Washington 109, Toronto 94
It's just the perfect mix of (mostly) bad instincts, limited athleticism, and the occasional lapse in effort. The Raptors just can't defend, anywhere on the court. Washington is no great guns offensively, though they have a ton of gunners, and despite watching the Wiz launch terrible shot after terrible shot aligned with poor decisions and bad moves offensively ... Washington still destroyed Toronto.
Absolutely manhandled them, with their offense. And even though Andray Blatche(notes) still looks like the sort of guy that would tick off, I don't know, Dick Motta in 1985, Kirk Hinrich(notes) is still often flat with those early jumpers, and Nick Young(notes) has the worst shot selections since, well, Andray Blatche and Kirk Hinrich? The Wiz still pulled it out.
Gilbert Arenas(notes) came through with a 10-point quarter as Washington pulled away in the third, and it was great to see. He dropped 20, with seven rebounds and six assists, as the whole Wizards team (despite my whinging, above) shot 56 percent and managed over 118 points per 100 possessions.
Sonny Weems(notes) was the bright spot on the court and in the box score for Toronto with a team-leading 16 points. Despite the presence of the game's best per-minute rebounder in Reggie Evans(notes), the Raps were out-rebounded by 11 as Andrea Bargnani(notes) had two boards in 28 minutes.
Wesley Matthews(notes) didn't let the specter of his father's embarrassing rapping sway him from the game of his life on Tuesday night, coming through with an exceptional performance in Brandon Roy's(notes) absence as the Blazers hung on against the Grizzlies.
Memphis hit a few more free throws, but there were just too many wasted possessions for a team playing at home, whether this ended up with a turnover for the Grizz (nearly one in five possessions did), or a shot taken by the wrong guy. Usually Mike Conley(notes), to watch it, and the box score sort of backs me up (he missed nine of 14 looks).
Matthews hit five of 10 three-pointers on his way toward 30 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) got the better of the battle with his former teammate, Zach Randolph(notes), with a 23-point outing. Rudy Fernandez(notes) took and missed a bunch of three-pointers.
Having read the guy's books, seen his interviews post-game, and heard his musings mid-game (that's a recent addition), you could just feel the typical Phil Jackson reaction as you watched the first three quarters of this game.
Weather the storm, whether or not you think it's ever going to end. The Bucks can't keep this sort of intensity up. They're feeding off their crowd, not playing their usual game, and it won't last. Keep playing your game, instead of moving up or down to meet theirs. Be like Loggins, and keep the fire. Chop wood, carry water.
Something like that. And the Bucks were killing it, for a while. Still in a close game, throughout, but nailing shot after shot and playing with an intensity that you'd suspect for the lone home game against the two-time defending champs. But Phil's been dealing with this sort of game since this time in 1991. And Kobe Bryant(notes) has been dealing with this sort of game since this time in 2000. And it's muscle memory, at this point.
And, though I worry about him being more and more reliant on his three-pointer to add points to the ledger, Shannon Brown(notes) was fantastic off the Laker bench. Four threes, 21 points on nine shots, no turnovers, all in 21 minutes. That works.
The Lakers have a fantastic offense, so there's no shame in giving up almost 127 points per 100 possessions to them, but the Bucks just can't get away with it. They don't have the offense to try and match wits with a team like Los Angeles, and it showed as the Bucks' offense came crashing back to earth (though still a fine showing, overall) as it scored 48 points in the second half after a 59-point first half.
Those incorrigible Nuggets nearly let those incorrigible Knicks get back into this game. Just good ball movement and inspired pell-mell basketball from New York as they ran to a 10-point advantage in the fourth quarter. The problem was that the Knicks just couldn't stop the Nuggets long enough to pull ahead, as Ty Lawson(notes) had six points in the final frame, and Carmelo Anthony(notes) (26 points, nine rebounds) hit four free throws down the stretch to keep New York at bay.
When you start a sentence with "pretty much me and him," you can't follow it with "played chess."
Chicago 95, Houston 92
The story of the game is the story you'll read everywhere else. Derrick Rose(notes) scored 17 points in a needed fourth quarter burst, after missing the final five and a half minutes of the third quarter due to foul trouble.
Rose managed 33 overall, on a series of slung jumpers and loping drives to the hoop. He hit more three-pointers (four) than he did free throws (three), which probably should be as shocking as it seems, and he made up for a rough night from Luol Deng(notes) and Taj Gibson(notes) (combined, 7-30 shooting) as the Bulls forwards missed a series of shots they usually down.
Houston didn't have the horses offensively to keep up. Ronnie Brewer(notes) did a great job holding down Kevin Martin(notes), and the Rockets just couldn't find the go-to buckets in a pretty sloppy (19 turnovers for both teams) game.
Great bench play for Chicago, with Omer Asik(notes) finishing strong, Kyle Korver(notes) coming through with a great all-around game (stop it), and C.J. Watson(notes) helping the team circle the wagons with Rose out.
Consistent, good-enough basketball from the Cavaliers throughout. They kept the pressure on defensively and didn't turn the ball over much (just seven times, against a Sixers team that thrives on miscues), and 28 assists on 37 field goals nearly tells the whole story offensively.
It didn't really show in the free throws, where Indiana shot and made more, and it hardly showed on the glass (where Indiana dominated), but the Hawks just seemed so much more athletic than Indiana in this win. Beat them to the spot defensively, were able to get around and past them offensively.
Good effort from Indiana, throughout (really good effort, actually), but Al Horford(notes) was poppin' jumpers and finishing well all night for the Hawks, and Josh Smith(notes) added up a very professional 25 points in the win.