December 24, 2008
Due to an annoying ice storm, my Direct TV signal was kaput until about 10 pm EST last night. And though I recommend this dish service to anyone that asks, and have been a happy customer for nearly a decade, I still spit out a few nasty words that had next to nothing to do with tidings, glad or otherwise.
See, the point of this column was always to provide a nuanced batch of analysis in a format that the wire service scribes and newspaper beat reporters don't have the space or forum to provide, written by someone who has been trying to perfect the art of watching seven games at once since a time when Kenneth Starr was relevant, in his own mind at least.
And when I don't get to provide that service through no fault of my own, it stings. And because most of last night's action (10 of the 12 games) started at 8 p.m. or before, I missed quite a bit.
So ... interaction! If you've something to say, post away in the comment section about whatever local bit of NBA fun that you were able to take in on Tuesday night. The BtB proper commences after the jump.
The fifth starting lineup of the Ed Tapscott era saw the beginning of the first and third quarters, but it hardly mattered. Washington couldn't shoot straight (32 percent), it couldn't do anything with Emeka Okafor on the inside, and the Wizards have limped to a 4-22 record that seems wholly appropriate.
Not that these guys deserve a collar like that, far from it, but this is a team that has a 4-22 talent level. There isn't much Tapscott or Eddie Jordan could do with this crew.
Another knockout game from Okafor. 29 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the win. Meanwhile, Adam Morrison (who hasn't scored since December 11th), is back to receiving DNP-CDs.
Atlanta comes through with another sturdy night offensively, throwing in 111 points per 100 possessions (that would be good for about fourth in the NBA over a whole season), as Marvin Williams appeared to lead the way with 21 points on 13 shots. "Appeared to" by way of his one more point than Joe Johnson, who had 20 (I'm big on math), and also dished 11 assists with 11 rebounds.
27 assists on 37 field goals for Portland, which makes sense, because the Thunder tend to fall apart defensively the longer the possession and the more the ball dots around. 28 points for Kevin Durant in the loss, and though I'd like to get on him for his rebounding (just six in over 40 minutes), Oklahoma City beat Atlanta badly on the boards, 52-40. So he might have been the guy yelling "it's you!" all night to his frontcourt teammates.
I know Josh Smith hasn't looked the same since coming back from his ankle injury, though he's played well and the effort has been there, but three rebounds in 38 minutes? Not so swell.
Yeah, so I'm kind of ticked that I didn't get to see a second of this. Apparently LeBron James and co. really had to work for this win, in spite of Houston's back-to-back legs and an eventual nine point deficit.
James finished with 27 points on 23 shots, but had seven turnovers, to go along with his nine rebounds and five assists.
Every highlight I saw had James scoring on a series of face-up jumpers from the triple-threat position about 18 feet from the hoop, further evidence that Mike Brown came to his senses sometime last summer. Even if James' shot is off, the guy is one hard dribble, a jump stop, and a bump away from a chance to finish near the rim. Even sturdy types like Shane Battier and Ron Artest can't do anything with him if the spacing is there and he's in a triple-threat that close to the rim.
Rafer Alston had a happy return with 20 points on 11 shots, and Aaron Brooks (double-figure points off the bench) continued his good work, but Tracy McGrady had just four points in 30 minutes, with six assists.
From what little I saw, Indiana should have won this. Not only did Danny Granger clang two game-deciding free throws late (alongside a Travis Diener boot as he dribbled with under a minute left), but Jarrett Jack missed all seven shots off the bench, and the team missed several makeable shots around the rim though they shot 49 percent overall.
I don't mind making excuses for the Pacers. T.J. Ford had to leave with back spasms; Granger was obviously playing through the flu, while starters Marquis Daniels and Troy Murphy had to sit with the same ailment. Still, should have won.
Some snippets from this feed did sneak through in the first half, and it appeared that the Heat were having issues keeping the Warriors off the boards, but by the time the second half rolled around Miami had righted its ship. Not too hard to do against Golden State.
Dwyane Wade (32 points, eight and eight, three blocks, three steals, two turnovers) is back to playing like Dwyane Wade, and Shawn Marion appeared to quiet the noise with 16 rebounds in almost 39 minutes of play. This, of course, means that Michael Beasley checked in with five points and two rebounds in about 13 minutes.
Philadelphia missed all 11 of its three-point attempts. 0-11. You can't come up empty on 11 possessions, taking in zero points as a result. Can't happen. Especially against Boston.
Boston won its 19th straight, and I'll admit to being underwhelmed. Not at the feat, which is quite impressive. It's because ... they're the Celtics. This team is so good, it makes sense that they've won 19 in a row. They might lose two of three over the next week, then peel off another 19 in a row. Makes complete and total sense. Talent + smarts + dedication = 19. At least. It might equal an 18th banner, as well.
Boston's 14 possessions shooting a three-pointer resulted in 21 points, which works, and the team's bench came through with a good statistical night in a contest that wasn't really ever too close.
Philly interim boss Tony Dileo picked up his first career technical, which is nice, and now we'd like to see him pick up his first "Kareem Rush really isn't any good and shouldn't play unless five people are injured"-realization of his coaching career.
I don't know why, because I didn't see the game, but the Hornets appeared to lose this one in the first half because they couldn't shoot straight.
The Laker defense will do that to you, despite what Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy will say to you and your family on Thursday, and New Orleans (with that thin roster) is bound to throw a game like this out there every so often. Missing Peja Stojakovic for another game hurts, as well, because every domino has to move up one spot.
9-28 three-point shooting for New Orleans, 32 percent, and those 19 long misses get a team like Los Angeles running. The Lakers won't kill you in transition (the game's 88 possessions were to New Orleans' liking), but they will run a Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum to the front of the rim in delayed transition.
Also, Kobe Bean. To put up 26 points, six rebounds and four assists is nothing. That's Kobe-esque. But zero turnovers? In 37 minutes? Fantastic. Ray Allen better get a lot of rest on Christmas Eve.
14-22 free throw shooting for New Orleans, not enough freebies and not enough makes, and 15 turnovers in an 88 possession game is just way, way too many. So, great defense from the Lakers. Let's all band together and buy either Jackson or Van Gundy a laptop on Thursday. Who's with me?
I have seen parts of this one, clips of Rodney Stuckey going off, and I have to tell you that the Chicago defense was sound. They played this kid the right way, and he just responded by making a series of tough shots. Chicago didn't play well; this game wasn't as close as the final score indicated, so I'm not trying to paint a rosy picture. Stuckey was just that brilliant.
40 points for the second year guard, on all manner of Derrick Rose (who fouled out), Ben Gordon (who fouled out), and Thabo Sefolosha. Good thing, because Allen Iverson didn't hit a field goal in seven tries, and Rasheed Wallace had a night (5-14 shooting, only four rebounds in 30 minutes) that has become more and more common for him.
Larry Hughes led a Chicago comeback in the first half, and his overall stats (19 points on 16 shots, five assists, two steals) were good, but he takes bad shots. A ton of them. Tyrus Thomas played well off the Chicago bench, with 16 points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks in 27 minutes.
Chicago fans are complaining about the refs, reasonable complaints all, but those things tend to even out over time. Bad organization philosophies aren't as flexible. And take away all of Stuckey's free throw makes, and the kid still throws down 31. What a night for the most reliable Piston of them all.
Utah shot itself in the foot with a few easy misses, and the team is likely dead tired after a tough road trip that saw them drop three of five, but Milwaukee deserves the credit here.
The Bucks held the Jazz, one of the league's top offensive outfits even without Carlos Boozer, to about 89 points per 100 possessions in the win. That's a shockingly small amount for a team that was last in the league in defense last year, surrendering 113 points per 100 possessions.
Every year about nine or 10 coaches deserve mention in the Coach of the Year race, so it's not as if this is some crime if he's overlooked, but Scott Skiles has to merit some significant consideration. He's got this team just about tied with the Spurs for 8th in the NBA in defense. And with the same team as last year, with one difference* -- the Bucks traded for and start Luke Ridnour, one of the worst defensive point guards of the last 20 years.
The Jazz just turned the ball over way too much, on almost 25 percent of their possessions, and the Bucks held firm (Michael Redd, especially, on offense) despite a Jazz run in the second half.
*(OK, more than one difference. Luc Mbah a Moute is an absolute beast defensively. Love that kid's game.)
Really active defense for the Mavericks in this win, and I missed the first half, one that saw the Mavs hold Memphis to 32 points.
28 assists on 41 field goals for Dallas, who made good use of the lob and made exactly half their shots.
Good effort from Minnesota, the team nearly pulled out the comeback road upset (the trifecta!), but any resemblance to a close game was purely due to San Antonio's helpers missing shots.
You wouldn't know it by Tony Parker's 36 points, but the Timberwolves really tried to double and clamp down on TP and Tim Duncan. Minnesota plays awful defense, so it really didn't work for most of the contest. But, for a blip, guys like Michael Finley and George Hill were stuck having to shoot after the San Antonio All-Stars had to give up the rock, and that's when Minnesota made its run.
The Timberwolves also got to the line (25-32), and that helped, but you can only keep a team like the Spurs down for so long. Unless you're the Magic.
The only game I really got to watch, and it was a treat.
Sure, Portland annoyed to no end with some of its lazy second half turnovers, bad perimeter passing that active Nugget hands feasted on, and the team's defense was pretty awful on the perimeter at times. Travis Outlaw really would prefer not to have to guard you behind the three-point line,
Seriously. Steve Blake had himself a nice little night (and he has himself a nice little beard, too) with 17 points and ... five turnovers. I liked Kenyon Martin's attitude, but he did finish the game with a 5-15 shooting mark from the floor. Joel Przybilla was great with 10 points and 19 rebounds, but he only played so much because Greg Oden couldn't stay on the floor because of foul trouble.
Maybe it wasn't the best game. Still pretty entertaining, though.
And I didn't mean to make this last one some sort of statement recap, but I guess it turned out that way. I had big hopes for a 12 game night and a BtB that would burn the internet down, and instead I got a Blazers/Nuggets game and the odd scrambled blip of four or five other games for about 30 seconds at a time.
And, as you'd guess, it made me appreciate the one game I got to see that much more, as frustrated as I was, and even though I didn't really realize it until it was hours later and I started to write a post about the game. And didn't really realize it until halfway through this recap, actually.
So, don't take that J.R. Smith's concentration has to improve or that Steve Blake needs to take better care of the ball away from this post. Take in this season, this time of year, no matter your situation, no matter your background.
Appreciate the voices you'll hear during this time of year, whether they're the tones of a real gone cat you send about 32 emails to over the course of any typical weekday, or a mate from far, far away that you used to send the same 32 a day to before big boy responsibilities got in the way for you both. Life is more complicated than it needs to be sometimes, by our own design, so take advantage of the respite that gives you a chance to straighten things out.
Merry Christmas, and happy holidays, cats and kitties.