Since Frank Vogel has taken over as coach of the Indiana Pacers, the team has beaten Toronto, Cleveland, Portland, New Jersey, and Charlotte, while losing by five to the Miami Heat. Not bad, but not scary, either. Nothing for the best of the East to be worried about, but for Indiana fans this hardly matters. The Pacers are in as the East's eighth seed right now, and they've just clinched the tie-breaker over the ninth-place Charlotte Bobcats.
Lots of running and confidence and pell-mell ball from the Pacers on Wednesday, but they also run good plays, and are paying more attention to detail now that they, well, want to. And while that's not fair to former coach Jim O'Brien, it still is his fault. Even if it's the players' fault, if that makes sense.
There were still some silly moves throughout, Mike Dunleavy made some strange defensive decisions, but by and large this was a good showing for both squads, both of which have struggled to score this season. League-best efficient rates offensively for both teams, and Charlotte deserves credit for hanging in there and chipping away at what were double-digit leads in the fourth quarter.
Twenty-nine points and 10 boards for Roy Hibbert(notes), though, with two blocks and no turnovers in 34 minutes. Hard to top a team featuring that. Danny Granger(notes) strung another good game together with 25 points on 17 shots.
Not my favorite game to watch.
I'm clearly a Bulls backer, but I also know what Carlos Boozer(notes) did to the Utah Jazz (despite all he did for the Utah Jazz) from 2004 until 2010, and I can completely understand why they were booing the guy. And as Al Jefferson(notes) and Paul Millsap(notes) their way to the front of the rim all night, he took in some boos from me, too. The guy just does not get over. Someone scores a lay-up, and you never see the side of Boozer's left shoulder on your TV. You just see the number "5." And red, whether Chicago is at home, or away.
But the Bulls got after it defensively in this win. Derrick Rose(notes) amped it up on that end, and while it was a struggle at times for Rose to put up his points, he dragged those Bullies to a win. Steals, D, tough shots. Just one turnover in nearly 39 minutes of play, and for a guy that has the ball in his hands as much as he does, to cough it up just once in that term? That's huge.
I'd rip Utah for not playing with any cohesion, but I can't get too far into it. The Bulls are just great, defensively, despite Boozer.
You'd call it a ‘grind out game' if the Mavs didn't actually pile up over 113 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would lead the league most years. But Dirk Nowitzki's(notes) shot was clearly off as he nursed a bum right wrist, and the Mavs did really seem to grind their way towards this win. Mainly because Tyson Chandler(notes) was really working a bruising middle, even if his 13 points and four boards may not reflect it. But partially because the game wasn't all that great to watch at times.
The typical complaints from DeMarcus Cousins(notes) and the typical long and off-balance shots for Tyreke Evans(notes) in the loss, but those two also competed, along with the rest of the Kings. The team just couldn't swing it with Jason Terry(notes) taking over in the first half (22 points, 12 in the second quarter) and Jose Juan Barea(notes) helping in the second (20 overall, 15 in the final quarter).
The Nuggets were without Chauncey Billups(notes) in this loss, but I don't think anyone was stopping Monta Ellis(notes) in this game. No way. Thirty-seven points on 30 shots, with four turnovers and five assists (and seven points on seven shots in the fourth) wasn't his best big game, but it was enough.
And look at Dorrell Wright, filling in all the holes on his way to perhaps his best all-around game of the year, even if it wasn't his best shooting game of the season (23 points on 20 shots). Eleven rebounds and eight assists, four steals in 43 minutes of fast-paced ball for Wright (so don't be shocked if his, say, PER doesn't shoot way up), and Reggie Williams(notes) added a nice 18 points and six dimes off the bench.
Six of seven from the field for Nene, but he missed the potential game-tying jumper at the buzzer, a shot he should have never been forced to take.
***Los Angeles Clippers 116, New York 108
Strange start to this game, you'd think that the Knicks would be into things with Blake Griffin(notes) in town, but the Clips more or less had their way with New York throughout, until the Knicks returned to the mean (literally and figuratively) in the second half.
By the fourth, though, Randy Foye(notes) had warmed up. And with his ever-increasing confidence in the wake of Eric Gordon's(notes) injury, we're allowed to remind that Foye has long been one of this league's more underappreciated crunch time performers. The dude kept it up on Wednesday, dialing up 17 needed points on eight shots as he played the entire fourth quarter. Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) and Toney Douglas(notes) came through with 10 apiece in the same frame, but the defense wasn't there, as the Knicks let the Clips drop nearly 125 points per 100 possessions (yikes) in New York. Can't happen.
I enjoyed Raptors coach Jay Triano pointing out that the Spurs and Gregg Popovich had "strategically rested their guys" before the fourth quarter of this San Antonio win, mainly because I'm going to use that. Stay out too late on a Saturday? Well, honey, the reason I'm sleeping until the NBA games start at 1 p.m., instead of enjoying tea and a gorgeous Sunday morning with you, is because I'm "strategically resting." Totally what I'm on about. It's science. I learned it from an ex-CIA guy who lives in Texas.
The Raptors tried, they really did, but the waves of San Antonio's depth were too much to overcome. Toronto had its way at times with San Antonio's second unit, which shouldn't be discounted, but the Spur spacing and good hands led the way in a 30-16 fourth quarter.
Amir Johnson(notes) had 13 rebounds on the night for Toronto, which is nice. But Andrea Bargnani(notes) (29 points) had two, bloody two, in the loss. 30 assists on 47 field goals for the Spurs, who got to stretch out real nice in the win.
Also, Tiago Splitter(notes) got smacked around a little bit in the win, so perhaps Pop will see fit to shoehorn some minutes in for his talented rookie as the Spurs run away with the West and the playoffs approach.
It's one thing to be depressed, sullen, and expect nothing in return for whatever level of work you come through with.
It's another thing, completely, to not care. And the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't care on Wednesday. That's not to say that this has been a hallmark of the team's 26-game losing streak, they've generally fought, despite some obviously-poor body language, but I've seen quite a few of these losses and have yet to see a defeat as dispirited as this. As blasé.
Kudos to Detroit for taking advantage. It's true that no team wants to be "the team" that drops a game to Cleveland at this point, and while the Pistons weren't exactly pulling out all the stops (there wasn't desperation here, which we shouldn't mind, unlike double-negatives), they were playing well enough to keep the Cavs emo.
39 points in about 56 combined minutes off the bench for Will Bynum(notes) and Rodney Stuckey(notes). Stuckey's got an 18 Player Efficiency Rating right now, friends. Also, Greg Monroe(notes) (nine and eight) has a 15 (average, nearly) as a 20-year old playing center, which is pretty good.
Playing at home, Washington seemed unsurprisingly enthused, and took it to a Bucks team that was a step slow in every regard. This wasn't the worst we've seen the Bucks play offensively this season, but it was pretty bad, with possibly the idea that they were playing against the miserable Wizards' D possibly taking it up a notch. Or, down. Whatever direction "bad" is in.
Washington was just quicker in every regard, every time I flipped over. Cartier Martin(notes) hit 5-7 threes, OK, and Nick Young(notes) dropped 26 points. Also, Milwaukee hit five free throws all night, criminal for a team featuring Brandon Jennings(notes). Can't win like that.
***New Jersey 103, New Orleans 101 (OT)
Chris Paul(notes) struggled, and the Nets played pretty impressive defense down the stretch, and yet the Hornets still had chances to win this game at the end of regulation and overtime. That's something for New Orleans to feel good about, even if they've dropped six of seven.
Both will fall back to earth at some point, but Willie Smith and Marco Bellineli both were forced into contributing both early and in the fourth and OT, and both guards did well to make shots and get to the line. Of course, that might not be the best thing with Marcus Thornton(notes) still only playing six minutes out of a possible 53, but I have to go glass half-full, when things are potentially falling apart record-wise.
Paul missed 11 of 15 shots, Devin Harris(notes) really got up underneath him, and the Nets generally played a gutty, smart game while putting up a ton of points (pace-adjusted). I also really appreciate the way the referees swallowed their whistle on Chris Paul's flop late in overtime, letting the ball go out of bounds and giving it back to the Nets. Newark didn't open up and swallow the arena whole, Chris Paul didn't rip off his jersey and join the circus, and everything appeared to continue apace. Seems like something to consider, NBA. Maybe it isn't a foul, on either end.
(Joe Crawford(notes) may take junk from people like me for seeming to make calls against the home team all the time, but he made two huge calls down the stretch in New Jersey's favor. Something to consider.)
Both teams were playing on the second night of a back to back, but I wasn't detecting a lack of effort save for the usual shenanigans on defense from Lou Williams.
Not the best offensive performance from either team, but it was good enough stuff to stay entertaining, even as the defenses on both sides caused a few late shot clock jumpers that sort of mitigated both teams' run-first philosophy. You heard me. Even Stan Van Gundy and Doug Collins, two of the more controlling types we have in this league, know that these teams need to run.
Thirty points (including two clinching free throws, late, off an offensive rebound), 17 rebounds, two blocks and two steals for Dwight Howard(notes). Cannot be discounted. But J.J. Redick(notes) and Ryan Anderson(notes) were raining in threes during the fourth quarter, keeping the Sixers just an arm's length away from possibly controlling the action, and the Sixers couldn't overcome two good second quarter Orlando runs that featured both Earl Clark(notes) and Ryan Anderson taking it to Thaddeus Young(notes).
Thank you for reading.