NBA schedule and results: Trail Blazers, Rockets and Spurs, Clippers highlight Monday’s loaded slate
Monday’s NBA schedule is packed with great games. From Bulls-Raptors to Kings-Warriors, there will be good basketball on all night.
The Cleveland Cavaliers got their latest sign of progress with a 105-91 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, but it came with a frustrating footnote. Even as the team seems to be figuring things out after some early season disarray, power forward Kevin Love continues to struggle.
The Cavaliers had a lot of things working against one of the best teams in the league Sunday, running out to a 20-6 lead before the Grizzlies rallied to trim the lead by the end of the first period. Cleveland ended the game shooting 61 percent from the field, including 7-of-14 from three, with several players putting up efficient numbers.
However, Love, for the third straight game, was not one of those players. The All-Star power forward put up just eight points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes, with more turnovers (two) than assists (one). His 4-of-9 shooting effort represents 10 straight games with a field goal percentage of 50 percent or worse, including an abysmal 1-of-10 outing against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
While the rest of the Cavaliers play their best ball of the season, Love is stuck in his biggest slump. And possibly as worrisome for Cleveland, it’s led to the big man taking less shots from the field. It’s unclear exactly how much Love would ideally shoot in David Blatt’s system when everything is running smoothly, but the former Minnesota star is averaging just 10.8 shots per game (and shooting 38 percent) during the past five contests. Previously, he was averaging about 13 shots per game and shooting 45 percent. Even if Love’s numbers were expected to take a major step back without the starring role he played with the Timberwolves, the past few weeks haven’t reflected the kind of progress one would hope to see from Love.
Of course, there’s still a good chance he figures things out before season’s end, and until then, the Cavaliers are showing they’ll be dangerous even if Love isn’t at the top of his game. LeBron James was fantastic for the Cavaliers, leading the way with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting and 11 assists in 38 minutes. Kyrie Irving also posted a double-double, reflecting his progression from earlier this season by going for 17 points and 12 assists (with just two turnovers) in 37 minutes of action. Anderson Varejao (18 points, 9-of-12 shooting) and Dion Waiters (21 points, 9-of-16 shooting) were also big against one of the toughest defenses in the league.
There’s a lot to be excited about in Cleveland after a big win against a Western Conference contender, but the Cavaliers won’t be at their best without Love playing a huge role. He’s shown signs of finding his place with the team at times this season, but still needs to prove he can string that together for weeks (and months) at a time.
3 other things we learned
Davis too much for Durant-less thunder. A matchup against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans proved too much for the Oklahoma City Thunder sans Kevin Durant, who missed his second straight game due to a sprained right ankle. Despite the ongoing brilliance of Russell Westbrook, who had his latest strong effort, the Thunder couldn’t stop Davis as he torched an overwhelmed OKC frontcourt for 38 points on 16-of-22 shooting and 12 rebounds in 37 minutes of action.
The bottom of the standings just got tighter. Everyone expected the Philadelphia 76ers to plummet to the bottom of the NBA standings, stay there all season and angle for the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft. Early in the season, it certainly seemed like that was happening. But, with a 96-88 win against the Orlando Magic on Sunday, the gap between the Sixers (3-23) and the league’s other cellar dwellers is thinning. The New York Knicks (5-25), Detroit Pistons (5-23) and Timberwolves (5-21) all added to their ugly loss totals Sunday. While Philadelphia remains the favorite to finish with the league’s worst record, it may not be the foregone conclusion most suspected.
Kobe continues to show no conscience when shooting. If something or someone is going to discourage Kobe Bryant from firing up shots, it hasn’t happened yet. The Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard took 30 of the team’s 87 shots in a 108-101 loss to the Sacramento Kings, maintaining an astonishing rate that could put him in the history books if he doesn’t slow up. Bryant finished the game with 25 points, which seems good, but it’s hard to get too excited when he’s recording more turnovers (nine) than field goals made (eight). Los Angeles obviously needs Kobe in order to stay competitive this season, but with this effort coming on the heels of another poor performance against OKC, coach Byron Scott is considering resting his star player:
Lakers coach Byron Scott said he will talk to Kobe Bryant about the possibility of sitting a game or two for fatigue after poor Kings play.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) December 22, 2014
Play of the Night
Terrence Ross hasn’t quite taken his game to another level this season in Toronto, but the Raptors seem to be doing pretty alright with his combination of strong defense, perimeter shooting and occasional acts of high-flying brilliance. The Knicks probably could’ve gotten back faster on defense to make this a harder play, but hey, then we wouldn’t have gotten such an awesome highlight.
2 fun things
SIGN UP FOR OUR NBA NEWSLETTER
Get news, links and Ziller’s #hottakes in your inbox every weekday morning.