Another seven games on the schedule on Tuesday night and I’ve got a lot to talk about. My eyes were focused mainly on Cavs/Hawks, Thunder/Wizards, and Lakers/Warriors, but I’ve done my best to cover everything.
The All-OTN Team
Will Bynum: He didn’t play tonight, as he was bothered by injuries to both of his ankles. Without him, the Pistons lost 104-87 to the Knicks. Yes, the Knicks. With the ATL/CLE and OKC/WAS games going on at the same time, I hope you’ll forgive me for missing this one. Just looking at Detroit’s shot distribution is interesting, though. Rip Hamilton went 5-21 from the field to score 16 points. Rodney Stuckey managed 15 points on 13 shots. Ben Gordon got 17 points on just 9 shots. The rusty Tayshaun Prince played 24 minutes and went 1-4; the still-hurting Charlie Villanueva played 12 minutes and went 0-4. This all adds up to a terrible offensive night, but that’s not what I’m getting at – the question is how coach Kuester is going to keep all these guys happy. To be effective, all of these players aside from Prince absolutely NEED touches and NEED shots. When Bynumite comes back, he’s gotta have ball in his hands and the freedom to create. With all the injuries this team has been through, the feeling out process that should have happened in training camp and the first few weeks of the season is happening now. This team has to find a rotation that properly balances minutes for their numerous scorers as well as guys like Ben Wallace and Jonas Jerebko. What complicates matters is the fact that we know Joe Dumars is likely trying to move Prince and Hamilton. You don’t want to put too much effort into featuring these two if it’s not best for the team, but you can’t banish them and kill their trade value either. To be clear, I’m not saying the Pistons can’t get it together – there’s a lot of potential on this squad. The problem: as presently constructed, the roster is unbalanced and there are a lot of mouths to feed. I fear Bynum might get lost in the shuffle.
Shannon Brown: 7 Pts (2-6 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), 3 Reb, 1 Blk, 1 TO, 0 PF in 19 mins.
I was excited to see Shannon get 15 first half minutes, only to see him unfortunately ride the pine for most of the second half of this 124-118 win. While he was on the court, though, I appreciated his effort guarding Monta Ellis. It’s a tough assignment, but Brown doesn’t back down from anyone. He managed to make life difficult for the Warriors’ star guard, who scored 22 points on 23 shots in 43 minutes. As for offense, Shannon had three big plays, each coming near the end of quarters. As the buzzer beater sounded to close the first, he drew a foul on Ellis on a jumper. Then, near the end of the half, he dunked HARD on Vladimir Radmanovic, the man he was traded for last season. This should have been and and-1, but wasn’t, and I’ll post it here as soon as I can find a video. Finally, he hit a big three with a minute left in the third. Shame he didn’t sniff the floor for the final ten minutes of this one, save for the last 40 seconds when it was decided. Hope he focuses on the fact that his team got the W instead of the fact both Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar got more burn.
Update: Video of the dunk below.
Serge Ibaka: 2 Pts (1-2 FG), 2 Reb (1 Off), 1 Blk, 2 PF in 7 mins.
Forget not playing in the 4th, Serge wasn’t inserted into the Thunder lineup at all in the second half! Hard to complain, again, because his team won 110-98 over the Wizards and Nick Collison continued to play well in his place. Ibaka did have a very nice putback at the beginning of the second quarter, but that’s really about it.
Eric Maynor: 11 Pts (3-4 FG, 1-1 3PT, 0-1 FT), 2 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 0 TO, 1 PF in 12 mins.
Here’s where I admit I have mixed feelings about Maynor. On the one hand, I liked him a lot the couple of times I saw him play at VCU and was enjoying his work this year in Utah. On the other hand, his arrival in Oklahoma City spelled the departure of Shaun Livingston, a long-time favourite of mine who I looked forward to watching every time the Thunder were playing. It kills me that Livingston is out of the league at the moment and so far it’s been difficult for me to watch Maynor without thinking about it. I know it’s unfair, but that’s probably how it’s going to be until Shaun catches on somewhere else (hopefully very soon). That said, Maynor was fantastic at the beginning of the fourth quarter in this one. His steals, passing, and penetration were huuuge. He even nailed desperation three at the end of the shot clock. It was all very nice to see. Kinda.
Jonny Flynn: 17 Pts (7-14 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO, 0 PF in 29 mins.
Didn’t see much of this 117-99 Spurs victory over the Wolves, but I like Flynn’s line. 17 points on 7-14 shooting is a nice bounce back after the 8 points on 2-12 shooting that he posted against Washington on Saturday. This is all a learning process for Jonny and the Wolves, though. Expect more nights like this and expect more nights like Saturday before the season ends.
Stephen Curry: 15 Pts (6-10 FG, 0-1 3PT, 3-3 FT), 3 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 4 TO, 3 PF in 23 mins.
Quick point guards generally do well against the Lakers, so I thought we might be in for a big bounce-back effort from Steph here. After he posted 9 points in the first quarter, it seemed like it was heading that way. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite keep it up and committed too many turnovers in the second half. Still, we saw him do the things we know he can do: he scored on jumpers and drives to the basket, and he pushed the ball and made the right passes.
Fun With Stats
Tyrus Thomas had a Tyrus Thomas stat line in his second game back from injury: 8 points on 2-10 shooting, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 5 turnovers. Two of those blocks came on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter. I’ve missed seeing stats like that from him. For most of this season, I’ve also missed his teammate Derrick Rose. I mean, he’s been on the court for most of this campaign, but he hadn’t been putting up great numbers. In happy news, he extended his recent streak of good games last night by recording 28 points on 20 shots, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. I’m still not a fan of the 6 turnovers or the fact that 12 of his shots came from 16-23 feet out, though. Get to the basket, Derrick!
For the Knicks, David Lee had a 30/12/5 night and people are talking about him as a possible All-Star. Great stuff, especially because it only took him 19 shots to score those 30 points. His teammate Danilo Gallinari went 5-10 from the field and 4-9 from behind the arc. His one two point attempt was a jumper a minute and a half into the game. I love his three-point stroke, but come on! We know he can do much more than launch triples – his line frustrates me more than it amuses me.
Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson led the way for San Antonio, which is a nice change. Manu had a near-triple-double: 14/9/10 in less than 28 minutes. It’s hard not to get excited about that. Same with the fact that RJ poured in 24/6/3 with 4 threes and a block. Strange that he didn’t manage to draw a single foul, though. It’s also worth noting that the Spurs have now won 9 of their last 11 games, even if it has been a soft part of their schedule.
David West set a new career high in scoring as he finished with 44/12/4, including a 22-point third quarter and TWO three-pointers. Chris Paul had a 16/11/10 triple-double whilst only turning the ball over once in 42 minutes. Still, the Hornets lost to the Rockets 108-100. This is largely because Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks combined to shoot 15-24 from the field, including 10-15 from behind the arc. Insane numbers.
Emeka Okafor recorded 5 blocks against Houston, all of them coming in the same third quarter where David West went off. Anthony Randolph only played 19 minutes in Golden State’s loss to the Lakers, but he swatted 5 shots as well.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas has scored 104,000 points in his career, all as a Cavalier. He moved past Brad Daugherty’s mark of 10,390 last night to become Cleveland’s second all-time leading scorer, behind LeBron James.
Speaking of LeBron James, he turns 25 years old today. Hard to wrap my head around this. On one hand, he looks and plays like he’s a lot older than 25. On the other, I vividly remember reading about him for the first time in SLAM when he was balling for St. Vincent–St. Mary. If you’ve been following along since then too, consider yourself lucky. We are obviously, OBVIOUSLY seeing something very special here. Happy birthday, Bron. I think I’ll celebrate by getting started on Shooting Stars.
Kevin Durant: 35 Pts (12-19 FG, 3-6 3PT, 8-10 FT), 11 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 5 TO, 2 PF in 40 mins.
This is the 5th-straight 30+ scoring game for KD and, yet again, he’s doing it without sacrificing efficiency. The Thunder needed it, too. Despite all the holes in the Wizards’ defense, Durant was the only one who had it going for most of this game. That’s actually one of the most important things to take away from this game – the Thunder can find ways to win without playing their best ball for 48 minutes. In this game, their star kept them competitive for three quarters and then they took it to another level. Bad habit? Probably. But it’s also a sign they’ve learned how to win games.
Gilbert Arenas: 24 Pts (8-20 FG, 4-8 3PT, 4-5 FT), 7 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Blk, 3 Stl, 3 TO, 3 PF in 40 mins.
If you’re a Gilbert Arenas fan, just look at that line for a second. Awesome, right? He hit every category and was kinda-sorta near a triple-double. I know I’m happy he’s on my fantasy team. Offensively, he was great all game. He hit very, very impressive shots and created for his teammates like the Gil we know and love. It would be dishonest of me to move on without bring up the defense, though. It was awful. The whole team’s D was awful, but Gil’s stood out. I don’t expect any NBA guard to completely stop penetration, but you have to at least be able to limit it. Arenas did not do that last night. Not saying it cancels out his great offensive effort, but it has to be mentioned.
Delonte West: 17 Pts (6-11 FG, 1-2 3PT, 4-6 FT), 5 Reb (2 Off), 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO, 1 PF in 29 mins.
Yay, yay, yay. I love seeing Delonte play well and, this night, he was the player of the game. He demonstrated a knack for coming up with huge plays on either end when his team needed them. Did you see where he back-tapped a missed shot to a teammate? He has no business doing that at his size, but he got it done. Did you see when he got a rebound over Josh Smith and drew the 5th foul on Atlanta’s stud forward? Again, no business doing that. He’s able to guard bigger guys, penetrate the D, draw fouls around the basket, and score when it seems improbable. Ernie Johnson called him “effective and annoying”, with the latter referring to how opposing teams see him. I’ll tell you one thing: he doesn’t annoy me. I love LeBron, but Delonte is my favourite Cav and he has been playing fantastic ball lately. You should have seen me when he dunked on Josh Smith (video below). Best part? It was payback for a couple of possessions earlier, where Smith had blocked him.
Anthony Parker: 10 Pts (4-7 FG, 0-1 3PT, 2-3 FT), 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk, 0 TO, 1 PF in 22 mins.
Those numbers aren’t going to blow you away, but I found myself thinking that this was the best I’d seen AP play in a couple of years. His block on the fast break was awesome, as was his cutting and his defense. His J looked perfect, too. If the Cavs can get inspired ball from Parker, West, and Mo Williams for the rest of the season, watch out.
LeBron James: 14 Pts (6-20 FG, 0-5 3PT, 2-3 FT), 8 Reb (1 Off), 10 Ast, 1 Blk, 5 Stl, 4 TO, 2 PF in 39 mins.
He’s not in this section because of his offense, trust me. His jumper was as off as I’ve ever seen – he missed it from seemingly everywhere on the court. He made up for it by delivering every time that he went to the rim (although this should have been way more often), setting up his teammates well, and playing amazing defense. Joe Johnson started the game 4-4 for Atlanta, but then he missed his next 9 shots and LeBron was a huge part of that. His defense on Johnson caused the Hawks to go on a ridiculous 8-minute drought to begin the 4th quarter. We all know James’s help defense is great, but I love seeing him take the challenge of shutting someone down 1-on-1. He suffocated Tyreke Evans in the Kings’ scoreless overtime last week and did the same to JJ here. The Hawks should have been more creative offensively, but this doesn’t take away from the work Bron put in.
Jamal Crawford: 26 Pts (10-17 FG, 4-5 3PT, 2-4 FT), 4 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO, 2 PF in 34 mins.
Crawford impacted this game as soon as he came in. It seemed he reached double-figures in scoring before I could blink. We know that Crawford hasn’t always been the most efficient scorer, but he’s been better in that regard for the Hawks than he has at any other point during his career. Last night, he had a TS% of 69.3. In addition to his 4-5 mark from downtown, he hit 4-7 from 16-23 feet, prompting Kevin McHale to start talking about the lost art of the pull-up jumper during the broadcast. He hit 8 straight field goals at one point (including a banked three-pointer), but his hot streak didn’t result in a win because he just didn’t have the help necessary to topple the Cavs.
Kobe Bryant: 44 Pts (13-27 FG, 2-6 3PT, 12-12 FT), 4 Reb (1 Off), 11 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO (!), 2 PF in 43 mins.
A season high in points and assists for Kobe. 7 of the assists came in the first quarter. He had to guard Monta Ellis for stretches, too. You’ve seen him have games like this before, though. The Lakers didn’t play a great game against Golden State, but Kobe put the team on his back. He’s the league’s most skilled, most fiercely competitive, and hardest-working player. He did everything he needed to do to get the win.
Corey Maggette: 25 Pts (7-11 FG, 0-1 3PT, 11-13 FT), 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 0 TO, 3 PF in 31 mins.
25 points on 11 field goal attempts? Another solid effort from Maggette, including numerous nice finishes on the break. He’s always been good at scoring and getting to the foul line, though… The problem is that often he has failed to bring anything else to the table. Lately, he’s been playing pretty hard on defense and sometimes making plays for other people on offense. He knows he’s a scorer, but he hasn’t been a black hole. This is a great thing.
“By his effort alone, I think we owe this game to him in the win column.” – Phil Jackson, on Kobe Bryant.
“That guy is amazing. To be able to shoot like he did with the finger problems that he has on his shooting hand, it’s amazing. I love watching him play, and it’s always a pleasure to coach against him.” – Don Nelson, on Kobe Bryant.
“I can go out there on that floor and take anybody on our team on one-on-one at 52 years old and drive right around them.” – Flip Saunders (More on Flip’s post-game comments, including video, at Bullets Forever.)
“Right now we stink. And we’re showing it.” – Gilbert Arenas
“LeBron just treated Josh Smith like a rental car” – Ernie Johnson, after LeBron went past J-Smoove to score at the rim.
“Worst hair in the NBA, but he’s got hops” – Rick Kamla, on Josh McRoberts
@talkhoops: How has Andray Blatche not taken over the world yet? And don’t say hookers.
@TheNoLookPass: A few friends of mine can probably relate to this 4th quarter between the Cavs and the Hawks: no scoring.
@ShamSports: Tyrus Thomas with his usual combination of awesome and terrible tonight. That combination can take different forms, but it’s always there.
Some background for these tweets coming up: The Hornets very nearly traded Devin Brown yesterday. Then, as you know, they lost to the Rockets.
@ticktock6: How many times a game do you think cap space will turn over the ball? More or less than Devin Brown?
@ticktock6: Noooo, Devin! Don’t leave meeeeeee!! Who will I blame everything awful that happens in life on now?
@ticktock6: OMG now the T-Wolves have taken the Devin Brown announcement OFF THEIR SITE. *dies* (if this falls through it will ruin my day. Ruin.)
Now, during/after the game…
@KDonhoops: Devin Brown, judging by his play, does not like his current team.
@ticktock6: None of this would ever have happened if we had traded Devin Brown today.
@ticktock6: The gloves are off now. It’s me vs. Devin. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Watch your step, Brown. I’m right behind you…..
@ticktock6: I’m afraid to fly home tomorrow for fear I will find Devin Brown has eaten my cats & written his name across the wall in their blood
Delonte on Josh Smith:
Kobe getting Turiaf’d:
A nasty putback from Tyrus:
LeBron being LeBron at the end of the first half:
Manu is amazing: