Court Report: Magic Three-ball

A look at the results from a Friday on the courts...

In what has generally been a down year by their usual standards, the Magic had their best collective team effort of the season from three-point range against the Cavs, hitting on 14-of-31 attempts to extend their winning streak at the Amway Center to four games. J.J. Redick(notes) and Quentin Richardson(notes) led the way with seven threes between them, a sight for sore eyes with both entering the game with marks well below their career averages (Redick 19.4%, Q-Rich 27.8%). Dwight Howard(notes) turned in his fifth straight 20-10 effort with 23 points and 11 rebounds, but it came at a hefty price (13-for-24 FT, 4 TO’s). Jameer Nelson(notes) continues to shoot the ball at a high rate (9-of-13 FG), and is at 65.4 percent over his last five games and 49.7 percent for the season. He’s shot over 48 percent twice in the past five seasons so he’s certainly capable of keeping this up. Vince Carter(notes) missed his second straight game with a sprained left knee and is questionable for Saturday’s contest.

It’s good to see Antawn Jamison(notes) finally come around after a painfully slow start and get over the 30-minute mark for the first time this year. Jamison led the Cavs with a season-high 22 points and seven rebounds on a rather reasonable 9-of-20 from the field. The steals and percentages are still not where they should be; leaving him out of the top-100 for now, but any progress is good progress at this point. Mo Williams(notes) dropped 20+ for the third time in four games while dishing out a season-high eight assists, but it was largely negated by his inefficiency (6-for-14 FG, 4 turnovers).

Gerald Wallace(notes) didn’t have one of his most efficient performances (6-of-21 FG, three turnovers), but more than made up for it but filling out the stat sheet to the tune of 21 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three steals, two blocks, and two treys. He hasn’t delivered on his mid-second round ADP so far, and a turnaround really hinges on four areas: rebounds, steals, field-goal percentage, and turnovers.

Teammate Boris Diaw(notes) shed the fat suit for a day to post his first double-double of the year (22 points, 10 rebounds, 10-for-15 FG). I’m as surprised as you are that he was able to do this a day after Thanksgiving. Nazr Mohammed(notes) got his start since Nov. 23 and made the most of it (15 points, 7 rebounds), but that came at the expense of Tyrus Thomas(notes) (16 minutes, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks). Free Kevin Love(notes)? No, free Tyrus Thomas. Thomas has easily out-produced Love this season on a per-minute basis.

It was generally a game to be forgotten for the Rockets, who fell to 4-11 as they shot just 41.8 percent from the field. Chase Budinger(notes) was perhaps the lone bright spot in the loss, as he scored a season-best 19 points off the bench to go along with eight rebounds. He’s still fringe material, even in deeper leagues. Chuck Hayes(notes) got his third consecutive start at center in place of Yao Ming(notes), who is out for at least another two weeks. Hayes remains reasonable productive in limited minutes, and is averaging 10 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists during that span. Brad Miller(notes) and Jordan Hill(notes) continue to be inconsistent options as their minutes wildly fluctuate from game to game.

The Bucks have been a team of two extremes on both ends of the court this season – first in defensive efficiency and last in offensive efficiency. So when the Pistons put seven players in double figures and shot a season-high 56.2 percent from the field, the Bucks didn’t really stand a chance. Detroit did one thing they hadn’t done all season – move the ball and spread it around. They came into the game second-to-last in assists per game at 17.7, but assisted on a season-high 28 of 41 field goals. Tayshaun Prince(notes) has scored in double digits in 14 of 16 games this season and got it done once again Friday, delivering an all-around line of 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and two steals. Rodney Stuckey(notes) led the team with 18 points, but continues to hover around the 100 spot in the per-game rankings as his value is limited to three categories – points, assists, and free-throw percentage.

Jason Maxiell(notes) drew another start at the 4, relegating Austin Daye(notes) to three garbage-time minutes at the end of the game. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d be expecting more than just two rebounds in 25 minutes from my starting power forward. They’re called standards, John Kuester. And what is with this all or nothing approach by Kuester – either Daye starts or comes off the bench during the garbage time. How is Daye supposed to develop any sort of consistency? Despite a horrendous 6-10 start though, the Pistons are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference standings. Oh, the parity.

Brandon Jennings(notes) led all scorers with 25 points but took 22 shots to get there. Rookie Larry Sanders(notes) (season-high 8 points, career-high 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Ersan Ilyasova(notes) (14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) were the only real bright spots on what was an atrocious team shooting display (38..6% FG). Jennings, Drew Gooden(notes) (4-of-14 FG), and Corey Maggette(notes) (3-for-11 FG) were the primary culprits. John Salmons(notes) has shot under 43 percent from the field in his last five games.

It’s been a huge week for Andre Iguodala(notes), having posted top-20 value during that period with a an extremely balanced line (20 points, 9.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, 1.7 threes, 46.5% FG) since returning from an Achilles injury. All that while drawing the defensive assignment of Dwyane Wade(notes). It’s hard not to be impressed. Jodie Meeks(notes) dazzled with a 18-point outburst in a eight-minute span during the second quarter to finish with 21 points, tying a career-high. Collins has been desperately looking to find a regular rotation that is reasonably effective, and Meeks’ recent effort should earn him more consistent minutes moving forward.

Reggie Evans(notes) suffered a fractured right foot and is expected to miss several weeks. Early indications are that Amir Johnson(notes) will start in his place. He’s a must add at this point, especially since he has proven to be extremely productive in limited time (11th overall in per-minute value).

After an underwhelming showing in his first start of the season on Sunday, Jose Calderon(notes) has been extremely productive in his last two games (14 points, 12 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 treys), good for second in per-game value this week. Now I don’t expect him to post top-25 numbers like he did in ’08-’09, but his ’07-’08 averages (11.2 points, 8.3 assist, 1.1 steals, 1 trey) seem very attainable with very little standing in his way to 30 minutes a game.

Linas Kleiza(notes) scored 18 points to lead the Raptors, but that was to be expected with him throwing up 15 shots. Even though he led the team in scoring, Kleiza posted a game value of -0.55, good for ninth on his team just ahead of Sonny Weems(notes) and his 0-for-9 dud. Not good showings overall from either Kleiza or Weems.

Ray Allen(notes) carried his early momentum (3-of-3 from deep in the first four minutes) to a very well-rounded performance (17 points, 8 assists, 3 threes, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks). Kevin Garnett(notes) (26 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals), Paul Pierce(notes) (18 points, 4 assists, 3 blocks), and Shaquille O’Neal(notes) (16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) did their part to carry the load and overcome a massive disparity in bench scoring, as the Raptors’ bench put up 63 points to the Celtics’ 29.

In what was easily the performance of the night, Russell Westbrook(notes) scored a career-high 43 points while flirting with a triple-double (8 assists, 8 rebounds). He’s currently 12th in per-game value, and more importantly, his excellent 17-of-18 effort from the free-throw line at least temporarily puts to rest pressing concerns that his free-throw percentage jump is highly fluky. Deron Williams(notes) (29 points, 12 assists, 2 steals, 3 threes), and Chris Paul(notes) (16 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) also did their part in the ongoing debate and battle of who the best point guards in the league are. I’ll take Chris Paul in that one every single time. While Deron and Westbrook are great for their time, what Paul has been able to do (see: ’07-’09) is historically great. Many people just lost sight of that because of his injury-riddled ’09-’10 campaign.

Some other notable performances from the lesser obvious names department: Thabo Sefolosha(notes) (13 points, 10 rebounds), Josh McRoberts(notes) (13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks), and James Posey(notes) (9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 treys). Sefolosha and McRoberts are both worth speculative adds in standard leagues if you have a roster spot open; Posey is not.

Dallas crushed San Antonio’s chances at a perfect month (12-0 entering Friday’s game), with strong efforts from Dirk Nowitzki(notes) (26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 threes), Jason Kidd(notes) (12 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 threes), and Tyson Chandler(notes) (19 points, 8 rebounds, 13-of-16 FT). Caron Butler(notes) looked good early on, with six points in the first quarter on 3-of-5 shooting, but still found a way to post a dud (4-for-11 FG, 1 assist, 4 turnovers). It was the second worst performance of the night to Kwame Brown’s(notes) 0-for-2 goose egg. I’d be lying if I said my patience wasn’t running awfully thin right now.

The Spurs guards continued to carry the scoring load, but this time it was George Hill(notes) stepping up (21 points, 3 steals, 8-of-8 FT) as Tony Parker(notes) struggled big time (4-for-12 FG, 1 assist, 4 turnovers). Manu Ginobili(notes) was phenomenal like he has been all season, scoring 16 of his season-high 31 total points in the first quarter alone. Don’t look, but Manu’s currently third in per-game value right now.

Richard Jefferson(notes) shot 57 percent in his first 12 games but has gone 8-of-29 (28%) from the field in his last three games. This is what we call regression to the mean. Did anyone really buy this sudden resurgence in the 10th year of his career at age 30?

With Derrick Rose(notes) out with a neck injury, the Bulls relied on a big three of their own for a large chunk of their production. Joakim Noah(notes) posted his fifth straight double-double (17 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists), Luol Deng(notes) went for his second straight (24 points, 11 rebounds), and C.J. Watson(notes) matched his scoring output from his previous seven games with 33 points. The outlook on Deng remains the same – sure, he scores a lot of points and chips in with rebounds and threes, but his lack of supporting stats will keep him right around 100th in per-game value. Even with his huge week (42.7 minutes, 21 points, 8.3 rebounds), he still came in at just 93rd in per-game value during that span. The assists, steals, and percentages are all severely underwhelming.

Carmelo Anthony(notes) hit his 14th career game-winner to push the Nuggets ahead of the Bulls, and added a season-high eight assists to go along with his 22 points. While Melo led the team in scoring and hit the game-winner, it was Nene Hilario(notes) that posted the most productive line (18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 8-for-9 FG). Chauncey Billups(notes) (wrist) missed his second straight game, but Ty Lawson(notes) did an admirable job filling in. Lawson finished with 17 points, and is now averaging 16.7 points and 5.5 assists in 10 career starts. J.R. Smith(notes) hit the glass and grabbed nine rebounds, one short of his career-high, but otherwise had another poor showing, going just 3-of-9 from the field.

When asked what he hoped to see out of Brandon Roy(notes) before Friday’s game, Nate McMillan said the “Brandon of old”. Not too far from the truth. Roy came back from a three-game absence with a bang, leading all scorers with 27 points on an efficient 10-for-20 from the field and 3-of-6 from distance. He was more passive than usual, with 13 of his 20 attempts coming on jumpers. Keep in mind that he was in obvious pain during the game, will still be on a minutes cap, and might sit out the second game of back-to-backs. There’s obviously both good and bad here, but still more to be concerned than optimistic about. This is as good a time to start exploring the trade market and sell while you still can, because it doesn’t appear that his knee issues will be cured anytime soon.

On that note, don’t do anything rash and start dropping Wesley Matthews(notes) either. Yes, Roy’s return puts a bit of a damper on his outlook but Roy is still far from healthy and will almost certainly miss some more time in the future. His value is not ruined; it just took a temporary speed bump. His versatility alone and ability to play three positions will ensure that he stays entrenched in the rotation and receives steady minutes.

Andris Biedrins(notes) had the game of his life, torching Marc Gasol(notes) and the Grizzlies’ frontcourt for 28 points and a career-high 21 rebounds. Biedrins has been extremely mediocre in the two weeks prior, so let’s not overreact to one career performance now. Also keep in mind that David Lee(notes) has been cleared to rejoin the team and may play in Saturday’s game against the Wolves.

O.J. Mayo(notes) finally snapped out of a week-long shooting slump, eclipsing 20 points for the first time since Nov. 5. He will continue to come off the bench in favor or Xavier Henry(notes), which will put up a cap on his minutes at about 28 per game, but it’s certainly a plus just to see him get back on track and to start making the case to Lionel Hollins to give him back his starting job.

Friday's Top-5 performers (per-game value): Russell Westbrook (+1.18), Deron Williams (+0.97), Andris Biedrins (+0.87), Channing Frye(notes) (+0.79), Jose Calderon (+0.71)

Friday's Bottom-5 performers (per-game value): Kwame Brown (-0.91), Caron Butler & Leon Powe(notes) (-0.89), Louis Williams(notes) (-0.87), Andres Nocioni(notes) (-0.82)

Photos via Getty Images

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