December 15, 2008
It's a modest run, but it's a run. And for a town, team, coaching staff and front office that deserve better, it's nice to see the Grizzlies putting a series of wins together.
Four consecutive wins for the Grizz, who pulled away with a big (35 points) third quarter. I realize Miami's defense isn't the greatest, but the Grizzlies turned the ball over on just 9.3 percent of its possessions, and that's a sterling mark. Really is. Seven turnovers all day for Memphis, who also shot 31 free throws (making 26), while taking in a balanced batch of contributions led by O.J. Mayo's 28 points.
Dwyane Wade (5-16 shooting) had another poor game for the Heat, but this team should be playing better than it is. No way around it. I understand that Memphis is talented and that the Heat have holes and all sorts of new quirks to work out, but this team should be more competitive when Wade is playing huge, or when he's a bit off.
36.4 percent shooting for Miami in the loss.
New Orleans 99, Toronto 91
It's Chris Paul, however, and his 12 assists in an 85-possession game (Portland is slowest in the league at 86 possessions per game), that won this for New Orleans. CP just controlled things. Took what the defense gave him (lots of attention, and a closed-off lane), and won it for New Orleans.
That difference in benches didn't help Toronto either. Both teams have depth issues, but the Raptor pine came through with 11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and four turnovers in over 61 minutes, shooting a combined 5-18 from the floor.
The Hornets' reserves were just as awful (nine points, five boards, seven assists outside of Posey), but James' 20 and 10 helped New Orleans pull away literally and figuratively and outstandingly and righteously. Fantastically. Mid-level exceptionally.
The big worry entering 2008-09 for San Antonio seemed to be offense. Even with Tony Parker improving, the new additions around, and the potential for Manu Ginobili to be playing on a healthy ankle (eventually) for the first time in his NBA career, would a series of dry spells keep the Spurs in the second tier?
So far, kind of. The Spurs are 11th in offense this season, but that's with Parker and Ginobili missing huge gobs of time. They've got 59 games left, and even with the odd injury or two, that number is bound to go up.
It's the defense that has proven to be the problem. "Problem" in relative terms, of course, as the team is 8th in defense on the season, a number 22 other teams would really like to call their own. Still, the Spurs are always in the top three with Tim Duncan, so the result is an occasional game like this win over the Thunder, and I wouldn't be surprised if the future results in an occasional loss just like this.
The Spurs got out to a huge (26 points) lead in the first half, and while the offense did taper off a bit (44 combined points in the second and third quarters), it was the team's one-on-one defense that looked much worse. Jeff Green (33 points) and Kevin Durant (28) went off, and the Thunder made a game of it.
Of course, they also made a loss of it. But it would be a worrying sign to me if I were a Spurs fan.
I know that the Timberwolves are all full of bruisers, and that Kevin McHale would field a team full of undersized power forwards if only the Bulls would trade him Drew Gooden, Andres Nocioni, and Tyrus Thomas, but the Lakers can't be dominated on the glass like this.
OK, "dominated" might not be the best word. But the team was licked 53-46 in that area, with 30 of Los Angeles' rebounds coming from three guys (Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum). Meanwhile, three Laker starters (Kobe, Derek Fisher, Luke Walton) pulled in just seven. Their Timberwolves counterparts on the perimeter grabbed 17.
It took Los Angeles three quarters to really pull away in this one, Pau Gasol was finishing well and had a great game (18 and 11, six assists, three blocks, zero turnovers in 34 minutes), and Kobe was fantasmonious down the stretch.
23 assists on 30 field goals for the Wolves, but the team's guard play is just awful.