This is where you wonder about Vinny Del Negro.
The players play the game. Teams only go as far as the talent and smarts of the players on the court allow. Vinny has a very talented team that, for the better part of the first two months of the season, scuttled away wins because they didn't play smart basketball. Mostly the kids' fault, because the three rotation rookies didn't know what they were doing. So it's quite possible VDN had these guys well versed on how to handle LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) last night, and the team (Blake Griffin(notes), especially) didn't listen.
Or, we could fall back on what we've seen about VDN teams for the last three seasons. About how they don't exactly seem well versed in what the rest of the league is doing.
Sacramento nearly pulled out a win over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night by loading up on LaMarcus Aldridge's left shoulder, and sending strong side help every time he tried to turn over his right shoulder for a turnaround jumper. But mainly they kept it close by taking away that jump hook over his left shoulder.
And then LMA dominated the Clippers by going over his left shoulder, all night on Thursday.
Now, this could be Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan(notes) forgetting things, or not listening to the scouting report, or plain getting fooled in the midst of a tough game on the second night of a back to back. They could be telling themselves "jump hook, jump hook, jump hook" 32 times in their head, but when LMA flinches the other way, the tired body tends to ignore the loquacious mind.
But because Vinny Del Negro is at the helm, you have to wonder.
Fans that watched this game might want you to know that this wasn't a 15-point game throughout, and that the final score might not reflect how close this was at times in the fourth quarter. But I think the final score is apt. Portland got a few breaks here and there, but they sustained that purpose and drive that we've seen from them since Brandon Roy(notes) went down, and made this game their own. LMA was brilliant, 28 points and eight rebounds, Wesley Matthews(notes) had 28 points and five assists with no turnovers, and the whole team combined for 125 points per 100 possessions.
For the Clippers? Good and bad. Good to see Eric Gordon(notes) drop 35 points and have his outside shot flowing (seven three-pointers) a day after we all worried about the torn ligament in the ring finger on his shooting hand. Bad to see that this team is still struggling, mightily, on the road.
Awful offensive game. Derrick Rose(notes) took in player of the game plaudits, but the guy shot 28 times and only scored 26 points, and it's not like he was being double-teamed throughout. He was just dead tired, as were all these Bulls, from having to constantly work through injuries and through the heart of a tough, demanding schedule. Dallas played last night, and it met the buzzsaw that is the Chicago defense, so their offense fell apart as well.
And what we got was, again, an awful offensive game. You still expected things to turn at some point, I'm sure Mavericks fans were fearful of Rose's shots down the stretch, even if he shot 4-12 in the fourth quarter, and I fully expected Jason Terry(notes) to nail that three-pointer in transition even before the Mavs found him on the break with less than a minute left. But nothing dropped. And Chicago won because they just cover the waterfront without hesitation.
While Rose was off with his shot down the stretch (a few went in and out), his penetration put Chicago over the top. It influenced a pell-mell style that had the Bulls crashing the offensive glass and finding open 38-year olds for 18-footers.
I don't think I've ever seen an NBA team get farther and do more based on bad shots than the Charlotte Bobcats of the last two seasons. Flat-footed threes, long twos, pull-ups in transition; this team is like the opposite of one of those Kobe Bryant(notes) runs.
You know the type. People seem to forget Kobe's long misses and low percentage failures, and only remember the impossible shots that go in that he shouldn't be taking, because they look so damn cool. With the Bobcats, it's the other way around. All I reflect up on are misses, they keep winning, and it really looks far from cool.
Gerald Henderson(notes) put this game away last night by hitting a series of 20-foot jumpers. They're terrible shots, this might be the high point of his NBA career, and yet it gave the Bobcats a win. And all they've done recently is win, bucking all sorts of trends and pulling out the close ones. History and percentages tell you that those close wins will even out after a while, but this team doesn't seem to fall victim to the same percentages and historical this-is-how-we-do-its that other teams have to work through, so expect things at your own peril.
This was a good offensive game, despite bad offensive shots. Some chunks went wonky on me because my dish feed was going in and out due to dodgy weather in the Midwest, but the Sixers had very good spacing throughout, and the Bobcats earned this win. This team is obviously playing for a purpose, and Paul Silas is squeezing absolutely everything out of this roster.
Also, the rebirth of D.J. Augustin(notes) has been such a warming thing. This was a guy who was kicked to the curb by a disinterested Larry Brown, while the whole of the NBA wanted to know why Michael Jordan didn't select Brook Lopez(notes) instead. Not to say the Augustin pick was the right one, even as Lopez struggles, but it's good to see this guy keep his wits about him and contribute when called upon. Thirty-one points and eight assists in the win for the third-year guard.