December 27, 2007
It was a bit of a drag to see the Bucks more or less concede this game after the first few minutes of the second quarter didn't go their way, Larry Krystkowiak's team managed to out-score the Nugs by ten in the second half, but the real speech needed to hit his team's ears after a first quarter that saw Milwaukee give up on itself.
And, as one in the chorus that had nearly written Marcus Camby's injury-plagued career off five years ago, I cannot tell you how enjoyable Marcus and his mustache's late-game renaissance feels. Ten points, ten blocks, two steals, 11 rebounds, and five assists in only 30 minutes of playing time for Marcus tonight.
I know Pat Riley has made blunder after blunder in the front office in the wake of his team's 2006 championship, I know that Dwyane Wade is hurt, Shaquille O'Neal is more or less shot, Ricky Davis is selfish on both ends, Alonzo Mourning can't come in calm things down in the first and third quarters, Udonis Haslem is overworked, and that Daequan Cook isn't quite there yet. I also know that anyone who picked the Heat to win more than 45 games this year was just fooling themselves.
But there's no reason this team should barely register, in Philadelphia, against the 76ers. At some point we're going to have to start blaming Pat Riley the coach as much as we blame Pat Riley the personnel boss, because this (8-21) has gotten out of control.
Oh, good game, Andre Iguodala: 28 points, seven boards, four assists, three turnovers, two steals, one block. Miami? BOO.
I'll cop to not seeing more than a few minutes of this game, the boxscore is doing most of the work here, but I do have to point out that few other NBA players (of any skill level) appear to be working harder while leading by example like Wizard Caron Butler.
This isn't a man relishing the scoring and ball-dominating opportunities afforded by the absence of Washington's best player, rather, Butler truly sees what is needed from his team from quarter to quarter (a rebound to start the break, an isolation jumper nailed, a pass to a baseline cutter), and follows through to the best of his ability. In his prime and with a young team learning from his every step, it's been a joy to watch.
We've touched on this game already, and it was nice to see Orlando play well, but the Magic haven't exactly turned the corner. Stan Van Gundy's team turned the ball over 16 times against one of the more lethargic defensive teams in the NBA, with or without Eddy Curry on the floor, and Orlando took a little too long to warm up.
That said, Hedo Turkoglu (speaking of players in their primes) was absolutely brilliant (nearly) inside and out, giving the Magic 26 points (on 15 shots) with six rebounds, six assists, two steals, and just two turnovers in 39 minutes. Carlos Arroyo (six points, four rebounds, four assists, only 14 minutes) also had a nice game in the win.
Jamaal Tinsley tried a little too hard in this game, we're not going to even try to guess at what sort of Fatlanta-bred Noel led to him pushin' too hard, but he could have stood to give up the ball a bit more. Jamaal registered 16 points and 12 assists in the loss, while missing 15 of 21 shots, all eight of three-pointers, with five turnovers. Making things worse, JT couldn't control Anthony Johnson on the other end of the floor.
As Byron Scott's version of the New Jersey Netsies made it to the NBA Finals in years 2002 and 2003, the national media couldn't stop prattling on about how the Jason Kidd-led bunch were doing the damage with up-tempo offense that could hardly be stopped.
And the media was way, way the hell off: the Nets were killing on defense, the offense was below the league average, and the occasional fast-break wasn't worth basing a whole column around. The run rang true even as Lawrence Frank, pitched as a Jeff Van Gundy acolyte, took over and kept things at about the same level.
So how do the Nets give up, at home, about 119 points per 100 possessions on Wednesday night? Beats us, the team is obviously waiting for the other shoe to drop (a trade, a move, a coaching change ... nothing that would actually help), but the effort and the communication obviously aren't there.
Yes, the Nets stink at home, and yes, Detroit's 113.1 points per 100 possessions is good for third in the NBA, but this was another pitiful showing for a team that is paid too well to let this happen.
Memphis' defense is pretty crap, but that doesn't go far toward arguing away Chris Paul's brilliant night: 40 points on 17-25 shooting, nine assists, one turnover, five rebounds (or, five more than Eddy Curry pulled in on Wednesday), and five steals. Memphis was pretty lackluster throughout this mess, but Paul's night is worth pointing out.
Pete Myers is not head-coaching material, the Bulls could barely stand to make eye contact with him even before the game started, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas combined to play just 12 minutes, and the San Antonio Spurs enjoyed a healthy practice on Wednesday night.
Hard to find a bigger Jason Terry fan than this mug, but JT (zero points, missed all ten shots) somehow managed to save his worst for the defensive end, as he continually seemed a step-slow (or, worse, went under screens) in defense of Deron Williams. Mehmet Okur didn't play especially well (nine points on 12 shots, six boards in 40 minutes) in his return, but spacing is a lovely thing, and the Jazz took advantage.
Devin Harris managed to score 17 points on just four shot attempts, but this was Carlos Boozer's night to overcome foul trouble and take advantage of a Dallas team that is still figuring out its rotation.
More than any other team I've seen since then, and I've watched every game of that season several times, the 2007-08 Boston Celtics remind me of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. It doesn't mean they're going to win 73 (or 70, or even 60) games, or that they share the same unerring sense of focus (the singular focus is there, though the execution leaves a little to be desired) ... but at the team's best, they remind of that special Bulls team.
Only for stretches, though. Chicago's 72-win crusaders made their mark in the third quarters of games, whereas this year's Boston team tends to overplay its starters, dominate in the second quarter (like tonight, with a 35-13 advantage) and lose focus in the third (outscored 27 to 13). A good win for Boston on Wednesday, but they've a bit of work to do.
Though I watched most of the first half, I didn't see as much of this one as I would have liked to, so I'll have to make a point to link to Britt Robson's take later in the day if one filters out. I did enjoy Monta Ellis playing 44 minutes in the game with just a single turnover, a pretty impressive feat for the should-be college junior.