Los Angeles Clippers 111, Miami 105
As you'd guess, this was the Clippers' game seven. This was their championship, their chance at making up for all that's gone wrong in one night, and they came through. Every pass had a point, every shot saw the elbow under the ball, and everyone got lots of sleep on Tuesday night.
Forty-four first quarter points were the result. Baron Davis(notes) still needed 19 shots to score 20 points, but even with that inefficient mark, he still seemed like a completely different player because he looked engaged (pity it took him until the new year to somewhat resemble a point guard that is in shape). Blake Griffin(notes) (24 points, 14 rebounds, six assists) filled in all the holes, while Eric Gordon(notes) was the go-to guy whenever Miami threatened in the second half, finishing with 26 points.
Miami didn't play terribly, and LeBron/Bosh/Wade had 84 points between them, but no team was going to account for that Clipper juggernaut. I'm not going to kill the Heat for not being ready, because they played well from the outset. Los Angeles just had everything going for them in this win.
It's just a damn shame that miserable November made it so none of these games really count from here on out.
As was the case down in Staples Center, the Warriors just had it all lined up to take on the Lakers, the shots were falling and the attention to detail was there. But they weren't deep enough, they can't defend, and even when their perimeter guys are rolling (Dorell Wright(notes) continues his white hot ways from long range, nailing five of 11 three-pointers), they don't do enough elsewhere (Wright needed 24 shots to score 27 points, and didn't get to the line) to put it away.
Kobe puts things away, and sometimes this can mean Los Angeles' chances, but that wasn't the case on Wednesday. Twenty-four points and 11 rebounds from Pau Gasol(notes), who seemingly didn't bring the ball below his ears a single time, and 20 and nine rebounds for Lamar Odom(notes) off the Laker bench.
This could have been a low point for the Suns. Maybe it was the low point, even if the low point doesn't show up in the standings. Phoenix was down double digits at home against the Nets, and New Jersey just seemed to have all the answers until its shots stopped falling.
This allowed the Suns a little running room, it went to a mismatch with Channing Frye(notes) (who still wanted no part of posting up, but held his nose and tried anyway) down low because the Nets were continuously switching on a 1/5 pick and roll, and order was restored mainly by the hand of Steve Nash(notes) (who started the game shooting terribly). Nash made 4-7 from the floor and eight free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, though, as the Suns made things right.
Awful transition defense, all night, from New York. This was a fun game, one you almost felt like the Knicks owned, but New York just couldn't keep tabs on the Jazz whenever the Knicks missed a shot.
Utah put up 136 points per 100 possessions, that's quite a bit (113 will lead the league), as the Jazz racked up 31 assists on 45 field goals. That's not a scorekeeper's favor, either, as Utah just passed it three times and then tossed in a reverse layup, over and over. Shawne Williams(notes) and Bill Walker(notes) combined for 48 points off the Knicks bench, but there isn't much to say beyond that. The spacing was good, and nobody was defending in this game.
Oklahoma City 118, Houston 112
The Thunder, worryingly, continue to give up bucket after bucket in the paint. The team entered the contest as one of the worst in the NBA in that regard, and gave up 70 paint points to Houston in the win. Luckily, the Thunder seemed to have all the answers offensively down the stretch, and it's hard to fault a team that seems on its way to a 53-win season; but because Oklahoma City is winning in a fashion that is so far removed from the team we got to know last year, it's a little unnerving.
Great glass work from OKC, they managed an offensive rebound on nearly 40 percent of its misses, as Serge Ibaka(notes) came through with 16 points and six caroms (four offensive) in 26 minutes off the bench. 30 points for Kevin Durant(notes), making all four of his three-pointers, and Russell Westbrook(notes) made up for a 7-19 shooting night by hitting nine free throws, adding eight rebounds and 13 assists.
Fifty-one first half points for Milwaukee, which felt like a Christmas miracle (maybe it's those uniforms they wear), but things leveled out in the second half as the Bucks managed just 33 points over the final 24 minutes of play. And though this was a close, fun game down the stretch, you're just not going to beat a team like the Spurs, even at home, with Keyon Dooling(notes) having to take tough shots as the shot clock winds down. Nothing against Keyon, he tries, but the Spurs outclassed Milwaukee, here. And Andrew Bogut(notes) still looks like he has no faith in that right arm of his even as he made seven of 13 shots.
Even if Richard Jefferson(notes) made 5-10 shots, and I just missed all the makes while flipping around, I was going to write this: Jefferson is reverting to his old bad habits while shooting. He didn't make 5-10, he actually missed all five of his shots (four from long range), and he's curling his body in that crescent moon fashion as he goes up. This is likely just a fluke (Jefferson entered the night shooting 25-51 during the month of January), but worth pointing out.
Also, the Spurs seemed to shoot 100 for 100 in plays out of a timeout. That Gregg Popovich ... he'll get ya.
This felt proper. Orlando seemed due to lose a close game against a good team on the road, I can't tell you why, and the Hornets felt like it was time to allow us to point out that, hey, New Orleans is a safe sixth in the West even after that December swoon. On top of that, Marco Belinelli(notes) sprained his ankle in the first quarter, and you just knew that Marcus Thornton(notes) would have a huge game after that.
You knew it. Partially because he's Marcus Thornton, very good basketball player. But mainly because these recaps just seem to write themselves. Even if they have to write themselves twice.
Compared to last season, this wasn't Thornton's best game. 22 points on 18 shots, and he missed six of eight three-pointers, but we know that Buckets is just getting warmed up. He hit a couple of free throws late to help cinch it, and though he's had issues with defense all season ... what, Marco Belinelli hasn't?
Orlando hung in there because Jason Richardson(notes) can just get hot beyond belief at times, and Dwight Howard(notes) came through with a nasty 29-point, 20-rebound, two-block effort. But I watched a good chunk of this game both during and after, and Orlando earned that 3-7 mark from the free throw line. They just weren't encouraging contact, and it's hard to win against any team making just three free throws in 53 minutes of play. Yikes.
I do give the Kings credit, because after an 8-0 start to this game, it looked as if the C's were well on its way to a Lakers/Cavaliers-styled blowout. But Sacramento hung in there, tied the game after a few tough minutes, before Boston pulled away.
Never trust a big butt and a smile, with these Celtics. They just pull every savvy move in the book. Cut up passing lanes into thirds, run a delayed transition and always seem to find Ray Allen(notes) even while you're frantically trying to find him yourself. 120 points per 100 possessions for Boston, and it felt like it. Sacto stayed close by hitting 14 more free throws and making more than half its shots, but 23 turnovers did the youngsters in.
Paul Pierce(notes) came through with 25 points and four steals and just looked incredibly potent. And the blowout win allowed for four Boston reserves to score double figures, as no Celtic starter played more than 29 minutes.
I wrote an incredibly-long version of BtB last night, and ended up deleting just about all of it this morning because I wasn't happy with the way it was written. But both the initial version and this version were made much, much easier by Zach Randolph(notes), because his prominent status in the game's box score (34 points, 17 rebounds, five offensive rebounds) completely reflected just how prominent he was in this game. His line was the truth, and his game was the truth.
He just slid into the right place, on either end, while keeping the Pistons at bay. Rudy Gay(notes) had a nice bounce-back game with 26 points, scoring almost exclusively on what looked like broken plays, and Detroit (who missed 15 of 21 shots from long range) just couldn't hang.
Fourteen points, 11 rebounds, zero assists (this is a surprise, to me) and six fouls from rookie Greg Monroe(notes) in 30 Dee-troit minutes, Ben Gordon(notes) managed 25 needed bench points, but Charlie Villanueva(notes) may as well have just sat on the court in this loss. Just five rebounds in 52 minutes between CV and Chris Wilcox(notes).
Jamal Crawford(notes) came through with 36 points on 23 shots, and he really was the story throughout. We can point out how Joe Johnson(notes) and Mike Bibby(notes) managed clutch makes down the stretch, or point to Toronto's impressive attack-heavy offense (where did this come from?), but Crawford was the guy that set this game on its ear.
He just had one of his Jamal Crawford-y games, where he pulls up from 47 feet away and you don't mind it. Andrea Bargnani(notes) tried to match him, scoring 26 points on a nice series of pull-ups and mini-drives, but this was Crawford's show and Atlanta's win as a result.
Sound work on the defensive glass for the Hawks, as well, with just four offensive rebounds for Toronto in 40 chances.
***Indiana 102, Dallas 89
This is what should happen. Indiana is a very good defensive team, and Dallas is on the road and playing without Dirk Nowitzki(notes). Just 103.5 points per 100 possessions for the Mavericks, and every time I flipped over it seemed as if the Pacers were playing perfect defense even on the shots that went in for Dallas. That Jason Terry(notes), you'll have to cut his arm off sometimes ...
16 points in 17 minutes for Pacer rookie Paul George(notes). He was confident in the first half, and a factor in the fourth quarter with his shot from outside. And Brandon
Roy Rush (20 points) was a rock on both ends.
Charlotte had an answer offensively whenever Chicago pressed, that aspect shouldn't be dismissed, but calling Stephen Jackson(notes) the player of this particular game (I'm looking at you, local Charlotte telecast) got to me. Partially because Jackson was clutch in hitting a game deciding-jumper, late, which upsets me because of my rooting interests. But mainly because Tyrus Thomas(notes) was freakin' everywhere.
Just two blocks for Thomas on the night, but he changed five times as many shots. He completely dismantled Derrick Rose's(notes) penetration game, messed with Carlos Boozer(notes) both inside and out, and Chicago's transition chances were made to be iffy propositions because of him. This isn't me pumping up one of my favorites -- I'm ticked that my hometown team lost this game, and I know that Tyrus Thomas (17 points, 13 rebounds, two turnovers, three assists) was the biggest reason why.
Thanks for reading.