(Today, 3 p.m. EST, BDL Chat. Be there.)
Philadelphia is like a bad stereotype come true, the team is falling perfectly in line for the national media types who haven't seen a second of the team this year to accurately describe them before a bell rings and some other national media type has to come through with his or her own description as a way to accrue some arbitrary points from a guy in a swively chair.
Though the team's main issues are on offense ... well, the main issues aren't on offense, even though the offense stinks. The team isn't stopping anyone, which has taken away Philly's transition game, which is making it so these guys have to continually try and score in the half-court, where they've struggled mightily.
After this loss, the 76ers are 11th in defensive efficiency, which doesn't seem that bad until you realize that the squad has no chance at being a 50-55 win team unless it's in the top five this year.
They just don't know where the help is coming from, and the sick thing is that this could have been an even bigger blowout win for the Jazz had Kyle Korver hit on more than 1-7 of his shots, many of which were wide flippin' open looks. Two or three passes in a possession and the Sixers are just toast. The team isn't talking, and the rotations aren't there.
Offensively, the team made a nice run in the third quarter, but it came mostly behind Andre Miller bogarting the offense and having a decisive hand in every possession. Part of you is now going, "OK, well-compensated team-leader, you're going to have to do that until your teammates come around," but it doesn't quite work that way. He doesn't have the legs. Few do. And though it's early, Philadelphia (a team that has started strong over the last few years) needs to get it together. Now.
Utah not only seemed chuffed by the return of Deron Williams (seven points and nine assists in 31 minutes), but the ball was moving frightfully well offensively, and the feet were moving on the other side of the court. 31 assists on 38 field goals for Utah in the win, a shockingly-good number that could have been even higher had Korver or D-Will (1-8 shooting) knocked in a few more open looks.
It doesn't always have to be one mug bouncing the ball off his foot six times in a game, everyone can turn it over one time more than they should, and that stands as enough. Especially in a low possession (88) game, the Bucks did themselves in by turning the ball over 16 times, or in about 19 percent of their possessions.
And against a team like the Cavs, every little bit helps. Cleveland judiciously ran, and took in another amazing game from LeBron James (41 points, for the third straight contest, with five boards, six assists, three steals and just two turnovers in 43 minutes) to pull out the win.
James hit 16-24 shots, and got some help from newly-shaved (not his ‘fro, just his face) Delonte West (11 points on seven shots, five assists) and Anderson Varejao (13 and 10 with two blocks in only 22 minutes).
It took a while, the defense wasn't there and pure talent had to lead the way, but Denver was too good and Charlotte was too sloppy on Tuesday night.
A lot of poorly-conceived perimeter flings from the Bobcats, who missed 20 of 27 three-point shots and didn't take advantage of a Nugget defense that was sometimes a step slow in guarding the interior.
Meanwhile, on Denver's side, Dahntay Jones continues to be "not good" and "lit up" (Jason Richardson had a team-leading 23 points for Charlotte) at the same time, while J.R. Smith missed six of seven shots. Gee, if only there was a solution that could cure both problems at once ...
Renaldo Balkman (15 and seven rebounds, two steals) was a fun watch for Denver.
He may turn out to be Red Auerbach, nobody has any way of knowing, but at this point Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro is in way, way over his head.
Vinny, the small lineups are killing you. They may do well offensively at times, but the good coaches get good offense out of lineups that struggle initially, and at least know what's going on defensively. But running three guards plus two small forwards (Andres Nocioni and Luol Deng), or any number of ridiculous lineups that forces Nocioni to try and switch on everyone defensively while still doing the rebounding work of a center is going to get destroyed.
Atlanta just moved the ball until it found an open shot, and either nailed the shot (Mike Bibby and Maurice Evans hit five three-pointers in the face of the flailing undersized lineup in the fourth), or waited for Al Horford to out-jump two 6-3 guys and pull in an offensive rebound. Six offensive boards (17 overall) for Horford, who just dominated the Chicago interior.
I get on Andres Nocioni a lot because he takes too many chances defensively (but gets absolved by the media for his "hustle," even as his guy is sticking an 18-footer some 30 feet away from Noc) and because he's way too shot-happy on the other end, but Del Negro is putting this guy in a miserable position.
Nocioni has to switch on every screen and roll with these small lineups, and much like an offense trying to drag a shot-blocking center away from the paint, Nocioni has to come out on a guy like Joe Johnson mainly because he's the same size, with Chicago forgetting (of course) that Nocioni might be the biggest guy on the court for the Bulls at the time.
So he has to dash back inside as the ball goes up, he can't box anyone out (even if he could, this guy isn't a power forward; much less a center) because of it, and a long offensive rebound results.
Even at Dallas' best, with the effort there and a ball that's moving and a Laker team that didn't always have it together, Los Angeles was always in charge.
No, Josh Howard (bum wrist) didn't play for the Mavs. And looking up and down the box score, you might deduce that the Mavericks had issues nailing shots. They did, mainly because the Lakers were all over Dallas defensively. The Lakers were just patient, they took in another excitable game from Trevor Ariza (that's his new nickname, Excitable Boy), and they forced a ton (21) of Maverick turnovers. Especially in the decisive fourth quarter.
Jason Kidd had a fabulous game for Dallas (16 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, five turns and four steals), but he can't guard Kobe Bryant to save his life. Who can? Well, Jerry Stackhouse (it seems), who did a terrific job on the Laker guard to close the game, but it wasn't enough. Dallas had too many offensive miscues, and they missed Howard's one-dribble and pull-up game.
That was honestly what was missing, though Gerald Green (how great is it to see this kid stop ignoring what he knows is right?) tried to help with 17 points on 15 shots. Pau Gasol did a terrific job taking away Dirk Nowitzki's left hand, Dirk finished with a 5-17 mark from the floor, and both Laker bigs threw in a double-double (22 and 11 for Pau; 11 and 10 for Bynum).
OK, I was wrong. This one was awfully boring, but it always seems a cop-out to pick whoever the Warriors are playing that night for a game that we should pay attention to.
It was exactly what you'd expect. San Antonio slowed the pace (about ten possessions less than what New York was averaging), and the Spurs really helped and showed defensively. They entered the game giving up almost 117 points per 100 possessions (worst in the league), but surrendered just 90 per 100 against New York.
Meanwhile, the Spurs offense survived by taking in a 6-9 shooting from Michael Finley, mainly on pull-up 20-footers. That's ... that's not going to be something to bank on.
I like big lineups, I really do, but running Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes, and Jason Thompson on the court at the same time may have been a bit much this early in the season. All three tried, but Hawes is still getting used to being an occasional power forward (he and Miller both ran to the same spot in front of the rim in the fourth quarter a few times), and asking Thompson (a rookie) to play the wing on both ends when he's still learning the 4 is a tough task.
JT nailed a nice fourth quarter jumper as a small forward, but the lineup led to a turnover-happy fourth quarter for the Kings that cinched the game for Detroit.
Detroit ran Tayshaun Prince as a point forward for a lot of this one, and while it was fun to watch (love watching bigger players pick off cutters from up top), it's an offensive scheme that still has a lot to work on. As evidenced by a close win over a Kevin Martin-less Kings team, one that was ahead for most of the night.
26 points, 11 rebounds, and just two assists for Prince, who didn't turn the ball over; Rip Hamilton continues to struggle, and ended with a 4-16 night. Allen Iverson was on it, 30 points on 19 shots with seven rebounds, nine assists, three turnovers and two steals.
Sacramento, meanwhile, just has too many bigs who need minutes, and a point guard (Beno Udrih) who might not be the best fit for an offense that needs the point guard to give up the ball early in a possession. The Kings really need to commit to the rebuilding process and trade Miller and Mikki Moore (two professionals with a lot still to contribute) before their trade value falls any lower. Playing them isn't going to raise it much.
This was about as fun a game as you'd imagine, both teams that still have a lot to figure out but they also know how to put the ball in the hole ... sometimes efficiently!
Golden State's Don Nelson is still playing the kids, and for that we thank him. Stephen Jackson (30 points, five assists) stayed on the court for 142 minutes, but Anthony Randolph (blocks, rebounds) and Brendan Wright (rebounds, lefty hooks shot over his body) stayed on the floor for a while.
Rookie Anthony Morrow excited everyone with his hot shooting in the first half, and Kelenna Azubuike (22 and eight rebounds) stayed on the court for even longer than Jackson, netting 49 minutes in the win.
The Timberwolves should have had this one, they really should have, but they could not capitalize on Golden State's 19 turnovers, and the smallish guards couldn't hit a shot. Sebastian Telfair, Randy Foye, and Rashad McCants combined to hit just 12-41 from the floor (29.3 percent), with many of Foye's misses coming in the paint during overtime. Meanwhile, you can't have two bench guards nearly matching Al Jefferson's shot output (19 attempts, 11 makes).
Meanwhile, it was nice to see Nellie let Andris Biedrins play through foul trouble. Yes, Biedrins (13 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers) fouled out; but he fouled out in 43 minutes.
For more on this game, Rake it up with Britt.