December 23, 2009
He's just so good. Just oozes greatness, this cat.
Oklahoma City gave the Lakers a scare, to be sure. The Thunder raced out to a good lead in the first half and hung around for the entire contest before falling short offensively in the second half, and during that time Kobe started with all the troddin' and treadin' and stompin' on the other end.
Over 113 points per 100 possessions for the Lakers in the win, which is quite a bit as it is, and a ton if you're playing against a staunch defensive team like the Thunder. And though Thabo Sefolosha(notes), James Harden(notes), and even Kevin Durant(notes) played him well defensively (Durant was schooled on a gorgeous hesitation move in the fourth quarter), Kobe was just too good.
40 points on 26 shots. Eight boards, six assists, five turnovers and two steals. And even some makeable shots that just didn't fall, or he didn't follow-through on with his, mind you, four healthy fingers. Could have had 50.
The Laker defense wasn't good. I felt like Ron Artest(notes) got caught up a little too much and overplayed, and the Thunder used that aggression against him with extra passes. Durant led his team with 30, but he had six turnovers, and Kobe really was the difference.
Give it up for the Pistons, because they try. They're also miserable offensively with this current rotation, and if it weren't for a few paint finishes in the second half of this game, the team would have struggled to top 70 points.
As it was, 2-12 three-point shooting, 12-21 free throw shooting, and a miserable 84.4 points per 100 possessions. Yikes.
The Celtics were without Kevin Garnett(notes) (bruised thigh) for the entire game and Paul Pierce(notes) for the first three quarters of this win. Pierce played, I should point out, he just couldn't hit to save his life, missing his first 10 attempts from the field.
Meanwhile, the Pacers were moving the ball and hitting some tough and, um, interesting shots. Fluke-y or not, Indiana had a solid lead for most of the game before Pierce started absolutely dominating (14 fourth quarter points). Faced with having to take the ball out of the net, though, Indiana faltered (17 points) in the fourth quarter.
Despite his five turnovers, and a few glares from Doc Rivers after defensive miscommunications, Kendrick Perkins(notes) turned in a fine game. 19 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks in 36 minutes.
It's never surprising what bad habits, with good payoffs, can do to a player.
You see it all the time, especially with the best of the best, because they're the best at being able to clear space for a bad shot, and great enough to toss a few of those bad shots in. LeBron James(notes), Kobe Bryant(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes) - as smart as they are - will always get caught forcing bad 20-footers for a couple of quarters at a time, just because their first few contested 20-footers managed to go in.
Gilbert Arenas'(notes) first looks on Tuesday weren't too terrible, but they were from too far away, and they went in. He then spent the next two and a half quarters launching bad shots from far, far away, and his team suffered for it. Wizards coach Flip Saunders responded by benching all five Washington starters at once four minutes into the third quarter.
The bench responded. And, after being re-introduced, so did Arenas. He scored 12 in the final quarter mainly by getting to the hoop.
Philly played tough D at times, but the 76ers lost it in the fourth because of lousy defensive work (33 points for the Wizards, overall) and poor shot selection. I'll never get how these guys can see an opponent struggle so much by taking pull-up long jumpers, then succeed so handily upon beginning to drive to the hoop, and think it's best to respond ... taking a long contested jumper.
New York's spacing and defense was just good enough to pull out this win. It's nice that they have a little run going at Madison Square Garden (goodness knows those fans deserve it), but let's face it, they just beat the Bulls.
Chicago? Chicago scored 81 points against the Knicks. This is a team that gives up triple digits before it's broken a sweat, and all Chicago could manage was 81 points.
18 points, 21 rebounds, and another good passing game (five assists) for David Lee(notes) in the win. Joakim Noah(notes) had 21 boards as well. Derrick Rose(notes) managed 26 points in the loss, but he took just three free throws all game, and it's not as if he's getting hacked and bumped and missing out on whistles. That happened quite a bit last year, but Rose has just stopped getting all the way to the rim this season.
Probably because Chicago doesn't really run any plays.
Two guys who we've beat up on quite a bit in these parts put together a heck of a performance in this game, as Corey Maggette(notes) played smart and sound basketball on both ends, and Zach Randolph(notes) is continuing his team-helpin' ways.
Zach and Corey have always put up numbers, but it often came at the expense of ball movement, happy teammates, and an up-tempo offense. Not tonight, as both made quick decisions with the ball - Maggette finished with 25, Zach with 33 and 18 rebounds.
The Grizzlies were just too big for Golden State - Chris Hunter(notes) and Anthony Randolph(notes) had no chance on the inside - as Memphis' 14 offensive rebounds help make the difference. Golden State tried, the Grizz only out-rebounded GSW by eight overall, but it wasn't enough.
Let's just call it what it is - the Clippers just couldn't be arsed to guard the Rockets in the first half of this game, and it was enough to make a difference.
Oh, these kids.
Well, Al Jefferson's(notes) not a kid. He's young and he has plenty of All-Star level years ahead of him, but he's also been in the league since 2004. And he had five turnovers. And some iffy decisions, shot-wise. It might take him until after the All-Star break to figure out how to play on his surgically-repaired knee.
The rest of the team? Kids, with lots of turnovers. And pretty poor defense.
The Hawks had fantastic spacing, solid enough ball movement, and leadership enough to know where to go and when. It didn't hurt that the Wolves were miserable at stopping Atlanta in this one-sided contest, or that Minnesota turned it over on nearly a quarter of their possessions.
And the Hawks make shots. Jamal Crawford(notes) feeds off some tough love from Mike Woodson, and drops 26 off the bench. Mike Bibby(notes) picked his spots against Jonny Flynn(notes) - who is fantastic, but just having a devil of a time learning on the job. Al Horford(notes) has another double-double. Joe Johnson(notes) blends in and doesn't turn the ball over a single time. Josh Smith(notes) works through the foul trouble. This team is stacked.
Kevin Love(notes) had 15 points and 19 rebounds (eight offensive) for Minnesota, and he's averaging about 13 a game in 31 minutes this year. The guy is just a tremendous athlete - he's not going to slap the top of the backboard, but he's so, so quick off his feet.
I'll tell you what it reminds me of, those Golden State teams from the early 1990s. Whether it was Run-TMC or the squad after the Mitch Richmond trade, this was everyone's second-favorite team back then, even though we'd get to see them play twice a year (maybe) and were limited to SportsCenter clips taken in while shoveling Wheaties down our gullet before we were supposed to run to school.
And that team just lost player after player to injury, and nothing ever happened. Chris Webber(notes) and Billy Owens, those late and talented editions, just never happened. Every season seemed to start with, "do they have enough in the middle?", and ended with, "what a waste, can't anyone stay healthy?"
And the Blazers, though it's only been one (tough) year, remind me of that. Let's just hope they don't finish like that. My glass, though you'd often suspect otherwise with me, is half-full.
Dallas, save for Dirk, just couldn't score down the stretch in this game. Portland did well defensively, but a lot of this was on the Mavs who didn't make shots.
Tim Thomas(notes) missed all three of his attempts. Shawn Marion(notes)? All seven. Jason Kidd(notes) missed five of six from the field. Jason Terry(notes) missed 11 of 13. Drew Gooden(notes), five of seven. Meanwhile, Dirk tossed in 27 on only 13 shots.
He's complaining about this, and he should, but he wasn't without blame in this loss. Six turnovers for Dirk; and, seriously, that's two weeks' worth for him.
Every time I flipped over, LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) or Brandon Roy(notes) were carrying the Blazers offensively. Juwan Howard(notes) also looked active (angry?) off the bench with a double-double and five fouls.