The fawning has to stop at some point, because the Blazers essentially played Dallas to a draw on Portland's home court, and a little butterfly flap could have sent the game in the Mavericks' direction, and we'd be fawning over them just the same. If the Blazers continue to play like this, though, I can't imagine things would be much different should these teams (scheduled to meet in the playoffs as things stand) play in Dallas. And that's an accomplishment, considering all that Portland has been through.
The story here is the late-game heroics of Brandon Roy (21 points), who would have us giddy even if his shots weren't falling because of the way he looked while bounding up and down the court. I'm not going to promise you that it lasts, but for one night at least his hops were back. And with that Portland crowd cooing and LaMarcus Aldridge knocking in 30 points, the Blazers were on. And it was great to see.
The issue for Dallas was clearly turnovers. 15 miscues (including a killer on an entry pass to Dirk Nowitzki late) in a game this slowly-paced is just a recipe for a loss, even if you try to counter it (as the Mavs did) with 60 percent shooting and a 9-21 mark from long range.
Beyond that? Just a fantastic game between two terrific teams. Portland played its butt off, it has loads of talent, and the chemistry was there. More, please.
Milwaukee went on one of those Bucks-styled swoons in the first and second quarters, and the game was all over after that. Coach Scott Skiles has done nothing to re-jig what has been a terrible offense for the last two years, he's still running the same sets that didn't really work all that well offensively for Phoenix and Chicago as well, and as a result you get embarrassing games like this.
Worse, the Bucks stopped defending at times, and work on that side of the ball is the only reason the team has (had?) a puncher's chance at the playoffs. I noticed some turned heads and lazy rotation by certain players that usually come correct.
For Atlanta? Joe Johnson went off, hitting six three pointers and giving the Hawks a go-to guy every time Milwaukee actually hit a shot and Atlanta had to take the ball out of the net. Thirty-six points for Joe, who looked spry, while Josh Smith managed 17 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, and four blocks. Josh Smith, ladies and germs.
Over 122 points per 100 possessions for Atlanta, and they only hit seven free throws. That's hard to do.
As far as we can tell, Indiana may just match up exceedingly well with the New York Knicks. Other excuses we can toss in involve the new-look Knicks' new-lookiness, as this team is barely a month old. And the rusty play of the otherwise solid Chauncey Billups. They were also a couple of miscues away from pulling out a tough win on the road against a Pacer team with talent, one that may have had us overreacting and pointing out how New York may have turned a corner.
The Knicks lost, though. And they're 6-6 since the trade for Carmelo Anthony. And while they boast all-world talent at the team's peak, right now this is an outfit with major holes in some pretty significant areas.
The Pacers? Well, they're talented. This team earned the win, moving the ball quickly and staying aggressive throughout. New York hung around and never appeared to go away, but the active Pacer tone and good finishing throughout allowed for the win. Tyler Hansbrough was the story with 30 points, and though he only managed three rebounds in 36 minutes, he clearly outplayed a player in Amar'e Stoudemire who seemed lost amongst the offensive options on New York's side.
Darren Collison (9-13 shooting, 24 points) had many sound isolation-based moments, Danny Granger (26 points) came through with a quietly effective night until that game-winner, and Roy Hibbert … he still has a ways to go.
Some Knicks fans were complaining about the team's effort following the loss, but I wasn't seeing it. They essentially played the same game that Indiana played, across the board, minus two points. The problem with that is that much, much more is expected of New York. The problem with that is that this team is a month old.
Chicago had stretches where (while missing both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer) it allowed Washington back in the game, but the Wizards were just too daft to do anything with it. The lasting image from this game will obviously be JaVale McGee gunning for a triple-double, and after a night to think about it … yeah, it's still embarrassing.
I'd like to think I've been in Washington's shoes, here. I've been a fan of a team with little going for it, boasting a roster littered with lunkheads, playing out the string on a terrible season. But if, say, Tyson Chandler (not a lunkhead, just young and clueless) attempted the same nonsense for my Bulls back in 2002, I'd be ticked and embarrassed. Not because of some saintly looking-out measure, hoping for the best for the game and all the karmic whatevers that spill a team's way following. But because that sort of emphasis just never leads to good things.
I mean, JaVale McGee had 12 blocks in this contest, but for the other 63 or so possessions he was out there for while he wasn't blocking shots? He was possibly the worst defender on the court. And that court often featured Yi Jianlian. For it all to seem so obvious (of course McGee gets his double-figure points on a dunk after missing every other type of shot, and of course he gets a technical for hanging on the rim, and of course he looks super pumped despite his team being down 19 points) just adds to it.
Chicago played the right way and worked with heart and pulled themselves up from their bootstraps and blah blah blah. Thanks, JaVale, for tainting this one.