Nightly Grades: Dirk downs OKC with daggers
Nightly grades for Thunder-Mavs, Cavaliers-Raptors, and Blazers-Magic.
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.
Cleveland keeps showing some life, even without Kyrie Irving. (Don't set off the narrative machine by asking "Or because he's out?")
Dion Waiters carried them to the fourth by staying aggressive and making plays, and Luol Deng was fantastic in the fourth. Quality defensive rotations and smart rebounding. They bottled up what Toronto wanted to do. Big win for them, even if it's too little, too late.
But more importantly, they were solved in large part by the Cavs' defense. Cleveland bottled up Kyle Lowry with the pick and roll and bruised their rebounders. This was a similar kind of team they're going to find in Chicago if they meet in the playoffs. This needs to be a wakeup call for them.
The Raptors are now behind Chicago for the 3 seed and Brooklyn is just a game back in the loss column for the division.
Every now and again, rare as it may be, the Magic have games like this. They find shooters, they make good rotations, they rebound, and they attack, constantly.
Victor Oladipo has really been special the last two months. He can defend your point guard on one end, force a miss, rebound, drive the floor, and then make a pass to deliver a layup. He finished 5-of-16 for 13 points which is bad, had five rebounds and six assists, which is good, not great. But his impact, especially when the Blazers made a run, was huge.
Nikola Vucevic (22 and 10) was a monster, and the Magic just swallowed up the Blazers. A nice, rare win.
I know LaMarcus Aldridge is out. And that really is a massive thing, especially on a back to back on the road.
But they lost to Orlando and still have to go to Atlanta and Chicago.
Aldridge wasn't why they couldn't find quality shots. Aldridge wasn't why they were sloppy. Aldridge wasn't why they got beaten up inside. Their roster is flawed due to injuries but still. This was a bad, bad loss.
It's panic time in Portland.
Unbelievable game. So great at both ends. For much of it, Dallas was in it or leading, but you felt their defense was going to collapse. And then a funny thing happened.
It didn't. They hung in and got stops, mostly due to their veterans making plays. They had good ball movement, they attacked the ball on drives, they gambled on funneling the ball to Westbrook who had an off night.
And then, you know, Dirk. Huge win.
Their defense was a problem here. They kept giving up open looks, to quality shooters, and their containment on drivers like Vince Carter was extremely suspect.
Scott Brooks went to small ball for much of the game and they could have used some better interior defenders like Steven Adams or Nick Collison. Kevin Durant was guarding Dirk Nowitzki for much of the second half and while there's only so much you can do against Nowitzki, he could have done more.
Westbrook had eight turnovers, and they gave up 12 offensive rebounds. Great game, but the Thunder can be better.
LeBron had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in the Cavs' 109-100 win over the Jazz
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