March 10, 2011
The Knicks are scary, man. They still can't defend to save their lives, giving up 117 points per 100 possessions to the Grizzlies is a joke, but the team was well on its way toward dropping one of the hottest teams in the NBA in its house in a blowout before New York let its guard down slightly in the fourth quarter. And though he had a few miscues that allowed Memphis to make it close, Carmelo Anthony's(notes) jab-step in the final seconds of a close game is no joke.
Thirty-one points for Anthony, but each of the Knicks was feeling it in the face of what is reliably a very good Memphis defense. Landry Fields(notes) had 16 points, six boards, and six assists, Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) dropped 26, and the Knicks shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from long range, making up for the fact that they took just four free throws all night. Four. All from Anthony.
Thirty-one assists for the Knicks, too, and I'm not going to pretend that Memphis didn't get after it. New York was just that good. And they may have made a pound-foolish trade in the deal for Anthony, as depth might be hard to come by in the next few years, but for right now this team should have the league worried. If the Knicks keep moving the ball and making quick decisions with it, then they'll drop 110 points in their sleep. When they do it right, these guys can play.
I actually appreciate Kevin Durant(notes) telling the press that "fifty percent of the game is mental" following Oklahoma City's win. Not, "99 percent of the game is mental" or "above all, this game is all about the brain." No, "fifty percent." Because the other 50 percent is all about being a badass 7-footer that can make 25-foot bombs look like lay-ups.
Durant hit a game-tying three to end regulation, and Russell Westbrook's(notes) work on both ends in overtime helped seal a tough road win for the Thunder. The 76ers played a hell of a game as well, Doug Collins' crew had its chances, and the squad deserves to walk away from this contest with its head held high. But following a run that saw the team win six of seven games before this contest, only losing another winnable game at home to the Dallas Mavericks, the 76ers were despondent following this defeat.
It's nit-picking, because the team played so well, but Andre Iguodala's(notes) sub-par game may have been the difference. He took a couple of questionable shots late in this contest, and his six turnovers didn't help. Pity, because he's been huge as the 76ers have turned their season around.
Terrible defense has dotted Indiana's recent swoon, but the issue on Wednesday was a miserable offensive performance that may rank as the worst showing on that end I've seen all season. That's including Milwaukee games (either by Milwaukee, or teams playing against Milwaukee), I should point out.
If a team racks up 89 points per 100 possessions, I'll shake my head and mean it when I tell you that it was the worst offensive performance of the night. But the Pacers managed just 73 points per 100 possessions, and I don't recall seeing a mark in the 70s in any of the box scores I've gone behind this season. Much less the low 70s. This was a miserable performance made even worse by the fact that Minnesota is a terrible, terrible defensive team.
I can't explain it. The Pacers seem to be playing without any confidence (Roy Hibbert(notes) had zero points. Zero.), and despite the scoreboard knowledge that Charlotte was on their way to a loss an hour ahead of them, Indiana just couldn't string anything together. Meanwhile ... go Timberwolves?
I can't explain their end, either, but they did give good effort in the times that I switched over to this mess. Minnesota stunk offensively, finishing with fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions (just about the Mendoza Line), and it still won by 26.
Drive and kick action for the Bucks in this blowout, the team was able to penetrate the Cavalier defense whenever it wanted, and for once the Bucks were scoring on the interior ably. Guards, centers, and all manner of Milwaukeeans in between.
Cleveland didn't have the scorers to compete. Milwaukee's brilliant defense would have made this a slogfest as it was, but with the Bucks actually playing solid offense, the Cavs didn't have a chance. Not much more that I can add beyond that, besides pointing out that the Bucks are a game and a half out of the playoff bracket out East, and that Indiana is terrible now.
(And, seriously, how're you going to let the Bucks score 110 on you?)
Boston couldn't hit the broad side of the barn in the first half, so I'm not going to pretend like that didn't play a huge factor, but the biggest reason the Clippers stole a win in Boston was because the team reliably scored throughout most of this game. It wasn't just Mo Williams'(notes) 27 points, but Ryan Gomes(notes) was hitting shots, Eric Bledsoe(notes) worked well off the bench, Chris Kaman(notes) scored a bit, and DeAndre Jordan(notes) was beastly at times.
"At times," geesh. He was fantastic throughout. Twenty-one points and nine rebounds, making nine of 10 shots because, well, you're supposed to when they're all dunks.
Boston clamped down a bit in the third quarter, and put together 61 points in the second half, but the game only went 48 minutes, so they couldn't pull it out. I can't be too worried, because none of the scary hallmarks we saw from the C's this time last year were there, and the Clippers are a genuinely talented outfit.
Though I've long called him the runaway Coach of the Year, I haven't shied from criticizing Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
His work with Carlos Boozer(notes) leaves a lot to be desired, he plays Luol Deng(notes) way too much, and he plays Derrick Rose(notes) far too long during blowouts. But I can't kill him for having Boozer out there with the Bulls up 19, and just four and a half minutes left in the contest. Because Boozer helped spearhead a 10-0 run that took less than two minutes to put together. The game went from do-able for the Bobcats to out of reach within a very short period of time that was punctuated unfortunately by Kwame Brown's(notes) flagrant foul that sent Boozer to the locker room with a turned ankle. This was nothing like the other times that Thibs has needlessly left Deng and Rose out there during blowouts.
A close, offensive-minded (!) game for the most part, followed by a decisive defensive turn that helped Chicago pull away in the fourth quarter. The slow pace hindered the fact that the Bulls killed it offensively, shooting over 50 percent, with Derrick Rose making 4-6 three-pointers (is the stroke back?). Kyle Korver(notes) dropped 20 on 10 shots, and was instrumental in that fourth quarter run.
Both teams had myriad injuries to work through in this contest, but stellar play from Al Jefferson(notes), a few sweet moves from DeMar DeRozan(notes), and a "did that count?" ending to it all made for a good watch.
Jefferson's last-second game-winning tip-in was the highlight, but both teams slogged through a tough night with appreciated vigor. Devin Harris(notes) turned his ankle, dove into the photographer's section, and separated his pinkie finger; and yet he played on. Ed Davis(notes) started in Andrea Bargnani's(notes) place, and picked up right where Bargs left off with three rebounds in almost 36 minutes (I keed, though the kid did). And Jefferson worked another big game, finishing with 34 points and eight rebounds. And if he didn't tip Harris' last-second miss in, you'd hear nutbag noise about how Al's stats never lead to wins.
Even if the guy didn't finish with 26 points and 10 boards (on the extended heels of Saturday's 34 and 14 performance in London), you could tell that something was different for Brook Lopez(notes). He's quicker off the ball, to the ball, and once he gets the ball. Call it a burst of confidence or an easier way of seeing the hoop (especially against crummy interior defenses like Toronto's and Golden State's), but Brook was the answer for New Jersey in this win.
Playing on the rear end of a long road trip, the W's didn't make very good decisions throughout, but the team's fourth quarter showing was downright embarrassing. You've probably seen Reggie Williams'(notes) attempt at a game-winner at this point, but the entire quarter was filled with miscues and a paucity of on-court leadership. Just 13 points for Golden State in the final 12 minutes.
This is why I refuse to think about the Phoenix Suns making the tail end of the playoff bracket out West. New Orleans continues to defend at a fantastic rate, coming up with another close game against a very good team in Chris Paul's(notes) absence.
Though the Hornets fell short in Chicago on Monday, they worked it well against the Mavericks on Wednesday, cashing in on a bit of brain hooey from Jason Kidd(notes) in the final seconds, as he fouled Jarrett Jack(notes) on a three-point attempt late. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) missed a rainbow jumper by an inch, and the Hornets are still a game and a half up on Memphis, and two and a half games up on Phoenix.
Four rebounds in about 114 combined minutes from the Dallas backcourt, where the Hornets guards crashed for 14. Dallas couldn't do anything with its long rebounds, and there were plenty, and the Hornets refused to go away despite having to desperately search for good shots at times. In Dallas' defense, it was missing all sorts of wing depth with Shawn Marion(notes) and (I guess) Peja Stojakovic(notes) out, but New Orleans earned this bad boy.
There's always a good chance that we have no idea. These players aren't in a video game. Rodney Stuckey(notes) could have had a late night. He could have had personal troubles. He could have possibly been seen scarfing an al pastor torta just minutes before the game. He could have done something in practice, or he could have an injury that Detroit didn't let on about.
We do know that Stuckey has been averaging about 20 points and six assists in limited minutes in the last six games he's played in, and that Detroit coach John Kuester decided not to start him against the Spurs. Stuckey played terribly, missing four or five shots, though his replacement (Tracy McGrady(notes)) played well in dropping 15 points with nine assists. But it's another head-scratcher from John Kuester.
Detroit played its butt off, by the way. They still took dumb shots, but the team was due for a 40-point whuppin' from an angry Spurs team, and yet it hung in there throughout. They couldn't stop the Spurs (who shot 64 bleedin' percent), but it was an admirable showing.
San Antonio has made two generations' worth of admirable showings. Continue apace, good sirs.
Also, Detroit? You have a winner in Greg Monroe(notes). 16 points, 10 rebounds (nine offensive) and two blocks, and I wrote the previous sentence after watching the game and before looking up his line. Do well with him.
Sacramento played hard, and they gave us a fun game to wind down a crazy Wednesday night. And Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy deserves dap for letting Dwight Howard(notes) play through four fouls for most of the second half (reminded me, and he'll hate this, of Phil Jackson). But this game came down to Sacramento's inability to stop Orlando's screen and roll.
12 fourth quarter points for Jameer Nelson(notes), as he whisked his way past a tired DeMarcus Cousins(notes) to the rim, or pulled up for jumpers on his way to 26 points. DMC had 29 points of his own, and Marcus Thornton(notes) ambled his way toward 22, but Nelson was the key. He always is.
Thank you for reading.