December 18, 2007
This one was as good as games could possibly be hoped for in the third week of December. Tim Duncan was light on his feet and dominant offensively against Brian Skinner and Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash (10 points, 10 assists, eight boards) was all over the place late in the game, Amare was full of dumb mistakes, while Jacque Vaughn and Michael Finley were surprisingly spry on their way to 29 points off of 23 shots.
The real story here was Grant Hill, who hit a game-clinching 18-footer in the final minute, but also came up with a clutch weak-side block on Tim Duncan around the same time (I honestly confused him for Shawn Marion), one of three for Grant in the game. Hill scored 22 points on 8-12 shooting, and was easily the difference in the win.
Also, memo to the AT+T Center staff: you don't need to play music worthy of a US Open preview show during the most critical possession of the game. San Antonio 's attempt to take the lead on a Bruce Bowen three-pointer in the game's final minutes was spell-binding enough. It didn't need your help, because all your "help" did was distract from and borderline ruin an otherwise perfect game between two brilliant teams.
18 cheers for Devin Brown, who put together a nice all-around game for the Cavaliers (that's the team he plays for), with 11 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in 30 minutes spread out over the double-overtime win. Cleveland's a pretty lousy team when LeBron James isn't throwing down MVP-style numbers (he notched 31, eight rebounds, and five assists but missed 15 of 25 shots and needed 50 minutes to do it) and his teammates aren't picking up the slack (Daniel Gibson, Drew Gooden, and Larry Hughes combined to miss 21 of 29 shots).
With 92 combined free throws between the two teams, this game took bleedin' forever, Utah hacked way too much (36-50 from the line for the Hawks), and alternated bouts of too-aggressive play with some pretty uninspired defense. Atlanta scored a pro-rated 123 points per 100 possessions, the league-leader (Dallas) averages 114, and Utah couldn't string three stops together long enough to take a hold of the game. Part of the blame has to go to Jazz point man Deron Williams, who missed eight of 11 shots and let Anthony Johnson (17 and 14 assists) control the tempo. Anthony Johnson, it should be noted, plays for the Hawks.
The Heat broadcasters seemed surprised at how quiet the crowd was last night at American Airlines Arena, and I think the silence had something to do with the fact that the 2006 NBA champs were rarely more than three or four points ahead of a team that could give the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers a run for the worst record in NBA history. The Heat (37.2 percent) couldn't shoot straight, but Dwyane Wade put his body through the ringer again (20 free throw attempts, making 18) in the too-close win.
I have to give it up to the Warriors, Don Nelson's team went from Oakland (on Friday night) to Detroit (on Sunday morning, Golden State-time) to Memphis , Tennessee (Monday night) and still managed to pull two out of three games. Stephen Jackson also responded to my rebounding criticisms with 12 boards, along with 28 points and five assists in the win. The Grizzlies really have some accountability issues on the defensive end (as much as I'm enjoying Stromile Swift's re-emergence, he's really lost on that side of the ball), and this game wasn't nearly as entertaining as it should have been.
A League Pass blackout prevented me from seeing this one, but it's not hard to guess at what went down: the Pacers ran the Knicks silly, shot quite well, and watched as a gassed Knick team plied its own inefficient offensive trade on the other end (95 points per 100 possessions for a Knick team supposedly built to outscore anyone). Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph combined for more turnovers (12) than rebounds (11), Jim O'Brien crouched a lot, Isiah Thomas pursed his lips, and the Knicks lost another one.
Dallas ' defense really worries me. 108 points to the Magic might not seem like much, but this wasn't a fast-paced game, and with Avery Johnson's rotation fully healthy, there's no reason why they should be allowing the Magic to shoot 52.4 percent from the floor, or let Hedo Turkoglu score 26 points on 14 shots. It was a win, I submit, and the Mavs offense is currently the league's most efficient, but this sort of style doesn't really leave me confident in a championship run.
In spite of a bench that shot 27 percent, the Blazers pulled out a sound home win over a Hornets team that can't shoot to save its life right now. New Orleans has the right idea: go to David West as much as humanly possible in order to ride his solid touch from the floor, but David isn't getting to the line enough, and his 21 points on 19 shots can't be counted on to win games.