Wed Jan 27 10:05am EST
Phoenix has lost seven times in its last nine attempts, and the Suns have to be feeling this loss.
They didn't exactly have it in the bag -- they never do, not with that defense -- but the Suns did enough to win and still fell short. Not only that, but while Charlotte completely and utterly deserved to win and earned this conquest, the Bobcats took a strong lead on two rather iffy perimeter bombs from Stephen Jackson(notes). Jackson had a fantastic game overall, but those bad shots that go in tend to sting a bit more.
I usually don't toss this out, but the referees in this game did a miserable job. Charlotte's Gerald Wallace(notes) fouled out in regulation after a series of bad calls, Steve Nash(notes) scored a nearly game-deciding steal late in the fourth quarter by outright pushing Raymond Felton(notes), and the refs seemed to make up for it by allowing Felton to hand check the bejeezus out of Nash toward the end of the fourth, and in overtime.
This isn't to say that Charlotte's defense wasn't superb, because it was. To say the absolute very least, you have to work to just hold serve against that Phoenix offense, and the Bobcats just kept at it. Wallace and Felton complained, rightfully, quite a bit; but Jackson and Larry Brown had this team under control.
The Suns? They have to pull out a few more of these coin flip games if they're going to make the postseason.
Individual offense, broken play offense, triangle offense, screen and roll offense, inside and outside-in offense, didn't matter. The Lakers were spot-on in every conceivable way.
On offense, at least. The defensive effort, I thought, was good, but the Wizards came through with a sound outing in the scoring department. This was never a competitive contest after the first few minutes, but the Wizards did show up offensively.
But they were no match for the Lakers on the other end. Though the ball was moving, a lot of the Laker offense was predicated on the superstars making strong moves. Pau Gasol(notes) was especially tricky in the post, and Kobe was Kobe, as both finished the night with 26 points. Lamar Odom(notes) was quite active, and though this doesn't always show up in the stat sheet, Tuesday's performance made a little dent in the box score armor — 15 and eight boards for LO.
Very potent. Almost 134 points per 100 possessions. Andrew Bynum(notes) had 12 points, which was pretty impressive considering he had the ball for about 12 seconds. Kobe Bryant(notes) had some turnover issues early, and finished with six, but otherwise he was on it. And Shannon Brown(notes) dunks a lot.
Washington didn't have a chance. The offense might finally be coming around as Caron Butler(notes) starts to take better shots and Gilbert Arenas(notes) say night-night, but "might finally be coming around" doesn't work too well with the Lakers.
This game was over three minutes in. New York was clearly out to right Sunday's wrong, it came out firing and causing turnovers, and the Timberwolves seemed too smug to do anything about it.
Kurt Rambis decided not to call a timeout early on as the Knicks piled up the points, which works for Phil Jackson when Michael or Kobe is running the show, but doesn't really pan out otherwise. And you can bet Phil was calling plenty of early timeouts under these sorts of circumstances in the CBA and in Puerto Rico and in all the other outlets Jackson had to coach in to pay his dues enough just to be considered for an NBA assistant's gig. You know, the anti-Rambis.
Meanwhile, the Knicks just poured it in from all over. Wilson Chandler(notes) was hot early, Chris Duhon(notes) was pushing the ball, Jared Jeffries(notes) (amongst others) was swiping for turnovers, and the thing was a laugher before the mid-point of the first quarter. It was the most obvious script you could come up with, and yet somehow the Timberwolves weren't prepared for it. Skeets and Tas and everyone else saw this coming, why couldn't Minnesota?
This is not a case of reputation taking precedence over play, both the Mavericks and Bucks got after it defensively. They are very good defensive teams that just happened to come through with a pair of knockout efforts offensively, in what made for the best game of the night.
Dallas just screens and screens and doesn't stop moving, even if it isn't running all that much. Milwaukee still loves that screen and roll start, but once penetration is achieved the Bucks keep defenses on its heels by spreading the floor and always looking for that baseline three-pointer.
The result was a fantastic game. Andrew Bogut(notes) was actually sought after by the Bucks as an offensive option, something we see far too often. And on the Dallas side, Dirk Nowitzki(notes) took over late, but only after Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute hit the bench. This isn't to say Dirk wasn't getting his with the second year Milwaukee forward guarding him, but he was achieving his 20-plus points at a far less efficient rate than we're used to.
With Ersan Ilyasova(notes) (and his well-intentioned, active defense) on the floor, however, Dirk took to it in the fourth quarter. And despite Bogut's career-high 32, Milwaukee just couldn't connect on enough jumpers late to match Dirk's scoring, even if the Bucks did outscore the Mavericks overall in the final period.
Not the best game. With Monta Ellis(notes) out, the Warriors really don't have anyone to score if Corey Maggette(notes) isn't hitting, and he wasn't hitting. Stephen Curry(notes) tried his best, but Golden State just didn't have the horses to stay with Sacramento.
It was close down the stretch. Maggette helped the Warriors pile on the free throws in the fourth quarter, and Kevin Martin's(notes) continued poor play (1-9 shooting, and we're talking about some open shots) left the door open, but Golden State just can't expect to win shooting less than 32 percent.