January 29, 2009
One would think the Bulls fans will be with me on this one. This was a great game for the Bulls that was almost tough to watch. There's no reason Chicago can't play like this every night out, at least as much as we expect from 29 other teams, and it was a little bittersweet to see the Bulls return to the sort of ball movement and badass D that marked the 2004-2006 run.
You know why the Clippers lost. Yes, Baron Davis and Marcus Camby returned for this game, but they saw truncated minutes, and were pretty awful (BD: 1-10 shooting, lazy play, four fouls in 22 minutes; Marcus: six and six in the same amount of time). Ricky Davis played some defense that defied explanation, Steve Novak (1-8) thinks that more shooting will help, and Brian Skinner played 24 minutes. Doesn't matter how he played. Brian Skinner, in 2009, had to play 29 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Bulls moved the ball (31 assists on 37 field goals, with that six shot differential seemingly coming on all of Derrick Rose's gorgeous pull-ups in transition), played Skiles-era defense, and Vinny Del Negro let Tyrus Thomas stay on the court.
And, after the usual point in the first and third quarters when TT usually has to leave, that's when Thomas went off, in a way. 16 and 10, a couple of steals, a couple of blocks, lots of energy, lots of changed shots, 5-15 shooting that was somewhat marred by his six offensive rebounds (connect the dots), no Nocioni.
There's no reason why the Bulls can't play like this on just about every night, but you know they'll find a way.
7-17 shooting (41 percent) really isn't the end of the world, and it's hard to argue with a 25-point, 10-assist game, but when I read that Devin Harris missed a last second jumper that would have won the game for New Jersey, it made a little sense.
Every time I saw this guy pull up for a perimeter shot during my limited viewings, he looked different. As if the ribs were bugging him. And this wasn't something I was thinking about heading into the game. Something seemed off until my leseur pea-sized brain reminded me that he's dealing with some injury issues that could make a 17-footer seemed awfully painful.
Enjoyed Toronto's ball movement tonight, which might seem like a copout ploy to segue into a reference of Jose Calderon's 17 points and 11 assists, but the whole team had 25 dimes on 39 field goals, a number that may have been higher had this game been played at home. It also helps that New Jersey can't rebound a lick, because even in spite of Andrea Bargnani's one rebound in 22 minutes, the Raptors still out-boarded the Nets 35-32.
The Nets played well. Vince Carter (27 points, 10 boards, five assists, one turnover) stuck with his shot despite some initial iffy results, and Keyon Dooling (years later) has been white-hot from the corners recently. 5-8 shooting from three-point range for the backup point.
I was very impressed with the Bucks on Wednesday night. The team stunk it up early and looked awfully dispirited in the first quarter, playing aggressive and ultimately fruitless defense that still resulted in a 38-point Indiana run over the first 12 minutes. Lots of hung heads and blank expressions after Indiana's initial outburst, but Scott Skiles got the Bucks back to sharing the ball while keeping the defensive intensity, and the Bucks made a game of it before long.
Of course, no amount of "defensive intensity" is going to do anything about Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions' inability to stay in front of the men they're charged with guarding. They worked, but Milwaukee's diminutive starting backcourt absolutely stinks on ice on the defensive end. Figuratively. It was a figurative stinking of the ice.
A game like this might be more bad news than good news in the long run for the Pacers, T.J. Ford has a tendency to take things over at the absolute worst time, but he did win this one for the Pacers. 34 points, three assists, five turnovers 14-21 shooting; and let's face it, the Pacers weren't winning before with Ford taking a backseat, so it wouldn't hurt to clear out.
If Scott Skiles is going to go small with his backcourt and only play Dan Gadzuric two minutes, then Richard Jefferson and his trillion-dollar contract will have to contribute more than two rebounds in 30 minutes.
Danny Granger missed the game with a bruised knee, but reports are that the should-be All-Star is suffering through a series of minor scrapes alongside the dodgy knee.
"I wish I could have thrown a net out there and held him on one end of the floor."
-- Kings interim coach Kenny Natt, on Eddie House.
For some reason, I love that.
House went off again, he's hit 29 of his last 49 three-pointers (52.8 percent), and nailed 8-9 from behind the arc on Wednesday night.
The Kings got off to another hot start, they were beating the C's by 11 points at one stretch during the first quarter, but this team's transition defense is absolutely horrible. The squad's half-court defense isn't much better; while the Celtics are brilliant at just about everything save for turning the ball over. And Boston only had 11 turnovers on Wednesday. Whoops.
Only 1-5 shooting for Paul Pierce, but it's kind of hard to shoot 20 times when Eddie House is so wide open in the corner, and Paul finished with eight assists. Still, games like this is why I'm glad I don't have an active fantasy team this season.
The Heat's defense just keeps getting better and better, Washington has a way of making you look pretty stout on that end, but Miami really is making its move by getting stops first and figuring the rest out later.
And "the rest" tends to come easily when you have willing passers like Dwyane Wade and an armful of shooters like Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook waiting for the rock. 14 points, nine rebounds, nine assists for D-Wade, zero turnovers (!) for the miscue-prone stud, in less than 30 minutes. And Daequan Cook's nickname is "Day-Day," apparently.
Also, can you believe that the Wizards were on top of the Eastern Conference this time two years ago? This team is a little like Saturday Night Live has been for years -- not as good as you remember it being, not as bad as you think it is right now.
Actually, that's not even close to true. The Wizards are as bad as you think they are.
When players like Mike Bibby (another poor shooting night: 2-13) come crashing back to earth, you have to rely on the little things to pull out close wins. The little things don't count for jack when Bibby is jacking and nailing 10-16 from the floor in November (and don't forget Joe Johnson's 5-15 night), but they sure meant a hell of a lot in this loss.
Something like, say, 2-10 free throw shooting from Josh Smith. I'm not going to be an idiot sportswriter and tell you that this mark mitigated his entire (26 points, 12 rebounds, five offensive rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, four steals, two blocks) brilliant night, but it hurt. Badly. When you're not as good as your (currently, 26-19) record would indicate, you need those gimmies to beat a below-average team in their building.
The Knicks haven't looked below-average in a while, actually. And Nate Robinson had another startlingly-good fourth quarter, dropping 20 points in the final 10 minutes of the game, and bringing that Madison Square Garden to the edge of ... well, they were loudly cheering an impending win over the Atlanta Hawks. Let's not get too out of hand.
And, I'm sorry, how can Joe Johnson play nearly 40 minutes and only pull in one rebound? Who does he think he is, Michael Redd?
Too soon? Sorry.
It's tempting to say that this game wasn't as one-sided as the final score would indicate, but while the Denver Nuggets didn't exactly play poorly, they really never seemed to have a chance against the Hornets on Wednesday. Then again, no team should have a chance against a team in a uniform like the one the Hornets wore on Wednesday. I love it when they wear those old New Orleans Bucs unis.
I am absolutely smitten with those things. I've only bought two logo-clad items of clothing in my life, University of Cincinnati Bearcat Jordan-brand shorts, and a Memphis Pros t-shirt, but I might have to make an exception sometime this summer.
The Nuggets just couldn't hit shots. Some of that was the Hornet defense, a lot of it probably was, but there were plenty of open looks that the Nuggets created for themselves that Denver just couldn't finish. 44.6 percent shooting, 4-22 from long range, the Nugs only got to the line 16 times while only making 11, and they turned it over 18 times in a slow-paced game.
Not one of Chris Paul's better nights, he missed nine of 12 shots, had five turnovers, and only had four steals, but he ran a winner. And credit Chauncey Billups for turning Paul into a Brevin Knight-type. And though James Posey (1-13 shooting) stunk it up on both ends, the rest of Paul's teammates were hitting shots off of Paul's 10 Knight-like dimes.
Another good one from Peja Stojakovic, who had 26 points on 14 shots. Hopefully Peja (averaging 23 points over his last five games) can sustain this.
The Warriors don't care, and neither should you. Watching these guys run up and down the court, it can be fun, but the lack of accountability on the defensive end has permeated this team's line of thinking so much, that they're an infuriating watch at times. Most times.
Kudos to the Mavs for putting up 117 points in their first game after a tough road trip, but that was a freakin' lay-up line.
Credit the Grizzlies for coming back. That's not fun to do, on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back, against a team you think is crummier than you.
Dominated overtime, really. Fine game for the whole lot. Kevin Durant finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, four turnovers, and six assists. Jeff Green hit five three-pointers, and Russell Westbrook (16 points, five assists in 34 minutes) looks like he'll employ all of us soon enough. Not sure how that's going to work, but he does have very long arms.
Desmond Mason left the game with a hyperextended knee, MRI results pending, but it didn't look good.
Despite the lowish score and slowish pace (two non-words in seven tries, that's one for the ages ...), this was a heck of a game, one I wish I'd been able to have seen more of. Pity that we had about eight other games going on at once besides it, but that doesn't distract from some of the fun.
Where to start? Rasheed Wallace's interest in killing it on Wednesday. He took some ill-advised three-pointers late, but the rest of his game was pretty strongly advised. 25 on 16 shots, dominating that smallish Minnesota front line (wherever you are, whenever you read this, understand that somewhere, Craig Smith is being consoled) while also pulling in 10 rebounds, stealing the ball five times, and turning it over just once in almost 40 minutes. A fantastic performance.
Antonio McDyess (14 and 10 off the bench) hit 6-11 from the floor, but I must have only seen the six makes, because the man from Quitman looked pretty damned perfect from what I saw. Meanwhile, and this is to Minnesota's credit, you got the feeling that this was a game they should have taken. It was really a close, one or two possession, game until the final 90 seconds or so when Detroit pulled away. Lots of shots and quick decisions that you know the Timberwolves want back. Even in a loss, that's progress.
It's convenient for me to point out -- because you know I wouldn't even mention the guy if he came through with two points, three boards and five fouls in 12 minutes -- but Kevin Love showed why he deserves to be mentioned among Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo as Rookie of the Year candidates, much less be included on the Rookie squad in next month's Rookie/Sophomore Game.
Long sentence, I know, but dig: 17 points, 10 boards, four assists, zero turnovers in about 26 minutes. Killer play from the guy who has been the best, statistical, rookie of the bunch so far.
A huge gob of games are on, I have to try and stay on top of each of ‘em, and I have to try and keep with the closer ones. I have to try to be there when Team A pulls away with 160 seconds to go, and be able to tell you where Team B screwed up.
So when the Houston Rockets are up double-digits late, at home, in a game that teams in their situation (after returning home from a long road trip) usually lose in the first quarter, the initial instinct is to turn away. And, borrowing an idea from that SAT coach our high school hired for us, I followed that initial instinct. And didn't see why the Philadelphia 76ers came back to win this game.
Initial reports, while we're using that word, tell us that Andre Iguodala had a big part. But in looking at a 17-point fourth quarter for the home team, I would assume a strong defensive finish for the Sixers (yes) and a poor offensive ending for the Rockets (triple "yes") probably made the difference. You've seen the Rockets for years. Even with Yao Ming back, these guys always seem a few inches away from a 12-point quarter.
And, according to Chris Duncan's gamer, it appears as if the Sixers went on one of their patented boom-boom runs, smallish runs (no 16-4 breaks) that see them put up eight points to an opponent's zero in just a few minutes, if that.
I don't know how Yao Ming can play 34 minutes and only take 11 shots, but I have an idea. Long arms and quick feet from the Philadelphia 76ers, five turnovers from Yao, and I'll just go from there. Also, Houston's point guards (Rafer Alston and Aaron Brooks) played 48 combined minutes and shot 4-19. And Elton Brand (14 and seven rebounds) had six blocks in about 26 minutes. How does a 6-8 reserve forward pull that off?
Not the most entertaining game, if I'm honest. And not a lot to take from it. Both teams walk the ball up court, the Blazers can be baited into truly terrible defense, but Charlotte didn't have the worms to get a bite (I'm truly sorry for that last line), and it was just an utter, ugly, slog fest.
Portland out-rebounded Charlotte by 19, and by appearances alone, it looked worse. Greg Oden had 14 and 14 with three blocks, LaMarcus Aldridge actually came close to double-figures in rebounds (something he's done seven times this season in 46 games) with nine rebounds, and the Blazers were just too good to come close to losing. Rudy Fernandez also threw in a nice alley-oop reverse finish that made my girlfriend make some sort of strange noise. I'd still rather have Joe Alexander in the Dunk Comp., though.