A strange night for Nuggets fans, I suppose, but I don't understand why this doesn't happen more often. Denver was met by a Hornets team that actually appeared to boast a post-Carmelo Anthony game plan. Hornets coach Monty Williams' crew apparently prepared with tapes recorded after Christmas Day, 2011, and they packed the middle on both ends. Forced Denver to shoot long jumpers, and attacked the paint with penetration offensively.
Denver looked awful as a result. New Orleans was and will be without Eric Gordon for a spell, but NOLA's dump-off passes (26 assists on 39 field goals) and composure allowed for them to slowly develop a lead and sustain even in the Denver air. Toss in Andre Miller and Al Harrington's combined 1-9 shooting and a gimpy Nene and … well, this is a supposed Western contender that is still depending on Andre Miller and Al Harrington. I appreciate Denver's attitude, but this has to come back to earth at some point, right?
I'm about to start looking at the Knicks as a team in waiting. The clarion call for coach Mike D'Antoni's head went out last week, and that hasn't abated even after a couple of wins. These players seem happy with the idea of signing up to play for a team with a D'Antoni style -- no consequences! -- but unwilling to actually pull it off for coach D'Antoni. I'm not going to tell you that Mike's ways can win the whole thing and that he hasn't been incredibly stubborn, but this mess is on the players. Even with the holes in that rotation, they should be better than this.
The Knicks came back and won against the Bobcats, which is a ridiculous sentence in and of itself even before you dive into the fact that the Knicks (who spotted Charlotte ten points before its first digits) should have been hopping mad a week removed from an embarrassing home loss against Paul Silas' team in which they gave up 118 points. This "win" was in MSG as well, and yet the victory was a struggle. And every Silas win or near-win in the Garden makes me happy because I don't like Pat Riley either.
A terrible showing that somehow kept you entranced in spite of all the missteps. Minnesota's starters played an awful game offensively, with the frontcourt managing 6-29 shooting, and Toronto actually looked like world-beaters in response. And yet, for some reason (mainly a still-clearly gimpy Jose Juan Barea) the Wolves hung in there. This was a close contest until the final minutes, and it really needed to be a blowout. Only Toronto's continued slunked stroke from long range (3-19) got in the way of that.
The Raptors had several attempts to put the Wolves away, but declined. Andrea Bargnani (1-6 shooting) was the main offender, but he also loped his way toward 31 points and nine boards in the win, and Amir/James Johnson seemed to block twice the combined five rejections they were counted for. Barea honestly looked like he needed 34 ice-packs and an oxygen mask after the game, but the guy single-handedly kept the Timberwolves in it during the second half. "In it to lose it," as the beer cozy says.
The easy out includes the fact that Danny Granger, super scorer, was out with food poisoning. I'd kill the guy if it weren't for the fact that my last foray into pre-cooked frozen bar food resulted in the same for my wife and I last week. Toss in Paul George's 4-16 shooting on a litany of missed chippies, and a Pacers loss seems like the right thing to behold.
Indiana had its chances, though. Plenty of them. The problem is that Philly also had its chances to win by about 30. Heaps of missed chippies on their end, too. So what do I take from it? The idea that the 76ers, even though they appear to be redefining the idea of a "random offense" in every ruddy possession, are capable of scary things. The team has won five in a row and this 6-2 record is no joke. Going to give them another week before fawning, but there are some possessions where it looks like the 76ers are the best defensive team in the NBA.
Josh Smith looked every bit like the guy who would score 26 points in a win like this, he was fantastic in driving to the hoop, but New Jersey's mettle won my heart. This was a team that should have lost by about 49 points. Somewhere around there. 51 points, perhaps. The Nets had chance after chance to give up on this game, even sound drives by Deron Williams were resulting in back-rimmed floaters, and yet Wherever the Hell the Nets Play never gave up. Not fun to watch, but impressive to behold.
Atlanta had answers, though. Good rim attacks and offensive dump-offs, quick finishes, enough scoring to hang on. 96 of the team's 106 points came from starters, but you can get away with that against the Nets.
It does seem as if things have settled down a bit, for your Chicago Bulls. The team's offense has dipped to eighth in the NBA, the defense back up to second in overall efficiency. The group has won eight of 10. The ball moves a lot and there is plenty of action, offensively, but there aren't a lot of sound finishes. Defensively? There's always an answer, waiting. This is a team that earns those wins, in three out of four chances. Or eight out of 10, even.
Detroit just hasn't a clue. The group is run by a man in Lawrence Frank that has a clear understanding of what each player is worth, at this middling point, but he just can't manage to get through to these dunderheads. Like, perhaps, the part where Jonas Jerebko is supposed to slide over and take a charge because his NBA type resembles a hustling role player who can't really contribute anywhere else. Instead, Jonas declines, and prefers to launch a long two-pointer on the other end.
Carlos Boozer took a lot of jumpers and made a lot of jumpers in this win. Bulls fans and writers gave him a little guff for his perimeter-happy ways, but in 2012 (with every rolled eye and raised eyebrow resulting in a charge call from trigger-happy referees) and with that arc I don't blame the guy. You know me, I'll blame him for a hundred other things per 36 minutes. Just not his 23 points on Monday night.