Every morning, we'll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.
1: The Blazers free fall continues
A month seems like, well, a lot longer than a month in this insane NBA season. And it has only been a month since the Blazers were the best team out West. But the Blazers haven't just come crashing to earth, they've falling through the upper crust of the earth, leaving one of those cartoonish person-shaped holes behind.
Portland is 4-6 in February after blowing an 18 point lead to Chris Paul (13 4th quarter points) and the Clippers. They have fallen to just one game above .500 and they are currently on the outside of the playoff race looking in. Without Aldridge, the Blazers built a nice lead over the cold Clips behind Nicolas Batum. But his last basket came early in the third quarter. Raymond Felton dropped a goose-egg and Gerald Wallace was only 2-7 in 42 minutes.
Those three guys have to play their best basketball without Aldridge, and, to varying degrees, they're not getting it done. The Clippers comeback was impressive but not entirely surprising because you have to expect Chris Paul to catch fire at some point. He's too good, and too competitive, to roll over and die. But if Portland isn't going to get a full team effort on a consistent basis, they're just going to keep falling further out of the hunt. They don't have a superstar to carry them out of slumps. Even Aldridge, as good as he can be, isn't at that level yet. So Portland is going to have to come up with something to get everyone on the same page... or this thing going to get worse.2: Derrick who?
Derrick Rose has missed four straight games with a bad back, but that has barely slowed the Bulls down. They're 3-1 in that stretch, and the lone loss was a four-point defeat in Boston in a game where Rajon Rondo dropped a massive 32 point, 15 assist, 10 rebound triple double. Unlike the Blazers, who are disintegrating without their star player, the Bulls are rallying and getting contributions from unsung heroes.
Last night, Mike James came into the game and provided an unquestioned spark for Chicago in an 89-80 win over the Boston Celtics. His 8 points and 4 assists in 17 minutes threw Boston off balance and allowed Luol Deng to chuck daggers from deep. Deng finished with 23 points thanks to a 6-9 performance from the 3, hitting a huge shot every time the Celtics looked like they might entertain a thought of stealing the game. Deng also added 10 assists and his typically stingy defense on Paul Pierce. After Pierce dropped 6 quick points to start the game, He was held to just 8 the rest of the way.
The Bulls showed why they are regarded as one of only two legitimate title contenders in the East. Even without their megastar, they can get contributions from anywhere at any time to compensate and hold the fort until he comes back.3: HIGHLIGHTS!!!
Blake Griffin from a complete standstill, reaches out to snag the board and then brings it back for the follow dunk
Rajon Rondo and Chris Wilcox connect on the lob
Kenyon Martin can still get up
4: Line of the night: Danny Granger - 32 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
Granger played through the pain of a sprained ankle to help the Pacers snap a five-game losing streak. Really, the only thing that could stop Granger last night was a power outage.
I like the ref at the end of the clip. "C'mon Avery... we know things are bad, but you can't be pulling the plug like that. Just sit back and take it like a man."
With Granger back, and this back-to-back-to-back out of the way, the Pacers can now try to get back to being the team they were at the beginning of the month: a fluid offense with too many weapons to guard and a solid defensive team that makes you work for what few points you can get.5: You can quote me on that
''We definitely missed him. Danny brings a lot. He's our best scorer. He defends so well, with Danny out, that definitely hurt us.''
-Paul George, on playing without Danny Granger
New York Knicks It Is!
-JR Smith, on Twitter, regarding his NBA destination
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