January 05, 2009
It's not that it is a day later, and that any supposed shock has worn off. As an impartial observer, you had to be nonplussed watching the game go down.
New York beat the defending champs on Sunday because they played a sound defensive game and hit the shots it had to. No real shocker or upset there, to anyone who was watching. Boston made no adjustments, turned the ball over too much, and couldn't do much about certain Knicks hitting tough shots.
Like Al Harrington (20 in the first half, 30 total) and Wilson Chandler (pictured above, 31 all day), or David Lee down the stretch. The Knicks made up for a 1-13 night from Quentin Richardson (he wasn't chucking, just missing the open shots New York that asks him to take), and got to the line an un-Knicksian 28 times, making 22.
They also rotated quite well defensively, and the result was a 6-25 day behind the arc for the Celtics. It didn't stop from behind the line, either, as Rajon Rondo missed six of seven shots while the Knicks often left him alone or rotated a big man his way, daring him to take the perimeter J. And you see the results. A step back for Rajon on Sunday.
Good for the Knicks. The team played its tail off and deserves the win. There's no point in freaking out about the Celtics, though. The team wasn't as good as its 92-2 start (or whatever the record was), and it's not as bad as its recent swoon. Regression to the mean is a real thing, yo. The C's played over their heads, slightly, for the first two months (check that point differential), and they're coming back to earth in one fell swoop. They'll be fine.
A couple of sound home wins, done all up in a row, for the Raptors. Taking down the Rockets on Friday, and a hot Magic team on Sunday afternoon. Nothing overly flashy here, just good team play that was good enough to beat a Magic team that wasn't exactly limping to the finish line.
Hedo Turkoglu (nine points on 12 shots, five assists, five turnovers) had a lousy game, but I loved Rashard Lewis' game (20 points on 16 shots, nine assists) and his solid interior defense that sometimes chased Chris Bosh out of the post. Also, Dwight Howard continues to destroy the Raptors, he's been doing it since 2005, finishing with 39 points and eight rebounds.
But the Raptors took care of it. Jose Calderon is still out with a bad right hammy, so Will Solomon started and played so-so, while Roko Ukic (12 and seven assists in 23 minutes) played the whole fourth quarter. Bosh finished with 23 points on 12 shots with 11 rebounds, and Anthony Parker probably had the best game he'll have all season with 26 points on 16 shots.
A 39-31 rebound advantage for the Raptors, as well. Toronto also missed just one free throw in 24 tries.
Good for the Wizards, bully for their fans, but this was an awful game to watch.
Cleveland took to an early deficit mainly because they were turning the ball over way too much, while allowing the Wizards to dominate the offensive boards. The team's reaction to these missteps was to revert to the 2005-2008 era offense that Mike Brown created, flattening the floor and allowing LeBron James to go 1-on-5 while sticking two shooters in either corner.
This means the Cavs hit a lot of threes, but were miserable to watch, and quite inefficient. Until the Wizards tried to throw the game (I'm guessing) in the fourth quarter.
Seven fourth quarter turnovers for the Wizards, which doesn't seem much worse than the team's six third quarter turnovers until you factor in the awful shooting that let Cleveland back in the game. Luckily for Washington, LeBron James (30 points, 10 assists, seven turnovers) took about 14 steps on a last second attempt at tying the game, and Washington squeaked away with the upset. Yay.
Antawn Jamison is a nice young man, and finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
The Pistons are now 10-3 when Antonio McDyess suits up and plays for Detroit, 10-9 when he isn't around, but that's a misleading pair of stats. In a way. McDyess has had a great year thus far, playing really well in limited minutes, but it's his presence that has made Detroit a better team.
And not in some, hackneyed columnist, "his locker room gravitas alone lifts these men to greater heights"-bit. Forget that. It's as if the Pistons just decided to take a little vacation in the guy's absence. I think they just figured that things wouldn't count until Dyess got back. The effort just wasn't there. Recently, it's been there. You work hard, you have a chance to win.
Meanwhile, though Rodney Stuckey and Allen Iverson were quite good in person, they were lousy (Stuckey missed 14 of 24 shots, AI 11 of 18) on paper. Stuckey especially, the kid would blow by everyone, put up a nice floater or lay-in, and watch as it spun in and out. Repeatedly. The guy was 14 combined inches away from 40 points.
But Detroit stuck with it, the effort was there, and the win resulted. The team ran when it could, it took good shots, and the Pistons only turned the ball over eight times. Normally you'd pass off a close win over a crummy team missing its two best players, one in which the crummy team had a shot in the final seconds to win it, but I'm quite encouraged by Detroit's continued insistence upon earning its paycheck.
The Mavs got no production from anyone outside of Dirk Nowitzki (28 points) and Jason Terry (18 points), and even they didn't offer much (combined: four rebounds, four assists) outside of scoring. Josh Howard may have scored 12 points, but he needed 12 shots, only pulled in two rebounds, and was destroyed by Rudy Gay on the other end without Gay having many plays called for him.
Gay is quietly turning into one of the league's best at finishing a broken play, and O.J. Mayo is right there with him. Probably ahead of him. Another knockout shooting game (7-14 overall, 5-8 from deep, all toughies) from a rookie who has shot better than anyone else I've seen in 2008-09. Mayo finished with 21 points, just about every Grizzly got a chance to make solid offensive moves down the stretch, and the Grizz are going to have a shot at 35 wins if they keep playing like this.
As much as I was left breathless by Mike D'Antoni's SSOL Suns, and entertained by some of Don Nelson's wilier outfits, Los Angeles might be the most entertaining offensive team I've seen since the 90's Bulls, and the 80's Lakers/Celtics outfits.
The half-court sets that this Laker team executes, it's so good to watch, such a sight to behold with all that spacing and finishing ... I love this team. Yes, it's fun to watch the greyhounds from Phoenix or Golden State pull up on break and nail the three-pointer, but it's a three-pointer. Yawn. Give me four passes and a lay-in or free throw line jumper any damn day.
And I really shouldn't even be talking about this, because it was the Laker defense that really won this one. Los Angeles allowed just 86 points to a team that is just a couple tenths of a point away from behind the league's most efficient offense, after forcing Portland to just 76 points on opening night. Portland missing nine of 22 free throws didn't help, but they also shot just 39 percent, and 32 percent from long range.
26 points in 32 minutes from Kobe Bryant in the win. He is awfully good.