Los Angeles Clippers 113, Minnesota 90
In the middle of this game, Timberwolves analyst Jim Petersen didn't think twice before including Blake Griffin(notes) in a group of the greatest all-time in-game dunkers. Soon after, without even the benefit of yet another Griffin throw-down, he didn't think twice before calling Blake the greatest in-game dunker in NBA history.
And while that may seem like a bit much, just seven weeks into his NBA career ... who else? Seriously. Who else do you have?
I watched endless hours of Dominique Wilkins on TBS growing up. Clearly I know my way around Michael Jordan's pamphlets, and even his catalogue. I was around for skinny Shawn Kemp. Julius Erving's ABA career was a bit of a miss, but we get the idea. But ... who? Reverence aside, who are you taking over this guy right now, in that area? And we're seven weeks in!
22 and 10 for Griffin in the win, with seven assists, and he even tried (without actually getting the assist) some great one-handed Connie Hawkins dishes. The guy was acting a little cocky, which we haven't seen much of this season, in just toying with the Timberwolves. Minnesota couldn't get stops early and often, and it had no answer for Eric Gordon(notes) (36 points, five steals, six assists) in both transition and delayed transition.
And Blake is just a bloody hurricane.
Obviously, I couldn't see every dumb play, but I did agree with Cavs coach Byron Scott after this loss. It did look as if the Cavaliers matched the Jazz somewhat handily throughout, but when the Cleveland offense made a pointless drive or took a silly long-range shot, it felt as if its poor play on one end was matched, in the opposite direction both literally and figuratively, on the other end. For every terrible move Cleveland tried, Utah seemed to take the rebound and (14 extra passes later) create an answer on the other end that was as great as the Cavs were terrible.
You had to like Cleveland's spark, though, as has been the case all season. The problem is the team's one-on-one play, and the individual defense. You can get away with winning games in this league with extended bouts of one-on-one play, but not with a rotation like Cleveland's. And while Deron Williams(notes) (17 and 10) didn't have a line for the ages, he still was the deciding factor.
Credit Hawks coach Larry Drew. He had his team ready to steal a win, and the Hawks rarely let up in this conquest. It seems a bit daft to act as if Atlanta would have no chance against the Magic otherwise, they've done well to compete against Orlando in the regular season, but Drew's team took advantage of the alternate bouts of uneasiness and aggressiveness from the Magic, and Orlando just didn't have the cohesion to mount any sort of comeback late.
It was competitive, for a spell, but Atlanta took what was a close game and pushed it toward a 16-point advantage in seeming seconds in the third quarter by just grabbing what rang long off the glass and running to a lay-in on the other end. Orlando stayed in the game by making 27 free throws, but 35 percent shooting in this day and age of iPads and robots and toasters specifically designed just for bagels just isn't going to cut it. Also, Jason Richardson(notes) had no idea where to go, the screen and roll defense stunk, and Gilbert Arenas(notes) shot 2-11.
Washington won with defense, which I don't think (in several respects) we've been able to say since the Reagan Administration, and Charlotte just looks like a team ready to go home at this point. It's almost as if the collaborative sulk sets in once Kwame Brown(notes) takes to the court, and extends rotation-wide. Topping that? The Bobcats just aren't that good. They're not that talented offensively, only Tyrus Thomas'(notes) great year seems to be keeping them out of the bottom of the NBA pile in that realm, and they just don't have a lot to go-to with Gerald Wallace(notes) out and when the opposition tries.
18 points, 11 rebounds, and six rebounds for Kirk Hinrich(notes) in the win. Charlotte turned it over on 30 percent of its possessions, which is the most that I've seen (for what that's worth) this year in games that I've written about.
It was a good time for James Posey(notes) to hit 5-7 three-pointers, because he's been awful all year for the Pacers despite repeated shot attempts and all sorts of minutes. 32.8 percent shooting from long range entering the game, taking over five a game despite playing only 20 minutes per. And, because James Posey is insane, he's taken 135 of his 154 shot attempts from behind the arc this season, which has to be some sort of record. Steve Kerr didn't even try to pull that crap. And this is a guy who entered the league (I followed Xavier, back then) as an athletic slasher.
The Pacers made terrible decisions all night, offensively, but the team's standout defense (Jeff Foster(notes) was fantastic, in another start) kept them in it. The Pacers were also helped by the play of Hornets wing Trevor Ariza(notes), who may have had the worst game of the NBA season in missing 12 of 13 shots and playing pretty poor defense on Danny Granger(notes). Ariza just seems to get worse as the weeks move on, and I honestly can't justify giving him more than spot minutes at this point. Sadly for Hornets fans, Monty Williams doesn't really seem like a guy who looks at many box scores, if you know what I'm on about.
Roy Hibbert(notes) also had a terrible game for Indiana (1-10 shooting, just three rebounds in a little under 25 minutes), and Mike Dunleavy was 2-10 before his game-winning tip-in; and yet, despite all this negativity, this was a pretty compelling watch throughout. A needed win for Indiana. Hopefully a wake-up call for New Orleans.
Dallas hardly played the perfect game, but despite Miami's recent winning streak, it's become pretty obvious that you don't have to play the perfect game to take down the Heat. You just usually have to keep things close, because Miami is still (barely, thanks to the upbringing of its stars and Erik Spoelstra's simplistic offense) the sum of its parts, and little else. Dallas even had Dirk Nowitzki(notes) clanging down the stretch, and it still pulled out the win because the Heat have absolutely no idea what to do in the clutch.
(Unless they're, I don't know, playing the Wizards.)
19 points from Jason Terry(notes), all in the final quarter, as the Mavs just scored when they had to. LeBron James(notes) overcame early foul trouble (seriously Spoelstra? Playing a zone because James had two first half fouls? You know they get six fouls, right?) and turnover issues to manage a double-double, but the Heat offered no cohesion late, and Dallas seemed to know exactly where to go; even if Dirk was front-rimming jumpers.
This game means absolutely nothing, the Suns only had eight players to use and were clearly dragging even in the first half, but there were signs that encouraged me.
Like the quick hits, around the basket, for Josh Childress(notes) and Hakim Warrick(notes). Even without Steve Nash(notes) passing them the ball, these guys just seemed to score effortlessly mere seconds after taking in a loose ball or dish, and this is what we had in mind when the Suns grabbed them up last summer.
Channing Frye(notes) (1-10 shooting) is as about as reliable as a Yugo with a flooded carburetor, though, and the Suns still can't stop anyone (125 points per 100 possessions), so San Antonio had it pretty comfortable from halftime-on. Even when the Suns made a little charge behind those little lay-ins from Childress and Warrick.
The Portland Trail Blazers lead the league in hating life, but for one night, the Milwaukee Bucks took over that weepy mantle, coming out with absolutely no fire in a game I didn't even flip toward in the second half (other, closer contests were on). With Brandon Jennings(notes) out for at least a month after left foot surgery (luckily, he jumps off of his right foot and shoots with neither hand; you read that correctly), Milwaukee was just distant and a step slow in the loss. And it let put together a 29-point (good) and 19-rebound (seriously?) night.
Don Nelson was in the house, and the symbolism was getting out of hand. The Warriors gave us perhaps the most entertaining stretch of basketball of any team last night, and yet they couldn't even stop the Houston freakin' Rockets from taking it to them down the stretch.
Because they both hit 3-4 three-pointers and got to the line, Kevin Martin(notes) and Monta Ellis(notes) combined for a ridiculous 74 points on 34 shots, but Martin had help -- Luis Scola(notes) was a jump hook machine down the stretch, everyone else seemed to take advantage of open shots after penetration, and Aaron Brooks(notes) was a steadying influence offensively (though Ellis has torched him twice this season).