New Orleans 112, Golden State 103
Because his minutes have gone down a little bit, and New Orleans' pace is so slow (they often don't start a play until eight or nine seconds have gone off the shot clock, which adds up over 48 minutes), his per-game stats don't hit you as hard as Derrick Rose(notes) or Deron Williams'.(notes) But this guy runs things in a way that no other point guard does in this league.
Six turnovers Wednesday night, I know, but he dominated for each of his 33 minutes. Eighteen points, 7-9 shooting, 17 assists, and he just set everything up. And it wasn't one of his better performances. I just want, as everyone else talks about New Orleans winning 10 in a row, more people to talk about Chris Paul. That's all I want. A sporty hatchback, too, if you're at it, but I'd settle for more light shining on CP3.
Golden State was fun, Dorell Wright(notes) dropped 25 and Monta Ellis(notes) and Stephen Curry(notes) combined for 46, but its bench was no good and everyone on New Orleans was getting good looks in this win.
Utah competed, hanging with the Spurs and turning this into a close one after its typical slow start, but the Jazz can't afford moral victories any more. Not after dropping six straight in the minefield that is the Western Conference.
But this is how low our expectations are of the Jazz right now, and it appears to be how low their expectations are of themselves, these days. That a close home loss to the Spurs is a bit of a moral victory. That's Utah's building! The basket supports are supposed to shake, feelings are supposed to be hurt, and referees are supposed to be swayed. Most importantly, shots are supposed to go in. And yet this was San Antonio's game, throughout.
Twenty-six points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals for Manu Ginobili(notes), doing it all. Gary Neal(notes) hit six free throws off the bench, finishing with 13 points, and the Spurs made plays when they had to down the stretch.
He's the best possible defender for Blake Griffin(notes), because he'll never leave his side. He'll always have a hip meeting his, with that brilliant defensive footwork matching and overwhelming Griffin's still-rudimentary low-post footwork. Blake missed 11 of 16 shots, though he managed 14 points and 11 rebounds, and despite his All-Star work this season and the way he was drafted a good year and a half ago ... you still forget that he is a rookie.
And rookies have no chance against Chuck Hayes. That's not a joke.
With Griffin struggling, Baron Davis(notes) missing 12 of 17 shots, and Eric Gordon(notes) out, the Clippers had no chance. Sadly, again, no joke. Kyle Lowry(notes) needed just 13 shots to score 20 points (his backup, Aaron Brooks(notes), needed 14 to score 16), he dished eight assists, and the Rockets overcame a poor shooting night from Kevin Martin(notes) (3-11 from the floor, eight points) to pull out the win.
This is distressing. This should be a low point, though I fear it won't be.
Charlotte played on Tuesday night. And while this was Phoenix's first game back at home after an unsuccessful Eastern road jaunt, the Suns still should have run a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back out of the building. Instead, they let one of the league's worst offensive teams put up probably its best offensive showing of the year, as the Bobcats neared 135 points per 100 possessions in the win, and held the Suns at bay down the stretch.
Steve Nash(notes) was all alone here as his teammates either passed up good shots (Vince freakin' Carter) or blew it defensively. Twenty-seven points and 15 assists for Nash. Carter shot 5-8 from long range, so you would think he did his part, but that doesn't excuse the possessions where he could have done more than his part, and put Phoenix over the top.
Under Paul Silas, Charlotte has managed to stay aggressive and relaxed at the same time. And unless Brandon Jennings(notes) drops a 58 True Shooting Percentage upon his return from a broken foot, that eighth seed is all Charlotte's. Good to see, after that miserable start.
As much as I want to be impressed by the Bucks in this needed win, I can't help but feeling more disappointed in the Hawks.
I was actually impressed with Atlanta for a while, though. Putting up 75 points in three quarters against Milwaukee is no joke, even if you are solid offensive team like the Hawks. But Atlanta played terrible basketball down the stretch, with both Jamal Crawford(notes) and Joe Johnson(notes) resorting to terrible perimeter shots (six 3-pointers missed overall, in the fourth) as they frittered away the lead, and the Bucks got hot from the outside.
Carlos Delfino(notes) hit 5-9 3-pointers for Milwaukee in his fourth game back from a concussion, after missing 14 of 16 threes in the first three games of the comeback. Earl Boykins(notes) and Garrett Temple(notes) pushed the ball, and the Hawks played right into Milwaukee's dreams and car with that awful long range shooting.
With eight minutes to go in the third quarter, Minnesota's Corey Brewer(notes) picked up his fourth foul. He then sat out the next 12 minutes of actual game time (gotta save those Brewer-fouls, Kurt Rambis!), and by the time the lanky defender returned, Kevin Durant(notes) was just going off.
Sixteen fourth-quarter points for Durant, following 16 third-quarter points. Four overtime points, too. The guy played the final 35:47 without a break, on top of playing all 12 first-quarter minutes. It's fair to say OKC rode him pretty hard.
Minnesota hung in there, though, and could have had this. Michael Beasley(notes) made some silly moves that showed up in the box score with his six turnovers, but he was also a force driving left the whole night, finishing with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Love(notes) had a game-winner spin halfway down and out (as, it should be noted, did Durant a possession before) in regulation, and he ended the night with a massive line: 31 points and 21 rebounds. Wesley Johnson hit three 3-pointers, and the Wolves had their chances despite plenty of miscues.
But nothing was getting in Durant's way, as put up 47 points and 18 rebounds. And when Luke Ridnour(notes) unleashed a panicky double-clutch 3-pointer with five seconds left, the Thunder had their win in OT. Pity, because we could have watched this one go all night.
Money, money, money for Chauncey Billups(notes) in this game. He was pulling up for 3-pointer after 3-pointer down the stretch, hitting 4-5 in the fourth quarter and 6-9 in the game on his way to 26 points as Denver held Detroit off playing at Auburn Hills.
Denver needed all those points, too, as the Nuggets (and Billups especially) just could not stay in front of Pistons guard Will Bynum(notes). Bynum managed 19 points in the game's final 14:23, usually finishing with his left hand amongst the trees, as Detroit attempted the comeback. But then Billups would be allowed daylight a few steps back from the line in his favorite elbow-extended spot, laughing after every make.
I don't mean to take a shot at the AP, which has to produce copy for millions of eyes to go up seconds after a game ends, but this lede just isn't true:
Indiana was worried about Dwight Howard, and they did fail to guard Orlando on the perimeter, but one had nothing to do with the other. Indiana just screwed up, on the perimeter, all night. The Pacers blew rotation after rotation, and while I'm not going to argue that Howard's presence (diving towards the rim off of an initial screen and roll) wasn't a factor, this was more on Indiana (and Tyler Hansbrough(notes), a good deal of the time) than it was on Dwight.
Now, I didn't see every one of Orlando's 16 3-pointers. Perhaps when I flipped away, four Pacers were running at Dwight while the Magic had their pick of the litter behind the arc. But I saw probably 10 or 11 of the bad boys, and this was just bad defense.
Great offense, from Orlando, a team that is just rolling right now. Ryan Anderson(notes) is absolutely on fire, has been for weeks, and finished with 14 points on 10 shots in 22 minutes. Jason Richardson(notes) came through with 19 and nine rebounds, the lily-white duo of Gilbert Arenas(notes) and J.J. Redick(notes) hit 4 of 10 threes, and the Pacers (101 points per 100 possessions, 8-25 shooting combined from Roy Hibbert(notes) and Danny Granger(notes)) just couldn't keep up.
Toronto gives up more points in the paint than any other team in the NBA, and Philly took advantage of this all night by just rolling big man after big man into the paint. It was pretty laughable after a while, Andre Iguodala(notes) got away with a terrible behind the back pass to Elton Brand(notes) at one point that still earned the Sixers two points, and Marreese Speights(notes) destroyed the Raptors with 23 points and nine rebounds in just 17 minutes off the bench. Seventeen minutes!
Over 40 percent of Philadelphia's missed shots resulted in an offensive rebound, which kind of makes sense when you factor in Andrea Bargnani(notes) and Amir Johnson's(notes) combined 73 minutes and 11 rebounds. Bargs was terrible in transition D, too, as he should have been the last line of defense too often and instead went for steals or let the Sixers crawl up his back.
This is what the Nets thought they would be getting, consistently, when they signed all-world shooter Anthony Morrow(notes) (19 points, 3-4 from long range) in the offseason. Continued touch from outside, and (most importantly) the ability to set oneself up to utilize that touch. Morrow entered the night hitting 39.8 percent of his threes, a fantastic mark, but down from a combined 45 percent over his first two seasons, shooting and making fewer despite more minutes per game this season (at a much slower pace of game, it should be pointed out).
While the numbers have been nearly there, he hasn't really swayed the outcome of a game as much as he did on Wednesday night, as New Jersey's drive and kick action resulted in a solid comeback against the Grizzlies. Brook Lopez(notes) didn't rebound well (four, in 35 minutes) and needed 16 shots to score 17 points, but he was solid down the stretch, and Memphis had a hard time dealing with New Jersey's zone despite what I thought was a determined effort from its best players.
Awful bench work was a problem for Memphis, who saw six players combine for 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks in (seems like a nice night until you read this) 64 minutes of play.
Nine of 17 3-pointers made for New Jersey in the win.
Thank you for reading.