1) The Cavaliers are feisty, but 46 from a motivated LeBron proves too much
Don’t make LeBron James angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
After three quarters, the feisty Cleveland Cavaliers led the Lakers by two. They used the formula that beat Brooklyn twice last week: good defense (sixth-best in the NBA this season by Cleaning the Glass’ stats, which filter out garbage time) and enough points from somewhere, in this case Andre Drummond who finished the night with 25.
As the clock expired at the end of the third, LeBron missed an elbow turnaround jumper and someone from the Cavaliers — LeBron said only it was someone from the Cleveland front office that he knew — cheered a little too loudly and talked a little too much trash about the miss.
LeBron outscored the Cavaliers single-handedly in the fourth, 21-19 — don’t make the man mad and give him extra motivation. If any franchise should know that, it’s the Cavaliers — they rode angry/motivated LeBron to a ring.
LeBron finished with 46 for the game and had seven made threes, sparking Los Angeles to the 115-108 win.
J.B. Bickerstaff has the Cavaliers playing better than expected this season — they are defending well, anchored by Drummond (and JaVale McGee, and now Jarrett Allen) in the paint, plus getting a standout season from Collin Sexton in the backcourt. If the playoffs started today, Cleveland would host a first-round play-in series game, which is far more than most projected for them. The Cavaliers have the ship headed in the right direction.
But they are not the Lakers, who are 14-4 and remain the team that everyone has to find a way to beat in the NBA. Especially if someone on the Cavaliers sideline is going to light a fire under LeBron James.
2) The Michael Porter Jr. Denver needs shows up, leads them to win over Dallas
The potential is always there, but “consistent” has never been the word used to describe Michael Porter Jr. His defense is fantastic in flashes, and his confidence in his shot can be up and down.
It was up Monday night — and was the reason Denver knocked off Dallas. Porter came off the bench (as he has the last three games since his return) and hit 10-of-18 shots on his way to a team-high 30 points, including six made threes.
Nicola Jokic continued his stellar play with a 20 point, 10 rebound night. They needed all of it because Luka Doncic posted another triple-double with 35 points, 16 assists, and 10 boards.
Denver looked to be in trouble after Jamal Murray got ejected for hitting Tim Hardaway Jr. in the… groin. Shall we say. The pair had collided in the third quarter, with Murray going to the ground. As Murray stood up, he reached between Hardaway’s legs and gave him a little shot.
That’s an ejection every time.
Fortunately for Murray, Porter Jr. kept it from costing the Nuggets.
3) There may be an All-Star Game after all
All-Star Weekend has been canceled, Indianapolis will have to wait until 2024 for its turn to host.
The All-Star Game itself, however, may go on, likely in Atlanta. The NBA and players union (certainly with prodding from Turner Broadcasting, which has the rights to the game) are in talks about hosting an All-Star Game, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Chris Paul reportedly backs the idea and wants to use it to financially help out both COVID-19 relief and historically Black colleges and universities.
This didn’t come out of nowhere, the league had always planned to select an All-Star team — complete with fan votes — and the possibility of playing the game was always on the table. In theory, the NBA is scheduled to have a break between March 5-10, providing a window (although talk around the league that due to all the games postponed so far due to COVID-19 protocols, that break may be limited or erased for some teams).
Just to be clear, this would be the All-Star Game only — no Slam Dunk contest or fan events — it would be more of a made for television event. But it could happen.