Nightly Grades: Merry basketball

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.

A The best win of their season, hands down. With James Harden and Jeremy Lin back, and Dwight Howard looking more and more dominant each night out, the Rockets are mostly fully operational now. They closed out the Spurs -- in San Antonio -- and essentially led wire to wire. The Rockets still have too many defensive questions to truly be considered a title contender at this point, but the last week and a half or so, they're edging their way there. 
B+ There really was no question that the Thunder were going to win the game. And that was probably true even before it was announced that Melo would sit. But still, an impressive performance that included 29 for Kevin Durant, a triple-double for Russell Westbrook in 29 minutes, 24 points on 10-14 shooting for Serge Ibaka and 45 combined points from their bench. The Thunder piled up 32 assists on 53.6 percent shooting. An effortless, dominant outing for OKC.
B+ You could say they were sleepwalking through most of the game against the Lakers, but really, they took a punch from a scrappy team eager to prove something. The Heat didn't play as well as they're capable of, but they played well enough. And they put on a bit of a light show while doing it.
B+ Stephen Curry took a while to get going and Klay Thompson couldn't find a rhythm from 3-point range, but that didn't stop the Golden State Warriors from being the only home team to win on Christmas day. David Lee and Thompson both had 23 points to pace the Warriors as they beasted on the offensive boards. They rode a late flurry of Curry points in the fourth to secure the win.
B Going on the road and winning is always an achievement. So the Bulls bullied a hurting Nets squad, but they don't exactly share much sympathy. The Bulls needed something good to happen, and that's now two straight wins after getting waxed in Oklahoma City. They have to rediscover their spirit and realize they'll be in the playoffs with a chance to spoil something if they can refocus. Overcoming both the physical and mental loss of Derrick Rosehas been tough, but maybe they're finally moving on. 
B Blake Griffin got ejected in the fourth quarter while he was having a pretty dominant offensive game. The Los Angeles Clippers were not able to recover from that personnel loss and they couldn't find a way to execute at the end of the game to get the win. There wasn't a lot of support for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin outside of DeAndre Jordan's solid game. Jamal Crawford launched a lot of shots but didn't do much else. 
C They lost, but man, kudos to Mike D'Antoni's Lakers. Those guys played hard, they played together and they nearly shocked everyone taking down the Heat. They didn't have enough offensive firepower in the fourth quarter to finish the game, but the Lakers do have a competitive spirit to them that's impressive.
D Everyone knows better than to panic about the Spurs. But they've shows some definite weaknesses in the last few weeks. The Thunder whipped them by 13 at home, then Rockets turned around and did it tonight on Christmas. They couldn't ever dig themselves out of a hole, and even when they got close, they had no answer for James Harden in the fourth quarter. The Spurs are definitely elite. But you have to wonder how difficult it might be for them to get to the Western Conference finals.
F They were up against it because of Carmelo Anthony's absence, but still, a 29-point beatdown on your home floor? That's bad. The Knicks were never in the game and their defense was absolutely embarrassing. 
F The biggest F. If it was a letter grade, this would be a Z. The Nets aren't just hurting -- they're horrific. They didn't play with any pride, any spirit and basically just let a mediocre Bulls team dominate them. They shot 35.2 percent, turned it over 17 times and quit playing defense in the third quarter, allowing 36 to the Chicago Bulls. Brook Lopez is a good player, but even he couldn't save this. 
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