streak with big performances from Shane Battier(notes) (17 points, season-high 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 5 threes), Kyle Lowry(notes) (17 points, career-high18 assists, 5 steals, 2 threes), and Kevin Martin(notes) (game-high 34 points, 6 rebounds, 3 treys, 13-for-21 FG). In Lowry’s last game against his former team, he set another career-high – that time in points (28). Martin is the first Rocket since Tracy McGrady(notes) in ’04-’05 to put up two 20-point quarters in a season. Martin dropped 20 in the first quarter of Friday’s game.
• Mike Conley(notes) picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and never got back on track, finishing with just seven points, four rebounds, and three assists, while Marc Gasol(notes) missed 14 of his 16 field goal attempts. This was an all-around forgettable performance for the Grizzlies as they shot just 37 percent from the field and finished with a terrible 12:15 assist-to-turnover ratio. Terrence Williams(notes) was inactive, but is expected to make his debut during the team’s upcoming road trip.
• Steve Nash(notes) left in the first quarter with a stinger in his neck after colliding with Tyson Chandler’s(notes) hip on a loose ball. Nash initially lost feeling in both arms and legs, but X-rays were negative and he hasn’t ruled out playing on Sunday.
• The Blazers were left awfully short-handed when Marcus Camby(notes) and Nicolas Batum(notes) left early with right shoulder injuries. Both will receive treatment Saturday morning and are questionable for Sunday’s game against Golden State. Joel Przybilla(notes) also suffered an ankle injury, which was swollen to three times its size. He is also considered questionable for Sunday’s game.
• LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) and Rudy Fernandez(notes) both stepped up – Aldridge tying his career high with 36 points, while Rudy set his career-high with 26 points off the bench. Aldridge has quickly become the go-to guy in this offense, especially with Roy sidelined, and has scored 71 points in the last two games. The last time Rudy made six or more shots was Jan. 29, 2010 (nine). Rudy becomes an intriguing deeper league pickup with immediate appeal, as the Blazers are hurting for depth at the moment (just called up Luke Babbitt(notes)).
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