Minnesota 98, Sacramento 89
(Upside down headband, Beas. Uh oh.)
Behind every made shot is a sense of confidence that allows for you to match what you already know (fundamentally-speaking) with what you should do (let it rip, because the team needs the two). A lot of times we confuse insecurity for confidence as a chucker lets one fly because he thinks it's the only way to help a team, and as a result misses bad one after bad one.
I have no doubt that Michael Beasley(notes) has been insecure at times as he's struggled through two-plus tough NBA seasons, but he was all about the confidence on Wednesday night. The cat was absolutely killing it, from all over.
From the start. Just firing away, pointedly, whenever the opening hit. 18 points in the first quarter, 42 overall, on a series of jumpers. Beas is one of those guys that often seems to have too many moves, enough so that mid-way through the execution of a particular move you can almost see him wonder if he should have tried a different approach (this isn't a slam on either player, but Austin Croshere(notes) had the same thing not going for him), which stops him from fully committing his fundamentals to the move that's being unleashed.
Tonight, he committed to that jumper, and the results gave Minnesota a desperately-needed win. Nine rebounds, too.
Philly is 2-6 but I like their fightin' spirit, they made a game out of this when they didn't have to, and that could pay dividends down the stretch of a season that should still have them in contention for a playoff berth.
OKC, though, had it. Another standout game from Russell Westbrook(notes), who managed 31 points, 12 assists, and a dodgy seven turnovers. Kevin Durant(notes) is still shooting below 40 percent on the season but he made 16 of 16 free throws on his way to 31 of his own, and once again Serge Ibaka(notes) (12 points, seven rebounds, four blocks) seemed to be everywhere when the Thunder needed him the most.
Every Wednesday has a game like this, one I just don't seen enough of despite me really, really wanting to (as a fan) or needing to (as your humble scribe of record). Dallas pulled away in a deciding third quarter, and I'm not going to pretend that I saw enough of it to ably comment upon the run.
I can tell you that Jason Terry(notes) seems in line to contend for another Sixth Man Award, and that Dallas' defense (ranked sixth after Wednesday's win, in defensive efficiency) has been fantastic this year. The team, while great overall, was decidedly above-average in both offense and defense last year. The offense has remained steady in 2010-11, but this squad's D is giving it a chance to win night after night this season.
The Nets crashed the offensive boards and took care of the ball, and while they nearly gave it away in the end, the Cavs just didn't have the firepower to knock the Nets off on their home end of this home-and-home.
31 points and nine dimes for Devin Harris(notes), as his Cleveland counterpart in Mo Williams(notes) suffered through a tough shooting night (4-11), and apparently re-injured his groin. 29 and 15, combined, for Antawn Jamison(notes) and J.J. Hickson(notes) for the Cavs in a full game's worth of minutes, but it just wasn't enough despite the team's continued strong effort.
It was the up-tempo, no-defense shootout that you would expect, sort of ruined by some iffy decisions from the Knicks when it mattered most. I get that this team needs (or, at least, wants) to put pressure on opposing defenses by shooting the lights out from long range, but this team isn't all that good from long range (23rd in the NBA after Wednesday night), and yet it doesn't stop them from firing away. Golden State had seven legitimate three-point shooters in its 10-man rotation yesterday (at least somebody had a 10-man rotation yesterday), but they took 21 fewer three-pointers.
The Knicks went away from Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) down the stretch in the pick and roll, which was an absolute no-no. I grok that Amar'e took a ton of free throws, turned it over six times, and generally had the ball in his hands quite a bit, but every possession counts, and this may have been the difference.
23 points and nine rebounds in 38 minutes for Andrea Bargnani(notes), we should start with that. The Raptors centre (I understand that he plays the game like a small forward, but if you pair him in a front court with a power forward and another small forward, then, yeah, we're going to call him a pivotman) had a good game offensive and crashed the boards. Defense, not so much, but it was good to see him get his mitts on some caroms.
The Raptors just couldn't overcome Tyrus Thomas'(notes) activity (14 points, five blocks in 21 minutes) off the bench, as Charlotte meekly pulled away towards the end. 19 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four blocks for Gerald Wallace(notes).
Out of absolutely nowhere the Bucks have learned how to put points up on the board, and I think Milwaukee surprised the Hawks with an initial (mostly bench-derived) burst of offense early on to establish a stout-enough lead.
The Bucks outscored Atlanta by 34 points over the second and third quarters, it shot well but also dominated the offensive glass, and the Hawks just couldn't keep up. Nearly 119 points per 100 possessions for Milwaukee, which is a ton for any team, most of all the often offense-starved Bucks.
San Antonio 107, Los Angeles Clippers 95
You almost want to give the Clippers a month off.
Actually, I really want to give the Clippers a month off. To let Baron Davis(notes) work his way into shape. To get the team healthy, overall. To see if it can't swing some more depth in a deal. To work on Blake Griffin's(notes) footwork so that he's not blocked by the 1995-version of himself in Antonio McDyess(notes).
On the other end, Manu Ginobili(notes) was all over, once again, with 22 points on only nine shots. Tony Parker(notes) ran the screen and roll expertly, the front court was active, and Richard Jefferson(notes) hit 4-7 three-pointers FROM THE EXACT SPOT HE'LL BE IN ALL SEASON, OK NBA?!?!
Defense has been a season-long issue for the Rockets so far in 2010-11, and while John Wall(notes) impressed with a triple-double, it was Houston's inability to score that did them in with this particular loss.
The squad came through with fewer than 94 points per 100 possessions, forwards Shane Battier(notes) and Chuck Hayes(notes) combined for just two points in 49 minutes, and Yao Ming(notes) had to leave the game midway through the first quarter with a strained tendon from around his left ankle.
The Wizards moved the ball well, and defended ably, but the real straw that stirred the drink was the brilliant John Wall. As mentioned above, 19 points on 8-16 shooting (something to work on, as it is with Derrick Rose(notes) ... get to the line more often than twice a game, please), with six steals, 10 boards, 13 assists, and just one turnover. Just floored the bugger all night in transition, and the Rockets couldn't keep up.
The Magic may have made its own bed with 21 turnovers in a game that wasn't all that fast, but let's give Utah some credit here.
I don't know where this season will end up, but it's possible we could see both Florida teams combing to average about 65 wins. So for this Jazz team, wherever they end up, to waltz into Miami and Orlando and topple the Heat and Magic on back-to-back nights? Not only is this beyond impressive, but it almost feels like those one-in-a-million instances that some boffin gets to write about years later. Like the propensity for Michael Jordan to have a three-game losing streak.
Until then, let's just marvel at Al Jefferson's(notes) ability to toss in jump hooks over Dwight Howard(notes) without said hooks being tossed back into his pretty, little face. Or the way Deron Williams(notes) (30 points, 14 assists) just seemed to get what he wanted, when he wanted it. Or Paul Millsap's(notes) 34.5 points per game average throughout the mini-run.
No shame in Orlando losing to a very good team, but the squad also turned it over on 23 percent of its possessions, and made only 15 free throws all day. Still, though this is a blip in the radar for Orlando, a two-day run like this is major accomplishment to be very proud of for the Jazz. Even if Utah goes on to win its first NBA title this season, you still have to doff your cap to a back-to-back like this.