by Adam Figman | @afigman
When it comes to the NBA, December 25 > December 26. It’s just math. But still, we got seven decent contests to hold us over until the week picks up. You might not have seen ‘em, because they weren’t on national TV and you were busy watching football and/or slowly managing through your holiday food coma. Understandable. Well, good news: Now you can read about them. On to it.
Are the Clippers progressing upwards, or were the Suns just downgraded? Hard to tell, but this we know: When the Clips have all their pieces working (or working out, word to Baron) properly, they’ll be pretty dangerous. Phoenix learned that the hard way, going down early (33-18 after one) and fighting/failing to get back on top during the subsequent three quarters. The Suns got close late, trailing by only one point with under 30 seconds to go, but a clutch Eric Gordon steal followed by a Al-Farouq Aminu put to bed their comeback dreams. Blake Griffin (28 points, 12 rebounds) posted his 18th straight double-double, along with—if you can believe this—some absolutely ridiculous dunks. The newly-acquired Mickael Pietrus led Phoenix with 25 (while Vince Carter is still sidelined with…I don’t know, serious injuries), and Steve Nash matched his usually-strong output with 21 points and 15 dimes.
The Bulls probably should’ve had a hold of this one well before OT, but their sloppy shooting from both the field (39.6 percent) and the line (67.9 percent) kept the Pistons in it. As the clock expired in regulation, a Charlie Villanueva tip-in forced extra time, but Chicago’s double dose of Carlos Boozer (31 points, 11 boards) and Derrick Rose (23 points, 12 boards, 8 dimes) helped the road team seal things up. Tayshaun Prince led Detroit with 17, though Rodney Stuckey (16), Richard Hamilton (15) and Tracy McGrady (15) all pitched in. Talk about an overcrowded roster. After back-to-back contests, the Bulls can now chill for a night, as they’ve got Milwaukee at home tomorrow.
Michael Beasley, for the win. First, Beas cut to the lane and drilled a lay-in to put his team up one with under five ticks to go, and then the 6-8 forward D’ed up on Antawn Jamison, forcing a contested runner that bounced out and gave the TWolves the W. Other Minny notables: Kevin Love, who had 16 points and 18 rebounds, and Luke Ridnour (what?), who had 23 points, 6 assists and 5 boards. Good to see the Wolves get a much-deserved victory, but hard to take much of a longer-term positive out of this one…in all fairness, somebody had to win.
From the looks of it, Rudy Gay wanted this W pretty damn badly. That’d explain his 30 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, along with the fact that he led his team to its first victory in four games. The Grizz dominated on the inside, too, behind Zach Randolph’s 18 points and 16 boards. Danny Granger scored 29 for the defeated squad, who moved to 13-15 but continues to sit right inside the fringe of the Eastern Conference Playoff picture.
To be kind about it, the Hornets have been, um, inconsistent, and really need to get things turned around before their chances of a postseason spot dwindle and/or their star gets unhappy. Which is all to say efforts like this are important, as the Bees took down the visiting Hawks, coming from behind in the second half behind Chris Paul (22 points, 8 assists) and Emeka Okafor (14 points, 15 boards). Seems like CP3 will look to take things into his own hands, as he fired the most shots and put in the most buckets for New Orleans, a group that’s struggled without a go-to scorer thus far.
John Wall returned, kind of, playing 19 minutes and scoring 4 points, but the Spurs’ talent was just too much. Manu Ginobili (21 points) and Tony Parker (20 points, 14 assists) stepped up, though all of San Antonio’s starters were able to play under 31 minutes in another easy W. Even after the pre-Christmas loss to the Magic, the Spurs still have the L’s best record (26-4), which they’ll look to improve upon tomorrow night against the Lake Show. That’s one I wouldn’t recommend missing. Oh, and the loss moved Washington’s road count to 0-14—guess I gotta mention that. Sorry Wiz fans.
With Carmelo Anthony out for personal reasons for the third straight game, the Nuggets lost their, well, third straight game, falling to the Sixers at home. Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young combined for 41, though this one probably wouldn’t have be so close had Denver’s best player been on the floor. Hopefully he can make it back soon, and it’ll be interesting to see how Denver’s front office treats that trade situation, now realizing just how bad the team is without its leader. Chauncey Billups scored 24 in the loss.
Actual Stats: Rudy Gay: 30 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals.
Moment of the Night: I’m not seeing any video of it up, but it’s gotta be Michael Beasley’s clutch play on both sides of the floor in the final minute of the TWolves-Cavs game. Say what you want about Minny, but hopefully this season is giving multiple guys on that roster some reps that’ll be real valuable in the future.
Alright, kids. Happy to be back rocking with you after the holidays, though I won’t be here tomorrow—some official SLAM business will have me MIA all night. But a familiar face will be holding TPU down, so while I’m sure you’ll miss me uncontrollably (I won’t hold it against you), hopefully the change of pace and a fresh take will be pretty cool. See you Wednesday.