Utah 104, San Antonio 101
Not sure if you've heard about this upcoming — incoming, perhaps — Jazz schedule, but it's pretty nasty.
San Antonio last night, the Lakers, the Magic, and the Lakers again on Saturday. Sure, they get the Timberwolves, Nets and Bobcats next week, but ... SpursLakersMagicLakers? Not cool, NBA.
So it goes, though. And the Jazz looked ready to toss in the first of this miserable four-square early on last night before fighting back and ably recognizing the Spurs for what they are — quite top-heavy.
Bonner played very well, I should point out. This wasn't a fluke. The night started with me finding out that Bonner's rebound rate is actually better than Paul Millsap's(notes) or Elton Brand's(notes) or Chris Kaman's(notes) or Brook Lopez's(notes) or Al Jefferson's(notes) (I should stop) this year, and ends with me seeing Bonner absolutely take it to the Jazz defense all night.
Sure, he missed a game-winning shot that probably should have gone in, and a few of those threes came because Utah lost him needlessly, but four offensive boards? That swooping baseline offensive board and dish out? The drives? The in-between game? Where did that come from?
28 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and just one turnover in about 32 minutes from Bonner. This isn't me having a go at him. He was fantastic. He was like ...
Deron Williams(notes) hit the game winner, which was nice to see because he was clearly struggling, pressing, and frustrated in the first half. Still, the Jazz came out of the locker room in the second half obviously ready to take it to a Spurs team that, despite being up eight points, seemed vulnerable to Utah. Especially with the Jazz playing at home.
Carlos Boozer(notes) was terrific, finishing with 27 points and five assists, and the Utah interior passing was expert as always. All-around passing, actually. 29 assists (on 42 field goals) almost doesn't seem enough.
The usual Iverson nonsense.
He showed up to the first game of his supposed rebirth, the time to get everything right, with "little over an hour to spare until the opening tip." Later, AI made a big show (with one Philadelphia 76er waiting on the bench, yet to be introduced) in the opening lineup spectacle by going over to center court and kissing the 76ers logo.
And all at once, everyone in the stadium, and everyone watching at home seems to forget the Allen Iverson(notes) that skulked off the court almost three years to the date in Chicago, after playing his last game as a 76er, and the paid vacation (and eventual trade) he elbowed his way into because things weren't going his way, and winning wasn't as easy as it once was. He quit on these 76ers, three years ago. Walked away.
Everyone forgets that because, well, we're closer to Allen Iverson's height than we are to Shaq's.
AI wasn't that great in his first game of the season as a Sixer, but neither are the Sixers, so it hardly mattered. Andre Iguodala(notes) was rather brilliant in the first half, but most of his scoring came off of face-up three-pointers, and a streaky guy like him can only keep that up for so long. He shot 4-11 in the second half, same as Iverson all game. Iverson didn't even attempt a shot in the fourth quarter, despite playing eight and a half minutes. Plays to learn, legs to get back.
The Nuggets have been pretty mediocre this year defensively, but they put together a sound night on that end against the 76ers. I was surprised Denver couldn't score more than 108 points per 100 possessions against what was the NBA's 28th-ranked defense entering Monday night, but they'll take the win. Especially considering the circus that preceded it. Just 39 percent shooting from the field for Denver, but they made 24 out of 26 free throws and 11-18 from behind the arc. That'll do.
The Sixers were Sixers-like. He was due for it, so Samuel Dalmbert blocked six shots and pulled in 18 rebounds. Thaddeus Young(notes) scored 21 points, but because he didn't get to the line all game (and I really didn't see any drives where he was jobbed), he needed 21 shots to get there. The bench missed 14 of 15 shots.
I don't know if the Golden State Warriors expected to get into a shootout with the Thunder, but based on the rather clueless comments at halftime by ex-GSW head Garry St. Jean, I can't help but wonder if the rest of the league thinks this Oklahoma City team is some sort of offensive firebrand.
We should go over this again. "Young" doesn't equal "Warriors." Being young doesn't preclude you from playing defense, and it doesn't mean you're a run and gun team, ready to put up 110. Kevin Durant's(notes) presence aides in this misconception, but by and large I think people just figure that young teams with rotations they aren't familiar with will just naturally be a run-and-gun offensive team.
The Thunder are not. And, defensively, they'll bust you. And if you're pretty good offensively, they'll focus on every "you" besides your best scorer. And that's what happened on Monday.
Monta Ellis(notes) got his 31, but he had to work. He missed 16 of 28 shots, turned the ball over nine times (this is getting ridiculous), and no other Warrior besides the odd trailing Stephen Curry(notes) (22 points, five turnovers, four steals) three-pointer was set to help.
To be fair, there weren't that many other Warriors. The team only played nine players, with Corey Maggette(notes) earning an ejection in the third quarter, so non-NBA talents (sorry, but it's true; D-Leaguers could do better) like Devean George(notes) and the still-starting Mikki Moore(notes) had to see action.
(Don't believe me about Moore? He failed to grab a rebound in 21 minutes. The man starts at center, is 7-feet tall, and didn't grab a rebound. And Golden State is so clueless, they'll start him in the next game. I like Mikki, a lot, but even I wouldn't employ the guy at this point.)
Meanwhile, Vlad Radmanovic had as many rebounds (eight) as he had missed shots in nine attempts, which sounded significant when I started to write that. Anthony Randolph(notes) looked every bit the -26 he earned on the night, and the Thunder just had it.
The offense wasn't spectacular for Oklahoma City (a little below their average, actually, per-possession), but the defense was spot on, they attacked the offensive glass (Jeff Green(notes) had seven offensive boards, 13 overall, 31 points), and James Harden(notes) had an absolutely knockout game.
26 points on only 13 shots, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals, and zero turnovers. Zero turnovers! A rookie with the ball in his hands that much, zero turnovers.
First Tyreke Evans(notes), on Sunday, and now this. We need to get Blake Griffin(notes) back sometime soon, see Brandon Jennings(notes) work his way out of the slump, and get this thing fired up again. Meanwhile, Ty Lawson(notes) is destroying teams, 18 minutes at a time. Solid.
The final score leaves Portland with a nine-point deficit, but this felt like a much bigger win for the Knicks, with the final score a bit off because Brandon Roy(notes) and Andre Miller(notes) played nearly all off the fourth quarter despite being down 23 points to start it.
Then again, if the Portland go-to guys stay in despite the blowout, and the Knicks respond with their usuals, isn't it really a nine-point game after all?
Whatever, the Trail Blazers were skunked by the Knicks on Monday night. No way around it.
Portland came out listless, the Knicks took notice on the second day of a back-to-back, and ran right around them in the second and third quarters. Jerryd Bayless(notes) put up good stats for the Blazers in that second quarter, but you have to wonder ... at what cost? Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) and Martell Webster(notes) had to/were float/floating, and the Knicks kept scoring early.
(I don't know, with Bayless. It may have been the only thing keeping Portland from a nine-point quarter. I'm not ripping, or lauding the guy. I just don't know, and would like some more time and some more minutes to figure him out, and where he stands on a newly-thin team like the Blazers. This said, after an iffy start, it's great to see him make shots. Now we'll figure out what that means to Portland, as he plays more.)
20 assists on 32 buckets for New York, and that seems a little slim because it doesn't take into account passes that put people at the line. Meanwhile, Jared Jeffries(notes) was actually doing the little things that people have been associating him with for years, Chris Duhon(notes) is still shooting 31 percent but he managed nine assists with just one turnover, David Lee(notes) had 17 and 10, and Larry Hughes(notes) kept it up with 21 bench points.
- Allen Iverson