November 10, 2008
I don't care if you think that I'm overreacting to one game, one game played without the point guard who has run the team from 2002-2008, and one game played against the defending champs who are known for lock-down defense. I know the context, I know what the excuses should be, and I don't care.
The Pistons look horrible on offense on Sunday, as they scored just 29 first half points. I have a hard time believing that they'll do anything but drop precipitously on offense with Chauncey Billups in Denver, and I don't trust Michael Curry to come up with an offensive scheme that can remedy the problems in the short-term.
This was still a knockout trade for the Pistons, the ramifications following it will be felt for years; and though Denver will improve mightily behind Billups, they'll be feeling the pain from this trade for a while. That part of it hasn't gone anywhere.
But the offense has issues. Iverson needs time and the ball to create his own shot, and his teammates seemed to take to his influence instead of aping Billups' game, as they've done in years past. So knock me down now for jumping to conclusions when I should know better, and call me out should things turn around, but I can't help but think what I think, in spite of the obvious influences that should tell me to wait.
84.4 points per 100 possessions for Pistons in the loss, obviously aided by the fact that Boston turned the ball over on 22.2 percent of its possessions. Allen Iverson went 4-11, but (and this is no fault of AI's own) it had to be all about AI if he wants to score. Rasheed Wallace floated and finished with a 4-17 mark from the floor (2-8 from long range), Rip Hamilton missed all eight of his shots, and Rodney Stuckey didn't play the second half after a dizzy spell.
I really think that, four and a half years in, the Bobcats should really start over. I mean, save for Jason Richardson, none of these guys should be anything more than your fifth option. And I'm only including Emeka Okafor as a fifth option because on the right team he could do OK as a defensive-minded power forward with help around him. Richardson, meanwhile, is really a fourth option who is paid like a second option. And Sean May may never play again. Sigh.
(D.J. Augustin doesn't look half-bad. There.)
Chris Bosh continues to be in mid-season form (30 and 15), Jamario Moon finally got his rebounding mitts back with nine boards, Will Solomon played way more than Roko Ukic, and Jermaine O'Neal missed all five of his shots for the Raptors.
This was bound to happen. You take a few plays off defensively, you give the other team the ball more than a few times (20 turnovers for the Jazz), and a semi-embarrassing road loss for Utah in New York results. I'm not going to be too harsh on this team, mainly because they've earned this misstep with a bunch of tough wins with Deron Williams on the bench this season.
The Knicks are best when they aren't thinking, you don't want those sorts of basketball IQs having to decide much, and though the Knicks turned the rock over nearly as many times (18) as the Jazz and shot a much worse percentage from the field (51 for Utah, 42 for NYC), the Knicks got to the line and stayed hot from behind the three-point line from beginning to end.
Just some real careless play over the last quarter and a half from the Mavericks in this loss, that doesn't mean that the Clippers didn't earn this, but I was more aghast at Dallas letting this one go than cheerful at the sight of Los Angeles pulling away for its first win.
Let's get cheerful, though. The Clippers did a fine team job on Dirk Nowitzki, even if the results weren't great (33 points on 26 shots), the effort was there. Al Thornton needs to give his team more than one rebound in 20 minutes, but he was a Maggette-like 6-7 from the field and 5-6 from the line for 17 points. Eric Gordon and Mike Taylor looked fantastic at times for Los Angeles, Paul Davis (10 points, +11 overall) had a nice all-around run off the bench, and Baron Davis (22 and 10 assists) was sound.
Here's a reason to feel terrible for Thunder fans:
Oklahoma City still has that tradition (superstition? I don't know where it came from, besides the NCAA) of standing until the home team puts in its first point. On Sunday night, they had to stand for a good eight or nine minutes of real time until the Thunder threw in its first free throw.
Then the home fans were treated to a solid game, in parts, even if they probably didn't know who any of these guys were (I'm not talking about the big fans or the bloggers, but the neophytes, and there's nothing wrong with that) save for Mike Bibby. Russell Westbrook continues to look at the part of a someday semi-star, Earl Watson ran a good show for a while, and the Thunder almost pulled off another surprising Sunday night win.
Flip Murray did his Flip Murray thing (14 points on 14 shots, but hot for long enough to make you think that Flip Murray more minutes, even if Flip Murray wasn't that good overall), however, the Hawks got to the line, and pulled it out with one last defensive stand over the final three minutes. OKC ended with just 90 points per 100 possessions on the night.
Also, for fantasy fans or Chris Wilcox fans like me, heads-up: Wilcox slipped and did something to his knee in the second quarter, had to leave after that, and it didn't look good.
Denver coach George Karl might be losing J.R. Smith here, he knows it, but he doesn't seem to care.
Karl knows Smith can be a bit of a twit sometimes, most of the time, and that he more than expected to start after Allen Iverson was traded. And, while Dahntay Jones came through what might be the best offensive game I've ever seen him play (5-7, 11 points), Jones had a hand in seeing O.J. Mayo put up 26 first half points while Jones floated and tried to guard both Mayo and Rudy Gay at the same time.
Meanwhile, Smith has shot 8-26 since the Iverson deal, and you know that would turn around if the tempestuous guard started. And I don't want to hear that "offense isn't what the Nuggets need right now," because it is. This team is 22nd in offensive efficiency and 14th at defense. They need buckets.
(I loved the line from the Denver broadcasting duo, a pair that I cannot stand to listen to, regarding Jones as Dahntay lined up a three-pointer that he passed on taking: "Jones isn't a three-pointer at this point in his career," as if this plucky youngster will eventually grow into being a shooter. The guy turns 28 next month. Just because you hadn't heard of him until this season's training camp, it doesn't mean you should make stuff up.)
Chauncey Billups ran a good game for the Nuggets, he's obviously not used to the thin air yet (2-13, plenty of short shots), but he scored 16 points, added 10 assists, and added six rebounds, two turnovers, and three steals. Nene (18 and 12) and Carmelo Anthony (24 and nine rebounds) are used to the thin air.
Free balloons and minutes for the kids in Sacramento on Sunday night, Don Nelson emptied his bench as if it were the last week in April, at one point playing three undrafted free agents, lottery pick Anthony Randolph, and a second-year guard (Marco Belinelli) who barely played last year and won't be any good this year.
The Kings, suffice to say, took advantage. Kevin Martin overcame a tweaked left ankle to score 27 points on 16 shots. Brad Miller was up for this game, throwing out a cheap-shot or eight, and finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three turnovers, two blocks and a steal. Spencer Hawes turned the ball over five times, but he also managed 14 and 11 with three blocks in 20 minutes off the bench.
Props to Nellie, though. That was a fun game to watch. I'm not sure how I'd feel about it if I were a Warrior fan, however.
It's one thing for the Lakers to toy with the Kings or Timberwolves or Heat before pulling away for a comfortable win ... but the Rockets?
Houston absolutely dominated the first quarter of this game, at one point running circles around a rusty and unmotivated Laker team with five Rocket reserves on the floor. This looked like one of those blowouts that would see the Lakers try to give one spirited comeback at the start of the third quarter, usually with Kobe Bryant chucking a series of "let's see what happens"-three-pointers, before ultimately giving up.
Instead, things turned around in the second quarter. The Lakers just worked the perimeter defensively, cut off obvious passing angles, and forced the Rockets into some one-on-one play. Then they ran to the other end, and scored. Simple as that. Los Angeles outscored the Rockets by 41 points over the last three quarters, and by any measure, that's scary-impressive. From the Scary Book of Measurements. Obviously, I'm fighting a fever.
You might not know it to look at his line (eight points, eight boards, three assists, a turnover, three steals in 25 minutes), but Trevor Ariza is a huge force in Los Angeles' offensive and defensive schemes. Pau Gasol's touch (20 and 15) was there, Kobe was Kobe (23 points on 10-17 shooting), and the Lakers are quite good.