Easily the most entertaining game of the night. That realization hit sometime into the third quarter and well before Baron Davis capped this stunner with a game-winner in the game's final seconds. Not sure where to begin, so I'll go with bullets:
• I've spent enough time worrying about Ray Allen's ankles, but the All-Star "break" did him good (Allen was on Conan's show last Thursday night, and in New Orleans the next day, hence the quotation marks). Thirty-two points on 17 shots, six assists, zero turnovers for Ray.
• Monta Ellis made mistakes, but he also worked his tail off, alternated bouts of scoring with assisting seamlessly, and made the step beyond the "if the kid gives us anything, that's gravy"-role into someone who really kept the Warriors afloat at times. Providing his knee holds up, this was a career-turning point. He's something you can build around.
• We remember Gilbert Arenas trying to play through the same injury in 2003-04 and failing miserably, so watching Kevin Garnett struggle through the first half (and entire game, really) with an obvious abdominal strain is a little hard to take. KG's our favorite player, and though he overcame the pain (17 and 15, three steals, three blocks in only 30 minutes), this is worth paying attention to. Boston: you have the East locked up. Think about sitting him for another week. This isn't the sort of player that is aided by limited minutes. He's too hyped up. As usual, things don't work the usual way with KG.
• Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett might be the most balanced, non-homer play-by-play team in the NBA. The fact that they know the game better than most, if not all, helps as well.
• Chris Webber's stats aren't as bad as I assumed. He's only -24, combined, over the five games he's played with the Warriors, which is about 149 points better than I'd anticipated, and Golden State has won four of five. Still, this isn't really working.
• I hope GSW doesn't trade Mickael Pietrus. I understand that he's not long for the Bay Area, that he doesn't exactly have warm feelings for the team that has kept him on the trading block since 2003, and that his play this season has been pretty lousy at times: but there's no point in trading him for Juan Dixon.
• Actually, there is a point, but I didn't want the bullet to go on for too long. Juan Dixon gives the Warriors another ball-handler, which they desperately need (especially if Stephen Jackson misses more games), but Pietrus can help so, so much. Picture a first round series against the Lakers: you want Jackson and Dixon handling Kobe? Matt Barnes? Stop it.
• One of the best games of the season. Maybe the best.
Chris Bosh just destroys Dwight Howard, for some reason. Howard tends to get his (he had 37 and 15 on Wednesday), it's not a one-sided affair, but Bosh always seems to have his best games of the season against a good, young defender that should be able to keep up.
Bosh had 40 points on just 15 shots in the Raptor win. He got a good look whenever he wanted, and his Raptors got a great look any time Bosh felt sorry for Howard and passed it elsewhere.
It's hard to appreciate how much better Bosh was than Howard in this game based off the boxscore alone. CB had just three more points while Howard dominated the boards, but it felt like watching a game with nine 12 year-olds and someone's Dad filling in at center. Dad didn't try to dominate every time his team got the ball, but any time Dad wanted to face up and drive past little Timmy, the ball was going in.
Dad, co-incidentally, also sells used Pontiacs.
Bosh had games of 34 and 41 points against Dwight last season, I should point out, while non-All Star Jose Calderon had 13 assists to one turnover. Thirteen-to-1 and 19 points on 10 shots. Not an All-Star. I'll get over that when I get over Elton Brand's 2002 snub (to Wally Szczerbiak). That is to say ... never.
A day removed from actually getting their straws together and pulling out a road win over a playoff contender, the Knicks turned what might have been the worst effort of its miserable season. And considering that this team was almost blown out by 45 points in a game in Boston earlier this year, that's saying something.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Sixers looked like a team that didn't want anything to do with each other, much less working through a 48-minute pro basketball game.
On Wednesday, the Sixers were in a hearty mood from the get-go. Philly was moving the ball, running the floor, helping on defense, and generally acting like a team that was having fun, in spite of the opponent. The contract extension the 76ers handed to Maurice Cheeks before the game probably didn't hurt, Philadelphia was playing loose and not looking over their shoulders.
The Knicks didn't have a chance. Then again, Isiah Thomas was allowed to put this particular team together, so it inherently has (you guessed it) no chance.
Thaddeus Young is going to be awesome.
Chris Paul may have turned in the best individual game the NBA has seen so far this season, throwing in 31 points (on 11-20 shooting), 11 assists, five rebounds, one turnover, and nine steals. Incredible. For a game with only 91 possessions, this was a beyond-brilliant performance.
Kidd wasn't great, especially defensively. Paul probably had four or five easy looks in the paint during the first half that should have gone down; and while it's damned impossible for a point guard to have an easy go of things taking over a new team mid-season, a five-assist/six-turnover game for the newest Mav (even against the West's best) isn't the most promising thing.
The Hornets have been the best team in West all season because they win the games they're supposed to, and ride the hot hand of Paul when things tend to fall apart. And, at home, with a new point guard on board for Dallas alongside Josh Howard and Jason Terry's stony (combined, 8-25) touch, the Hornets should have won this game. And in a league where "should have[s]" rarely matter, New Orleans is a treat to watch.
A game in Indiana is often the cure for your hurtin' offense, and tonight was a pretty solid example of such.
The Pacers aren't a horrible defensive squad - 17th in the NBA, in fact - but when things go sour for Indiana, they go malt vinegar-sour. The Cavs could have had 120 points tonight had they gone to the basket more, or if they didn't employ Ira Newble, and LeBron James (31 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals) is good at basketball.
Cleveland might not have Ira Newble for long. Brian Windhorst first reported that the Cavs could be in on a pretty big deal, and a wee bit of message board readin' led me to this bit about Mike Miller possibly being on his way to Cleveland.
New Jersey just has Chicago's number. The Nets are quick enough to stay with the Bulls on the perimeter, tall enough to get shots over Chicago's smaller defenders, and Andres Nocioni has this cute thing where he decides to leave his guy on defense to try and take a charge underneath the basket while his man gets to line up for a three-pointer some 25-feet away. It's absolutely precious.
Vince Carter (33 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) was spot-on, he made a point to attack the paint late in overtime two out of the last three possessions he used up (the third one, a fadeaway 22-footer, went as you'd expect). As we've been begging him to do since 2000-01, it'd be nice if VC could find a way to play like this nearly every night. He doesn't have to put up 33 points every night, but the attack has to be there. And it rarely is.
Others are going to have to help me with this one, I got kind of ticked off at the Pistons for almost giving up 60 points to the Bucks in a half, and missed most of Detroit's fourth-quarter comeback.
Detroit gets to me, when they're on they might be the most exciting team in the league to take in (for us efficiency-appreciators), but games like this (especially after yesterday's tanker against Orlando) are just too tough for me to sit through. The gulf between the great and the bleh is just too much. If they'd beat the teams they're supposed to in the playoffs (like, Miami in 2006; and Cleveland in 2007) I'd feel differently.
It's like Kobe Bryant contributing only 45-point and 15-point games. I'm not supposed to get angry at the 15-point games? I'll get angry at what I want! The DMV won't allow me to take my test 45 minutes before closing? How am I supposed to get my learner's permit?
Every time I think Raja Bell is killing the Suns, on both sides of the ball, a quick trip to the stat sheet proves me wrong.
The Suns average 5.6 points less per hundred possessions when he's on the floor, and Bell is holding opponents at shooting guard to a 10.3 PER. That's miniscule. That's great D. Chris Duhon averages a 10.1.
And yet, there are some games where he gets burned (despite his best efforts), and the offense doesn't show up. Tonight was one of those nights, Kobe went off for 41 (though Grant Hill had a hand in that), and Bell missed his three shots (he averages 10.6 looks per game).
So, with the Suns at 15th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, there's little point in freaking out: the team is learning to play without its do-it-all defensive security blanket in Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire can't guard anyone (least of all Pau Gasol), and the Lakers are scorching right now. A lot of things that I anticipated regarding the Shaq trade actually came true tonight, but I'm going to give this team a bigger sample size before I start listing what isn't working.
In the meantime, great game. Entertaining game. Probably not anything like what we'll see this spring, should these two hook up in the postseason.
The Lakers are so blinkin' fun to watch. Christopher Hitchens and I are actually considering the beneficial tenets of organized religion if it would keep people away from Kobe's pinkie.
This is where I stay honest: there were 10 games on tonight, there was quite a bit to learn from most of them, and not a lot going on in this one. I watched, maybe, 20 minutes of it. I love a lot of the individual talent on both rosters, and though I'm dismayed by the usual Clipper delusion, I've nothing against watching 48 minutes of a mid-season game between two lottery participants. That said, I couldn't pull it off tonight. Too much going on.
Good thing both teams are ably represented, quite ably represented, in the blogosphere. For your consideration:
If the Hawks are going to make the next step, the team is going to have to learn to stop fouling so much, and to take care of the ball.
I can't believe Joe Johnson made the All-Star team.
Mike Woodson shaved, but kept the mustache.
The Kings are trying to ship out Ron Artest, Brad Miller (I caught up with the opening of this game well into the first quarter, and had to actually look to see if Miller was on the bench, as opposed to being on a plane to Epcot Center), and they'd like to dump Kenny Thomas (woof!); but why aren't teams falling over themselves to trade for Mikki Moore?
He's a 7-footer with touch that doesn't miss many shots, knows how to work off the ball, and has an affordable contract. He's on the wrong side of 30, but so is the guy from Garden State - and that doesn't stop the guy from Scrubs from hitting the gym, ingesting that wheatgrass, and trying to hit on every 22 year-old with bangs and a Pitchfork bookmark that walks into the bar. Mikki Moore, people!