It wasn't quite this genius of love that we witnessed back in 2006, a shootout that saw the Nets and Suns combine for 318 points in 58 minutes of play, but Monday's Suns/Netsies tilt clicked in all the right ways.
It had half-court shots, strange clutch decisions, Steve Nash(notes) and Grant Hill(notes) actually making less-than-cerebral plays (several of them, in fact), the return of Anthony Morrow(notes), a Lopez vs. Lopez duel, and the further realization that, yes, Deron Williams(notes) really is a good three and a half steps ahead of your typical point guard.
A close game throughout, it wasn't actually much of an offensive marvel, as both teams barely eked past the 100 points per 100 possessions Mendoza line. The best part of the game was the interior finishing, from both sides. And, while we're being honest, the worst part was the interior defense from both sides. Brook Lopez(notes) finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. In nearly the full 53 minutes of play, Robin Lopez(notes) and Marcin Gortat(notes) finished with 31 points and nine rebounds. And in nearly 100 minutes of action, none of these large men registered a blocked shot.
Another huge assist game for Deron Williams (18 in the loss), and he's averaging 15.7 dimes as a Net. Anthony Morrow helped spur a mini-comeback for New Jersey, hitting for nine points (including three free throws as Nash tried to follow on the floor in vain to tie the game just before regulation ended) in the final six minutes. Morrow shot 1-6 on two-pointers, but 5-10 from deep on his way to 22 points. Channing Frye(notes) crushed another game-winner, though, and Kris Humphries(notes) tip-in was a tenth of a second too late to count. Too bad.
Good night out, though, Newark.
Chicago had its way on the Washington interior, scoring loads of paint points in transition, after a few passes, on penetration, or on put-backs. The Bulls turned it over too much and didn't exactly shoot the lights out from behind the arc (34.8 percent), but they still managed a whopping 114 points per 100 possessions because of the team's effort, interest level, and ability. This is a team, people. This is a team.
Washington is a team that wants its season to end, it has been that way for months now, and I don't see it getting any better. Even the effort guys, people like Maurice Evans(notes), are taking plays off or declining to go after loose balls. It really is a dreary team to behold.
As if often is, the one quibble I have with Chicago in the win is the amount of minutes handed to its starters, especially Luol Deng(notes). Deng played all of the third quarter and was out there for most of the fourth, taken out with a minute to go in a 25-point game. He played "only" 35 minutes in this win, but to keep him out there (as he averages 39 minutes per game on the year) in a blowout with his history of fatigue-based injuries is absolutely ridiculous. If you could pick one player on the Bulls that you really have to count minutes with, it's Deng, and yet he leads this team in minutes per game.
It's the easy hook, but it's the right one. Denver had the players to work with down the stretch, even after losing Danilo Gallinari(notes) to the shelf with a bum toe, and Atlanta did not. With Josh Smith(notes) hurting his knee, Damien Wilkins(notes) was forced into play most of the fourth quarter for the Hawks, and he gave the team precious little in terms of box score stats. With Mike Bibby(notes) gone and Kirk Hinrich(notes) hurting, Jeff Teague(notes) wasn't much to rely on at the point. And Jamal Crawford(notes) made poor decisions down the stretch while Denver's J.R. Smith(notes) made great ones. You heard me.
Denver put together a 29-20 fourth quarter to pull away. Raymond Felton(notes) was an enthusiastic presence off the bench, both in terms of on-court leadership and actual production (16 points, seven assists in 30 minutes), and these deep Nuggets at home are a tough out.
An odd game, as both these teams are figuring out what to do with themselves. In the meantime, Al Jefferson(notes) pounded his way to 28 points and 19 rebounds (and I thought Boston, Kevin Garnett(notes) especially, played very good defense in the flips around the dial that I saw), and Ray Allen(notes) kept finding ways to squeeze himself free on the other end. Twenty-five points on 15 shots for Ray, including a game-breaking long two-pointer late, as the Jazz just couldn't get a long enough run of consistent stops to pull away.
There is talent in Utah. Jefferson was great, Paul Millsap(notes) and Andrei Kirilenko(notes) had some nice interior finishes, and Devin Harris(notes) is clearly faster than the average hare, but the squad is so mis-matched and lacking and new to each other that it can't really rely on any brand of defensive principals worth moving forward with.
Playing in gorgeous Rochester Royals uniforms and working in front of a crowd desperate to keep the team in Sacramento, the Kings pulled out a good-time win that probably wouldn't have happened without a trade that Mark Cuban hated. Man, everything seems to be conspiring against the Kings.
Marcus Thornton(notes) does what Marcus Thornton does, scoring efficiently both inside and out late in games, on his way to 29 points, with 16 of those killers coming in the fourth quarter. This was exactly the same sort of thing he used to come through with once a week in New Orleans last season, it's why I had him ranked ahead of Brandon Jennings(notes) on my Rookie of the Year ballot, and it's been exactly what the Hornets have needed time and time again late in games this season.
Blake Griffin(notes) managed 27 and 12 in the loss, and Mo Williams(notes) did his best to help Clippers fans keep Baron Davis(notes) close to their hearts in missing 2-6 threes and 11 of 18 shots overall. Cheap joke, but Williams will be fine.