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NBA Report Card: Blazers, Heat, Suns, Rockets graded

Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets are looked at

Stuart Hodge - @hodgeythehack

Tuesday 3 December 2019 06:50, UK

NBA Report Card Week 6

Every Monday, we’ll look back over the previous week of NBA action and put four squads under the microscope as we grade their recent performances. Which teams are bang in the kind of form they need to be, and which teams really need to steady the ship?

Portland Trail Blazers (8-12, Wk 6 record 3-0) - Grade A

Carmelo Anthony #00 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 27, 2019 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon 0:25
Carmelo Anthony finished with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting as he delighted the crowd on his home debut for Portland

A week is a long time in politics... football... and the NBA as far as the Blazers are concerned.

Last week they featured in the Report Card for all the wrong reasons. After going 0-4 and falling to 5-12, they were graded a D- and Carmelo Anthony's debut was one of very few bright spots that week.

Fast forward seven days though and everything is looking a great deal happier in Rip City - and Melo has been a big part of that. The crowd chanted his name during his home debut this week as he clocked the best single-game shooting percentage of his entire career, firing predominantly step-back jumpers.

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It was after a dunk early in the fourth quarter that the crowd really got going though as the 10-time All-Star went 9-of-11 from the field, scoring 19 points in the 136-119 victory.

That morale-boosting win came either side of wins away, then at home against the Bulls with Melo going 25 and 23 respectively.

It's been a rejuvenated week from the 35-year-old to spur his new team on - and goodness did the Blazers need it!

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Miami Heat (14-5, Wk 6 record 3-1) - Grade B+

Goran Dragic of the Miami Heat handles the ball against the Brooklyn Nets 1:51
Highlights from the Miami Heat's visit to the Brooklyn Nets in Week 6 of the NBA season

Three wins out of four for Miami as they continue to shine as one of the leading lights in the Eastern Conference in a fashion very few would have predicted at the start of the season.

Both home games against the Charlotte Hornets and then the Golden State Warriors were won by 17-point margins and on Sunday night, they went to Brooklyn and beat the Nets in a game where six players hit double-figures in terms of points and where they came back from a seven-point deficit with less than two minutes left in the game.

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The team locked in defense in the final 100 seconds or so and got the points they needed on the other end to make sure of an important road victory, psychologically as much as anything else.

The only low point came in their solitary defeat against the Rockets in Texas but the way the Heat recovered, just as they did at the start of the week, was swell.

Seven days ago, the team suffered a 27-point defeat to the 76ers which Heat legend Dwayne Wade declared the worst loss for the club since Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals, when Miami allowed the Dallas Mavericks to go on a 20-2 run to overtake them with 27 seconds remaining and tie the series - a key turning point as the Mavs took the title.

To go from an ending to last week which evoked such painful memories to such a hugely morale-boosting one this week - one which could help to sustain the team's reserves of belief in clutch moments throughout the season to come - feels big.

Phoenix Suns (8-10, Wk 6 record 0-3) - Grade D

nba 1:11
Highlights of the Washington Wizards trip to the Phoenix Suns in Week 6 of the NBA

The Phoenix Suns have received a lot of love this season. Their excellent start to the season propelled primarily by the triumvirate of Kelly Oubre Jr, Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio had the pundits purring.

But things have come unstuck for Monty Williams' team and this week they went from being above .500 to dropping two games below for the first time this season.

Defeats in Denver to the Nuggets and at home to the Dallas Mavericks are perhaps understandable - but going down at home to the team with the worst defense in the league is not.

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Washington poured in 140 points to take the 'W' and there has been a major regression for Phoenix from the start of the campaign, with the team averaging less than 100 points per game (99.8 ppg) across the last 10 - that's down from the opening right games of the season where they only tallied less than a century of points once. The lessening of their scoring has been a major factor in the week's three-game skid.

As it stands, Phoenix are still clinging onto the eighth seed in the West and they do have the return of DeAndre Ayton to look forward to in the not-too-distant future - but repeating the kind of record seen in the week just gone will see them on a fast-track to another lottery pick.

Houston Rockets (13-6, WK 6 record 2-0) - Grade B+

James Harden scores 60 points in Houston Rockets win 1:47
James Harden scores 60 points, knocking down eight three-pointers to lead the Rockets to a blowout victory over the Hawks

It might seem odd to select Houston for the Report Card given that they only played two games this week but they were both notably significant for very different reasons.

The first of the games saw them avenge arguably their worst defeat of the campaign in some style. The Heat scored a franchise-record 46 first-quarter points as they led wire-to-wire and routed the Houston Rockets 129-100 at the beginning of November.

That means the Rockets were doubly determined to take something from Wednesday night's clash given the nature of the defeat in Miami and the fact they were coming into it on a three-game losing streak.

James Harden shares instructions with Russell Westbrook
Image: James Harden shares instructions with Russell Westbrook

But they broke the hoodoo and enjoyed excellent performances from their superstar guard tandem of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, with both players still working to rekindle the chemistry they used to have in their early days at the Oklahoma City Thunder together.

Harden scored 34 points and Westbrook had 27 to get the Rockets back to winning ways. But if that was enough to restore a bit of confidence, then Harden's performance on Saturday night in the 158-11 rout of Atlanta was enough to make even those who see him put up gaudy numbers night after night step back and marvel at his work.

Harden scored a season-high 60 points in just over half-an-hour at the Toyota Center, becoming just the third player in 25 seasons to have 60 points in three quarters, joining Klay Thompson in 2016 and Kobe Bryant in 2005.

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The Beard was already the league's leading scorer by a distance but that showing bumped his average up to 38.9 points per game. Having him continuing to score at such a ridiculous rate surely helps Houston's chances of making a good impact in the postseason.

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