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Nightly Grades: LeBron breaks hearts; Mavs show something

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.

TeamGradeAnalysis
A+

On the road, at the Pacers, playing a team that had only lost twice at home. And they come away with an 81-73 win behind a splendid game from Monta Ellis (23 points, nine rebounds and six assists). They did it by holding the Pacers to just 11 fourth quarter points, shutting down the typically solid Pacer halfcourt offense. The Mavericks have now won seven of 10 and are 10 games above .500. This team is showing a little something right now.

A

The Raptors smoked one of their competitors for third in the East, crushing the Hawks 104-83. And they did it stuffing the box score. DeMar DeRozan had 31. Jonas Valanciunas pulled in 14 rebounds. Kyle Lowry had another double-double with 16 points and 13 assists. There's a lot of trade chatter circling around the Raptors, but for our sake as general observers, I kind of want to see what else this team's got.

A-

Within two of .500. This is a game the Nets absolutely would have lost a month ago. But they controlled basically all four quarters against the Bobcats, getting 25 from Paul Pierce. The Nets are somehow hanging in the conversation and now at 24-26, have a legit shot at homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. Amazing.

A

A game of 40 ties, 18 lead changes, and the Clippers eventually pulled out a wild 122-117 win over the Blazers. I just got exhausted typing that sentence. Blake Griffin went for 36-10, Chris Paul had 20 and 12 assists, and Jamal Crawford adding 25. What a game.

A

LeBron. That's all you need to know. At the death, a step-back 3 to win it and cap a night of 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. He's pretty good.

B+

What a brutal, heartbreaking loss. Especially since they had to have thought they won it with Stephen Curry's big shot with under 15 seconds to go. But LeBron did that LeBron thing and beat them. Just tip your cap on that one.

B+

Seven straight now for the Rockets, and this one came at the buzzer, sinking the Wizards with 0.7 seconds left. James Harden was magnificent with 35 on just 14 shots with six rebound and six assists as Houston continues to make its push towards homecourt in the opening round.

B+

The Blazers have now lost six of eight, which isn't good, but they can take something away from their last two nights. A tough three-point loss to the Thunder, and now a back-and-forth battle on the road with the Clippers. No shame for them in this one.

B

They won. Good job. At this point, any time the Cavaliers do something that's not completely horrible, it feels like a massive success. Tristan Thompson had 25-15 and while beating the Pistons isn't exactly the greatest thing in the world, it is a positive showing on the road against a team riding a three-game streak. Baby steps, you guys.

B

Jimmer! In the Garden, Jimmer Fredette led the Kings with 24 points, as Rudy Gay hit a critical late shot to force overtime. And in the extra frame, Gay and Derrick Williams popped in seven of the Kings 13 as they picked up a somewhat unexpected win in New York.

C+

Beating the Celtics isn't impressive, but as things have gone lately for the Spurs, nothing is to be taken for granted. They're beat up and playing constantly short-handed, so going on the road and winning is a positive. And better than the alternative.

C-

What happened to the defense? They allowed 115.9 points per 100 possessions tonight to the NETS, one of the worst offensive teams in the league. These are the games that you don't necessarily expect the Bobcats to win, but ones they really need to if they're serious about a playoff berth.

D

Hey, Rajon Rondo kind of played well.

D

Fire John Loyer! Just kidding. After winning three straight, including the first game under their new interim coach, the Pistons dropped a tough one at home to the Cavs, 93-89. And they did it by getting outscored 34-23 in the fourth. Gonna wish they had that one back.

D

Good try, I guess, Nuggets. Especially considering you don't currently have a point guard.

D-

The fact this was only the third loss at home this season is really impressive. The Pacers are in that unique position that every time they lose, it feels important, because it happens so little. But 11 points in the fourth quarter against the Mavs is bad.

F

Nothing against him, but when Gustavo Ayon is leading you in points and rebounds, it's probably not an awesome night for your team.

F

It's really just so typical that they lost in the way they did. Up two with four seconds left, Trevor Ariza "fouled" (and that's in parenthesis, because it really was Harden initiating contact and flopping) James Harden off the ball before it was inbounded, giving the Rockets a free, free throw to cut it to one. Then they let Harden waltz to the rim for a game-winner. They got over .500 for a second, but these last two losses -- to the Grizzlies and Rockets -- have to sting them as they sit at 25-27.

F

Mike Woodson might not expect to be fired. But after losing five of six, including this latest debacle to the Kings, he might want to go ahead and see what the opt-out on his lease looks like.

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