Denver 120, Memphis 107
Remember the talk from a week ago today, about how the Memphis Grizzlies wanted nothing to do with having to sit out seven days during the All-Star break?
How they wanted the team's momentum to continue apace? How the squad was going to practice and stay together and keep things going, on their way toward possibly stealing a playoff berth from the Denver Nuggets? After all, even with Carmelo Anthony(notes) in tow, the Nuggies were just a few games up on the Grizzlies as it was. If Carmelo were to ever be traded? Playoff time, Memphis.
Not sure if you heard, but Carmelo was traded yesterday. And the Grizzlies, after practicing all week, were set to take on the depleted Nuggets in Denver, perfect symbolism. And because this is the NBA, of course the Denver Nuggets were up 26 points at the end of the first three quarters.
Rudy Gay(notes) is out for Memphis, he'll be out for the next three weeks, but I refuse to believe that this one-sided affair came because of Rudy's absence. Denver just wanted this game, came out quick and determined, and earned that win.
How much of this carries over? It's hard to tell, but there is talent on Denver's roster. The ball might move a little more without Carmelo around, though they'll be hurting in the fourth quarter without the All-Star. But we shouldn't be surprised at a team featuring Nene, J.R. Smith(notes), Aaron Afflalo, and Ty Lawson(notes) to start taking care of things like this on its home court.
Memphis? Start over, now. You can do this without Rudy.
Obvious early effort from the Lakers in this dominating win. The team didn't even shoot all that expertly to start the game, but this was a blowout from the start because the team's defense was so good, and because the Hawks just weren't ready to match the level of energy the champs came through with.
A pathetic 90 points per 100 possessions for Atlanta, which should be doing so much better on that end. The Lakers won by 24 even though they tripled-up the Hawks on turnovers, 18-to-six.
To me, you're supposed to be on pace for six fouls a game. That's how many you get, so if you have three fouls near the end of the half, I've got no problem with that. Don't go all Matt Harpring(notes) or Amir Johnson(notes) on me every night in hacking away, but it's not the end of the world if you're on pace to foul out as the final buzzer hits, right?
Of course, fouls aren't meted out like that. Three can come in a minute. Or three can come in a week. Or, if you're Rasheed Wallace(notes), three can come when you least expect it. And Rasheed had the least amount of expectations in NBA history.
So when Blake Griffin(notes) picked up his third foul with four minutes to go in the first half on Tuesday, I wanted the guy to stay in. He looked to be on his way to a career night, while playing in front fans from his Oklahoma home, including his parents. And he'd already picked up six fouls on Thunder players in his short time on the court during the first half, so you got the feeling that the refs were about to learn their lesson and maybe back off the whistle a bit. And then the Thunder went on a 15-0 run without Griffin out there to close the half out, effectively putting the game away for good.
And the end result of this? We can all point to Vinny Del Negro, coach of those Clippers, and vent. Right?
I wouldn't. The Clippers lost their way because they're just not a very deep team, and because they make bad decisions. Baron Davis(notes) and Randy Foye(notes) took poor shots during that swoon, and ignored Ike Diogu(notes) down low. And if Ike isn't being used as a go-to guy offensively in his time on the court, he's not helping you at all. The Thunder were able to walk all over limited defenders like Davis, Foye, Ike and Brian Cook(notes), and they should have pulled away. Though Griffin came back with a vengeance in the third quarter (eight points, five boards, two assists), there wasn't much Los Angeles could do against a very good Thunder team.
Perfect team ball from OKC, and I apologize for spending 360 words on the Clippers, here. Over 122 points per 100 possessions, great defense, and just six turnovers. Nick Collison(notes) had a +25 in 22 minutes, despite scoring only two points, and that was earned.
Golden State's activity-levels and quick guards allowed for the Warriors to hang with the Celtics for a spell, but Boston couldn't help but pull away as the defense ratcheted up in the second half.
Just 33 second half points for GSW, after dropping 30 a quarter in the first 24 minutes of this loss. And on the other end, Boston amazingly put up nearly 120 points per 100 possessions despite hitting just eight free throws all night. And, yes, clearly I'm rushing so that I can get back to working on trade reaction columns.
This ... this was an ugly game.
Good effort. You can't deny the effort. But both teams shot right at 38 percent, there were 28 turnovers in what was a relatively slow affair, and both teams kept taking three-pointer after three-pointer despite missing 37 of 48 from long range.
Brandon Jennings(notes) did slide his way toward 27 points, and though he missed six of eight threes (you shoot 33 percent! Stop taking so many!), he did well to get to the line 12 times and make 11 freebies. John Salmons(notes) overcame a rough shooting night to nail two needed shots in the fourth quarter, adding three assists. All Carlos Delfino(notes) does is take corner threes, and Andrew Bogut(notes) doesn't shoot anymore. Those are probably good things, I suppose.
Not a lot of good on the Minnesota side. Playing against an impossibly-tough Buck defense is no fun, and there were just too many misses going around to pull away and sustain a lead. Luke Ridnour(notes) had a corner three to tie the game in the final seconds, but his shot went wide left, and Darko Milicic(notes) strangely decided to go up for a jump hook (worth, um, two points) after securing Ridnour's miss. Oh, Minnesota.
Miami roared out to a hot start because LeBron James(notes) can just do a bit of everything at levels we really haven't seen much of over the last 65 years of NBA basketball. 31 and eight rebounds for James in just over 30 minutes, and 45 combined from Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes). It's worth pointing out that Bosh is working with percentages from the mid-range area of the court that will just blow your mind right now -- he's not shooting well for a big man, he's shooting well for Ray Allen(notes) from those spots.
Samuel Dalembert(notes), as was mentioned about 37,000 times on the Sacramento-area broadcast, was terrific off the Kings bench. Eighteen points and 13 rebounds for Dalembert, no turnovers, and two assists in only 31 minutes. This is someone who is going to make a team very happy, should Sacramento decide to buy him out later this month.
It's hard to blame the Houston Rockets for limiting rookie Patrick Patterson's(notes) minutes. Chuck Hayes(notes) is the only thing that comes close to resembling an interior defender on the team, and when Shane Battier's(notes) wheels are a bit gummed-up, he's the only defender Houston has. And Luis Scola(notes) can dominate games with a nearly All-Star level of offensive basketball. So while Patterson is a clear rotation contributor even on a good team, you can live with his limited playing time.
And you can also understand why, when Patterson gives Houston the steadying influence it needed down the stretch of Tuesday's win over Detroit. A road win, no less, that saw Patterson come through with 11 points and two rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, and 20 points in 21 minutes overall. Detroit had its chances, but they couldn't keep the Rox from easy buckets throughout this game.
Toronto rookie Ed Davis(notes) had two nice blocks, I was lucky enough to see both of them while flipping around. Beyond that? The Bobcats got whatever they wanted from Toronto (a sterling 120 points per 100 possessions), which should be a tough pill for Raptors fans to take, because Charlotte isn't all that hot offensively.
34 made free throws and all manner of easy scores on the inside (as I write this, I don't have updated interior shooting stats for the Bobcats) for Charlotte, and what was Toronto going to do about it? Not when the "offense-first" Raptors were shooting just 2-9 from long range in the loss. 23 points, eight assists, and zero turnovers for D.J. Augustin(notes) in the win. Also, second-year wing Gerald Henderson(notes) managed double-figure output for the sixth time this month, in 10 games. And two of those games saw the Duke product go for nine points.
Indiana 113, Washington 106
108 possessions in this game, as Indiana was pushing the ball as much as it could at every given opportunity. And because the Wizards turned the rock over on almost 18 percent of its possessions, and shot under 30 percent, Indy had quite a few opportunities to leak out in transition.
Washington never bothered with this game. The Wizards actually led at the end of the first quarter, even after Indiana got out to a good start, but that was almost entirely predicated on Indiana's poor offensive play. To these eyes, at least. 113 points overall for Indiana, but the squad's 104 points per 100 possessions mark is actually kind of poor. In spite of hitting 34 free throws, as well.
This is what a fast pace will do to a team, and this is what consistent effort will do for a team. Indiana just tossed out wave after wave of contributors -- with, again, Tyler Hansbrough(notes) acting as the too-rare low post threat off the bench -- and Washington wanted no part of it.