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Nightly Grades: Pacers establish themselves, Kyrie Irving back

By Zach Harper | 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.

TeamGradeAnalysis
AWelcome back, Kyrie Irving. We missed you. 37 points, 11 assists, and just one turnover. Irving seems to find a way to do this against the New York Knicks. The Cleveland Cavaliers' dominated the Knicks in this game and kept them ahead of the boys in Gotham as he controlled this contest all night. Jarrett Jack and Tristan Thompson both had significant contributions but this entire night was pretty much Irving exorcising demons from this season.
AThey weathered a 36-point first quarter by the Toronto Raptors, and they still managed to totally control this game. The San Antonio Spurs owned the second and third quarter, making this one a veritable laugher for most of the fourth quarter. Seven guys in double figures for scoring and four of those guys came off the bench to do it.
AKevin Love returned after missing a game due to the death of his grandma and reminded Minnesota Timberwolves' fans why he is so good. He had 19 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists. At the half. He finished with 26-16-7 as the Wolves quickly turned this into a laugher in the third quarter. 88 points from he starters with Ricky Rubio giving them 15. They're 7-2 when he scores in double figures this season, 3-9 when he doesn't.
A-The Indiana Pacers love using that pivotal third quarter and they used it tonight to bury the Miami Heat in this game. Statement game for the Pacers that could have slipped away after an emphatic first quarter by LeBron and his friends. Instead, the Pacers stuck to the game plan and wore the Heat down. That's what Pacers' basketball does.
B+Hard not to like what you saw out of the Phoenix Suns tonight. Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris combined for 37 points, 11rebounds, and five assists off the bench. Goran Dragic destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers in transition and finished with 31 points. And Eric Bledoe's all around play helped keep the Lakers winless since Kobe Bryant came back.
B+There isn't enough you can say about the 30-point, 10-rebound, five-assist effort Kevin Durant gave the Oklahoma City Thunder gave against the Atlanta Hawks but the 19-point, 10-rebound performance by Serge Ibaka was integral to this win. Russell Westbrook struggled to put the ball in the basket (14 points on 21 shots) but he contributed everywhere else (11 assists, nine rebounds, and four steals).
BOK, this was a lot better than what we've been seeing. Deron Williams and Paul Pierce returned to the Brooklyn Nets and we saw an immediate improvement. Williams and Brook Lopez combined for 49 points on 29 shots and Alan Anderson chipped in with 15 points in a starting role. The defense looked solid too by allowing just 30 points in the paint.
BThe Hawks were great at running the ball down the throats of the Thunder. They finished with 30 fastbreak points in the home loss. They just couldn't execute in the halfcourt the way they needed to. Al Horford had just seven points on 10 shots. When he struggles to score, he needs to get to the free throw line (only two attemtps).
BKobe Byrant was so much better in game two than he was in game one. But it still wasn't enough to get his team a victory. He had 20points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field in 29 minutes. The Lakers kept the game close for much of the night, continuously battling back but couldn't manage to find a rhythm from downtown.
B-The first quarter was a problem for the Pacers. The second quarter was them getting their feet planted into the ground. The third quarter was the Pacers pushing back and the fourth quarter was Indiana slamming the door. Miami is fine in this matchup but they need LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade combining for at least 60 on nights like this.
C-You can't blame the Boston Celtics' starters for losing this game. 84 of the team's 96 points came from the starting lineup. The Celtics didn't turn the ball over that much (nine times) and they shot the 3-pointer well (11-of-22) but they weren't able to get into the paint and score. They also weren't able to get much in the way of moving the ball for buckets with just 14 assists on 35 made shots.
C-John Henson had 25 points, 14 rebounds, and a huge fadeaway jumper in the 78-74 win. The rest of his team had 53 points and 25 rebounds. What I'm saying is this game was pretty much unwatchable.
D+Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy combined to score 45 of the Chicago Bulls' 74 points. The rest of the team combined to make me want to change the channel.
D+A great start to the game for the Raptors but asking them to sustain that against the Spurs is kind of a lot. Second straight great game for Amir Johnson as he racked up 19 points and nine rebounds. Either he's going to continue to be molded into a perfect role player for this team or he's upping his trade value. Either way, it's a win-win, except for in the win column.
D+Dominating the boards is a lot easier for the Detroit Pistons when they aren't going against a front line like the Wolves employ. Andre Drummond was finally tamed on the boards and the Pistons lost the rebounding battle 46-39 overall. Detroit finished with 20 turnovers, which killed their momentum all night.
DEveryone who seemed to try really hard and have a positive contribution to this game should raise their hand. Carmelo Anthony should be the only one with his hand raised right now. OK, Amar'e Stoudemire and Pablo Prigioni may also raise their hands. I'm going to need you to put your hand down, JR Smith. What's that? You're just holding up your follow-through still? Of course, you are.
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