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NBA report card: Lakers, Jazz, Bulls and Spurs graded

Lakers, Bulls and more have their Week 12 efforts assessed

Monday 13 January 2020 19:52, UK

Grading the performance of four NBA teams in Week 12 of the NBA season
Image: Grading the performance of four NBA teams in Week 12 of the NBA season

Which teams have starred and which have flattered to deceive over the last seven days in the NBA? Sky Sports NBA assesses the contrasting Week 12 fortunes of four teams.

Los Angeles Lakers (32-7, Week 12 record 4-0) - Grade A+

Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers
Image: Lebron James in action for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Dallas Mavericks

If you thought losing a superstar player or two would stop the Lakers from recording back-to-back wins over two Western Conference playoff rivals, think again.

Anthony Davis left the Lakers' 117-87 hammering of the New York Knicks early after taking a hard fall and remained unavailable for the team's weekend game away at Dallas and Oklahoma City.

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LeBron and company responded in fine style, racing to a 45-point first quarter against the Mavericks to set up a comprehensive 129-114 road win. James had 35 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists and got the better of his individual duel with Luka Doncic.

One night later, this time without Davis and James, Kyle Kuzma erupted for 36 points to power the Purple and Gold to another double-digit win against the in-form Thunder.

LA Dallas 2:21
Highlights of the Los Angeles Lakers' trip to the Dallas Mavericks in Week 12 of the NBA

The Lakers remain a top-five team in terms of offensive and defensive rating. The equally-dominant Milwaukee Bucks are the only other team able to say that.

Utah Jazz (27-12, Week 12 record 4-0) - Grade A

Bojan Bogdanovic scores at the basket against Washington
Image: Bojan Bogdanovic scores at the basket against Washington

The Jazz's strength of schedule in Week 12 was not as tough as that of the Lakers but Quin Snyder's side deserve credit for taking care of business, reeling off wins against the Pelicans, Knicks, Hornets and Wizards. Their winning streak has grown to nine games.

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They were only truly tested in New Orleans, where a non-call on Rudy Gobert's apparent foul on Brandon Ingram in the final seconds allowed Utah to avoid overtime and escape with a 128-126 win.

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Bojan Bogdanovic had two 30-plus-point games in Week 12, including a rarely-seen 35 points, zero rebounds, zero assists, zero steals and zero blocks stat line in the win over the Pelicans. 'Bogey' is averaging 20.7 points per game and shooting 41.9 per cent from three-point range.

Since Mike Conley went down with injury and Joe Ingles was inserted into the starting line-up, the Jazz are 15-3. Gametime analyst Kevin McHale hailed the Australian player's contribution.

Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz 3:19
Kevin McHale says Utah's winning streak has been fuelled by excellent outside shooting and praises the outside threat of Joe Ingles since he entered the starting line-up

"The offense is really clicking. Their shooters are making shots and Joe Ingles has been a great playmaker," he said. "I like the fact Ingles has fit [in the starting line-up] way better than Mike Conley has, as far as being a facilitator. He doesn't have the gaudy numbers but he plays the same way every single night. They generate a boat-load of open shots and they are making them. They are in a nice rhythm offensively."

Chicago Bulls (14-26, Week 12 record 1-3) - Grade D

Zach LaVine rises to shoot against the Atlanta Hawks
Image: Zach LaVine rises to shoot

On New Year's Day, the Bulls had 13 wins, the Brooklyn Nets were still without Kyrie Irving and, shortly after, the Orlando Magic lost breakout star Jonathan Isaac to a long-term injury. In short, the opportunity for Chicago to steal a march in the race for the seventh or eighth playoff place in the East was staring them in the face.

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They responded by losing five straight games (admittedly to some tough opposition), only ending their slump with a 108-99 win over the Blake Griffin-less Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Irving is back on the court for the seventh-placed Brooklyn while the eighth-seeded Magic now have a four-and-a-half game cushion ahead of the Bulls and the free-falling Charlotte Hornets.

Indiana Chicago 1:41
Highlights of the Indiana Pacers' visit to the Chicago Bulls in Week 12 of the NBA

The Bulls' 116-105 loss to the Indiana Pacers saw Chicago waste a 43-point night from Zach LaVine. With big man Wendell Carter out through injury, the Bulls gave up 70 points on 76 per cent shooting in the paint. Pacers center Myles Turner feasted with 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

The Bulls have just one win against a team with a winning record this season. Their shot at the eighth seed has all-but slipped away. The performance against the Pacers showed they are not good enough to be a playoff team.

San Antonio Spurs (17-21, Week 12 record 3-1) - Grade B+

DeMar DeRozan scores at the rim against the Celtics 1:52
DeMar DeRozan fired for 30 points to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a resounding win over the Boston Celtics

The Spurs' struggles this season have convinced many NBA observers their 22-year streak of reaching the playoffs is set to end in what is thought to be coach Gregg Popovich's final season in charge.

In Week 12, talk of San Antonio's demise appeared greatly exaggerated as they handed the Milwaukee Bucks a 126-104 spanking and followed it up with an emphatic road win over the Boston Celtics.

LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs drives against Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks 1:28
Highlights of the Milwaukee Bucks' visit to the San Antonio Spurs in Week 12 of the NBA season

What has suddenly changed? The Spurs have finally embraced shooting the three. For the season, the Spurs rank close to bottom of the NBA in three-point takes and makes. Over the last 10 games, their rankings in these categories have rocketed. In Week 12, the Spurs launched 36 threes a game, way up on their league-low 27.4 attempts for the season.

It's not all gravy for the Spurs just yet. The blemish on their Week 12 record was a 134-121 loss to their closest rival in the race for the Western Conference eighth seed, the Memphis Grizzlies.

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San Antonio still face a fight with Memphis, Phoenix, Sacramento, Portland to keep their record-breaking playoff streak alive but on the evidence of the last seven days, their fresh approach has given them a better chance of doing so.

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