NBA Team of the Week: LeBron, Irving reunite
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are teammates again in our NBA Week 5 super team, which also features an in-form Raptor.
Point guard – Kyrie Irving
Can anyone beat the Celtics right now? It seems not, and one of the main reasons is Kyrie Irving’s mature play. When leaving for the Celtics, his ability to win games without LeBron was questioned, but that seems silly now as the Irving-led Celtics moved their winning streak to 15.
Those wins have come off the back of much-improved defense of the whole team, allowing Irving to use his poise and skill to lead the Celtics to victory in the final minutes. Although he hasn’t had the monster scoring games we’ve seen in the past (last week he scored 25, 16, and 30 points, respectively), Irving has tightened up on defense and is taking care of the ball better than ever. Irving has also become a leader for the young and exciting Celtics, who knocked off the defending champions Golden State last week.
That game against the Warriors, which the Celtics won 92-88, was a perfect example of the new Kyrie. He scored only 16 points, shooting 4/16 from the field, but got six assists, committed just one turnover, and was a serviceable defender while positively leading a starting lineup featuring a rookie and sophomore.
Shooting guard – DeMar DeRozan
Toronto went unbeaten in Week 5, taking their winning run to five straight games. They knocked off several highly fancied opponents, including the Rockets in Houston, Washington, the Knicks and Pelicans. DeMar DeRozan averaged 26.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals for the week, with the highlight being his 33 points against the Wizards as he went 15/26 from the field. That puts the Raptors in equal second in the east through games played Sunday, 3.5 games behind the Celtics.
And so the eternal mystery of Toronto continues. The NBA keeps waiting for the Raptors to fall as their backcourt ages, yet despite playing with such a high usage and taking virtually no 3-pointers, DeRozan keeps putting up numbers. The Raptors keep winning as a result, and now have the third best offense in the league.
Small forward – LeBron James
As the fourth quarter started at Madison Square Garden last Monday, the Cavs were down to the Knicks by 15 points. Before the game, LeBron James had single-handedly annoyed the entire city of New York by inadvertently criticizing Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina, when he meant to take a jab at Phil Jackson. James could hear booing every time he touched the ball and had multiple turnovers, while Ntilikina had played one of the better games of his young career.
And so we entered the fourth quarter, with a monumental effort needed by the man who has produced monumental efforts more often than anyone else in the NBA. And, of course, he delivered another one, leading the Cavs to an unlikely win. Sure, James got some help from Kyle Korver, who caught fire and hit five from downtown in the last, but don’t get it wrong – the Cavs are over .500 because they have LeBron.
An unbeaten week for the Cavs started with that game at the Garden, which saw James finish with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists. He then put up 31 in Charlotte before leading another comeback with 39 points against the Clippers.
Power forward – LaMarcus Aldridge
The Spurs are still missing Kawhi Leonard, but they keep winning regardless. That’s largely thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been a rock in the middle of the court. A 2-1 week for San Antonio is on the back of Aldridge continuing his most consistent season since arriving in San Antonio.
The Spurs came back from 23 points down against the Thunder on Friday night, as Aldridge led all scorers with 26 points to take the Spurs to 10-6 and fourth in the West. Whether Aldridge can keep producing at this level once Leonard returns and reaches full fitness is another question, but the Spurs look to have made a point of running their offense through him.
Center – Joel Embiid
As their five-game winning streak was halted by losses in Sacremento and Oakland, the young Sixers headed to LA, where they could reset and face the struggling Clippers and lowly Lakers.
Joel Embiid was in fine form, firstly against the Clippers where he scored 32 points and added 15 rebounds. Both DeAndre Jordan and backup center Willie Reed fouled out trying to contain him inside the paint as Embiid produced some highlight-reel plays.
Two nights later and Embiid was back at it with 46 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 rebounds as he tortured the young Lakers on the interior again, posting the highest points total in a game for the Sixers since Allen Iverson in 2006. It was also the first time someone posted 40 points, 7 blocks, and 7 assists since Julius Erving in 1982 for the Sixers.
Philadelphia blew a 22-point lead against the Warriors at home on Saturday night, and the best Embiid could manage was 21 points and 8 assists while shooting 7/16 from the field. But it’s fair to say that Embiid and the 76ers are having as much fun as anyone in the NBA right now
Who was in your team of the week? Comment below!