LeBron James called his Cleveland Cavaliers team “fragile” over the weekend, after they hit a new low by losing a fourth-straight game. The Cavs haven’t proved they’re tough and playoff-ready, by any means. But at least that streak is over now. Cleveland dominated the young Orlando Magic wire-to-wire last night, pulling out a 104-76 victory behind James’ 29 points, 11 assists, four rebounds and three steals. That’s what MVPs do: They snap you out of a funk, straightening out a whole squad seemingly on their own.
Derrick Rose used to do such work the Chicago Bulls, but lately the Windy City’s lucky just to see their star point guard take the floor. After missing four games with a tweaked hamstring, Rose returned to action against the Utah Jazz last night to help the Bulls eke out a win in Salt Lake City after blowing a 19-point lead. Chicago played Rose for just 25 minutes, clearly still uneasy about the health of their game-changing star. Until the stakes are truly high, you can expect the team’s approach to favor preserving Rose’s fragile body, regardless of what his critics might say.
The New York Knicks were put in a position to understand Chicago’s plight last night, as Carmelo Anthony left the court with back spasms toward the end of a 91-86 road loss to the Houston Rockets. ESPN's Ian Begley reported that 'Melo went to a Houston hospital to receive medication for the pain, but Anthony’s status is otherwise unknown at this moment. Stay tuned for updates.
But Rockets counterpart James Harden continued to prove, in this contest, that he deserves mention in the MVP category himself. Racking up a season-high 36 points to go with six rebounds and six steals, Harden closed the Knicks by scoring his team’s last 12 points and widened the gap to let Clutch City breathe easy. If the Rockets are to survive Dwight Howard’s recent knee injury — which has led to some serious rebounding and rim-protection problems — it’ll be because of The Beard simply won’t let them lose.
— John Wilmes