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Nightly Grades 2.20.13: The Beard torches the Thunder

By Royce Young | NBA writer

Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management, the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad and the ugly from the night that was.

James HardenA career-high 46 on 19 shots? Terrific. A career-high 46 on 19 shots against the team that traded you, and the win? Pretty much the best. In the first two meetings against the Thunder, Harden scored a combined 42 points on 9-33 shooting. He scored 16 alone in the fourth quarter to bring Houston back from 14 down with seven minutes left. He was brilliant.
Jeremy LinLin went for 29 on 12-22 shooting, hitting two big time 3s late to ice a win for Houston over OKC. He was able to shake loose of Russell Westbrook repeatedly on the perimeter and made him pay. Lin and Harden combined for 76 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds. That's a winning formula.
Kyrie IrvingIf Irving isn't your favorite player that's not on your favorite team, then you're doing it wrong. Thirty-five points and seven assists, and another fourth quarter closeout. Is he the best crunch-time player in basketball? Probably not, but he's certainly in the conversation.
Brooklyn NetsThe Nets have been plodding along as of late and averted a disaster against the Bucks with a 29-18 fourth-quarter spurt. They only shot 40 percent but survived for a solid 97-94 win.
Kevin Durant and Russell WestbrookDurant finished with a triple-double -- 16 points, 11 assists, 12 rebounds -- and Westbrook was close -- 28 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists -- but the two combined for 12 turnovers and went cold late as their former teammate scorched them.
Rudy GayJust 5-15 for 13 points against his former team. And a loss. Pretty much the anti-Harden performance.
The Hawks' fourth quarterThey were right in it against the Heat entering the fourth. Ahead 77-63 with 12 minutes to go. But Miami exploded, outscoring Atlanta 40-17 in what might be Josh Smith's final game (10 points, 5-13 shooting, nine rebounds) with the franchise. Not the way to go out.
New York KnicksThe Pacers are a great defensive team. But they dropped 125 on the Knicks and won by 34.
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