Portland 101, Toronto 87
They tried. Jarrett Jack(notes) was aggressive, Jose Calderon(notes) did well to move the ball as he usually does (Portland's length bothered some of his usual delayed-transition angles, I'm guessing this was an emphasis), Hedo Turkoglu(notes) finally may have won Tas Melas over, and Reggie Evans(notes) had eight rebounds in 13 minutes ... but Toronto's not going to beat many teams without Chris Bosh(notes).
Just won't happen. Which is kind of a bummer for Toronto because, with Portland coming in on the second night of a back-to-back, the stage was set. Couldn't score enough to keep up, though, despite all the extra chances (Amir Johnson(notes) and Antoine Wright(notes) had 14 combined rebounds off the bench). Extra chances in one realm, I should say. Toronto uncharacteristically turned the ball over 16 times, compared to just six times for Portland.
If Al Jefferson(notes) and Timberwolves center Ryan Hollins(notes) are going to play almost 57 combined minutes and pull in just eight rebounds between them, then that Timberwolves aren't going to have a chance in hell. Wolves coach Kurt Rambis set the cap on minutes at 29 tonight, six of his players played between 27 and 29 minutes, but for some reason Kevin Love(notes) (12 rebounds in 28 minutes) can't get the burn - the star, burn - he deserves.
Kurt, this guy's a star. He averages nearly as many points per minute as Al Jefferson with way more rebounds, but for some reason, five fewer minutes per game. And I don't want to hear about fouls because the guy fouls fewer times per minute than Jefferson, and the Wolves are 5.7 points better per 100 possessions with him on the floor, as compared to 1.7 better with Jefferson. This isn't an either/or thing, either. Or. This is to show you that the same treatment should apply to your other 6-8 guy.
The Wolves are nearly 10 points worse per 100 possessions with Ryan Hollins on the floor. While we're at it. Either? Or.
Atlanta saw Jamal Crawford(notes), Marvin Williams(notes), and Zaza Pachulia(notes) combine to miss all 15 of their shots, and still won because they destroyed Minny on the glass, and got to the line as a result. Josh Smith(notes) had a season high 27 points, that seems low (he hadn't topped 26?), but that also makes me feel good. Josh has become so well-rounded this year.
10 boards, five assists, two blocks and two turnovers for Smoove.
OK, apologies for thinking that this would be a game, but I was really looking forward to this one, and somewhat disappointed when the Bucks pulled away in the second half. They deserved that pull-away, though, the team's defense improved as the night went on, and though New Orleans'back-to-back legs played a part, I don't think dawn patrol would have to tell me twice that Milwaukee isn't lockdown, defensively. These guys can d-up.
30 minutes, 26 points, 13 rebounds, one turnover, one assist, two blocks. All sorts of defensive movement. And that's been there, all year. The Bucks just, too often, don't take advantage.
I guess Rip Hamilton lost the game for Detroit. Possibly. Somewhat. Detroit could have had a chance. I really don't want to minimize 48 minutes of basketball down to three missed free throws but, yeah, those three missed free throws (in the final minute; six missed freebies in eight tries) could have really helped.
An OK game. The Clippers were impatient and chippy as is usually the case, and Detroit's older folk seem to have found the touch (Tayshaun Prince(notes) can't miss on jumpers these days; Hamilton nailed three three-pointers in the fourth), but the Clippers were too tall. Literally, too tall. Drew Gooden(notes) and Chris Kaman(notes) owned this game, working over the top of converted small forwards and (sometimes) shooting guards.
Manu Ginobili(notes) blocked Kevin Durant(notes) in a style that made me gasp like an offended letter-writer on Wednesday night. The play was shocking, dirty in its own right, all sorts of rude and strange and unexpected and clearly R-rated. Manu Ginobili blocked Kevin Durant on a two-handed dunk attempt. It was a red band movie trailer that forced me to type out "5-15-1980" just to watch.
The rest of the game, what I saw, was great. I don't want to put the Spurs down too much, but this was about as bad a spate of defense that I've seen from Oklahoma City this year, and yet San Antonio still managed just under 107 points per 100 possessions. The Thunder kept losing people on back picks and overplays, and yet the Spurs barely won, at home. Spurs prevailed, good on ya, but you never got the feeling that they were anything but a desperate team just hanging in.
Brilliant game for Manu, though. 26 points off the bench, nine boards, four assists, one turnover, two steals and a block in 33 minutes. You saw the block. I don't want to think of a league that doesn't have Manu Ginobili in a significant role.
Houston returned to make a game of this late, somewhat, but the Rockets turned the ball over too much to hang. Orlando was shooting too well, Houston couldn't get enough stops; and though the Rockets announcers kept telling us terrible things about the Magic, you still got the whiff that Orlando knew exactly what was what.
Just nine turnovers for Orlando. Jameer Nelson(notes) (the underrated x-factor that nobody talks about in this league; to me he's clearly the most important non-star in the NBA) made three of five three-pointers, and Dwight Howard(notes) overcame early foul trouble to put together a ridiculous night.
30 points on 11-11 shooting, 16 rebounds, three assists, three turnovers, one block. On da road.
14 feet worth of Bobcat did not play, Tyson Chandler(notes) and Nazr Mohammed(notes) were out, and the Jazz just bullied as a result. 15 offensive caroms, the Jazz out-rebounded Charlotte by eight, and to me this was the difference. Tyrus Thomas(notes) had 20 off the bench for Charlotte, but he continues to try to make a case for himself as a small forward - just three rebounds in nearly 31 minutes. Not a small forward.
Utah's C.J. Miles(notes) needed 10 shots to score four points, and Mehmet Okur(notes) doesn't like contact (stop with the flip shots), but Carlos Boozer(notes) (13-16 shots) was enough. Kyle Korver(notes) also hit five of six threes off the bench.
I like the fact that teams from Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio can engage in competitive basketball games with high-end players. I like this league.
Man, that was a fun game. You likely saw a good chunk of it, and really, I don't have much to add. The Mavericks played well enough at home to win, Los Angeles played the night before, and enough went Dallas' way in the fourth quarter.
Kobe Bryant(notes) missed a few shots down the stretch. Shawn Marion(notes) played fantastic defense, and Kobe played the night before (for the first time in weeks). Both mitigating factors played a large part, though I think Marion played a bigger part. Does this mean Shawn has Kobe's number in a second or third round series this spring? I wouldn't bet on it. I wouldn't bet on anyone having Kobe's number. It was just the case last night. Marion was fantastic.
So was Dirk Nowitzki(notes), and Jason Terry(notes). The Mavs haven't been a knockout offensive team this year, but for some reason I still expect those shots to go in. What got me was the defense, the defense that then allowed Dallas to run its screen and roll attack in delayed transition and put Los Angeles away. The Mavs always look like a 60-win team to me, and though I shouldn't let my own expectations cloud an accurate appraisal of this lot, it was good to see the Mavs play this well.
Beating Los Angeles, by five. At home. On the second night of a back-to-back for El Lay. Nevermind.
As Memphis' legs waned a bit in the middle of this game, the Wizards had a chance. Can't blame the Grizzlies, they played in the middle of the country in one night, then on the Eastern seaboard the next after losing an hour. And they lost a game, yesterday, and about 10,000 fans. Kobe and the Lakers and a thriller, to DC and "the starting debut of Al Thornton(notes)!" the next night.
But Marc Gasol(notes) (hit his first 10 shots) destroyed things in the paint early on, and the Wizards left the door open just a bit in the fourth quarter as O.J. Mayo(notes) helped Memphis pull away.
Andray Blatche(notes) scored 24 points, and he's averaged nearly 25 a game over his last five. There are reasons to watch the Wizards, I mean that. You might think Blatche and some of these youngsters punks, I understand that. You might want nothing to do with a team that has constantly been in the lottery for 30 years, and a front office that pointlessly decided to sustain a bout of above-averageness a year and a half ago.
But some of these guys are fun to watch, and I guarantee you that coaching staff is working its ass off right now.
Memphis? Good win. Find Gasol more often.
Clearly, Vinny Del Negro's offense is so complicated, that it's taken Chicago more than half the season to finally figure it out, and start piling up the points.
Or, as it was last year, the Bulls are riding an easy schedule, paired with some relative health, some good transactions, and, again, an easy schedule. Chicago's beating the teams they're supposed to beat.
Nothing wrong with that, and sorry for bringing the cold water. Chicago's offense looked terrific again on Wednesday, they played down to the Pacers in the second quarter, but that's to be expected. Derrick Rose(notes) nearly had a triple-double with 23 points, nine boards, and eight assists, and Taj Gibson(notes) registered another double-double. Flip Murray(notes) had a Flip Murray-game, 4-12 shooting, but he also got to the line 10 times. Whoa. What happened there?
The Pacers happened. The Pacers came back, and actually had some chances as Chicago failed to close out on Danny Granger(notes) and Troy Murphy(notes), but the Pacers couldn't string enough scores and stops together. Even with the misses, bad Chicago perimeter D still led to a 13-29 night (45 percent) from behind the arc for Indiana.
No way around it, Steve Nash(notes) should have sat this one out. Abdomen strains don't go away quickly, and the guy (the clearly, alien, "guy") still made eight of nine shots, but this was Philly on the second night of a back-to-back, and Nash should have sat.
20 and 13 for Steve. The 76ers went hot and cold as they always do, and though the score was somewhat close, this was never a game. I watched. Trust me.