Milwaukee 108, Denver 102
He takes some bad ones. Lofty threes off a step back, usually reserved for only choice moments and usually shot by a veteran All-Star. He'll take shots with a foot on the three-point line, and not care. He should. He takes risks, and he takes lots of shots. 17.5 per game, so far. That's a lot.
He's also winning games for the Bucks, who are playing without Michael Redd(notes), and working through what could be termed a rebuilding process if the team's front office had anything close to what even resembled a cogent plan of attack.
Against Chauncey Billups(notes), Anthony Carter(notes), and fellow rookie Ty Lawson(notes), Jennings managed 32 points on 11-19 shooting in the Milwaukee win. He turned it over four times, but also dished nine assists. He was the business.
On the other end, Andrew Bogut(notes) managed the office. The paint. The defense. He blocked four shots, sure, but that's one a quarter. The man helped most by moving his feet, and changing shots. He's the anchor over what has been the NBA's best defense thus far, and it's been great to watch.
Denver, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, just couldn't compete. They made it a competitive game, sure, but you never got the feeling that Denver was in charge in any meaningful way. Someone like Carmelo Anthony(notes) - he scored 32 points, but he also shot 36 percent and turned the ball over seven times.
(That's a new wrinkle for Scott Skiles' teams. They've always gotten stops. Now they get stops, and cause turnovers.)
I don't know how long this lasts, but it's been great to watch, especially after an up and down preseason for Milwaukee. Michael Redd can return, and just be a high efficiency scorer who doesn't have to carry anything. The world can learn more and more about Luc Mbah a Moute, who has a nose for the ball that you wouldn't believe. Carlos Delfino(notes) could stop taking bad shots.
It's all for the taking, Milwaukee.
The Warriors look like they're playing late-April basketball in November, mainly because all the people in this franchise who should know better continue to act as if they don't. We've been over this.
So while it's entirely plausible that the Indiana Pacers are 14 points better, at home, than the Golden State Warriors, understand that a bunch of these Warrior loss come as a result of just not giving a rip. They can also win by 41, as they did just two nights before Wednesday's loss, but they can also just mope their way through what could have been a fruitful road jaunt.
The Warriors scored about 92 points per 100 possessions on Wednesday, again, just two days removed from scoring about 136 points per 100 possessions against the Minnesota Timberwolves. What did Indiana do to make up such disparate numbers? Nothing. Indiana shouldn't be holding the Bobcats to 92 points per 100 possessions, much less an offensive juggernaut like the W's.
Don't think that I'm ripping the Pacers, or demeaning what was a strong win. I just want to point out how miserable the Warriors are, again, and throw my support behind the probable hundreds or thousands of devoted GSW fans who booked home to catch a 4 p.m. showing of their favorite team just going through the motions. The "avid and appreciative fan base" to "organization that just doesn't deserve it" ratio is just sickening in this instance.
The Pacers started strong, but really took over once T.J. Ford(notes) left the game. Earl Watson(notes) isn't the long term answer at point guard (Ford isn't either, but that's not tonight's point), but there was a real purpose to the Pacers once Ford left with back spasms. You could hear Watson calling out plays, getting Pacers into the right spot, working to move the ball the right way in transition; and, yeah, he came off quite well in the box score, too. 16 points on only six shots, six boards, three assists, two turnovers, three steals.
With Troy Murphy(notes) out, Danny Granger(notes) (starting at big forward) was the real break-starter tonight. 16 boards, lots of pushing the ball in transition, and 31 points for Granger. Great night out. Once Tyler Hansbrough(notes) learns to finish around the rim a bit more efficiently, he'll be a real player. And though Roy Hibbert(notes) regressed a bit by picking up two early fouls (and five overall), he turned in another good night with 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, and two blocks in just under 25 minutes.
Mikki Moore(notes) managed one rebound, an offensive rebound, in 17 minutes of play. Anthony Randolph(notes) gave his team 17 points, 13 rebounds, an assist, zero turnovers, three steals, two blocks, and what does it matter? What will this change?
***Toronto 99, Chicago 89
The Toronto Raptors entered Wednesday's game allowing 120 points per 100 possessions, which ranked them last in the NBA, and would have ranked them amongst the worst defensive teams of all time had they kept it up for 75 more contests.
The Bulls couldn't even score 90 on the Raptors. Chicago just continues to take a series of low-percentage, long two-pointers, and hope for the best. There's no player nor coach around to tell these Bulls that, perhaps, this might not be the best option. That the odds are stacked against them. That while the continual 20-footers might be OK for a select few — Chicago's Luol Deng(notes), who takes more 16-23 footers than anyone in the NBA, is among that lot — it's not something to be relied upon.
The results speak for themselves. The Bulls were 26th in offensive efficiency entering the game, and on Wednesday scored fewer points per 100 possessions than the worst offensive team in the NBA's (Charlotte) average against what could be the worst defensive team of all time.
Chicago was on the second night of a back to back. They boast a thin rotation. I get all this. With a full rotation, and with three days' rest, this team is still going to try and fire up 20-footers. Just because they didn't have the legs to take these bad shots, it doesn't mean you excuse the bad shots.
Toronto did work hard, defensively. They chased the Bulls around, plugged up the transition game after a while, and used their length to make things tough. Doesn't matter. The Bulls stunk.
Bulls came through with a great defensive game, holding the league's best offense (118 points per 100 possessions) to just 103 per 100, but what does it matter when [read the paragraph that precedes the two preceding paragraphs].
A thorough and utter whuppin'. I think that's the first time "utter" and "whuppin'" have been used in the same sentence, and I'm rather proud of that.
The Celtics clogged the lane, forced Utah to turn it over on nearly a quarter of its possessions, while the Jazz clanged away (nil for 10) from behind the three-point arc.
The Celtics didn't foul, either. This was a physical game, there may have been a couple calls that the Jazz earned but didn't pick up, but the C's managed to use length and a well-packed middle to keep the Jazz from putting anything together for any meaningful stretch.
Boston took just as many free throws as Utah, 18, but Boston is a jump-shooting team. Utah lives at the line, or tries to, and shoots near the hoop. Apples and Utah.
(Go ahead. You call Jerry Sloan an orange.)
Plenty of heroes for Boston in this one. KG's length and D, Rajon Rondo's(notes) quickness, and Ray Allen's(notes) ability to finish stood out from what I saw. 30 assists on 41 field goals for the Celtics.
Great execution for the Hawks in the second half of this win. Working your offense to peak performance against the Knicks usually isn't too tough a task, but you still have to credit the Hawks and the team's coaching staff for keeping things smooth.
Atlanta ran a bit, but the difference came on defense and an ability to consistently get good looks on the other end. Al Horford(notes) had his way in the paint, working his way toward four offensive rebounds, nine overall, finishing with 25 points. Josh Smith(notes) had a couple off iffy look, but in the end the turnaround continues: 22 points on 10-15 shooting, 12 rebounds, four assists, three turnovers, two steals and a block. Solid. He's getting it.
Chris Duhon(notes) had more turnovers than assists, and missed all six of his attempts from the floor. Toney Douglas(notes) had another good, if a little wild, game with 23 points on 19 shots. "Only" seven rebounds for David Lee(notes) in 25 foul-plagued minutes; Lee was pushed around quite a bit, more or less mitigated.
This was an entertaining game at times, both teams had issues shooting and scoring and finding consistent go-to moves, but I liked the game and the Nets nearly pulled it out. I wrote that sentence as fast as I could to get to something that I don't really like:
That's what stands out to me. He had six boards and made five free throws, but Brand is just a shell, and the dropoff is just absolutely stunning to me. Four years ago he was an MVP candidate; three years ago he was an All-Star level stud. Then he missed most of the year due to injury. The year after that? He missed most of it due to injury.
I understand we're not jumping back to the All-Star Game, here, but nine and a half points and 5.6 rebounds in 27 minutes? This is truly sad to watch. The guy doesn't even turn 31 until next March.
Behind the scoring duo of Thaddeus Young(notes) and Marreese Speights(notes) (who really hit the offensive glass), the 76ers pulled it out. Extra possessions because of the board work, and the Sixers turned the ball over fewer times than a Nets team still seeking its first win.
Also, Rafer Alston(notes) was nearly thrown out of the game, in a contest that saw the Nets only really dress seven healthy players (Courtney Lee(notes) played two minutes, but he's clearly hurt). Alston actually should have been ejected for arguing a call, but the refs took it easy on the Nets point man.
Another typically impotent offensive performance for the Bobcats, they managed just under 93 points per 100 possessions (which, again, was a mark also produced against the league's worst defense by the Bulls), and they couldn't stop a Pistons team that just seemed quicker from every angle.
Don't be fooled by the sub-century score, the Pistons were white hot offensively. Slow paced made it so you didn't notice the 121 points scored per 100, they shot 55.6 percent from the floor, and Charlie Villanueva(notes) went off for 30 points on a pretty formidable defensive frontcourt for the Bobcats.
Rodney Stuckey(notes) (16 points and seven assists) had a good game, Ben Gordon(notes) (22 points, eight assists, zero turnovers) nearly had a perfect one, and Will Bynum(notes) (16 points on six shots in only 21 minutes) was a little pocket rocket. Gonna call him "GTi."
Minnesota's just ... small.
Al Jefferson(notes) can barely get off the ground, and he's the center. Ryan Hollins(notes) lists at center, but he's wispy and on the perimeter. Ryan Gomes(notes), Corey Brewer(notes), Jonny Flynn(notes) ... you get the idea. Hardly imposing. I like these guys, but I'm keeping my milk money, if you don't mind.
Portland, on the second night of a back to back, just had its way with the Timberwolves. I didn't get to watch a ton of it because this was more or less Portland's to lose by the second quarter, but Greg Oden(notes) seemed to be doing something proper every time I switched over.
18 points, 11 boards, no turnovers (!), a block and a steal in only 26 minutes for Oden. Brandon Roy(notes) continued to chill with 14 points, five assists, and zero turnovers, while the Blazers had a sparkling 30 assists on 42 field goals in this slow-down affair.
Everyone else has already shouted for me, but Kurt Rambis hasn't been listening, so I might as well amp the volume: Ramon Sessions(notes) needs to take more of Corey Brewer's minutes. Nearly all of them, if at all possible.
10 points (making five of eight attempts from the floor), five assists and zero turnovers for Sessions in the loss, in 28 minutes, while Brewer needed eight shots to score seven points and turned the ball over three times in 32 minutes.
Beyond the pat, "because the Spurs were without Tim Duncan(notes) and Tony Parker(notes)" answer, I have no idea how the Mavericks roared back to make a game out of this contest in the fourth quarter. Besides hitting shots when the Spurs did not. OK, I know how the Mavs came back.
Still, this was pretty one-sided. And while I appreciate a veteran team like the Mavericks being able to stay competitive late with the Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back (after dismissing Houston on Tuesday), shouldn't things have been just a little closer with Tim and Tony out?
San Antonio's spacing was the key, for the second game in a row. Manu Ginobili(notes) didn't have another monster performance, but Richard Jefferson(notes) (29 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, three steals) was close enough, and the Spurs shot 14-34 (over 41 percent) from behind the three-point arc.
On Dallas' side, Dirk Nowitzki(notes) is missing good shots. He's shooting 35.7 percent over his last two games, I watched good chunks of both, and he's failing to drain makeable looks that he usually sends home.
Still, if the poor marksmanship ends tomorrow, the Mavs are just 1-1 during the swoon, with a semi-close loss to the Spurs to show for it. Not bad. 29 in the loss for Dirk.
Houston just outclassed the Grizzlies in this win, they seemed quicker to every loose ball, smarter in every area, and the team's ball movement had Memphis on its heels for most of the game. Provided that Memphis attempted to move its feet.
30 assists on 44 field goals for the Rockets, who pushed the tempo at every opportunity and enjoyed great spacing throughout.
Trevor Ariza(notes) is still stepping out of his comfort zone more than I care to see (though I submit that the Rockets badly need someone to create shots, and Ariza is at least attempting to), but he had a sound floor game with 17 points and seven assists. Just one turnover. And Kyle Lowry(notes) always seemed to be a foot away from the basket and in the air — eight points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, three turnovers and two steals for the Rocket reserve.
Perhaps the Grizzlies drafted Hasheem Thabeet(notes) just to motivate Marc Gasol(notes), because in Thabeet's absence, Gasol turned in a stinker in the loss. Three blocks, but also three points, he had two of his shots blocked, five fouls, and Gasol shot 1-7 overall.
Eight points, 10 assists, and four turnovers for Mike Conley(notes) and Marcus Williams — who combined to play exactly 48 minutes — but the Memphis point guard duo shot a woeful 4-17, starting several breaks for Houston along the way.
This seems like slim praise, but I do think Memphis cares. I didn't get much of that last season.
A big game, an important game, a game to look back upon as the season moves along and these teams inevitably meet again; but I think this was a pretty simple win for the Cavs.
*Orlando is hurt. They need Rashard Lewis(notes) to beat the Cavaliers, they need Ryan Anderson(notes) to sub for Rashard Lewis in order to beat the Cavs. Lewis' Eastern Conference final play last spring has been overrated a bit - he averaged under 20 points per game - but he does cause havoc and spacing issues. Same with Anderson.
*Orlando can't guard point guards. This is an issue for Jameer Nelson(notes), and this is an issue for Jason Williams(notes). I don't know what Stan Van Gundy will do about it, but with the Magic loitering in the sub-average rankings defensively, he's going to have to do something about it. Analysis!
Some of these weren't good shots. His footwork isn't good enough to get that extra step ahead of his defender for a clean look like Dwyane Wade(notes), Carmelo Anthony, or Kobe Bryant(notes); but the hops make up for that. He's always gotten the
bad tough shots off, but now they're going in because he's squaring his body much better on pull-ups, and his all-around form has improved quite a bit. Alas, 36 points on 23 shots. Great game.
Beyond that, Orlando still has a lot of work to do. Dwight Howard(notes) has to figure out a way to stay on the floor, I understand fouls for big men can randomly go either way (in the next contest, Shaq might have five fouls in half a game), but he's got to find a way to keep the referees off his back.
I read the famous writer's tweet. This wasn't about the coach.
The Clippers lost this game because they took bad shots. And because some good shots — taken and missed by Chris Kaman(notes) who attempted 26 field goals and connected on nine (neun!) of them — were turned into bad shots by great Thunder defense. Nenad Krstic(notes), Nate Collison, and especially Serge Ibaka(notes) were huge on that end. Ibaka's a real player.
The Clippers lost this game because they didn't have Eric Gordon(notes), and because nobody seems to like to play with Baron Davis(notes). He yelps out loud and curses every time something goes wrong, leaving his teammates out to dry just because he can't hold his tongue. That's not a competitive spirit. Every night, every NBA player on the floor is let down by a teammate in a game they want to win. They don't proceed to loudly let everyone know, "yeah, this is Craig Smith's(notes) fault." Even if it is.
(I think I just sold out Craig Smith. Sorry, Craig Smith.)
The Clippers lost this game because Thunder coach Scott Brooks (you may know him as "TV's Alex P. Keaton") made a point to take Marcus Camby(notes) off the offensive glass. Camby finished with one offensive carom in 33 minutes.
The Clippers lost this game because both Davis and Rasual Butler(notes) took terrible shots early in the shot clock. They combined to shoot 8-28, putting up 16 three-pointers despite shooting 29 percent (Butler) and 30 percent (Davis) from behind the arc on the year. I'm sure Mike Dunleavy has told both to take it inside once in a while. I may not care for Dunleavy much, either, but I'm guessing both are breaking plays when they hoist one up with 23 seconds to go.
The Clippers lost this game because the Thunder can defend, and because this roster is full of players with spotty attitudes and awful basketball IQs.
This game wasn't anywhere near as close as the final score would indicate. And the Suns won by 20. Whoa, boy. Whoooa, boy.
Phoenix just blew by New Orleans in this win, registering a 40-point first quarter and a 75-point first half, dominating until the final 12 minutes, when a desperate Hornets team finally got to the Phoenix subs. Outscoring the Suns by, uh, four.
Chris Paul(notes) is having an MVP season, he's the best so far by far, but he took a step back defensively in this loss. It wasn't always his gig to keep Steve Nash(notes) in front of him, and the screens helped, but Nash dominated this game from the get-go. 12 points on six shots with 10 assists for Nash in less than half the game.
Jason Richardson(notes) has turned into an All-NBA defender over the course of one offseason, and he put up 13 points on eight shots in just 26 minutes. Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) had 21 points in just 25 minutes. Channing Frye(notes) had 13 points, six rebounds (yes!), five assists and three blocks in 33 minutes. New Orleans had no chance.
They really didn't. Yes, the D wasn't there — Peja Stojakovic(notes) has always been slow, now he's slow and lazy — but the Hornets just aren't that great. Picking on Peja, but has anyone had a worse game, ever? Missed all eight shots from the floor, was a HUGE liability defensively, was awful on rotations, and managed just two rebounds (no other stat) in almost 23 minutes.
55 percent shooting for Phoenix, the team hit half its three-pointers and managed 30 assists. If you're looking for me to wax poetic, stop. This team is as entertaining as basketball gets, and the team is winning. Sometimes, beauty can be boiled down to droll musings. The Suns are beautiful. I'm glad I got to watch.
Thanks for reading.