Memphis 100, Orlando 97
This wasn't the most precise night out, for either team, but this was a competitive and fun contest that finally dragged the Memphis Grizzlies above the .500 mark. And this is a team worth admiring.
Because the Grizz continuously play through mistakes. They have chances to give up on games and decide not to, pivotal moments that stick out to ardent NBA watchers. Someone like Zach Randolph(notes) hasn't been able to buy a bucket against the Magic all year, watching as several tough shots rim in and out, and yet he keeps at it. Doesn't force things, but doesn't go all gun-shy either, while setting good screens. Rudy Gay(notes) had a terrible start but came back to contribute, Tony Allen(notes) isn't even swayed by sniper fire, and the Magic just couldn't pull it out as a result.
Nineteen points and eight rebounds in only 32 minutes for Marc Gasol(notes), and Mike Conley(notes) was the little element that made everything go. Twenty-six points and 11 assists for the Ohio State product, as he was able to drive left all night.
Dwight Howard(notes) came through with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but he also turned the ball over seven times, and helped put this game away with a needless technical foul call late in the contest (it may have been a bogus call, but still -- just be quiet, in that situation). Six of seven shooting for Brandon Bass(notes) before he turned his ankle, and Hedo Turkoglu(notes) (3-11) took some bad shots.
Utah flipped the script, somewhat. It played good basketball in the first quarter, a rarity this season, and then took off for lunch afterwards. And though the Bobcats gave the Jazz yet another close contest, Charlotte could not shoot well enough down the stretch to really make a dent against a Jazz team that seemed (seemed?!?) close to giving it away a few times.
An ugly game, just 88 possessions and neither team topped 95 points per 100 possessions (only one team, Cleveland, is below 100 points per 100 possessions this season), as the Jazz were clearly missing the extra oomph that Deron Williams(notes) (out with a bum right wrist) provides.
Dallas was pretty miserable to start this game, it wouldn't get back defensively, and it seemed a step slow in the half-court on both ends. Truly a poor, poor showing to begin things, and yet the Wizards really couldn't do anything with it. Dallas started defending better as the game moved along, started making the extra pass along with quick decisions offensively, and the Wizards just couldn't hang.
Yes, another road loss for the Wiz, who just don't have the answers down the stretch of these games. Guys like Andray Blatche(notes) and Nick Young(notes) (combined, 10-37 on Monday) are just too mercurial to rely upon, offensively or defensively, for consecutive possessions, and it's hard to see this team doing anything more than lucking into a road win eventually on the heels of a hot shooting performance that won't show up the night after.
It's one of the more obvious and expected things this league offers. An underachieving team (and, despite that dodgy roster, the Indiana Pacers were still underachieving) fires its coach, and proceeds to go off on its next scheduled opponent. This expectation is usually helped by firing a coaching just before a home gig against a patsy opponent. The Toronto Raptors would qualify as that patsy.
The problem here is that, while Indiana got out to a quick double-figure lead, the Raptors actually hung around. On the road, as well, where Toronto has been pretty terrible in 2010-11. Indiana kept coughing the ball up, and the Raptors made a somewhat-competitive game of it. And the problem with reading too much into that, giving the Pacers a "is that the best they can do?" dismissal is that this shouldn't come as a surprise. The Pacers have been a brickhouse all year.
Toronto, on the other hand, should not be house made of bricks, or wherever I was going with that description. This team is made to score, and little else, and yet with this contest the Raps have now dropped into the low 20s in offensive efficiency on the season. Not what they had in mind.
As mentioned above, the Pacers were pretty awful on that end as well, turning the ball over on nearly a quarter of its possessions. Think about having to watch that for an entire game, and then get into your iced-over car afterwards in the parking lot.
This game was as expected as the Pacer win, Carmelo Anthony(notes) and the Nuggets were in New Jersey to play a Nets team that ‘Melo had more or less spurned, and the Nets responded with an "I'll show you for considering us as poor as our 15-34 record would indicate"-performance.
It really was the Nets playing at their best, and you see this from teams from time to time. Not only does the effort level rise, but it seems as if every move has a purpose. Every cut or extra pass, every jumper seems to have good follow through and good hops under it, and it makes sense that the Nets went up double digits soon after the game started, and held onto that lead throughout.
A ridunkulous 130 points per 100 possessions for New Jersey, which saw Brook Lopez(notes) rain in jumper after jumper, and pull in a monstrous four rebounds in 38 minutes of play. 18 assists for Devin Harris(notes), and 18 points for Anthony Morrow(notes) on just six shot attempts.
Carmelo was great, 37 points on 12-22 shooting, but none of the Nuggets played any defense. Even Nene.
You know why Miami blew Cleveland out. There was nothing new to this game that you couldn't have picked up by just scanning the box score following. Cleveland can't create good shots, consistently, and the Heat just seem to stumble into great looks. Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) tipped his way toward several offensive boards, Dwyane Wade(notes) and LeBron James(notes) dunked quite a bit, and the Cavaliers are just ruddy awful.
I honestly have precious little to add to that. Mike Miller(notes) had 11 rebounds off the bench, and he now has 73 rebounds on the year, and 75 points. Like he's a mini-Dale Davis or something. Miller's rebound rate is 15.5 percent this season. Brook Lopez's is 10 percent.
Blake Griffin(notes) wasn't hitting the deciding buckets, he wasn't even on the floor when the Clippers pulled away, but he's the one that put his team in a position to win. And it was something else to watch.
Thirty-two points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and 13-20 shooting for the rookie. Best, he was doing this work usually in the face of Andrew Bogut(notes), who was playing his typically-brilliant defense. But Griffin's spin moves and bankers helped keep the Bucks at arm's length, and Milwaukee just didn't have the offensive firepower (or, at times, smarts on that end) to pull out a road win. Though this was still one of the team's best offensive showings of 2010-11.