January 12, 2011
Part of you enjoys the oddity in a game like this, seeing a doubled-up score and wondering just how low the Cavaliers could go with their point totals. But it's a small part. A tiny part. The rest just, honestly, feels sad.
In baseball, you get 162 games to figure it out. So the occasional 18-3 blowout gets treated as an oddity, and a reflection of a night gone weird. And though the NBA still plays a ton of games throughout its regular season, games like this don't come with the same sense of flukishness. A contest like this reflects on the team in a way that's unique to the NBA, and though it was great to see the Lakers playing their tails off, the overwhelming emotion was sadness for the Cavaliers and their fandom, and embarrassment for the team itself.
Because it really didn't have a chance. Limited talent, pained participants, great defense from Los Angeles, and no transition opportunities for Cleveland just built up. And even when the shots were going in ... they weren't good shots. This was just a miss, all around, and you almost felt as if the Cavaliers were lucky to score 57 points. It was that bad. The Cavaliers are really, really bad.
I'll let you go over the box score, and enjoy the oddities. Me? I'm having no fun with this.
I'd say this even without the luxury of Turiaf's fantastic line (19 points, 10 boards, three assists, three steals, two blocks, a team-high +17 on the night) to back me up. The guy sets good screens, recovers expertly defensively, and is an all-world shot blocker. He's your starting center. It was true in July, it should be true in January. Roll with it. Baby.
(In your head, the rest of the day.)
And the game-recaps are true, New York did win this with defense. Portland had its way in a second-half comeback with Patty Mills entertainingly annoying everyone around him with active and cerebral play, but the Knicks honestly got after both on the ball and in delayed transition, and the team's spacing offensively was enough to keep the Blazers at arm's length before a late-game run turned the score into one that reminded of a blowout.
This was a great win for the Knicks. The team was communicating well on both ends, and though bench types like Bill Walker(notes), Shawne Williams(notes), and Toney Douglas(notes) (with D'Antoni's shortened rotation, those were the only "bench types" all night) had some screwups, their respective hearts were in the right places. A real team effort, one that was fun to watch, and I swear I'd pick Landry Fields(notes) second in any pickup game with any group of players you could possibly show me.
(Provided none of the other players are better than Landry Fields.)
Bad jokes aside, this man is a brilliant teammate. I feel confident in saying that he might be the best skip/extra-passer in the NBA, and his entry passes are spot on. I know he gets rightful credit for his rebounding (I watched him out-work both Marcus Camby(notes), LaMarcus Aldridge(notes), Turiaf, and Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) in one possession for a board last night), but this kid is all-around special. Check him out if you can.
This was a startlingly-bad performance for Phoenix defensively. Denver came out of the gates with no heart and no interest in competing, and yet it still managed a ridiculous 112 points over the last three quarters, and 82 points in the second and third quarters with actual rotation players going at it.
Phoenix just doesn't have a clue, defensively. It really wasn't an enjoyable watch, as the Nuggets had their way after that miserable first quarter, and the Suns didn't have the interest (or personnel) to stem the tide.
San Antonio got out to a good enough lead with superb spacing (it really, really looked good in this area) and shooting, and I let this game get away from me as closer contests were on. So I missed Ken Mauer dumping five technical fouls on the Timberwolves in about as many seconds, and Kurt Rambis' ejection. Also, Ken Mauer is Joe Mauer's cousin? Isn't it nice when the only two people you know with a particular last name are related?
The Spurs hit 11-22 three-pointers, and every time I flipped over to this game the Wolves were missing a tough, contested shot. I'd point out that the Spurs might be flipping their recent defensive woes around, but while they played good D, this seemed more a result of Minnesota's poor offense. Bad decisions, no economy or precision in terms of movement, bad perimeter looks as a result. Twenty points and 20 boards for Kevin Love(notes), but that was about it.
This was an enjoyable watch, both teams really had a good screen and roll attack working, and it was good to see the Pacers finally earn a win on the road.
A fine showing by the 76ers, though, even if their fans won't be happy with the outcome. 55 total assists between the two teams, in a slow (93 possessions) game, as the penetration was good throughout without the defense coming off as poor. Pacers coach Jim O'Brien finally let Darren Collison(notes) run free, and the second year guard came through with 21 points, 13 assists, and three steals. He can't do that every night, Obie, but he can come close. Kindly relegate T.J. Ford(notes) to the backup status he deserves.
Mike Dunleavy hit 4-8 threes, Danny Granger(notes) finally seemed to get that jumper right while knocking in 27 points, and Tyler Hansbrough(notes) managed 12 points (looking good with the jumper) and nine boards in half a game.
I'm not going to say he was "clearly hampered," because he looked OK to me, but Andre Iguodala's(notes) return from the pine produced an ohfer seven game; so if the tendinitis wasn't a problem, the rust was. And his poor night was the difference, because the Sixers matched the Pacers with the penetration, pull-up, and screen and roll game.
All in all, a satisfying night out.
Just a few minutes in, I swear to you, the prevailing thought regarding this game was a smart-aleck riff that went along the lines of never wanting to show this contest to any kid who wanted to learn how to play basketball the right way. How it was terrible, on either end, regardless of who was dominating whom.
And then it got worse.
This was such bad basketball. Terrible basketball. If you were around for it while quoting various blogosphere types, you might think that I'm just keeping with the status quo, repeating the meme, echoing the populist thoughts of those who deigned to watch and/or mock this mess, but it really was bad. The Wizards got out to a huge lead that they eventually blew, before taking to another big-enough lead that they gave up just before the end of regulation. Without the Kings actually doing much to come back.
Washington dominated the offensive glass, but one of my more prominent memories walking away from this game was the way Washington (despite starting three big-ish types in Javale McGee(notes), Andray Blatche(notes), and Rashard Lewis(notes)) gave such poor effort on the defensive glass as McGee fruitlessly chased every potential blocked shot. And yet, all three of those guys finished with double figure rebounds. It was that strange a night.
Sacramento never seemed to understand that Nick Young(notes) likes to take three dribbles and pull up for a jumper, and that he can't pass to save his life (his three assists in this win raised his season-long total to 34 dimes ... in 991 minutes). And Paul Westphal's go-to three-pointer play at the end of overtime put the ball in the hands of DeMarcus Cousins(notes). And the shot was contested. And it missed.
And it was awful. This game truly was terrible, on both ends. Blatche would pull up for a 20-footer with nobody under the basket to rebound and (literally) 21 seconds on the shot clock, and the Kings announcers would praise his "versatility." Al Thornton(notes) and Yi Jianlian(notes) took turns making bonehead plays, John Wall(notes) and Kirk Hinrich(notes) took turns dribbling the ball into oblivion, and DeMarcus Cousins has the worst shot selection of any young low post player that I've seen in my lifetime. That kid has major, major issues.
A terrible game, with no redeeming qualities. And both teams combined to score 269 points, which usually means you're taking in an entertaining offensive freak show. That's how bad this was -- the offensive freak-show was just plain offensive.