The NBA: Midterm Marks Part Two

Now that teams are a little past the 41-game mark of the 2012-2013 NBA regular season, I felt it would be good to take stock of how each team has performed and where they could be headed. I’ll also try to take a look at some important developments for the team and give them my own midterm mark, which, for those who bother to think if there’s any objective set of rubrics, is based on my own whimsy.

I shall look at the teams in alphabetical order:
- Part 2 will take a look at MIA until WAS.

Dwyane Wade and the Heat remain atop the East
despite going 6-4 in their last 10.
(image by Wilfredo Lee/AP)

  1. Miami Heat: The champs have gone 6-4 in their last 10 despite LBJ having another MVP-worthy year. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have been boom-bust so far, though Ray Allen’s shooting has really helped spread the floor. Still the best team in the East. Mark: B
  2. Milwaukee Bucks: For a while, it seemed like the Bucks would be the GS Warriors of the East, but Brandon Jennings has turned out to be a little less consistent than Steph Curry, and the frontline of Larry Sanders + Ersan Ilyasova is still not as good as David Lee by his lonesome. Still, Milwaukee should make a strong postseason push in the second half of the season. Mark: B
  3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio’s triumphant return was neutered with the unwelcome news of another Kevin Love injury. No other team has so many white guys producing so well, but that won’t be enough to tide them over farther than their 40% winning percentage right now. Mark: C
  4. New Orleans Hornets: Nobody should be surprised that the Hornets are doing so badly – like dead last in the West – but what’s surprising is that top pick Anthony Davis has already developed into the best player on this team. His numbers – about 13ppg, 8rpg, 2bpg, and 1spg – aren’t eye-popping, but they’re enough. Still, this team still needs A LOT of work. A LOT. Mark: C
  5. New York Knicks: Those Knicks are smoking right now – in a good way. They’re holding on to that #2 spot and remain the biggest threat to Miami’s dominance in the East. Melo is in the MVP conversation and Tyson Chandler is my DPOY, hands down. They’ve also won 8 of their last 10, which is the most of any East squad. Looks like New York’s really back. Mark: A
  6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Despite what their record might suggest, the Thunder have been far from invincible in their last 10 contests. They’ve gone just 6-4 in that stretch, though it’s also not hard to imagine them going 8-2 or 9-1 in their next 10. They’re that good. Methinks they’ll turn up the heat (oops, a pun?) when it matters most. Mark: B+
  7. Orlando Magic: All we really need to know are two things – Orlando went through their last 10 games with ZERO wins, and the only reason they’re not last in Southeast is that they have Washington and Charlotte below them. Mark: D
  8. Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers started with so much promise, but the law of averages caught up with them, and now they’re in a dogfight for the eighth spot against Boston. It’s worth noting, though, that guys like Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner have improved mightily. Also, Jrue Holiday has FINALLY blossomed into an All-Star PG. Mark: C+
  9. Phoenix Suns: The Suns’ offense has sputtered this season. How so? Their leading scorer, Goran Dragic, averages just 14.2ppg. Their LEADING SCORER. Ah, those D’Antoni days are definitely so long gone. Of course, they’re also languishing near the bottom of the West. Mark: D
  10. Portland Trailblazers: Sometime in late April, the Blazers will be in the thick of the fight for the eighth playoff spot in the West. They won’t make it, of course, and we’ll blame their inexperience for it. Some other veteran-laden team like the Lakers or Dallas will snare the last spot, but that won’t make us forget how Portland ALMOST made it. Blazer fans can thank draft steal Damian Lillard for that. Mark: C+
  11. Sacramento Kings: So, DeMarcus Cousins got himself thrown out yet again. This kind of thing is getting too tiresome, but it won’t end because this is the culture that has enveloped the Kings franchise. Look out Seattle, you’re next. Mark: D
  12. San Antonio Spurs: Those aging legs are still finding ways to lift the Spurs into familiar heights. San Antonio continues to defy all odds by remaining the BEST TEAM in the league. This despite their oldies missing some time due to, well, age. Somewhere down the road, those aching bones will catch up and prevent them from entering the NBA Finals, but it should still be a memorable ride no matter what. Mark: A
  13. Toronto Raptors: Let’s see… last in the Atlantic and they traded away a quality PG for an expensive swingman whose skills make DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani redundant. Yep. Way to build a winner here. Oh well, at least they get to sell tickets with Rudy Gay as the new face of the franchise. Mark: C
  14. Utah Jazz: Two All-Star caliber bigs and three boom-bust forwards make for an enigmatic, though effective, Utah Jazz five. There are no longer many pick-and-rolls played in these parts, but, eerily, things are humming along just fine. Unless they have a long losing spell and tumble out of 7th spot of course. Mark: C+
  15. Washington Wizards: And here I thought John Wall’s return would actually make things interesting. Well, things DID get interesting… for like 6 or 7 games. And then the REAL Wizards had to show up to spoil the party. Once again, it’s all smoke and mirrors in the Washington. Mark: C

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
February 2
Final Score: Chicago 93, Atlanta 76
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler each posted double-doubles to lead the depleted Chicago Bulls to a 93-76 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Deng finished with a game-high 25 points and 14 rebounds and Gibson had 19 points and set a career-high with 19 rebounds for the Bulls, who were without starters Joakim Noah (foot), Carlos Boozer (hamstring) and Kirk Hinrich (elbow). Butler scored 16 points and pulled down 10 boards and Nate Robinson added 20 points and eight assists for the Chicago. Josh Smith scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Al Horford scored 14 points and pulled down 12 boards for the Hawks, who have dropped two of their last three following a three-game winning streak.

Final Score: Cleveland 115, Oklahoma City 110
Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - Kyrie Irving scored 35 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 115-110 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. Marreese Speights and Tristan Thompson each recorded double- doubles for Cleveland, which was coming off a loss against Detroit on Friday. Speights had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Thompson had 11 points and 12 rebounds. C.J. Miles scored 16 points. Kevin Durant registered 32 points and 11 rebounds, Russell Westbrook added 28 points, and Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder, who have lost four of their past seven games.

Final Score: New York 120, Sacramento 81
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Carmelo Anthony had an off night for New York. Unfortunately for the Kings, the rest of the Knicks did not. After New York started 0-for-9 from 3-point range, Anthony's supporting cast netted nine of their next 12 from long distance during a sensational 46-7 burst, as the Knicks ran away with a 120-81 victory in an annihilation of the Sacramento Kings. Anthony finished with just nine points as his streak of scoring at least 20 came to an end at 31 games. However, Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith picked up the slack, as Stoudemire shot a perfect 10-for-10 in scoring 21 points, while Smith led the Knicks' 3-point shooting with seven makes from beyond the arc. Steve Novak also thrived in converting 5-of-7 from long distance as New York made 19-of-43 from 3-point range and 54.7 percent from the field overall in the victory. DeMarcus Cousins was the lone bright spot in the Kings' worst loss of the season, scoring 25 points. They were outscored 72-30 over the second and third quarters in dropping their third straight and seventh in eight games.

Amar'e Stoudemire and the Knicks continue to rise and surprise
in the current NBA season.
(image by Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)

Final Score: Houston 109, Charlotte 95
Houston, TX (Sports Network) - James Harden notched his first-career triple- double to lead the Houston Rockets to a 109-95 win over the Charlotte Bobcats at Toyota Center. Harden finished with 21 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. Chandler Parsons scored 24 points and pulled down 10 boards and Patrick Patterson scored 24 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter, for the Rockets, winners in four of their last five. Omer Asik added 19 points and 15 rebounds in the triumph. Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Ramon Sessions added 20 points and six assists for the Bobcats, losers in three straight and six of their last seven overall.

Final Score: Minnesota 115, New Orleans 86
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Dante Cunningham scored 18 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting from the field and Nikola Pekovic added 14 points and seven rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves crushed the New Orleans Hornets, 115-86, at Target Center. Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved netted 12 points apiece for the Timberwolves, who emphatically ended a six-game losing streak. Mickael Gelabale contributed 11 points and five rebounds in the win. Anthony Davis scored 18 points and Robin Lopez donated 16 for the Hornets, who have lost four straight road tilts and six of their last seven games overall.

Final Score: Milwaukee 107, Orlando 98
Milwaukee, WI (Sports Network) - Monta Ellis finished with 21 points and 11 assists as the Milwaukee Bucks took care of the Orlando Magic with a 107-98 victory on Saturday. Brandon Jennings followed with 20 points and Larry Sanders filled the stat sheet with 17 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks to help the Bucks end a two-game skid. Ersan Ilyasova added 16 points and eight boards in the victory. The decimated Magic added Jameer Nelson (forearm) to their injured list prior to the team's ninth straight loss. Nikola Vucevic finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, while Maurice Harkless tallied 19 points and 14 boards in the setback.

Final Score: San Antonio 96, Washington 86
San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) - Tim Duncan's return to the lineup was short-lived, but the San Antonio Spurs managed to record their 10th straight victory with a 96-86 decision over the Washington Wizards on Saturday. Duncan, who had missed the team's previous four games with a sore left knee, suffered a sprained right ankle and a sprained left knee in the second quarter. He was hurt when Washington forward Martell Webster rolled onto the back of his knee as the two were battling for a rebound. Tony Parker had a double- double with 19 points and 12 assists for the Spurs, who will begin an 18- day, nine-game road trip on Wednesday. Danny Green and Tiago Splitter donated 15 and 12 points, respectively, while Kawhi Leonard tallied 10 points and 11 boards. John Wall ended with 21 points and nine assists for the Wizards, who have lost four straight. Webster had 14 points and Chris Singleton and Nene each added 11 points apiece.

Final Score: Portland 105, Utah 99
Portland, OR (Sports Network) - Damian Lillard scored 23 points and the Portland Trail Blazers split a home-and-home set with the Utah Jazz by taking a 105-99 victory on Saturday at the Rose Garden. Nicolas Batum fell just shy of a triple-double, registering 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, while J.J. Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge also posted double- doubles in Portland's fourth victory in six games. Hickson tallied 21 points with 11 rebounds and Aldridge totaled 18 points along with 11 boards in the triumph. The Trail Blazers were without Wesley Matthews, who sat with a sprained ankle. Randy Foye tied a season-high with six triples to lead the Jazz with 23 points, but Utah was unable to sweep the two-game set with Portland after defeating them on Friday. Paul Millsap finished with 18 points and Marvin Williams followed with 15 as Utah suffered its 17th loss in 26 road contests this season.

Final Score: Golden State 113, Phoenix 93
Oakland, CA (Sports Network) - Stephen Curry posted 29 points and eight assists to pace the Golden State Warriors to their fourth straight win, a 113-93 decision over the Phoenix Suns. Harrison Barnes chipped in 21 points and eight boards, while David Lee filled the stat sheet with 16 points, 12 boards and seven assists. Klay Thompson scored 17, as the Warriors rallied from a four-point halftime deficit and held a 65-41 scoring advantage over the final 24 minutes. The Warriors, who moved 13 games over .500, shared the ball well with 34 assists. Michael Beasley had 24 points and Jared Dudley finished with 16 for the Suns, losers in four of their last five games. Luis Scola ended with nine points and 14 rebounds.

February 3
Final Score: Boston 106, LA Clippers 104
Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce finished with 22 points, including the game-sealing 3-pointer in the closing seconds, as the Boston Celtics held off the Los Angeles Clippers, 106-104, at TD Garden. Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa added 14 points apiece, Jason Terry netted 13 with six assists and Kevin Garnett posted 12 points and five rebounds for Boston, which won its fourth straight game. Eric Bledsoe had 23 points and 10 assists, while Blake Griffin had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers, who have dropped two in a row and six of their last eight overall. Jamal Crawford poured in 23 points and Caron Butler finished with 18 in defeat.

Final Score: LA Lakers 98, Detroit 97
Auburn Hills, MI (Sports Network) - Pau Gasol scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Kobe Bryant added 18 points and five assists, as the Los Angeles Lakers held on for a 98-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons Sunday. Bryant's three-point play with just over one minute helped the Lakers pick up their second straight win and fifth victory in their last six tries, despite four missed free throws in the final 16 seconds of the game and two late-second missed opportunities from the Pistons. Greg Monroe recorded a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds and Will Bynum posted 18 points and dished out 10 helpers, for the Pistons, who lost for the third time in their last four games.

Final Score: Miami 100, Toronto 85
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - LeBron James had 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to lead the Miami Heat to a 100-85 win over the Toronto Raptors. James was 10-for-16 from the field for Miami, which was coming off a 102-89 loss to Indiana on Friday. Chris Bosh added 28 points, while Dwayne Wade had 23 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Rudy Gay, who was acquired from a trade with the Grizzlies on Thursday, scored 29 points for the Raptors, who have lost four of their past five games. DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points, including a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line in the loss.

February 4
Final Score: Indiana 111, Chicago 101
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - David West netted a game-high 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds and Paul George recorded a double-double with 21 points and 11 boards, as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Chicago Bulls, 111-101, Monday.George Hill added 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and dished out six helpers for the Pacers, who picked up their 14th straight home victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and won their third straight overall. Lance Stephenson contributed 15 points, five assists and four rebounds in the victory. Marco Belinelli paced Chicago with a season-high 24 points, despite playing on a bad ankle for the majority of the contest, and Nate Robinson added 19 points and nine assists for the Bulls, who lost for the second time in their last three games. Taj Gibson scored 10 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in defeat.

Final Score: Philadelphia 78, Orlando 61
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Spencer Hawes had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the Philadelphia 76ers' 78-61 win over the Orlando Magic. Jrue Holiday added 13 points and 14 assists for the Sixers, who have gone 4-1 so far on their eight-game homestand. The 61 points allowed was a season low and set a new Wells Fargo Center mark. Sixers forward Thaddeus Young left the game in the middle of the second quarter with a strained left hamstring when he was attempting to steal a rebound from Magic forward Gustavo Ayon. Young did not return. E'Twaun Moore netted 18 points to lead Orlando, which tied a season- high with its 10th straight loss.

Final Score: Washington 98, LA Clippers 90
Washington, DC (Sports Network) - Martell Webster scored 21 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc to lead the Washington Wizards to a 98-90 victory over the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. Nene and Garrett Temple each scored 15 points and John Wall added 13 points and eight assists for the Wizards, who snapped a four-game skid.Emeka Okafor chipped in nine points with 14 rebounds and Trevor Ariza added 10 points off the bench in the win. Jamal Crawford poured in 28 points and Eric Bledsoe scored 17 points and dished out nine assists for the Clippers, who played without All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Final Score: Miami 99, Charlotte 94
Miami, FL (Sports Network) - LeBron James was nearly perfect in leading the Miami Heat to a 99-94 victory over the pesky Charlotte Bobcats. James finished with 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting while adding eight rebounds and eight assists. Chris Bosh had 23 points and Dwyane Wade scored 20 with season-high 12 rebounds for the Heat, who led by no more than nine points Monday night. Ramon Sessions paced six Charlotte players in double figures with 18 points. Ben Gordon contributed 16 points, while Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens posted 12 points apiece.

Final Score: New York 99, Detroit 85
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Carmelo Anthony registered 27 points and seven rebounds and Amare Stoudemire scored 20 points off the bench as the New York Knicks handled the Detroit Pistons, 99-85, on Monday. Anthony shot 10-of-17 from the field, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Tyson Chandler recorded eight points and 20 rebounds for the Knicks, who have won five straight and eight of the past 10 games. Jose Calderon, acquired from a three-team trade with the Toronto Raptors, had a team-high 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting in his first game with the Pistons, who have lost six of their last eight games. Greg Monroe recorded 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Final Score: Portland 100, Minnesota 98
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - LaMarcus Aldridge scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Wesley Matthews added 22 points and the Portland Trail Blazers held on for a 100-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. The Blazers led by 19 points at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Wolves cut their deficit to 91-80 with just under five minutes left. Minnesota then opened a 16-6 run, capped with J.J. Barea's falling layup, to pull within 97-96 with 36.9 seconds left. Aldridge, though, buried a deep jumper over Nikola Pekovic nine seconds later. Minnesota, though, pulled back within 99-98 six seconds later when Ricky Rubio found Dante Cunningham in the lane for a slam. The Wolves quickly fouled Luke Babbitt on the inbounds pass and he split the free-throw attempts. Rubio then dribbled off nearly 14 seconds before firing up an off-balanced jumper that was swatted away by Aldridge, who was fouled after corralling the rebound. Aldridge, though, missed a pair of free throws to give the Wolves one last chance to either tie or win the game.

Final Score: Oklahoma City 112, Dallas 91
Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) - Russell Westbrook had 24 points and seven assists in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 112-91 rout of the Dallas Mavericks. Kevin Durant added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder, who had lost four of their last seven games coming in. Shawn Marion netted 23 points to lead Dallas, which has dropped five of its last eight contests. The margin reached as high as 27 in the second quarter before Oklahoma City took a 68-44 spread into the break. The Thunder led 92-67 after three and the advantage reached its apex at 33 in the final stanza.

Final Score: Utah 98, Sacramento 91 (OT)
Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - Randy Foye had 20 points and six assists, while Al Jefferson registered a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, as the Utah Jazz took down the Sacramento Kings, 98-91 in overtime, on Monday. Foye had six points and nailed 4-of-4 free throws in extra time alone for the Jazz, who have won three of their last four. Paul Millsap and Alec Burks each donated 14 points and Derrick Favors added 13 points and nine boards off the bench to help the Jazz improve to 3-0 this season in games decided beyond regulation. Jason Thompson paced Sacramento with 23 points and 10 rebounds and Tyreke Evans had 20 points for the Kings, who finished a six- game road swing with a 1-5 record. Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton scored 17 and nine points, respectively, in the loss.

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