It’s been a little while, hey? Nothing from me since the podcast. Time to recap what’s gone on since then.
On Thursday and Friday, I watched a total of three NBA games. THREE! That’s… nothing. And it’s not my usual routine. But I can explain: On Thursday, Knicks/Bobcats was the only game (you see that DEEP Gallo three?) and, on Friday, I actually went out. I usually feel like a bit of my soul is dying if I’m out somewhere while basketball is on, but wasn’t the case on Friday. I’ve gotta applaud the Raptors Republic team for putting on the awesome ‘Raptors Fan Fridays’ – a bar packed with basketball fans is always a place I want to be. In Canada, where the average person inexplicably prefers an unbearable sport called “ice hockey,” it’s also rare. So yeah, thanks RR. Anyway, I saw the Raptors pull out a win in Philly and I saw the Blazers (Webster! Roy) upset the Lakers, then came home and crashed. To make up for it, I decided to have a basketball-watching marathon on Saturday and did my usual thing on Sunday after catching Raptors/Celtics in person. It’d be a shame to watch all that ball and not discuss is, so weekend stuff is going in this piece along with last night’s happenings.
Friday, Jan. 8
Hawks 93, Celtics 85
- As soon as I started watching this game, I was reminded of an episode of The Basketball Jones when Skeets & Tas were talking about watching an ESPN/ABC game after the fact but not fast-forwarding like they normally do. When Hubie Brown talks, you must listen. Instead of fast-forwarding through free throws and 20-second timeouts, I stayed with the game. Well worth it. I love Hubie for his analysis, in particular the little things he points out, but I think my favourite line of his came early in the game after Kendrick Perkins had muscled the Hawks’ frontline on the inside. He said, simply, “This guy is a bear.”
- Another Hubie line: “If he gets some catches, fine, but he never stops working.” He’s referring to Al Horford here. Love him, especially this year. The numbers don’t even tell the story and the numbers were great: he finished with 16 points (on 7-10 shooting), 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block. What stands out to me is his defense. He’s good at man defense and help defense and the Hawks can pretty much switch EVERYTHING when he’s out there. People talk about his relative lack of size as a weakness, but it’s what lets him move his feet quick enough to stay with ballhandlers on the perimeter. If I ever think a bigger guy like Perkins is going to eat him up, my mind returns to this piece on Peachtree Hoops. He’s not a proper center, but it doesn’t look like the Hawks need him to be.
- When they show a replay of Rondo’s insane alley-oop to send the Heat game into overtime from Wednesday night, I can’t help but smile. Sooo thankful that John Schuhmann tweeted a #LeaguePassAlert with 5.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter. I saw none of the action before that, but was able to catch Dwyane Wade’s ridiculous steal and dunk, then Rondo, then the ensuing Celtics overtime victory. Fun fact: That was the first alley-oop basket of Rondo’s career. The viewing audience was told he’d assisted on 73 of them, though. Seems a bit low to me.
- More Rondo: he hit two threes in the first half – one from the corner and one from straightaway. Neither basket elicited any sort of reaction from him. It seems that, even though teams don’t respect his J and he doesn’t take threes very often, he expects the shots to drop when he takes ‘em. Some people hate his confidence, but I love it.
- Josh Smith has been a joy to watch since he entered the league. He has always made absurd, athletic plays (see: him blocking a Kendrick Perkins dunk attempt in this game) and he’s always been capable of filling up the stat sheet. But, in his first few years in the league, you weren’t going to see Hubie Brown analyzing his highlights at halftime and talking about how he doesn’t force anything and moves well without the ball. I know I’ve brought this up before, but it’s just fantastic to see Smith excelling this year. Always great when a guy’s mental game catches up to his physical gifts. I really, really hope I’ll be saying this about Anthony Randolph in a couple of years.
- Jamal Crawford was on FIRE. He scored 18 points on 12 field goal attempts. Jon Barry commented that Crawford is “one of the guys you just hate to guard” and, on this night, it was even more true than it normally is. He can rise and shoot at any time and, when he’s on, it’s scary. Two plays stick out, looking back. First, a corner three over Perkins – Perk fouled him on the play and he converted the 21st 4-point play of his career (Reggie Miller’s 24 is the record). Second, a dagger three with 52.5 seconds left from wayyyyyyyy downtown to bring the score to 91-82. Gotta say I’m thrilled at the success he has had in Atlanta – he’s a good dude who has never been on a good team. Watch Sonicsgate if you have never seen an interview with him. Actually, just watch Sonicsgate regardless.
- Jon Barry said he did not consider the Hawks an elite team yet because of their inconsistency. I suppose that’s a fair point, given how they’ve had multiple fourth-quarter collapses against good teams. But, um, are they supposed to be an elite team right now? There weren’t a lot of prognosticators who had them ranked them with the elite teams before the season started. Also, it’s January. It’s okay if they’re inconsistent now. The Hawks have shown a lot of promise and they should be expected to stumble a few times. The key is that they learn from their losses and are ready come playoff time. Everything Kevin Arnovitz wrote to Lakers and Magic fans at the end of December still applies here.
Nuggets 99, Cavaliers 97
- The game kind of looked scripted at one point in the first half, as they showed an interview snippet with LeBron James where he was asked about his dancing, which seems to have divided America. He said, “Every night I go out on the court, I feel like a kid again.” This was immediately followed by an alley-oop where Joey Graham hacked him and he was able to convert anyway. Then he got a layup on a fast break off of a turnover. All the while, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were talking about LeBron’s passion for the game.
- More JVG: “Every time you double team him, you’re making a mistake.” He was talking about Shaq and how he’s such a great passer, after The Big Witness found Jawad Williams wide open under the hoop. I nodded my head in agreement, but it’s not because of his passing ability. As John Krolik has pointed out all season, Shaq has simply not been a very effective scorer for the Cavs. You usually don’t need to double him these days.
- I got upset with George Karl when I saw Anthony Carter enter the game before Ty Lawson. Then I remembered that Lawson had an injured ankle. Damn. Get back soon, Ty.
- Kenyon Martin was amazing in the first half. He did a bit of everything, including a chasedown block on Delonte West and a fantastic bounce pass to Nene down low. He also hit from the outside, crashed the offensive glass, scored on the inside, and played his normal brand of solid/aggressive D.
- Anderson Varejao has impressed the hell out of me this year. He used to bother me because he’d flop in places where he should just play textbook defense, but to my eyes this isn’t happening nearly as much now. I laughed at his contract extension in the summer, but now I think Cleveland must be happy with their investment. His pick-and-roll defense is masterful and he’s leading the league in individual +/-. Gotta love how he picked J.R. Smith’s pocket on the pick-and-roll and blocked Kenyon Martin going to the hole in this contest.
- My DVR apparently ran out of space at the end of the fourth quarter, but at least I got to see a wild third. LeBron scored 11 points in the Q. and a big Delonte West three-pointer capped off an 11-0 Cleveland run before the Birdman had a nice dunk. Denver was behind by 4 as the quarter ended.
- So, what did I miss in the fourth? Kenyon Martin shut down LeBron (!) in the final minute – the King missed a layup and stepped out of bounds on back-to-back possessions. That turnover was just one of LeBron’s 8 and Cleveland’s 19 TO’s on the night.
- More fun stats: Chauncey Billups had 23 points on just 14 shots in his first game back from a groin injury. LeBron James shot 6-18 from outside of 15 feet (thank you Hoopdata!).
Mavericks 112, Spurs 103
- NOBODY was happy with the refs during the first half of this game. Erick Dampier, DeJuan Blair, and Antonio McDyess each picked up two quick fouls. Gregg Popovich got T’d up and I think it was general ineptitude rather than one particular play that set him off.
- It was very, very cool to see Manu Ginobili and Josh Howard matched up against one another and both playing well. These two need to find a way to stay healthy. I want them both playing All-Star caliber ball as we approach the playoffs. Howard hit his first three field goals, but missed his next four. Still, he finished with 12 points on 7 FGA’s and his +21 was the best on his team. Ginobili had 12/7/5 and did things that just shouldn’t be possible in the NBA. He did this hesitation crossover move that should be seen, not written about. Unfortunately, I can’t find a bloody video. Bah.
- Up until the fourth quarter, Dirk Nowitzki was taking tough shots and missing them. He even got rejected by the rim on a dunk attempt, trying to do a reverse on the baseline. His teammates stepped up, though. As Jason Terry, Dampier, Drew Gooden, Howard, and Shawn Marion converted shots, I was reminded that everything has changed for this Mavericks team.
- Rodrigue Beaubois got some burn in this game. This made me very happy. I considered it the universe evening things out for me with rookie minutes, as Blair was limited to just 7:31 in this game due to foul trouble. I’ve been working on a piece on players who I’d love to see get more burn for what seems like ages now and Beaubois is #1 on that list now that Anthony Randolph is hurt. He hit a J from the corner and a floater, but missed his other 2 attempts in his 5:32 of game action. Yeah, 4 shot attempts in that amount of time. And a rebound and a foul. Trust me: when he’s out there, you’ll notice him. If you saw him against the Spurs, you might have also noticed that it was the first time you’ve ever seen Tony Parker being only the second-quickest French guard on the court.
- I want to say that Beaubois was the Mavs’ best guard after his fun five minute stint, but that would be a blatant lie. Jason Terry scored 21 points on 7-13 shooting, with 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals to his name. He played with the fire that you love to see and hit numerous difficult jumpers over much bigger players. I didn’t like him tripping George Hill, though.
- Plays of the game: Richard Jefferson’s chasedown block on JET and, well, everything Dirk did in the fourth quarter. Let me explain…
- …If the first three quarters reminded me of Rob Mahoney’s words about this Mavericks team not overly relying on Nowitzki anymore, the fourth reminded me of Tim McMahon’s words about how he comes through in the clutch. The man went crazy in the final frame, scoring 16 of the Mavs’ 42 (!) points. He got going early at the expense of poor Richard Jefferson and from then on nobody could stop him. After Jason Terry hit a three to put the Mavs up 95-92, he rejected an Antonio McDyess shot and then hit a three on the other end. Following this, Manu picked up an offensive foul and Dirk came back with a fading jumper. A tie game was turned into an 8-point one very, very quickly.
- San Antonio did manage to bring it a bit closer, as it was 104-100 with less than a minute left in the game. But then, with 51.7 seconds on the clock, Dirk hit a dagger three from the top of the key with Richard Jefferson’s hand in his face to bring the lead back up to 7. It was amazing. The crowd fell silent as they knew Dirk would simply not let his team lose the game.
Other Friday Games
- Raptors 108, 76ers 106: It was pretty cool to see Andrea Bargnani showing some emotion in the Raptors’ win in Philly. He made a few big plays on both ends down the stretch, including a block where I was proud of him. Also was cool to see Allen Iverson have a big offensive game (22 points on 13 field goal attempts), as my friends have been talking shit about him all year and I got to shove it in their faces every time he scored. Ivy’s defense wasn’t the greatest, though.
- Blazers 107, Lakers 98: Portland is incredibly fun to root for. I don’t like rooting against Kobe (or Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown, for that matter) but I was fully on the Blazers’ side, cheering every time Brandon Roy or Jerryd Bayless would find a way to get to the line. I know the Blazers ALWAYS seem to beat this team at home, but this is quite obviously not the same Blazers team we’re used to. I mean, Juwan Howard played over 34 freaking minutes and had to guard Andrew Bynum. Still a win. Nice.
- Bucks 96, Bulls 93: I was kinda miffed I didn’t record the Bucks/Bulls game. I pretty much automatically DVR every Bucks game, but I figured I owed San Antonio and Dallas some viewing time because they’re two of the better teams in the West and I haven’t seen enough of them. Turns out I missed Andrew Bogut having a Duncan night (27 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 blocks), Brandon Jennings blocking three of Derrick Rose’s shots, and Michael Redd having what would turn out to be his last good game for a long while. Damn it. Shout outs to a couple of Bulls before I move on: Derrick Rose (25/9/5, although he took 25 shots) and Joakim Noah (10/18, although he took 10 shots) produced pretty well. Oh, and let me say that when I read that the Bulls needed a three to tie the game on the final possession and failed to get it, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Read into that what you will.
- Wizards 104, Magic 97: Washington outscored Orlando 33-20 in the final quarter and that was the ballgame. For ORL, Vince Carter only played 10 minutes because he separated his shoulder and Dwight Howard had 23/11. For WAS, Antawn Jamison had 28/11 and Brendan Haywood had 18/15, shooting 6-6 from the field and 6-6 from the foul line. Check this tweet, heh.
- Timberwolves 116, Pacers 109. One team had to win and Minnesota did. Frontcourt players starred in this one. For Indy, Roy Hibbert had 15/6/3 with 3 blocks and Troy Murphy had 21/5/2 with 4 steals and 5-7 shooting from behind the arc. For Minnesota, Big Al had 25/12/2 and Kevin Love had 18/13/2, with a block and a steal each. This was Danny Granger’s first game since December 5 and he scored 19 points on 19 shots. His return was a surprise; coach Jim O’Brien had said a day earlier that he wasn’t going to come back on the weekend.
- Grizzlies 91, Jazz 89. This would have been a nice finish to see live. O.J. Mayo hit a jumper to put the Grizz up 2 with just 5 seconds left and Marc Gasol registered his fifth block of the night on a C.J. Miles attempt on the final possession. Nice revenge for Memphis at home, as they had lost in Utah by 23 points just two days earlier. Zach Randolph, most improved player and team leader, had 29 points, 15 rebounds, and a block.
- Hornets 103, Nets 99. The Nets shoot a league-worst 28% on threes on the season, but in this game they shot 9-17, which is 52.9%. Thank Courtney Lee (5-7 from downtown, 28 points) and Keyon Dooling (4-7 from downtown, 21 points) for that. Still, the Nets found a way to lose. David West had 32/10 and Chris Paul had 11/18/5. Those two are pretty good.
- Heat 109, Suns 105. Balanced scoring from the Suns – their starters posted totals of 16, 15, 15, 18, and 18 points. Unbalanced scoring from the Heat – Dwyane Wade (33) and Michael Beasley (21) accounted for just about half of the team’s points. The team stats are pretty even across the board except for one category – the Suns’ 17 turnovers killed them.
- Warriors 108, Kings 101. I briefly mentioned that Anthony Randolph is hurt – this is the game where it happened. At the very end of the first quarter, he went down on a Tyreke Evans drive and teammates had to help him off the court. Sprained ankle, blah. He’s out 3-6 weeks. Monta Ellis picked up the slack, though, besting Evans’s 25 points by scoring 39 in 46 minutes. The Kings were actually ahead by 10 going into the fourth quarter, but the Warriors dominated the final frame. The first 7 points of the quarter were scored by Ellis and he had a total of 13 in the Q. 10 of Sacramento’s 17 turnovers came in the fourth and GS scored 17 points off them. That was the game.
Saturday, Jan. 10
Magic 113, Hawks 81
- The last time these teams met it was (American) Thanksgiving, or “the night that the Orlando Magic started playing defense again.” Dwight Howard set the tone for another impressive defensive night by rejecting Joe Johnson on the very first play of the game in this one. He would have two more blocks in the game despite only playing 22 minutes. The great Orlando D forced the least turnover-prone team in the league to cough the ball up 16 times. It seemed they were pissed off about losing four straight games.
- Maybe this game proves Jon Barry’s point about the Hawks being inconsistent and not quite an elite team. Maybe, though, it just proves that Orlando is a terrible matchup for Atlanta and they haven’t figured out how to counter them yet. This is the Hawks’ 5th-straight loss to the Magic and this was not the only blowout. I think it’s fair to put some blame on the coaching staff here, as long as you acknowledge that there is still time to fix the problem. These two teams meet on January 30 and March 24 – you know Hawks fans will be expecting an adjustment or two.
- I loved the bench play of Ryan Anderson and Jason Williams. After not playing a single second in the previous two games, he came in and scored 5 very quick points. Finished with an efficient 16 points on 10 shots, doing his usual “threes and layups” routine and posting up when Atlanta switched players on him. J-Will was having a bad hair day, but his game was on point. He made me flash back to the days Whit Eboy was in Sactown – he was pushing the pace, hitting threes, and getting the crowd into it. The Magic outscored the Hawks 37-16 in the second quarter and their backup point guard (who finished with 14 points and 6 assists in the game) was the biggest reason why.
- Anderson and Williams weren’t the only Magic role players to get into it. Marcin Gortat had 12 rebounds, Michael Pietrus had 4 steals, Matt Barnes had 18 points (on 11 shots!) and 7 rebounds, and J.J. Redick filled in for the injured Vince Carter very nicely with 17 points in a starting role. The Magic are the deepest team in the league and it’s not close.
- Can’t lie, I stopped watching this one after halftime. It was 66-37 at that point so I don’t think you can blame me, especially seeing as Orlando’s bench managed to increase the lead by 3 points in the second half.
Thunder 108, Pacers 102
- I was excited pregame when the Thunder broadcasters were talking about All-OTN Team member Serge Ibaka. The sideline reporter (Elissa Walker Campbell, I think) said “he has been bringing it night in and night out.” Cliché, yes, but I’ll take it. Too bad he only played 5:15. In that time, he converted one field goal and grabbed one rebound. And Roy Hibbert scored on him. Blah. I was looking forward to that matchup.
- Ibaka’s minutes have been down for a while now because of the strong play of Nick Collison, who has been playing both the 4 and 5 for OKC. I can’t say enough about how good he is at setting screens. In this contest, he went 3-4 from the field and grabbed 7 rebounds, while adding 3 blocks and a steal. All this in 23 minutes. Oh, and a move he put on Solomon Jones inspired this awesome tweet.
- Another guy who took minutes from Ibaka on this night? “Byron” Mullens. This was the first time I’d seen him and I was impressed. He wasn’t spectacular or anything, but he ran the floor well and showed some skill with the ball in his hands. 4 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist won’t blow you away, but he was only on the court for a bit over 7 minutes. I don’t know how to deal with the fact that the Thunder might have another player I like.
- Speaking of players I like… JAMES HARDEN. There’s more to this man than the beard. J.G. of Daily Thunder revealed about a month ago that he was putting up numbers that made him one of the top shooting guards in the NBA. I’ve been paying close attention to him during games and I really love what I see. He has a pure three-point stroke, as he demonstrated by going 3-4 from deep in this game. He’s got good handles and the ability to run the Thunder’s offense when he’s asked to (although this happens less now that they have Eric Maynor on the roster). Plus, like everyone else on this team, he plays defense and hustles. This was made clearest when he made my favourite hustle play of the season by someone not named Amir Johnson – check out how he sprinted back to strip Danny Granger on the break.
- I still can’t believe what’s happened to T.J. Ford. Check what Jared Wade wrote about him in this piece. For the longest time, I thought Ford had star potential. He always had great handles, an ability to get his shot, and a knack for finding teammates open looks. Friends in Toronto would argue with me, calling him selfish and complaining that he took too many bad shots. I’d make excuses for his shot selection, saying that most of his bad shots came at the end of the shot clock and he would try to take over games sometimes because no one else on the team would do so. I think part of it was that I always remembered this SI feature. Here’s a quote:
“The only time I have to score is when the team needs me to,” he says. “My job is to make guys better. If you average four, I can get you to average eight or 10.”
- I suspect Indiana fans would laugh at this now. He’s not playing like the proper distributor and leader I thought he was. In fact, he’s basically the exact opposite. When he plays, he takes questionable shots and fails to rack up many assists. And he hasn’t played yet in 2010. Here are some nauseating stats: he’s shot 1-28 from downtown this season and has an assist percentage of 24.4% (down from 44.4% in his last season in Toronto). Oh, and his true shooting percentage is 50.1%. Ugh. I feel bad for him – he had tons of potential and in interviews he came across as a nice, thoughtful guy. I’m not totally ready to accept he’s a shit player – maybe a change of scene would do him some good. Can’t be easy to trade him right now, though.
- With T.J. in the doghouse, the point guard minutes went to Earl Watson and A.J. Price. Weird what’s happened to Watson in the last year and a half: he was a starter for the Thunder at the beginning of last season, but (rightly) was demoted to backup duty when Scott Brooks took over. He then signed in Indiana as a backup, but ended up starting again when the team gave up on Ford. It’s pretty obvious what Watson is about – he’s a very good passer and he can run an offense, but he’s no great shakes on D and he isn’t a good shooter. That’s a decent backup for you. Price is more intriguing – he hasn’t played a hell of a lot this season, but he took over this game for a little bit. In the fourth quarter, he hit a couple of HUGE threes including one that closed the gap to 93-92 with 5:16 left in the game. His 23 points were more than double his previous career high and his 9-15 shooting (including 3-5 from downtown) was very impressive. The problem was that he started off so strong that he tried to do too much. Near the end of the game, Price missed three field goal attempts in a row. He had a great game, but he probably shouldn’t have become the #1 option down the stretch.
- Kevin Durant is just silly-good. Guess how many field goal attempts he needed to score 40 points. Come on, guess… 18! EIGHTEEN. That’s insane. He went 12-18 from the field, 2-2 from downtown, and 14-16 from the line. Add 12 assists and you have happy fantasy owners everywhere, except for me because I’m a damn fool and forgot to set my lineups that day. He was benched. Blah. Anyway, 11 of those points came in the 4th quarter and a few of those baskets were followed by scowls. Loved that. We know KD is a joker off-court but it’s great to see him being mean on it. His step-back J over Brandon Rush on the right side put his squad up 8 with 51 seconds to play and that was the ballgame.
Kings 102, Nuggets 100
- Game of the weekend. You should already know about Tyreke Evans’s game-winner. It was glorious, and it followed a Chauncey Billups three that was glorious in its own right if you’re a Denver fan. A few plays before that, Omri Casspi hit a corner three that had me jump out of my seat. You could say I’m a big fan of his. You could also say this game had a pretty exciting finish. I couldn’t believe some people were watching Saturday Night Live instead, even with Charles Barkley hosting.
- Francisco Garcia joined the announce team for a little bit in the first half. He said he and Kevin Martin are “desperate” to get back and the Kings have “got a special thing going on right now.” I am thoroughly enjoying watching this group right now and am very curious as to how they’ll look once these two scorers get back in the mix. A couple of notable things that happened while Garcia was hanging out – first, Tyreke made a nice one-on-one move against Chauncey Billups and looked hurt afterward. No one mentions it on air, even when they show a freaking replay. I’m freaking out as ankle injuries terrify me, but ‘Reke relatively quickly signals to the bench/coaching staff that he’s okay and stays in the game. Phew. Second, he talked about Omri for a bit. It’s clear that he’s been a mentor for the rookie, even while injured. When Casspi received the ball, ready to launch a three, ‘Cisco yelled “Give me, one baby!” It dropped through and he excitedly exclaimed, “That’s what I like!” I liked it, too.
- It wasn’t just the game winner for Tyreke, it was everything. 27 points on 10-15 shooting? Nuts. I’m not going to call him a rookie anymore because I don’t think of him as one. The Nugs’ team defense was completely geared toward neutralizing him and he was unfazed. It didn’t matter who guarded him, he was getting where he wanted. Don’t think he’ll make it to the ASG this year, but he’s a star. Count on an appearance next year.
- You’ve probably seen this J.R. Smith play by now. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Still can’t.
- Spencer Hawes still frustrates me but he did go 8-10 from the floor for 17 points in 26 minutes, scoring in a variety of ways. Very nice. I’ll forgive him for only grabbing 3 defensive rebounds… this time.
- I want Kenyon Martin on my fantasy team. Check this: 20 Pts (9-17 FG), 10 Reb (5 Off), 5 Ast, 2 Blk, 2 Stl, 1 TO. Well done, sir. Pity you couldn’t stop Tyreke on that last play, though. Ha!
- Joey Graham had a very good first half for the Nugs. He was aggressive, got to the line repeatedly, took a charge on Spencer Hawes, and did this to Jason Thompson.
- Fun note: this was rookie Jon Brockman’s first start of his career. Always cool to witness a milestone for a player. He played 37:56, almost 12 minutes more than his previous career high. Unfortunately, the Brockness Monster shot too much, especially in the first half. He finished 2-9 from the field, but because he is awesome he added 12 rebounds, 7 coming on the offensive end.
Other Saturday Games
- Bobcats 89, Grizzlies 87. I missed the very beginning of the second half of the Thunder game because I was watching the crazy finish here. It looked like O.J. Mayo was might be a hero for the second straight night, as he tied the game with 8.8 seconds left, hitting a three from the top of the key with Gerald Wallace’s hand in his face. My favourite part was the way he reacted. As in, he didn’t. At all. Just walked to the bench calmly as Charlotte called a timeout. Unfortunately for O.J., Wallace would be the hero – he tipped in an errant Raymond Felton attempt at the buzzer to get his team the W.
- 76ers 104, Pistons 94. Allen Iverson wasn’t in the lineup for Philly in this one, but he was still unfortunately booed by the fans at the Palace when his name was announced. Luckily for the Sixers, Elton Brand came back and provided a scoring punch, scoring 25 points on 16 shots. The Pistons lost because that’s what they’ve been doing lately. Rip Hamilton attempted 22 field goals in almost 41 minutes and made just 6 of them. It was only a 10 point win in the end, but Detroit was down 26-10 (!) at the end of the first and 56-30 at halftime. Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey nursed their lingering injuries in the second half instead of playing. Ben Gordon scored 20, including the NBA’s 10 millionth point.
- Bulls 110, Timberwolves 96. Kirk Hinrich had, by my count, his third super-awesome game of the season: 20/4/7, 8-15 FG, 4-9 3PT. Joakim Noah had himself a game as well, scoring 20 on 9-13 shooting and adding 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Fun rookie Jonny Flynn had 14/4/8 with 2 steals but his team was outscored 51-32 in the second and third quarters.
- Jazz 111, Mavericks 93. Josh Howard and Drew Gooden were both missing in action for Dallas. Utah managed 126.1 points per 100 possessions, shot 53.2% from the floor, and only turned the ball over 4 times. This is the kind of game that will help the Jazz move up the offensive efficiency rankings to where they’ve been in previous years. You’ve gotta expect more from the Mavs on D, though. Dirk had 29 on 22 shots; Deron had 20 on 13 shots. 9 assists for Utah’s PG, too. Hope he finally gets to play in the All-Star Game.
- Rockets 105, Knicks 96. Houston was down by 11 after one quarter, but outscored the Knicks in each of the next three to get the W. Luis Scola (23 points, 10-16 FG) and Aaron Brooks (20 points, 8-15 FG) both scored often and efficiently and the always-awesome Carl Landry scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Nate Robinson had a fine game (20 points on 13 shots), but David Lee was the star for NYK: 26/12/6 with 12-17 shooting. Daryl Morey pointed out that Houston surprisingly won the transition points category 51-32.
Sunday, Jan. 10
Celtics 114, Raptors 107
- I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from applauding Rondo all afternoon and thought this would earn me some dirty looks from the ACC crowd. Couldn’t have been more wrong, I was surrounded by Celtics fans. The two loudest people in the arena were directly next to me, decked out in C’s gear and supporting their club. My guy Rajon had a 22/10/13 triple-double with 4 steals and a ridiculous buzzer-beating three to boot. I’m beyond impressed with him and seeing him zip around in person is something else. Not sure how you stop Rajon right now. If he’s not an All-Star I might go on a killing spree.
- Don’t get me wrong about the Rondo love – he’s great and I couldn’t shut up about him during and after the game, but I was definitely rooting for my Raps. I went crazy when Chris Bosh ruined Shelden Williams and Rasheed Wallace’s dominance completely pissed me off. Sheed hasn’t been fantastic this season, but he’s been amazing against the Raptors. He always is. 29/8 in this one, shooting 9-12 from the field and 5-7 (!) from downtown. If you’re wondering, Sheed was shooting less than 30% from deep entering the game. Bosh scored 31 on 17 shot attempts (13-13 FT), plus 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Just a fantastic all-around effort. I don’t even want to think about the possibility of him leaving Toronto…
- …except people wouldn’t shut up about it on Sunday! Peter Vescey rumoured a Bosh-for-Bynum swap, even though in his article he quotes Bryan Colangelo as saying he hasn’t talked to the Lakers or anyone about Bosh. Ugh. I don’t even feel like I should have to comment on this, but it doesn’t make sense. Check what Kelly Dwyer said. Bosh is better than Bynum, but he doesn’t complement Gasol as well. If L.A. keeps everything together they could, seriously, have the best defense and best offense in the league by the season’s end. Bosh makes their offense worse because he isn’t the type of back-to-the-basket post player that Bynum is and he makes the defense worse because, quite simply, he isn’t the same defender Bynum is. Especially if they’re going to ask him to defend centers. Bynum-Gasol remains a downright terrifying combo in the triangle and they are great at defending around the rim. Why break that up by exchanging a 5 for a 4? Talent generally reigns supreme, but the Lakers already have more than enough of that. They need to have complementary players. As for the Raptors, um… Bosh and Bargnani might not be a great fit long-term, so I can see Colangelo trying to get a 5 for Bosh if he does indeed move him. Of course, that brings up the question of whether Bargs poses as many matchup problems against 4s as he does against 5s and blahblahblah I’m not going to get into that now. Let’s be clear: I don’t like this idea. I don’t want Bosh gone. He’s in the midst of having the best season of anyone in this franchise’s history, statistically at least. Unless he’s given an indication he wants to move on, you try to keep him.
- Eddie House makes me nervous and angry. He just runs around the perimeter and around screens, trying to get open threes. Every team knows that’s what he does. So, I HATE when he gets an open look. He hit 3 triples in this game and each one drove me nuts. Took some satisfaction in every one of his five fouls, though.
- Hedo Turkoglu was mainly invisible out there. He got 9 assists, yeah, but he shot 2-9 from the field and didn’t score his first basket until halfway through the third quarter. I remember Kelly Dwyer (yes, again with the Dwyer references) talking about how pretty much everything Turk does shows up in the stat sheet. I’m with that. The 9 assists didn’t impress me. I want to see him help his team when the ball isn’t in his hands, but he can’t really do that. He doesn’t play good defense, doesn’t rebound well, and doesn’t hustle. The only positive contribution I can think of from him aside from what he creates with the ball in his hands is floor spacing. But, hell, guys like Eddie House can do that. This is why I was pissed when I heard he was sort of complaining about not being as much of a facilitator this year. Man, you’re coming to a team run by Jose Calderon (I know Jack is starting right now – irrelevant), who is one of the most efficient players in the league. The team needs the ball in his hands. You’re 6’10, be a real small forward. And grab a damn rebound! Argh. I probably shouldn’t be mad at Hedo, really. His skillset is the same as it always was. It’s just frustrating to watch him sometimes.
- It’s nice to see Jose Calderon back for Toronto. He played hard and effectively on both ends, if only for 22 minutes. Hollinger’s called him the worst defensive point guard in the league this season and I haven’t even been able to argue with him. Kills me because I know he CAN play D, but he wasn’t doing it. Against Boston, he was moving his feet and staying with people. Even Rondo, who is impossible to check. One trip down, he ended up on Ray Allen and played him perfectly, forcing him into an extreeemely difficult shot. I yelled out, “GREAT D, JOSE!” and then watched the shot drop. Deflating as anything. Couldn’t be mad at Calderon, though. Just like I couldn’t get mad at the Raptors for losing to a superior team.
Cavaliers 106, Blazers 94.
- LeBron James is insane. Check this pic. That’s probably the only time I’ll ever link to a picture of somebody catching an alley-oop pass and not scoring. I don’t know how James can still be considered human. I mean, did you SEE that first half? 31 points and it all seemed so easy. The game began with him driving every damn time and then he made some perimeter J’s, too. And then, in the second half, when Portland was determined to make other players beat them, he made the right passes. That’s how you end up with lines like this one: 41/10/8. I’d say you’re in pretty good shape if you can score 41 whilst only taking 19 field goals, but to almost have a trip-dub too? It’s unfair. Everything about LeBron is unfair, except his sometimes-shaky shot selection.
- Shaq’s 11/11/5 in 24 minutes? Huge. I know his close encounter with a Baldwin made headlines, but it’s also worth noting that he was +16 on the night. It helped that Juwan Howard had to guard him, but still. Give the big man credit, he has been playing significantly better lately.
- Brandon Roy: 34 points on 23 shots. LaMarcus Aldridge: 18 points on 11 shots. Offense wasn’t the problem for the Blazers here – this was an 84-possessoin game. They just couldn’t stop Cleveland. This is actually a bit of a misconception about the Cavs – you’d assume that because their offense looks (and is) simple that they’re simply relying on their D to get wins. Not the case, they’re 6th in the league in offensive efficiency. Believe me, I want Mike Brown to add to his playbook too, but it’s not as if they’re having a lot of trouble scoring.
Other Sunday games:
- Hornets 115, Wizards 110. New Orleans remains undefeated in 2010, getting their 6th win in a row. Check out the margins of victory in those games, though: 4, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5. Ha. Does this mean they’re good at executing down the stretch or they’re just getting lucky? As with everything, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Anyway, Chris Paul had 26 points and 14 assists, 8 of which came in the opening period. Antawn Jamison, who we’d like to see in Cleveland, had 32 and 8 rebounds. but it wasn’t enough. Neither was Randy Foye’s 23 points and 8 rebounds or Nick Young’s 20 and 6 on 7-10 shooting. Andray Blatche didn’t attempt a shot in the losing effort and he didn’t like that one bit.
- Clippers 94, Heat 84. Again, Miami got most of their offense from Wade (24) and Beasley (20). This time, it wasn’t enough for a win. Some fun figures for the Clips: Baron Davis had 14 assists and Kaman and Camby had 14 and 17 rebounds, respectively. I’m not upset that I missed this game, with the ugly shooting. The teams combined to shoot 40.5% from the field and 28.6% from downtown. Gross.
- Spurs 97, Nets 85. The Nets returned to their normal crappy three-point shooting, finishing 3-14 on the night. San Antonio didn’t do much better, at 4-12, but they made up for it in other areas. A big one: they outrebounded NJ 48-35. Timmy D. finished with 14 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks while Manu Ginobili contributed 21/3/3 and only had 11 field goal attempts. As for the Nets, Brook Lopez had himself a great night – 28 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, and a steal. 10-17 FG, 8-8 FT as well. This efficiency wasn’t shared by Yi Jianlian, who shot 4-10 on shots closer than 10 feet but 0-7 otherwise.
- Lakers 95, Bucks 77. I recorded this game, but didn’t end up watching any of the first three quarters (besides the very end of the third) because I heard they were incredibly ugly. I mean, the Bucks only scored 8 points in the first Q. 8! It was 39-28 for the Lakers at halftime. Brandon Jennings shot 4-17 and Kobe Bryant and his completely fucked up finger shot 4-21. No thanks. Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 18 rebounds and Lamar Odom had 17 rebounds and 9 assists. With the amount of missed shots available, those rebounding numbers probably aren’t as impressive as they seem. As I said, though, I did watch SOME of the game. This was purely because of Shannon Brown. The All-OTN Team guard hit a hell of a buzzer-beater to end the third. Then came a dunk. Then came two blocks on the same play. Yeah. Finished with a career-high 19 points as well, helped by the fact his jump shot was falling.
Monday, Jan. 11
Pacers 105, Raptors 101
- Troy Murphy started this game as the only Pacer doing anything offensively. After Roy Hibbert’s layup in the first minute, the next FOUR Pacer field goals were threes by Murphy. This didn’t sit well with me. You know my deal with Eddie House? The scouting report tells you “no open threes” yet he seems to somehow get open threes. With Murphy, it’s the same except for the fact that he doesn’t run around screens. Ever. He just trails in transition or stands on the perimeter in the halfcourt. There is no excuse for not staying with him out there. I wanted to slap Bargnani around a little bit after those threes. But with the way the rest of his team was playing, it was alright… I guess.
- How was the rest of his team playing, then? HORRIBLY. They were taking quick (read: poor) shots and, when the Raptors were on offense, it seemed pretty damn easy to score. If one Pacer got beat, the rotations weren’t there. It looked like this was going to be a blowout when the Raptors were up by 23 in the second quarter. Things changed, though, when Danny Granger and Sonny Weems got in a little bit of an argument. After this, Granger went on a scoring spree and his team cut it to 13 by halftime. It was a 16-3 run and the Raptors went 1-6 from the field to end the quarter before Antoine Wright hit a lucky/exciting shot from the backcourt at the buzzer.
- I felt pretty good about the halftime lead even though it could have been bigger. So did Jose Calderon, apparently. He was asked about strategy and he said it was simple: “get a stop, run, easy basket.” Couldn’t argue, with how most of that first half went.
- The second half felt like a different game. The Raptors looked tired and the Pacers looked… decent. I’m not ready to say the Pacers made a fantastic comeback because of the sloppiness of the whole thing. It felt like an NCAA game to me and I don’t mean that in the fun/intensity good kind of way. I mean that in that there were a ton of missed three pointers, turnovers, and mental mistakes. Still, their defense improved and they held the Raptors to only 4 made field goals in the third quarter. Credit A.J. Price, Earl Watson, Mike Dunleavy, and Danny Granger for efficient scoring in the comeback.
- Andrea Bargnani had a very un-Bargnani like line of 12 points on 4-14 shooting, with 17 rebounds (4 offensive) and 3 blocks. Chris Bosh had a very Bosh-like line of 27 points on 6-14 shooting, with 10 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Hedo Turkoglu had 10 points and 6 assists, but everything I said about him in the Boston game applies here. I liked what I saw from DeMar DeRozan in 20 minutes and Rasho Nesterovic in 4 minutes and would have liked to have seen more from both of them. Oh well.
- Roy Hibbert only played 7 minutes. Dahntay Jones and T.J. Ford both received DNP-CD’s. Weird, right?
Cavaliers 117, Warriors 114
- If LeBron continues to go in the post and works on improving his game down there, the whole league is fucked. When he catches there, it changes everything. I think he’s starting to realize this – don’t think he hasn’t noticed Kobe Bryant this season. His work in the second half of this game is just a taste of what might be to come. This is either exciting or horrifying, depending on your perspective. His line? 37 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 12-23 FG, 12-14 FT.
- More fun stats: Anderson Varejao unsurprisingly had the highest +/-, with +16. Monta Ellis played 45 minutes, scored 30 points, took 25 field goals, dished out 5 assists, picked up 5 steals, turned the ball over 5 times, and had his shot blocked 5 times. Corey Maggette scored 32 points on just 14 field goals, going 17-18 from the line. Anthony Morrow only attempted (and made) one shot, a three that looked absolutely perfect.
- Cartier Martin just got called up from the D-League. Guess who he was matched up against when he checked in for the W’s. You got it, LeBron James. I can’t even imagine what was going through his mind.
- Ronny Turiaf sprained his ankle. X-rays were negative, but he didn’t return after playing just 11 minutes.
- I don’t understand how anyone could NOT root for Stephen Curry. I’m a bit biased because I love PG’s and rookies, but seriously… he looks like he’s 14 years old, but he’s schooling people with his handles and he has one of the purest shots in the league. This, plus his awesome passing ability. Did you see that steal + behind-the-back pass near the end of this game? Insane. If he had hit that three to tie it at the buzzer, I would have lost my mind.
Other Monday Games
- Hawks 102, Boston 96. Saw the very end of this one and I’m going to go back and watch the whole thing on my PVR. It always seems like a good game when these two teams meet, but lately Atlanta has just had Boston’s number. 3-0 against the Celts this year. You just know they’re hoping to face Boston and NOT Orlando in the playoffs. Atlanta needed a 25-16 4th quarter to get the win and, again, Jamal Crawford made key clutch plays to seal it. Rasheed Wallace didn’t play because of a sore foot, but Boston’s coaching staff made up for it by picking up three technical fouls. Head coach Doc Rivers was ejected. Joe Johnson and Rajon Rondo both put forth good arguments to be named an All-Star starter, even though neither of them will be. JJ: 36/3/1 on 14-25 shooting including 5-7 (!) from downtown. Rondo: 26/3/7 on 12-20 shooting.
- 76ers 96, Hornets 92. Allen Iverson continued his efficient scoring, finishing with 16 points on just 9 field goal attempts, but only racking up 1 assist. Sam Dalembert continued his strong play since the addition of Iverson – he had 14 rebounds and 5 blocks. For New Orleans, David West and Emeka Okafor combined for 33 points and 24 rebounds, but the 6-game winning streak is over. Chris Paul had 13 points and 14 assists, but he didn’t shoot well (5-13).
- Thunder 106, Knicks 88. OKC was up by 17 at the half and 23 after three. Not close, people. Kevin Durant scored 30 points on just 14 field goal attempts and Russell Westbrook scored 17 on 11. All-OTN Team member Serge Ibaka tallied 10 and 7 in 24 minutes and added a block, a steal, and 5 (ugh) fouls. For the Knicks, Chris Duhon and Danilo Gallinari combined to shoot 0-15 from the floor, including 0-9 from downtown. But hey, Jonathan Bender had a good game! 16 points on 6-10 shooting, including 2-5 from downtown. 2 blocks, as well. Happy he got those numbers, but this is a sorry effort from his team.
- Bulls 120, Pistons 87. Detroit was outscored by 25 points in the second and third quarters and failed to win a single Q. Sad times for Piston fans, as they haven’t seen their team win since December 12. The Bulls average 96.9 points per 100 possessions, good for 29th in the league. Last night? 126.3 points per 100 possessions. The Pistons made the Bulls look like they’re WAY better than the best offensive team in the league. I feel like I’m piling on if I go any further, so I’ll leave it at that. 27/6 for Deng, 22/9 for Rose, 16/11 for Noah.
- Suns 105, Bucks 101. I’ve got to watch this on my DVR, too. Really weird game, as the Suns were up by 21 after one quarter. It was 43-19 in the second quarter before the Bucks went on a 12-0 run. With Scott Skiles in hospital for an irregular heartbeat, the Bucks tried to get out of the hole they dug for themselves under Jim Boylan. Almost had it, too, and Alvin Gentry sounded like his team had LOST the game in the post-game presser because of the way they let the Bucks get close. Steve Nash had an unreal line of 30/7/11, but had 7 turnovers. Grant Hill reached the 15,000 point plateau. Hakim Warrick had 21 and 10 on 8-13 shooting for the Bucks.
- Nuggets 105, Timberwolves 94. Carmelo Anthony returned for Denver and scored 24 points on 17 shots, but only added 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Chauncey added 18/10 and a couple of timely threes, Kenyon Martin had 8/15, and the Birdman almost had a double-double off the bench with 10/9 along with 2 blocks and a steal. Corey Brewer (25), Al Jefferson (22), and Kevin Love (20) all scored big for Minnesota, but the Wolves are just not in Denver’s league right now.
- Jazz 118, Heat 89. This one was close (24-22) after one quarter, but broke open quickly. Miami could not take care of the ball and could not stop Utah’s offense, falling to .500 on the year. Deron Williams had 23 points and 10 assists, Carlos Boozer had 25 points and 11 rebounds, undrafted rookie Wesley Matthews scored 18 points on 8 shots off the bench, and Mehmet Okur (not a typo, not AK47) had 5 blocks.