Tag:Report Card
Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:14 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 2:16 am
 

Report Card: Heat fail crunch-time again

Posted by Royce Young



Your nightly report card gives you a big picture look at what happened each night in the NBA. Grades are granted based on team or individual performances, and are graded on a curve for each element. Leave your own grades in the comments.

New York Knicks

You have to give credit to the Knicks. They've been up and down so far this season but against division leader Philadelphia, the Knicks played a quality all-around game getting necessary stops, getting big games from Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire and killing the glass. Everyone was riding high on the 76er bandwagon this week, but the Knicks handled them by getting out to a 28-15 first quarter and never looked back.

DeMarcus Cousins

The embattled big man had himself a ball game against the Raptors. Yeah, it was the Raptors who aren't typically strong inside, but Cousins put up 21 points and 19 boards. That's the type of stuff that makes him worth picking over a coach, no matter what the issues may be. Cousins has serious talent no matter what's going on in his head. If he can ever start channeling it properly, the guy is going to be a beast.

Kobe Bryant

A night after going for 48, Kobe put up his 109th career 40-point game dropping a four-oh on the Jazz in a Laker overtime win. He played 43 minutes, took 31 shots (making 14), grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists on top of it all. Kobe has been as good as ever to open this season. Whether it's the German knee treatment or freedom from the Triangle, Kobe's off to an MVP-type start.

John Lucas

Playing for MVP Derrick Rose, John Lucas stepped up and scored 25 points and dished out eight assists leading the Bulls to maybe the ugliest win ever over the Wizards, 78-64. But 25-8 is 25-8. Sure, it took him 28 shots, but that has never stopped us from being impressed with Rose. I think the lesson here is that obviously it's just the Chicago system and basically you can insert any player into that point guard spot and he'll produce big numbers. Also, I'm not at all serious about that. But seriously, what the crap John Lucas?

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clips got their biggest win of the season and while it's a very nice victory, it was U-G-L-Y. Chris Paul was terrific, DeAndre Jordan wonderful (six blocks), but the Clipper bench provided only eight points and Blake Griffin struggled, scoring just two baskets in the second half. It's a great win for the Clippers and something for them to build on, but it wasn't exactly a clean victory.

Mavericks beat the Celtics 90-85

A big game between two very high profile teams with big stars. It should be a good one, right? But the game was just ugly all over. Missed free throws, bad offense, sloppy play -- it wasn't pretty. It was close though and got entertaining late as Dirk completed a three-point play to put the Mavericks over the top, but you were watching two potentially over-the-hill teams look very much like it for 48 minutes.

Offense

Across the league tonight, only a couple games saw a team score 100 points. There were a bunch of games played in the 80s and a few with totals down in the 70s. The Wizards scored 64 total and the Hawks scored only nine in a quarter for crying out loud. It's the way life is in a lockout shortened season I guess, but man, there has been some ugly offense lately.

Crunch-time Heat

On a second consecutive night the Heat essentially choked in crunch-time. They missed 14 free throws (including eight from LeBron, four in the fourth quarter) and went nearly 12 minutes without a basket spanning the fourth quarter and overtime. And the one basket they finally got? It was a 3 from Mario Chalmers. We all make a big deal about this fourth quarter stuff with Miami, but it's a thing. You can't ignore it. Going almost a quarter's worth of basketball without a hoop is a problem.

Washington Wizards

Sixty-four points? Really? I mean, really? Are they even trying to score? Yeah, it was against the Bulls who are a great defensive team, but geez. Thirty-one percent from the floor, only one quarter over 20 points and only 27 points total in the second half? The Wizards terrible. Just terrible.

Injuries

Al Horford went down with a shoulder injury that could cost him a month or more. And he's just the latest in a long line of players getting dinged up. Blame it on the condensed schedule with no camp or just coincidence, but it has seemed like the injury bug has been biting quite a bit this season.

Posted on: January 11, 2012 12:16 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 1:46 am
 

Report Card 1.10.12: Washington Wizards get a W



By Matt Moore

Your nightly report card gives you a big picture look at what happened each night in the NBA. Grades are granted based on team or individual performances, and are graded on a curve for each element. Leave your own grades in the comments. 

Washington Wizards


A win! A real win! The Nets (0-18 start) is safe! Crack the champagne! Or Shasta! Or something. The Wizards were desperate, the Raptors were lethargic, the Wizards' offense wasn't gangbusters but their defense was stout. The Raptors cut the lead to 8 at one point, and then the Wizards just hit them in the mouth. Trevor Booker was tough inside, Chris Singleton was productive, John Wall had an efficient game passing (and still can't shoot). It wasn't a great game. But a win to get them off the snide, their first of the season? That's an A.


Chicago Bulls/Minnesota Timberwolves

Since we grade on a curve, the Bulls weren't flawless on defense, and the Wolves game them a good scare. But they executed and executed and answered everything the Wolves tried to do in order to steal momentum. Rose came back from an ankle injury and still closed out the game in style, including a dagger right in the eye of Ricky Rubio to put the fire out.

But the Wolves were right there. And where so many teams would wilt and die under the Bulls' pressure, the Wolves stayed in there. What's more, they controlled the turnover battle and produced on offense. Defense was their problem (*cough* Kevin Love *cough*) but they still got some big performances from their stars (*cough* Kevin Love *cough*).

Portland Trail Blazers

The Clippers hung in this one, and that says something about where both teams are at. But the Blazers got what they needed, particularly from Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton. Felton took over with a whirling dervish of layups and stripped Blake Griffin down the stretch. The Blazers continue to pressure teams into mistakes. It wasn't a flawless performance by any means, but it is a revenge get from the game they let slip in Staples. Blazers keep rolling. 

Houston Rockets


They beat the Bobcats while shooting 39 percent from the field, 35 percent from the arc, and 75 percent from the line. They turned it over 22 times and the Bobcats were missing two starters. So no, I am not impressed. One thing to watch, though. Jordan Hill has become a legitimate center in this league. After being cast off by the Knicks, he's one of the league leaders in rebound percentage and is playing efficiently at both ends. A good gamble that paid off for Houston. 




Memphis Grizzlies down the stretch


The Grizzlies were in this. In all honesty, they should get a B for their work against an exceptional OKC team. But down the stretch, in a tight game, the continuously made stupid fouls against Russell Westbrook who they have never been able to contain when he's in gear. Rudy Gay repeatedly took threes when they needed him creating inside, then turned the ball over in one-possession game. The Grizzlies' final meaningful possession was a Westbrook block of a Conley layup. Someone has to step up and make plays for this team if they're ever going to get out of their hole.

Toronto Raptors


Lost to the Wizards. Au-to-mat-ic.





LeBron James and the Heat in the clutch



Oh, here's a new one! 

The Heat did what they are most known for, completely self-destructing in the fourth quarter. LeBron James did not attempt a field goal in the fourth quarter. In overtime he missed several key shots and was blocked. He took a poor shot to go for the tie instead of working inside and all that post work we talked about? Gone. 

The Heat have been incredible this season, and that's not media fawning, that's just how good their play has been. But Tuesday night was a reminder that that hideous version of themselves that cost their team a championship still exists. They freeze, they lock up, and they let the whole world rain down on their heads. They utterly failed against a team they had down 17 Tuesday night. 


Gold Stars: Kobe Bryant (48 points on 18/31 shooting); Gerald Wallace (20-4-4 and so many huge plays there are too many to count plus a dagger three); David Lee, Dorrell Wright, Raymond Felton, Al Jefferson (30 and 12), Russell Westbrook
Posted on: January 9, 2012 11:02 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 1:16 am
 

Report Card 1.9.12: Iggy's World

By Matt Moore



Your nightly report card gives you a big picture look at what happened each night in the NBA. Grades are granted based on team or individual performances, and are graded on a curve for each element. Leave your own grades in the comments.

Philadelphia 76ers

If the Pacers are the surprising Eastrn team getting all the attention for their upgrades in the offseason, the Sixers are the team suprising based off the improvements of the core they've put together. The Sixers ground down the Pacers into dirt, forcing them into a 37 percent field goal percentage. Danny Granger was out with food poisoning and George Hill didn't play, but the Sixers have won five straight. Mostly on account of...

Andre Iguodala

There were four key plays you saw from Iguodala in the fourth quarter. He took his man off the dribble, slipped in-between two more defenders, then whipped a pass to a wide open Thaddeus Young for the baseline J. He then did the exact same thing from the left side wing, bouncing all the way to the far side, and dishing to Jodie Meeks for three. Then with the game still marginally in doubt, Iguodla posted his man and hit a turnaround jumper for the dagger. Iguodala is doing everything he has done the past few years, and more. And he's doing all of those things better than ever.

Toronto Raptors


The Raptors took down a dangerous Timberwolves team Monday night the way you would expect. Defense and dominating play from Andrea Bargnani. Wait, what? The impressive turnaround continues in Toronto. Bargnani had nine rebounds, and was unstoppable on offense. Meanwhile, Ed David made key plays and the Raptors shut off the lane to contain Ricky Rubio and the smooth

New York Knicks


The Bobcats are a decent team, it's not about that. I's that the Knicks continue to be unable to put together long stretches of cohesive play on either side of the ball. Needing D.J. Augustin to miss a wide-open three that would tie is just not a big confidence-getter at home. Still, they hung in there and got the win, so that's good enough for a passing grade. 

New Jersey Nets


The Nets get an F for their first quarter, again, and then a C for the rest of the game. They keep battling back but the Nets put themselves in deep holes way too much. You get the feeling that teams are basically pummeling the Knicks early, then taking their foot off the pedal and letting the Nets hang. Good on the Nets for not giving up, but in terms of getting the most out of limited options, Avery Johnson hasn't done a great job this season.

Detroit Pistons


 For reasons unknown to man, Lawrence Fank keeps playing veterans, all of whom shoot more than Greg Monroe, their best player, and having Ben Gordon play point. And that worked against the Bulls about as well as you would expect. The Pistons turned the ball over on eight out of ten possessions at one point, and repeatedly keep going to offense that isn't centered to their strengths. It's time for a youth movement in Detroit, and the results be damned. Losing anyway.

Posted on: January 8, 2012 11:58 pm
 

Report Card: Nash doing his Nash thing

Posted by Royce Young


Ricky Rubio

OK, so it was against the Wizards. But they have John Wall, remember? And Ricky Rubio torched them. Off the bench for the Wolves, Rubio piled up 13 points, 14 assists and six rebounds while being a +29. It's not so much that he's dazzling and making us say "Oooh" every time he passes it anymore. He's just a dang good point guard and he makes the Wolves a much better team.

Steve Nash

Nash dished out 17 assists, but 10 came in the first quarter. While people like me fawn over Rubio, you can't forget that Nash is still the best setup man in basketball. Chris Paul is a better point guard, but nobody puts a pass right on the money for a good shot quite like Nash. The Suns have been pretty up and down, but have won two straight games to get back 4-4. And when Nash has it going, that's a team that beat a whole lot of teams.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are the first team this season to sweep their back-to-back-to-back with an easy rout of the Spurs. Kevin Durant flirted with a triple-double (21-10-7) and OKC's bench piled up 53 points. But as coach Scott Brooks said after the game, he wanted to keep it in perspective. The Spurs, who are old, were playing without Manu Ginobili and in their fourth in five nights which meant a lot of their veterans didn't play. Impressive win, but against a wounded opponent.

Raymond Felton

Since calling out Russell Westbrook, Felton has been pretty average. He's gone 7-30 from the field in his last three games, including 1-9 Sunday against the Cavs that featured five turnovers. Felton's Blazers are 2-1 in that time, so that's no so bad and he's dished out 19 assists, but he isn't exactly looking quite as hot as he did after beating Westbrook.

Marc Gasol

Matching up against his brother Pau and Andrew Bynum, Mark wasn't good. He didn't make a shot in nine tries and scored only two points in 44 minutes. He grabbed 11 rebounds, had four steals and three blocks, but without Zach Randolph, Memphis isn't going to beat many teams getting nothing offensively from Gasol in 44 minutes.

Washington Wizards

I think we might just need to remake the "F" for each night into a little Wizard logo. Because this is becoming a nightly thing. It's almost a surprise if Washington is competitive. I don't think they've necessarily quit on Flip Saunders, but something isn't working for them. They're terrible, John Wall isn't making a move forward and the other players around him aren't helping much. The Wolves are a decent team but getting blasted by 21 at home while only scoring 73 points. Come on.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 11:03 pm
 

Report Card: Hawks fly over the Heat

Posted by Royce Young


A: Atlanta Hawks

It's easy to overlook the boring old Hawks when talking about the class of the East. But remember: That team went to the Easter semifinals and gave the Bulls a decent run. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford -- there's talent there. And while we all may want to forget about them and talk about the Heat, Knicks and Celtics, the Hawks aren't some team to take lightly in the East. They sent a pretty clear message by outscoring Miami 33-21 in the fourth while executing halfcourt possessions and holding the Heat's big three in check.

A: Minnesota Timberwolves

Dating back to last season, the Wolves had lost 18 straight games, including their 0-3 start. But with a win over the Spurs, the Wolves have just taken two in a row. Luke Ridnour showed Ricky Rubio that the starting job isn't his yet (nine assists), Kevin Love was terrific and the Wolves handled the Spurs with pretty much no problem. Minnesota's 2-3 on the season with two really tough losses to Oklahoma City and Miami. Not far off from being 4-1.

B: Dwyane Wade's block

Sometimes Dwyane Wade does stupidly incredible things. His block on Vladamir Radmonovic was one of these such things. Why only a B? Well, it came in a losing effort and let's keep in mind, Wade denied Vladamir Radmonovic at the rim.

B: 2003

Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter turned back the clock Monday. McGrady put together a big night for the Hawks with 16 points in a win over the Heat and Carter added 14 against the Thunder for the Mavericks off the bench. The cousins were doing work on the same night for the first time in... well, a while.

C: Boston Celtics

Boston got back to .500 with a home win over the Wizards, but it wasn't easy. It took a big fourth quarter to put away Washington and the Celtics actually trailed with six minutes left. It's a win, which is what's important, but it wasn't exactly an impressive performance against an overmatched team.

D: Miami Heat

The Hawks aren't terrible. So if you want to openly mock the Heat for losing their first game, keep in mind the Hawks are a playoff team with some good players. However, Miami's offense went completely stale, the Heat never tried to run and with everything shut down in the fourth, neither LeBron nor Wade tried to go to work on the block. Which I thought was the plan, right? Miami wasn't going to go 66-0, but this was a decent wake up call.

F: Flip Saunders

The embattled Wizards coach didn't get to watch his team for long against the Celtics as he picked up two technicals and was ejected in the first quarter.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 2:34 am
Edited on: December 30, 2011 2:50 am
 

Report Card: Westbrook's redemption



By Matt Moore

The Knicks wilt again out West, the Thunder rise and fire, and the Blazers win the best game of the night. Here's your nightly report card. 

A: Russell Westbrook


One day removed from a horrid shooting performance in a near-loss and after a brief altercation with Kevin Durant that subsequently became the biggest story in the league for a day, Russell Westbrook brought the Thunder back. He made all the plays late starting with a dunk and-one off a steal. He hit big shots when he needed to and grabbed a huge offensive rebound off a Durant miss late. It was a terrific job by a player with a lot of pressure on him, and showed why the Thunder believe he and Durant can be special together.

Westbrook isn't the pure point a lot of people think Durant needs. But in terms of scoring point guards, he's one of the best in the league. His fearlessness and ability to make things happen in key moments should not be overshadowed by a handful of poor shooting nights for the young player. Westbrook is a legitimate star who plays on the same stage, if not level, as Kevin Durant. 

A: Los Angeles Lakers


Ball movement. Help defense. Efficiency. The Lakers won with good basketball. Not superstar power, though Pau Gasol played well. They weren't pretty or fun to watch, they just worked to create open shots and knocked them down. Even when the Lakers were losing earlier this week, they had great effort, just poor execution. Against the Knicks, they really turned the effort into execution and simply played better basketball against what is arguably a more talented team in terms of star power.

B: Houston Rockets


The Spurs didn't have it, but the Rockets also never allowed them to find it Thursday night. The Rockets ran efficient offense over and over, getting contributions from their key guys and really attacked the Spurs inside with Samuel Dalembert. It was a key win after a disappointing opener against the Magic. Kevin Martin stopped being terrible and went back to Kevin-Martin-hood.

B: Portland Trail Blazers


They won against a very good Nuggets team and kept their hot streak alive. They shot 51 perent from the field. They also turned the ball over 25 times and let the Nuggets back in it after a huge initial rush. They lost the free throw battle. In reality, they had a hot night, shooting 51 percent from the field. They also played solid defense, if allowing a number of open looks. These two teams are evenly matched and the Blazers edged them. Room for improvement, but they get a B.

C: Dallas Mavericks


The Mavericks got a number of things to go their way in this game, and also played much better. The ball movement was there, Dirk was resurrected from lockout hibernation (29 and 10), JET was firing, and Ian Mahinmi and Brendan Haywood played well inside. But their defense was still several steps off of last year, and for crying out loud, the only guy in the building you have to guard with 1.4 seconds left and you give him a look? Better, Mavericks. Not good.

D: Dirk Nowitzki


Dirk nabbed a technical for complaining about a call in the fourth quarter. Was just a terrible time for that kind of a tech. 

D: New Jersey Nets


Missing Brook Lopez? Sure. But the effort isn't there, from any of the players. How exactly are you going to convince Dwight to come there by getting killed by him?

F: New York Knicks


Carmelo Anthony, point forward is not walking through that door. Carmelo Anthony, ball-stopping shooter is. Both Anthony and Stoudemire struggled mightily against a Lakers defense that attacked their dribble whenever they got the ball. The Knicks have no creator, no initiator, no playmaker, just bullets and no gun. Oh, and defensively? Renaldo Balkman spent the most time guarding Kobe Bryant. Whoever had that idea needs to spend some time reconsidering the way he approaches the world.

Incomplete: San Antonio Spurs


Back-to-back, but after two really solid defensive games the Spurs took a giant step backwards Thursday night.

E for Effort: Orlando Magic


It's not hard to beat the Nets. But the Magic are firing on all cylinders right now. Dwight Howard with 24 rebounds, Ryan Anderson 22 points. The Magic are still a good team in the middle of all the turmoil. Again, against the Nets. But still.

Gold Stars:


Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Terry, Serge Ibaka. Steve Blake. Pau Gasol. Josh McRoberts, Luis Scola. Jimmer. Wesley Matthews.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 11:40 pm
 

Report Card 12.28.11: Spurs ground Lob City

Posted by Royce Young


A: San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are too old right? THIS is the year it all starts coming apart for them, right? Yeah, right. The Clippers came to town bringing their lightshow of dunks and alley-oops, but the old, slow Spurs had no problems handling all that noise. San Antonio used a 38-point third quarter to pull away from the Clips and really highlighted a lot of issues Lob City has. They need a shooter and some depth, badly. The Spurs seem to have it all together once again, as long as the old guys can stay healthy. Doubt them all you want. Pay attention to the young, excited kids running and jumping and dunking. But the Spurs will just keep winning no matter how boring you may find that, thank you very much. The Spurs are 2-0 with blowout wins over Memphis and the Clippers. No big.

A: LeBron James and Chris Bosh

The Heat got a tougher than anticipated test from the Bobcats, but LeBron and Bosh were terrific for Miami. LeBron had 35 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Bosh had 11 of his 25 in the fourth. And he also had this incredibly awkward and awesome dunk.

B: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder picked up a third straight win, beating Memphis 98-95 on the road, but it's a bit tainted as Mike Conley injured his ankle on the very first possession of the game. And on top of it, the Thunder shot just 37 percent from the floor and gave up 19 offensive rebounds. But winning is winning and it's always good. Especially when it's on the road against a contender. Kevin Durant dropped a beautiful 32 points and carried OKC down the stretch.

C: New Orleans Hornets

They beat the Celtics to start 2-0. And they did this one without Eric Gordon. That really deserves an A. But you're supposed to be doing bad, New Orleans! You're supposed to be tanking this season away! You're supposed to be setting yourselves up for the Anthony Davis sweepstakes! Each win will be bittersweet this season for that stupid reason. It's supposed to be about the future and every win hurts that a bit. It's a horrible thing, but reality.

D: Russell Westbrook

How's this for a line: Four points, 0-13 shooting, four turnovers. Yikes. So why isn't this an F? Because Westbrook picked up six assists, hit two very important free throws in the final seconds and his team won.

F: Boston Celtics

What can you say? The Celtics are 0-3 and just lost to the Hornets despite their best player sitting. And it wasn't even a close game as they lost by 19. Yeah, Paul Pierce is hurt. Yeah, it's a night after that tough game in Miami. That's not supposed to be an excuse for a team like the Celtics though.

E for Effort: Charlotte Bobcats

So, sooooo close to knocking off the Heat. Miami was dragging a bit and probably overlooked Charlotte a bit as the Heat were coming off a game the night before against Boston, but the Bobcats were ready to go. Charlottle held a one-point lead with a few seconds left and if not for Dwyane Wade being ridiculous, the Bobcats would've registered the upset of the early NBA season. Things to be encouraged about though if you're Paul Silas and the Bobcats though. Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo and D.J. Augustin should give Bobcat fans something to be excited about.

Incomplete: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are 2-0, but have wins over the Pistons and Raptors, with both games being relatively close. Are they good or just beating who they're supposed to beat? It's hard to know right now.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:12 pm
 

Report Card 12.27.11: Lakers back on track



By Matt Moore


The Lakers get off the schneid, the Heat win by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin, and the Blazers look better than last year. All this and more in Tuesday night's report card.

A: Portland Trail Blazers: On the second night of a back-to-back, the Blazers trounced the Kings in dominant fashion, including holding them to just 14 points in the fourth quarter. There's a lot to like about this Blazers team along with the usual suspects, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews. Mostly, the defense, lead by Gerald Wallace. Wallace was an absolute demon Tuesday night, covering wall-to-wall and making every play you can imagine. The Blazers blocked three shots on one possession at one point, and wound up with eight blocks and six steals. A dominant showing on a night when their guards struggled. Blazers look good early.

A: Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers played so well I'm handing out two A-grades. On the third night of a back-to-back, the Lakers came out at home and put away any talk of their losing streak stretching to 0-3 in the first quarter. The Utah Jazz looked like the worst team in the league Tuesday night, but the Lakers' dominance was great enough to overcome the challenge of a terrible opponent bending the curve. Defense was the key here. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace were everywhere. Gasol played extremetly strong both at the rim and in space against Al Jefferson. The Jazz were a wreck, but the Lakers steered them there. Great first win for Mike Brown and company.

B: Norris Cole: The Heat rookie was the fourth quarter closer the Big 3 could not, would not be. 20 points for the rook who was aggressive at every turn. Cole not only took the game by the horns and drove the Celtics into the ground to bring back for supper when they made a furious fourth quarter run behind a zone defense, he was pivotal on defense and made good decision making. He would nail a big shot, then fist pump his way to the bench without turning around for Dwyane Wade or LeBron James' approval. So why the B? He was a bit too aggresive at times and still struggles with finishing like all rookies do. Wouldn't want the kid to get too big a head on his shoulders. The kid simply stepped up, did his job, and helped get the win for the Heat when they needed someone to step up and hit the shots. And now everyone gets to ask, "They have MORE talent?"



C: Boston's comeback: Great adjustment by Boston coach Doc Rivers to go to the zone, which the Heat will now be seeing in every game for the remainder of the season. That, combined with some great shooting, particularly from Keyon Dooling, helped the Celtics bring the Heat to the knife's edge before Cole turned it around on them. The Celtics made the push they needed to, and showed why they are still dangerous. So why the C? They lost, are 0-2, with two losses to teams they are likely to encounter in the playoffs. It was a good comeback effort, but ultimeately, it wasn't enough, and you have to wonder if it would have been that close had it not gotten so out of hand in the third so as for Erik Spoelstra to start screwing with lineups. The Celtics get a D, but the comeback is a C. 

D: Heat's composure: How many times is this team going to melt down in the fourth? They had to turn to a rookie to save them late in a key game against arguably their biggest rival. It should never have gotten that close. Oh, and Paul Pierce didn't play. The Heat won, and they played incredibly well in the third, but man alive, they need to learn to close better.

F: Utah Jazz: So, you know, this draft class, it looks great...

Other Notable Grades:

Withdraw: Heat as invulnerable: Best team in the league right now? No question. But after looking like a flying death machine in the third, the Celtics drew blood on Heat before falling to their own mortality.

E For Effort: Kevin Love: 31 points, 20 boards in a three-point loss to the Bucks. Love was a monster and gave it his all in a badly coached game by Terry Porter with Rick Adelman absent due to a death in the family. One complaint? His final shot was either badly drawn up or executed, a pull-up 35-footer a la Kevin Durant in last year's playoffs vs. the Mavericks. But that stat line is part of what we missed during the lockout.

Gold stars: Pau Gasol (5 blocks). LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Jennings. Jon Leuer. Chris Bosh. MarShon Brooks. Vlad Radmanovic.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com