March 05, 2009
How both these teams managed to put up such stellar offensive stats (both squads were over the 120 points per 100 possessions mark) speaks to a veteran brand of execution that was just an exhilarating watch.
I noticed both teams just squelching each other's go-to plays out of timeouts or dead balls constantly, each side knew each other's playbook by heart, and yet both Dallas and San Antonio consistently executed and created strong looks.
Dallas was a little better off in that execution area, as the Spurs had to rely on Tony Parker's one-on-one aptitude a bit more than they wanted to. 25 assists on 37 makes from the floor for the Mavs, what a potent night out, with Josh Howard (29 points on 15 shots) destroying Michael Finley, Jason Kidd hitting from the perimeter, and Dirk Nowitzki coming through with a fantastic (24 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two blocks) night.
Most impressive of all, however, was the defense from Erick Dampier. Yes, he had help (Dirk was shading toward Erick all night), but Dampier nearly shut down Tim Duncan after TD came through with a strong first quarter. Beautiful footwork from Dampier.
(Run an internet search on that last sentence this Saturday, and I guarantee it will only bring up one result.)
Damp had four blocks, and Duncan had six of his shots blocked. Erick was easily the MVP, but Parker made a late run for the in-game honors, finishing with 37 points.
Also, great to see the JET back. 17 points and six assists for Jason Terry.
Give the Bucks credit for hanging around. They had several chances throughout the first two and a half quarters of this game to hang their heads or let this game get away from them, but the effort stayed strong throughout. The Cavs eventually turned this into a blowout because Cleveland is 97 times the team Milwaukee is, but not before the Bucks put up a fight.
As good as Milwaukee's defense was, at times, Cleveland's D was just that much better. And Luke Ridnour (ohfer seven from the field, four turnovers and three assists) was pretty lousy.
The typical bugaboos that have been plaguing the Celtics all season turned this into a close, entertaining game. Yay, bugaboos.
Boston kept turning the ball over. More in the first half than in the second, but plenty to go around throughout the contest. About one in five Celtic possessions ended in a turnover, which is a pretty nasty ratio when you figure in New Jersey's horrid defense. The Celtic defense wasn't all that hot, either, with Kevin Garnett out. That's going to be a problem for a little while. And the Nets were up for the defending champs, executing and playing with quite a bit of effort.
So, turnovers, KG-less D, and an opponent that wanted to make this the highlight of an otherwise mediocre season. The Celtics should be used to that by now, but it still doesn't mean the triptych easy to overcome. You need Paul Pierce (31 points on 12-14 shooting) for that.
Just a wonderfully entertaining game. You want to lay into either team for defensive mistakes, and there were quite a few missed rotations, but there was more offensive execution in this game than defensive ineptitude. Way more. Fantastic game to watch.
Dwyane Wade was the star of stars, he continues to have an MVP-level season, and it's been fulfilling to see him get some MVP-level acclaim over the last week, even if he isn't the MVP. 35 points on 21 shots, six rebounds, 16 assists, a steal, a block, and (most impressive of all) one turnover. He has the ball in his hands for about 75 percent of the game, and he only coughs it up once. Brilliant.
On the other end, Steve Nash was a worthy adversary. 29 points on 12-17 shooting, getting into the lane at will for the entire contest, with five rebounds and 10 assists to three turnovers.
You'd think the ancient Shaquille O'Neal would lose a battle of the O'Neals to the much younger Jermaine, but you'd be wrong. Six points, only two rebounds in over 22 minutes, five assists, five turnovers, and six fouls for Jermaine. 22 and eight with two blocks for Shaq.
In the end, though, the Suns just couldn't stop the Heat. Miami could barely stop the Suns, but a rebounding advantage (+10), a free throw advantage (+7 in just as many attempts), and bench help (Daequan Cook had 27, Michael Beasley tossed in 28) did Phoenix in.
Lots of points, not a lot of fun. Atlanta looked beat, they've had a rough travel week, and the team tried to overcome its tired legs with a lot of one-on-one play and poor decision-ing.
Atlanta did well to make a game of it late after falling behind by double digits, but they dug their own grave early on with all the poorly-conceived possessions. You want to excuse the less than cerebral play because of the tough week, but a little more leadership and a lot less dribbling gives this team an impressive road win.
Both teams are pretty horrible, and Oklahoma City's offensive execution could be frighteningly bad at times, but they also ran enough solid plays to pull out the win. Scott Brooks doesn't have this team humming offensively, the Thunder aren't talented enough to hum, but he does have them trying. Running plays and working to execute. And the defense continues to improve.
Playing without Caron Butler, the Wizards were awful. Antawn Jamison had 29 and 10 rebounds, with zero turnovers (despite all the defensive attention), but the Wiz couldn't get him the ball enough, and deserved the loss.
The late night replay of this game has been flickering silently on my TV all morning, but I haven't been able to properly observe just why the Bulls pulled away. Or, more specifically, I haven't been able to find something in this game about the Warriors that you weren't aware of. They don't defend, they take bad shots and complain to the refs, and they lose a lot.
The Bulls dominated after a miserable start, essentially playing seven guys, and getting good contributions from the new additions. 23 points for John Salmons in start, and 19 and six rebounds from Brad Miller off the bench. 14 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks from Joakim Noah, as well.
92.6 points per 100 possessions for the Warriors, which is just ruddy awful.
I thought a few more calls should have gone Houston's way, let's leave it at that, but the Rockets had their chances. Some shots spun out, a few too many turnovers, and a little too much Ron Artest down the stretch for the Rockets.
The Jazz played a terrific game in the face of that Rocket D. Deron Williams was defended well, but he still lunged his way toward 26 points, 14 assists, and five rebounds. Just a brilliant basketball player. Carlos Boozer (20 and 17, with a few jumpers spinning in and out) finally got on track, and Ronnie Brewer (19 points) continues to cut and weave.
As mentioned, Houston had its chances, but couldn't make the shots late in the fourth quarter. Credit the Utah D. Kyle Lowry had to be the go-to guy for a stretch in the second half, nobody needs that, and though Ron Artest got his 25, he was a little too dribble-happy.
Portland just refuses to play strong defense, so near-home losses to teams like the Pacers are going to continue to happen. Potentially potent offensive teams are going to turn into purely potent offensive teams in the face of that poor defense, and only Indiana's inability to get to the line prevented an upset.
Portland's offense helped too, this squad can put big numbers up (this was such a slow game, 88 possessions, don't get shook by the relatively normal final score), but you have to worry about a four game playoff sweep come spring if the Blazers matched up with a team like the Jazz in the first round. The Blazers really have to work at that end, because we've seen precious little improvement defensively since November.
The Trail Blazer go-to guys were in full effect during Wednesday's comeback, Brandon Roy had 28 and Travis Outlaw finished with 21 bench points. The Pacers can put up buckets in a hurry, but this is an inefficient offensive team at times (with T.J. Ford having to shoot 16 footers off the dribble), and it really missed Danny Granger.
Losing Randolph and Gordon's scoring ability hurt, but their absence was no excuse for giving up that many points to a poor offensive team like the Grizzlies. I can understand it if the Clippers limped to a 20-point loss that saw both teams finish under the century mark, but not having a horrible defender like Randolph and missing a rookie guard like Gordon (not really know for his D, to say the very least) was not the reason these guys gave up 118 points.
Marcus Camby left after playing the entire first quarter, he had a migraine, but the Grizz put up 30 first quarter points! This was a team-wide letdown.
Not a letdown, actually, because that means the Clippers have to be lowered into this state. They've been here since November. Pathetic.
35 points for Rudy Gay. Good game, Grizz.