November 06, 2008
A brilliant game between two unlikely teams that were matching each other shot by shot and stop by stop for what felt like the last 20 minutes of regulation, and nearly all of the two overtimes.
They obviously can't guard point guards to save anyone's life, but just about everyone on the Minnesota Timberwolves looks good right now. Al Jefferson missed 15 shots, but he also made 12 in Tim Duncan's face, and finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds. Just one turnover in 47 minutes. Tremendous.
Kevin Love played big minutes (37) and made an impact, finishing with 14 and nine with three blocks and a couple of assists. He's learning to make it work on the low block opposite Jefferson, even if Love did only shoot 4-13.
Meanwhile, somehow, Mike Miller has a reduced role as compared to his time with the Grizzlies teams that made the playoffs; which makes no sense, because the Timberwolves might win half as many games as those Memphis teams. But with that reduced role comes all the more Mikey: 25 points, seven rebounds, six assists and just one turnover.
Sorry about the "all the more Mikey" part.
Now that I'm done gushing over these Wolves ... Tony Parker. 55 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists in over 50 minutes, and the diminutive guard looked indefatigable. You see Corey Brewer up there on that right side of that picture, watching as Parker drives past him and into Al Jefferson, and you can get an idea. Brewer had no chance with TP. Randy Foye had no clue. Sebastian Telfair had no luck.
Parker wasn't alone, but just barely. Tim Duncan had 30 points and 16 rebounds, while Roger Mason Jr. acted all the part of the hero with 26 points on only 16 shots. That's 111 points. San Antonio scored 129 overall. That's not good.
It won't go on like this forever. Manu Ginobili will be back in probably six or seven weeks, hopefully longer (as a fan, I want this guy at a hundred percent), and the Spurs will have night after night like this. They might lose a ton, or pull out more games like this; really, the coin could land on heads time after time, or tails.
But they'll be around, trying, working, and biding their time. The Spurs are 1-3, but they don't feel like it.
This one was a great watch, it didn't come down to a last-second shootout, but it did come down to bullet points.
*Amare Stoudemire was unstoppable.
Only fatigue likely stopped him from scoring 60 in this one. No Pacer had an answer for his ability to drive and make the strong finish. Indiana went big and small on the guy, but you can't double someone who doesn't have the ball yet, and Amare worked his tail off moving without the rock and putting himself in a position where he could catch and score quickly. That's not to his 49 points came off of other people's passes, mostly, it just made it so the Pacers could not double Stoudemire in any meaningful way.
49 points on 17-21 shooting, 11 rebounds, six assists, four turnovers, five steals, and two blocks for the big man.
*The Pacers shot themselves out of this one.
It wasn't Phoenix's defense. The Suns did do a good job of slowing things down in the second half, but Indiana's 37 second half points (after scoring 38 in the first quarter alone) had more to do with Marquis Daniels and T.J. Ford missing a series of makeable shots.
*The Suns really impressed.
Playing on a second night of a back-to-back, missing Matt Barnes and barely working with Shaq (three points in 12 minutes, foul trouble), the Suns still put up 113 points and shot 56 percent. And yet, for all of their 43 field goals and 30 assists, they only took in six assists from Steve Nash. Nash's role didn't appear mitigated; it just looks as if Phoenix has the depth to really work the ball around as a five-man unit.
And though there were 98 possessions in this game, Phoenix slowed things down quite a bit in the second half. Nash was a half-step over the half court line a few times just before the eight second rule was called, and I can't remember ever seeing that.
Detroit scored 13 fewer points overall, but the Pistons were about a point and a half points less per 100 possessions than the Suns last night. We saw a cruelly efficient half court team against the Raptors, made all the more impressive due to the fact that the Pistons were, again, missing their best player.
Who's the best Piston with Allen Iverson on the roster? Not sure, but offense doesn't appear to be much of a problem without AI. Detroit turned the ball over five times. FIVE TIMES. Remarkable. The team just moved the rock around, nailed tough jumpers, and took in a sterling night from Tayshaun Prince (27 points, nine rebounds) on both ends.
Detroit also took Toronto out of its offensive game plan. The Raptors still managed 18 assists on 34 field goals, but Detroit limited Toronto's ball movement. On the other side of the court, the Raptors couldn't be bothered to pay attention to some Pistons (usually Prince, because Jarmario Moon was pretty lost at times) away from the ball, and it came back to haunt them.
Then again, it's hard to beat a team -- any team -- when you turn the ball over just 11 times (a mark that would lead the league if you averaged it), and it turns out to be twice as many turns as your opponents turned over.
Not sure what happened to Philly in this one, they weren't making shots, they weren't taking smart shots, and the team's effort level came and went. Out of all of the Sixers, blame Andre Miller the most. It's not fair, but point guards have to shoulder 1.75 times the blame when the offense can't get going, and Miller never got his team on track.
The Heat finally played a good defensive game, there was effort there, but I can't help but criticize Philly more than I'd credit Miami for 83 points and 37.5 shooting from the 76ers. Either way, Dwyane Wade turned in a Wadeian game with 29 points on 15 shots, adding seven rebounds, six assists, four turnovers, five steals and three blocks.
It was a close contest in the end, and if you look at the quarter by quarter marks, it looks as if it was a close game overall, but you never got the feeling Charlotte had a chance in this.
Giddy to playing in front of Bobcats boss Michael Jordan (whom he met before the game), Knicks reserve Nate Robinson went off in the second quarter. He scored 19 points in the first four and a half minutes of the period alone, finishing the half and the game with 24. Robinson didn't hit a shot in the second half, but his defense and active hands helped keep a wobbly Bobcats team on edge, and it made up for 21 turnovers of New York's own.
Without needing the ball much, Zach Randolph still put up 25 on just 15 shots in 32 minutes. Just catch, gather, go up, and score. It was great. No stare-downs, no re-posts, no triple-threat fakes. Just quick moves after grabbing the rock, exactly what Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni implored his team to do before the contest. Quick decisions, faster results, better chances at scoring before the defense sets up.
Just four rebounds in nearly 30 minutes for David Lee. David's had just six boards in over 50 minutes of game play this week.
A pretty miserable offensive game for the Thunder, this tends to happen against Boston, as Oklahoma City managed to only hang somewhat close due to a strong bench effort and a strong outside (6-13 from long range) touch.
Boston could have let this one get ugly, but they picked up their offense after a slow start. 25 assists to 12 turnovers for the C's, which warms Doc Rivers' cold heart. Rivers only went with nine players in this game, throwing Paul Pierce out there for almost 40 minutes and Ray Allen on the court for nearly 39. Not sure how I feel about that.
Russell Westbrook shot just 4-13 and had only one assist in 19 minutes, but this is a rookie that needs to start. If you're going with the youth movement, Earl Watson does not need to be playing 23 minutes.
Out of nowhere, Atlanta's Mike Woodson might be turning in the best coaching work of any sideline stalker in the NBA right now. He's gotten his Hawks to play fantastic defense this season. Atlanta is fourth in defensive efficiency right now, and given the team's youth and lack of depth and Mike Bibby, that's quite the accomplishment.
Atlanta was just all over the place defensively against the Hornets, forcing New Orleans to break plays, causing isolation sets that Byron Scott wanted nothing to do with, and generally frustrating a championship contender on its home floor. The Hawks also out-rebounded New Orleans by 10, and though Atlanta didn't get to the line much (just 13 free throw attempts, and worse, they only made seven of them), Woodson's crew didn't send New Orleans to the line much either (12-15).
The Hawks are 3-0, and all their wins have come over playoff teams (NOLA, Orlando, Philadelphia).
I hate watching the Bulls play in Cleveland. They never take smart shots, the shots they do take on that lop-sided court never seem to go in, the games are always on national TV, and the Bulls only seem to stay within 45 points of the Cavaliers by making a batch of lucky forays that shouldn't have a prayer to go in.
Meanwhile, the open 18-footers roll in and out.
Derrick Rose (20 points) continues to defer to his mopey teammates as the games go along, Tyrus Thomas made one less shot and pulled in two fewer rebounds than Andres Nocioni in 13 fewer minutes, and only a white hot night from Ben Gordon (31 points) allowed Chicago to even stay competitive for a stretch. And Chicago won't start him. And he won't be on the Bulls next year. Wheeeeeee!
LeBron James was just too strong for Chicago, finishing with 41 points, nine rebounds, six assists, five turnovers, and four steals in only 36 minutes. There was a fear that he would step back a bit this season, not unlike the way he sort of tailed off in 2006-07 before the playoffs, but that worry is slowly slipping away.
At one point last night, there were nine games going on at once, and this one kind of got lost in the mix. Mainly because it involved Washington playing Milwaukee.
I did see the Bucks get out to an early lead before letting the Wizards back in it, at home, which is unconscionable. That cannot happen, and I don't care how many new faces you have on your team. The Wizards kept attacking, and the Bucks kept fouling: Washington ended the night with a ridiculous 51 free throw attempts, making 34 of them.
(They missed 17 free throws, and the game went into overtime!)
Milwaukee went small quite a bit, from what I saw. Ramon Sessions had 22 points and eight assists off the bench, and Luke Ridnour had 20 and 11 of his own. Meanwhile, Luc Mbah a Moute continued his terrific play with 17 and six in 34 minutes of action. This is one heady player.
People, the Jazz are beating the Trail Blazers in Utah without Deron Williams. Pas de D-Will. Avec C.J. Miles of the four points and one assist et Ronnie Price with two points and four assists. I am horrible at French.
The Blazers just couldn't stop Utah from getting and finishing strong looks around the basket, the Jazz shot 52.7 percent from the floor, and connected on 24 assists. You may not know it to look at the raw numbers, but Utah had a better points per possession mark (121 per 100) than Phoenix and Detroit did on Wednesday night. Without Deron Williams, again. I am loving Andrei Kirilenko as a facilitator.
Memphis' D kind of took the first three quarters off, but that's going to happen to young teams, and Sacramento is a formidable offensive outfit.
The Kings just had their scoring hats on in the home opener, shooting 53 percent to make up for 17 turnovers and the continued presence of Beno Udrih's left arm. Kevin Martin had 33 points on only 18 shots, while rookie Jason Thompson came through with 11 points and six rebounds in 25 bench minutes.
The Grizzlies didn't back down, which was nice to see. They could have given up early but hung in there. O.J. Mayo also had 28 points to zero assists, which was nice too. Seriously.
Yay, Nellie trusted his bench.
He's stubborn, but he's not stupid. Oh, he'll act stupidly stubborn sometimes, but Nellie knows that he's wrong at least, and every so often he'll throw you a bone. Like when his team embarks on an Oakland-to-Jersey-back-to-Oakland trip in one week. The Warriors should have been dead tired, and they probably were, but the reserves brought this one home.
Brandan Wright allowed Golden State to stay in it after the Nuggets jumped out to a significant early lead, notching a career-high in points by halftime and throwing in 18 and 13 boards overall. 32 minutes, three blocks, and just one turnover for the second-year big.
Kelenna Azubuike was brilliant: 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists, zero turnovers, two steals and a block in 44 minutes of play ... off the bench. I missed the beginning of each half, but it appears as if the Warriors took some intentional fouls to stop the clock and get this guy in at the start of the first and third quarters.
Carmelo Anthony failed to get 44, but he did give the Warriors a Woodrow Wilson on 30 shots. Anthony worked the isolation game (oh, I kill me) and never really got on track. Meanwhile, George Karl started Dahntay Jones, and while he outplayed J.R. Smith tonight ... that's not going to happen again. So let's not do it again.
Pretty simple, really.
The Clippers are a veteran team full of hard-workers, and they also boast a few youngsters who also like to bring the effort (Al Thornton and Mike Taylor were terrific in the loss). This is an admirable crew that knows how to win, and wants to win, but doesn't always have the talent to win. The depth just isn't there.
And they hung in there with the Lakers for a while, throwing a sometimes-interested Laker team out of its offensive sets, but it wasn't enough to hang on for the win.
The Lakers did meander through their sets at times, but they also tried to get into the paint, finishing with 30 (!) more free throw attempts than the Clippers, and pulling out the win.