February 05, 2009
A fun game. Even if you got the feeling early on that -- despite the effort -- Raptor hearts were destined to be broken.
First, a bit of dap. The activity on the Toronto end was unlike anything I've seen from them since November, if at all this season. These guys were moving the ball, making quick cuts, trying to establish spacing ... all the hallmarks of those recent Sam Mitchell teams that we loved. So much spacing, so much movement, all in the halfcourt.
And Joey Graham? Even if he ended the night with a third of his 24 points, I'd be leading off this recap with a mention of his name. I mean that. This guy was all over, and his defense on Kobe Bryant was phenomenal.
Not "successful," this is Kobe Bryant that we're talking about ‘ere, but fantastic footwork from Graham on Wednesday. And, offensively, he never quit moving. As good as I've ever seen him play.
This stuff hardly matters with Kobe, though. There were some iffy shots, but in all reality the tougher shots that he settled for tended to go in, while the easier ones wouldn't stay down. And his 13-28 shooting seems like half the story to me, because several of his looks rimmed out. This guy was inches from nailing 18 shots from the floor, and potentially playing for another 50 point game.
He needed it with the sort of game Jermaine O'Neal was having. Nine blocks for Jermaine, which sounds about right, and his 22 point-line feels too slim. It felt like he had closer to 30, as his touch was there, the rebounds (nine) were around, he dished the ball (four assists, including three daggers on quick cuts), and didn't turn it over a single time in 43 minutes. A real throwback game.
Now, we can rue the fact that Chris Bosh sat the final 8:50 of this game with a sprained knee, but really, what could Chris have done out there that Jermaine wasn't? Well, though we'd like to warm over on that one, Toronto's old bugaboo (needing players who can create good shots for themselves) returned as the game spiraled toward the end. Once the ball left Jermaine's hands ... not so much.
And on the other end, Pau Gasol put together another outstanding performance (though not nearly as strong defensively as he was on Monday in New York), throwing up 31 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, ZERO turnovers, two steals, and two blocks. Throw in Kobe's 36, and you have a tough, entertaining, potentially draining win for the Lakers.
Tomorrow the Celtics, who have won 12 in a row. Considering Bynum's absence, and the back-to-back setting, it's going to take a miracle. Or 62 points.
Not the most interesting game of the evening, after a while the Wizards became completely outclassed as the Nets (61 percent shooting on the night) kept matching make after make with stop after stop, and Caron Butler's absence due to the flu didn't help.
So, let's get obscure with it. Is anyone else noticing that Keyon Dooling is having a career year from behind the arc? And all parts of the arc, mind you, even the long shots from straightaway that he's historically struggled on save for one flukish 2006 playoff run. He made three of three in this win, eight of his last nine over two games, and Dooling is now shooting a cool 45 percent from behind the arc.
That's miles above his career high of 36 percent, set back in 2003, and his 59 makes have already vaulted Keyon past his career-best mark of 50 connections, also set in 2002-03.
12 and 12 with two blocks in 24 minutes for Brook Lopez. Good rookie.
Anthony Johnson: 25 points, 9-11 shooting, zero turnovers, two assists, two steals, four rebounds, 27 minutes.
Baron Davis: nine points, 3-11 shooting, two turnovers, five assists, zero steals, two rebounds, 25 minutes.
Not much to add beyond that. The Magic started hot, the Clippers started and ended like the Clippers, and I moved on to closer, better games.
About as ugly a game as you can imagine, right down to Rasheed Wallace taking a three-pointer with 16 seconds left on the shot clock, his team up two, and 22 seconds on the game clock. That play typified the entire contest for me. Hubris, perimeter optimism, a poor decision despite knowing better, and a lucky payoff.
So, before I start rambling about how dour this whole event made me, complaining about all the old men and their big contracts and Daequan Cook as an entity, let's look at some things I liked.
*Dwyane Wade was horrendous (10-31) from the field, but he registered 13 assists on a night where his team had just 32 field goals. And a stray bit of 2nd grade math will tell you that, on Miami's 22 non-Wadeian field goals, Dwyane assisted on 13 of them. Very nice. Zero turnovers, as well.
*Antonio McDyess had 17 rebounds off the bench, or, one fewer than Detroit's starting frontcourt combined.
*This album. Love it, don't care what you think about me.
*Rodney Stuckey is developing into a proven go-to guard down the stretch, even if he looks a bit wonky at times.
With LeBron taken care of, we should really doff our cap to Al Harrington, who notched 39 points and 12 rebounds (a week, for him) in the loss. Sure, he was guarded by Anderson Varejao for way too long, and LeBron James for too little, but even he got past James a few times when LeBron turned his head, and Harrington's bombs and runners were falling from all over. Very fun to watch.
Beyond that, a bit typical. Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams (nine points on 12 shots, poor game) had some worrying (if not altogether surprising) defensive issues, though nothing that could cost Cleveland the game (not against New York's backcourt), and it was a drag at times to see LeBron James set guys like Varejao and Ben Wallace up for what should have been either makeable baseline jumpers or chippies, only to see the ball end up somewhere else as the Cleveland bigs passed on attempting a shot.
In fact, it might be time to re-introduce J.J. Hickson to the fold, ahead of either of those guys. In about 49 minutes, Wallace and AV combined for seven points, and five rebounds. That's shockingly poor, and the defense was nearly as bad. Even if they contribute twice as much in the next game, this is still a problem. That's how bad they were on Wednesday.
Other than that, LeBron James. The first triple double in 34 years, since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to feature over 50 points. Hype, met.
Chicago walked all over New Orleans, as they should have The Hornets' offense is horrid without Chris Paul to run things, all the long misses resulted in fast breaks and extra passing and fancy finishing, and we're getting a good idea as to how important Paul is defensively to this rather sub-mediocre defensive club.
He's not all steals and alleyways. Paul is leading this team's defense from the outside-in, and the Hornets are useless without him. Absolutely rubbish.
All of which makes the James Posey signing more and more frustrating. He still hasn't proven to me that he can guard quicker shooting guards, the money spent on this guy could have been used to pick up an honest-to-goodness scorer or split to find depth at two positions the Hornets are the worst in the league at (backup center, and power forward), and he's not exactly a natural shooter.
Posey has missed 32 of his last 39 attempts from the floor. He's shooting under 18 percent over his last six games, and no amount of "locker room leadership" can make up for a player who is acting as an absolute zero offensively combined with above so-so defensive gifts.
No worries, though. New Orleans only has to pay him about $18 and a half million after this year, over the next three years.
The Thunder are listening to Scott Brooks, they're listening to assistant coach Ron Adams, and they're putting the effort in. And sometimes, even against a team missing arguably its most important player, that's still not enough.
Carmelo Anthony hit another game winner against Oklahoma City, in Oklahoma Statey, and the Thunder (who led by as much as 17) just couldn't get the stops it needed down the stretch. Not that the team wasn't trying, mind you, but Anthony was locked in from the perimeter despite the hand in his face, and J.R. Smith (8-14 shooting, making all four from long range) had one of those nights, just one night after having one of those nights (1-10 shooting) against the Spurs.
A fantastic game, though. Age has finally caught up to Nugget point man Anthony Carter, but Carmelo took over some of the passing duties, moving things ahead in transition and making the extra pass on his way toward 11 assists. On the other end, Kevin Durant came through with what is becoming more and more like a once-weekly Durant-sort of game: 31 points, eight boards, seven assists, seemingly unguardable when the Thunder spacing is right.
It often wasn't, down the stretch at least, but that's fine for me, because I have no stake in these heartbreaking one-point losses. All I can look forward to is a brighter future with this lot.
And yet you know there was some eight-year old kid in Oklahoma on Wednesday night, swearing (well, not cursing) up and down that he'll have nothing to do with this stupid team and this stupid league for the rest of his or her life.
Guess what, kiddo. It doesn't go away. You'll be back, and you'll like it. And you know those things you muttered about Kyle Weaver? I used to say the same thing about Brad Sellers.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a worse game from a NBA starter this season than Sebastian Telfair's turn against the Hawks.
He missed all nine shots from the floor, gave three assists, three rebounds, three turnovers, and zero points in almost 24 minutes.
You'll also be hard-pressed to get more from me on this game, because I didn't get to see a lot of it. Every time I clicked over, the Timberwolves (fine, very good) announcing team was going on about Mike Miller's rebirth, and he did have 17 points on 10 shots. On the other end, it appeared to be Mike Bibby (24 points, seven assists, one turnover) and Marvin Williams (23 and 10) that put the Timberwolves away.
Strange back-to-back for Minnesota, while I'm at it. This afternoon, I had to double-check to make sure they weren't playing in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Dallas is just shooting the lights out these days, Portland may have some defensive issues that kept it from making life miserable for the Mavericks on offense, but I don't think even a lights-out defensive team could have stopped what we saw in the second quarter of this Mavs win.
55 percent shooting for Dallas, who notched assists on 28 of 43 field goals (pretty good for a Rick Carlisle team), and scored 104 points despite only getting to the line 14 times (nailing 13).
Though his rebounds (11) were up, Dirk Nowitzki had a bit of an off night with 16 points on 5-13 shooting, but Brandon Bass (19 points on 11 shots) sustained his resurgence off the bench, and Josh Howard (23 points) was a constant force. A lot of answers from that guy, and that was not intended a pun when I started this sentence. Promise.
Portland made a game of it in the fourth quarter, knocking the lead down to a three possession game at times (the final score isn't really representative), but they couldn't string together enough stops to make a nail-biter out of this.
Memphis hit shots, Houston did not.
Simple as that. The Grizzlies were hitting from all over the floor, even Mike Conley Jr. (with that awkward push shot, from up top) and Rudy Gay combined to hit for half of their three-pointers, and the team finished the game at a 53.3 percent clip while taking care of the ball (just 11 turnovers).
The Rockets kept the effort up, but the perimeter looks just weren't falling. Yao Ming had another strong game, 20 and nine rebounds with three blocks in 32 minutes, but Ron Artest (1-10, doing the most damage) and Tracy McGrady combined to shoot 10-29, as the Rockets just couldn't overcome Memphis' hot start and O.J. Mayo's continued ability to get whatever he wanted.
Actually, McGrady's 9-21 shooting is pretty solid, but those 12 tended to rebound long and start things. Take it to the paint, Tracy.
Shane Battier (mostly) made Mayo work, but Shane can't hang with this sort of slithery guard forever, and O.J. hit for 13 of 22 from the floor, 4-7 from long range, and finished with 32 points. Four assists and just one turnover in over 41 minutes of play. A rookie, with the ball in his hands that much against one the league's best defensive teams, and he only turns the ball over one time. Very impressive.
Not the most entertaining turn, as it turns out.
Actually, it was still a fun watch. And because the 10 other games were dying out by the time this one started, I was able to watch it from beginning to end and have no complaints, but it wasn't as if this was anything more than a one-sided blowout.
The Warriors scored 17 of the game's first 19 points, and it was pretty much all over right there. 43 first quarter points for the Golden State as well, Kelenna Azubuike had one fewer point in the first quarter (19) than LeBron James had out in his first quarter at MSG, and I thought I was going to have to write another one of these things.
Azubuike stayed active and played smart even after his hot start, but it was Stephen Jackson's wily little game that kept the Suns at bay any time they attempted a comeback. 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for Jackson, his first career triple-double, and Kelenna finished with 25 points in just 27 minutes.
It was a tribute to this game's pace that Phoenix scored 112 while shooting only 45 percent from the floor, Steve Nash missed eight of his first 11 from the floor, while Amar'e Stoudemire just wanted to be somewhere else, all night.
This is borderline infuriating, because there should be no other place that this guy wants to be. Against Golden State? The team that made David Lee look like Elvin Hayes?
I don't know if Stoudemire felt as though he should have gotten the ball more in that first quarter, but I can guess. Nash had several open looks that he needed to take that didn't go down, so Stoudemire stopped working off the ball, and absolutely whiffed on several Warriors as they drove to the front of the rim.
Just a pathetic defensive performance from one of the league's worst, a player that has the potential to be one of the league's best, and his offense (13 points, eight rebounds, four turnovers in 28 minutes) wasn't that much better.
Really hoping Phoenix shows me something completely different when these two pair up again on Friday.