December 04, 2008
Don't look now, but the Charlotte Bobcats are ... sub-mediocre! Break out the hats and hooters.
Now on pace for a 32-win season, the Bobcats had patience enough to not let what should have been a sure win turn into a sure win at home against the Thun-dah. Emeka Okafor had his second fantastic game in a row with 25 points on 11 shots, with 13 rebounds (six offensive), and just two turnovers in almost 39 minutes. It's heartwarming to see, actually, and I mean that. It's not heartwarming that I felt a need to qualify that last statement.
Kevin Durant (9-12 shooting, 24 points) continues to improve game by game, but in the end Chris Wilcox (5-11 shooting, five rebounds, 12 points, three turnovers and six fouls) was probably more trouble than he was worth. Because he hustled and gave effort every so often, his game looked a lot better than it actually was.
Oklahoma City shot 54.5 percent, but you're not going to get a lot of wins when your two point guards combine for nine turnovers in about 57 minutes.
I swear that we've seen two distinct types of games every time out from the Timberwolves this season. One has them barely managing to string consecutive buckets together for the first three quarters, only to rally once the game is well out of hand for a somewhat-passable final point tally.
The second has them playing solid-to-quite good basketball before falling short in the fourth quarter. Not getting to the line. Not making good decisions offensively. Letting it all slip away. Obviously you'd prefer the latter. For two nights in a row, however, they've given us the former.
Not even substituting Kevin Ollie into the starting lineup, and taking some of the ball handling load off of Randy Foye helped these Wolves out. Neither could take advantage of creaky Anthony Johnson (though AJ, missing three of four shots, wasn't exactly hot stuff on the other end himself), and Minnesota just shot their way out of things.
Sebastian Telfair (3-10 shooting in only 13 minutes, four turnovers, two assists) continues to have one of the worst individual years in this season thus far, Mike Miller (four points on four shots in 19 minutes) continues to steal money (he's beyond the point of being "heady" or "playing a good floor game," he's just not contributing), and the Magic just keep piling up the wins, never really worrying about Minnesota.
Another competitive, fun game for the Wizards at home, they ended with a loss but not before keeping one of the better teams in the NBA to a one-possession turn for most of the contest.
Just a few more made three-pointers, and Washington has the upset. As it was, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Antawn Jamison combined to shoot 2-10 from long range, they had issues with the mahvuhlus Rudy Fernandez (13 points on six shots, four rebounds, two assists, zero turnovers, three steals in 25 minutes), and Portland's 12 offensive rebounds helped.
It's another moral victory, but we can handle a few more of those over a long season, and Utah did well not to let this turn into a blowout with Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, and Matt Harpring missing the game with various injuries.
But it is still a loss, the Jazz have won 12 of 20 thus far, and pretty soon the bottom is going to have to drop out. Or not. Boozer's proven (2005-06) he can come back with a bang and not a whimper after staying on the pine for a while, and Deron Williams is so good that he will start to win some games by himself once he gets his sea legs back. Because that's what it's all about. The sea legs.
Miami doesn't usually get to play the baddie on the interior, but with Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, and Shawn Marion on the floor the team ended up out-rebounding the Jazz by seven. They also made shots, which seems flip, but in the end someone like Daequan Cook's effort off the bench (4-12 shooting, 10 points) was probably the difference over Utah's counterpart, Ronnie Price (ohfer five, zero points).
You don't want to waste these sorts of games (21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, one turnover in 40 minutes, 5-9 shooting from long range) from Rafer Alston. Even if Houston's stars are just playing moderately well, it's hard to lose a game to any team if Alston is playing that well, and he doesn't do it often. With Tracy McGrady out resting his everything, every bit of it was needed just to beat the Clippers. In Houston, no less.
Good show from the Clips, their bench is still ruddy awful but Al Thornton (24 and 9 in 36 minutes) played well, and Zach Randolph at least contested Yao Ming while tossing in 23 and 11 rebounds of his own. Sure, he didn't "toss in" a rebound, but that's not the point. The point is that you love her, and you can't live without her, so give her a call. Make the connection. You'll be glad you did.
The Rockets shot 39 free throws, making 31, and they deserved every damn one of them. Yao Ming made 12-13 on his own, reflexing those pronouns and finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, three assists and just one turnover in 30 minutes.
Still, Houston just isn't the most inspiring lot, when you think about it. Ron Artest still looks a step-slow and missed 10 of his 15 looks. Alston really only went 1-5 from inside the three-point line, and you know McGrady's never going to turn the corner. Sorry for tossing in the depressing nonsense, but the team's offense is just so bad at times, even at its best.
I'm wary of dismissing the Hornets, they had a great offensive night and Chris Paul (24 points, 15 assists, three turnovers, three steals) was all Chris Paul-like, but Phoenix played without Steve Nash (flu), and the Suns didn't lose by 30? Moral victory.
On an obscure tip, Goran Dragic garnered a DNP-CD for Phoenix. Not a good sign when the point man one magazine called "Nash's potential successor" takes the collar when he has a chance to potentially succeed the ailing ex-MVP.
Josh Smith and his headband are back, and the Hawks have given up on that whole "defense" thing. I'm not sure it matters if they're going to continue to have nights like this.
Yes, it's against the Grizzlies (22nd in
defense), but the Hawks managed 123.5 points per 100 possessions on Wednesday
night, and 114.8 per 100 leads the league. Mike Bibby continued his fantastic
contract renaissance year with 20 points on only 11 shots, with 10 assists, Joe
Johnson (26 points) was all sturdy and Mashburn-y, and Smith did his usual
fantasy basketball allovertheplace with 14 points on nine shots, six rebounds,
five assists, four turnovers, two steals and a block in only 28 minutes.
The Grizzlies just can't seem to play defense beyond the first 12 seconds of a possession. 33 assists on 40 field goals for Atlanta, who just stayed patient and attacked when the seas parted.
You truly don't need it spelled out for you, but here goes:
Cavs fantastic, Knicks lousy.
More? Chris Duhon, down to earth. 1-9 shooting, six points, six turnovers and four assists. 26 turnovers for the Knicks, which is impressive when you factor in that only seven players (go, Q-Rich, go) out of the eight that got minutes committed miscues in the loss.
LeBron James played 28 minutes (yay) without turning it over himself (yay, but not as much of a "yay" as the low minute count). 21 points on only 10 shots, five rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block for the King.
Give Philly credit for hanging around in this one, both teams were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but the Sixers had to go to overtime to beat Chicago on Tuesday. The Lakers had a five-minute advantage.
And give the Lakers way, way, way more credit for continuing to take teams completely out of what they want to do. Unless the 76ers really don't want to go to Elton Brand, which in that case I'm kind of bummed by both sides, then.
Let's assume they do, and Brand ended up missing six of seven shots, and a day later I can't even recall a single one he took. The Lakers' D just forces you into impatient, goofball shots, and when you have an impatient, goofball team like the Sixers, things tend to fall into place.
On Philly's end, Elton Brand should have been the best thing for this team, because it would have allowed a flighty, talented team that had a problem with shot selection to settle down and go to a stud in the low block. Instead, they continue to look completely different, night after night.
That's the fault of the players, make no mistake, but sooner or later a coach has to be held accountable as well. Maurice Cheeks needs to hammer some things into his kids, and he has to hold Brand accountable when he doesn't pound his chest and demand the rock.
Kobe Bryant was fantastic, 32 points on 20 shots in 36 minutes, Pau Gasol was long defensively and added 22 with 13 rebounds, and though Lamar Odom's stats weren't knockouts (nine points, three rebounds, an assist in 30 minutes) he had the best plus/minus on the team (+16) and it sure looked like it.
It's gotten to be that I don't even know what Rasho Nesterovic looks like anymore ...
Kevin Garnett had a bit of 2003-04 (and, though he didn't get the same credit because his teammates stank, 2004-05) in him on Wednesday, finishing with 26 points, 14 rebounds, zero turnovers, three assists, four blocks and a steal in only 31 minutes. Only 31 minutes. I can't tell you how good a line that is. I just tried, but I can't.
The Boston bench, for one night, was pretty lousy. 3-15 shooting, and it didn't really matter. For more on Indiana's side, check out Indy Cornrows.
Chicago's coaching staff is brand new, and though they've had all summer and a month into the season to find out that Richard Jefferson abuses Andres Nocioni every time he sees him, it's still early. Those game tapes cost money, you know. And they're soooo bor-ing.
How Nocioni could end up a -18 on the game in only 12 minutes of play seems pretty shocking, but that's how bad it was. Combine his one-point, one-rebound, three-foul, two-turnover performance with Drew Gooden needing 11 shots to score two points (Drew has missed all but one of his last 17 shots), and you can see why Chicago fell a little short.
Milwaukee got a fantastic game from Dan Gadzuric, who finished with 11 and 14 rebounds with three blocks in 21 minutes. And Dan? Chill. You got the contract already. 23 and 10 for Charlie Villanueva off the bench, and you have to take advantage of those nights. Luckily Milwaukee did.