by Anton Kudriavtsev/ @TheDiesel
Trick or treat? Depending on who your team is, you’re in for a surprise.
After proudly proclaiming his MVP ambitions, Derrick Rose caught himself in some thorns among discussions for this year’s award. With his team playing like bull, Rose tied his career high and seemed to do what he liked on this night – including this ridiculous shot. The Bulls were behind as much as 21 points before outscoring the Pistons 24-9 in the 4th quarter for their first win of the year. Ben Gordon scored 21 points but got his Mr. Freeze on, going scoreless the rest of the game. Joakim Noah (15 points, 17 rebounds) gave Chicago their first lead since the first quarter with a tip-in of Rose’s shot and they never looked back since. Fast don’t lie, but it does score. Rodney Stuckey added 18 points and 7 assists for the Pistons.
Atlanta took advantage of their athletic line-up to beat the Wizards in their home opener. John Wall shook off the rust of his debut and game one hell of an encore: 28 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds. Blazing through the Hawks’ lethargic backcourt, Wall made lighting fast cuts and effective shots all night but also had a few rookie mistakes like driving headfirst into traffic like he had VIP tickets to a block party. Rose and Jennings had similar mistakes their rookie seasons but are now working around through it. Head up, Wall-y. Joe Johnson began on the long, slow climb to earn his $119M contract while scoring 14 of his 25 points in the 4th quarter. Al Horford continues his All-Star campaign with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Diet LeBron put the brakes on his NASCAR tryouts and put the pedal down on the court–Tyreke had 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists as his Kings edged the Cavs. Omri Casspi stroked it like a Trekkie on a Saturday night, connecting on 6 of 7 three pointers, finishing with 20 points. The Kings climbed back from a 14-point deficit at halftime and plugged the lane with Samuel Dalembert to earn their lead going into the 4th quarter. Sessions had 21 for the Cavs and Gibson added 20 points and 7 assists off the bench as their comeback attempts proved futile in the 4th quarter. If only they had a 6’8”, 265 pound small forward to close out games with. I know, crazy talk. After the game, I sent numerous e-mails to JJ Hickson to stop drinking 7 Red Bulls before every game. JJ – they don’t literally give you wings, but they do make you more jittery than David Khan around draft time. Considering your stone hands, that’s not a good combination. Plus, you crash really hard from those sweet drinks – I could see it when you let Cousins dunked on you even though you had plenty of time to take the charge. Caron Butler needs to start a 12-step quitting program for you. Alas, the Christian Eyenga saga has commenced in Cleveland.
Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league. Just in case that didn’t get through the first time. Saying this Hornets team is over-achieving is like saying Tupac was an okay rapper. CP3’s 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists contributed to a close win over the Spurs. Tim Duncan v.1 was in for repairs so Ginobli notched up 23 points, 6 assists, and 8 killed bats in the losing effort.
Gus Johnson was right – his name IS Al Harrington, and he DOES get buckets. In just under 30 minutes of action, Harrington put up 28 points and 10 rebounds on a white-hot shooting night (5 of 8 from deep). Melo grudgingly punched his time clock card with 24 points while Scola continued his footwork dominance with 28 points and 10 boards. The Yao Ming 24 minute plan is not supposed to produce monster regular season results and his 14 points and 6 boards doesn’t exactly make you scream obscenities that would get censored by the Chinese government. Is it just me or does Kevin Martin’s shot look extremely block-able?
The Grizzlies, led by OJ Mayo’s 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, helped the Wolves notch another L in their stat sheet. Memphis used crisp ball movement to keep the Wolves at bay, who shot 35% from the field. Rudy Gay added 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists while Ellington ended up being the least horrible shooter, leading the team with 15 points.
Brandon Jennings’ 20-point 10-assist 10-rebound triple double helped his squad defeat the Bobcats and earn their first win of the season. Delfino connected on 5 of 11 threes to help seal the victory for the Bucks. Though Stephen Jackson and DJ Augustin (26 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) helped keep their team in the game, the Bucks out-rebounded and out-executed the ‘Cats down the stretch.
Opening their season at home, the Pacers leaned on their franchise Granger (22 points) and new point guard Darren Collison (15 points, 4 assists, 4 steals) to force the Sixers into an 0-3 start. Though Lou Williams provided a much-need scoring punch (18 first-half points), Indiana kept the Sixers away thanks to Granger’s solid shooting, Hibbert’s rebounding and shot-altering presence, and Collison’s ability to wreak havoc in the passing lanes and ignite the fast break. Useless stat of the night: 69 hustle plays. Apparently the Pacers staff keep a statistic which tracks only hustle plays like steals, drawing chargers, and offensive rebounds. That’s going a little too far for my taste, just play hard all game, fellas. Just a few days after stating that he may be over his head with his team, is Doug Collins on his way out regardless?
Portland kept their undefeated streak alive with a late win over the Knicks. Starting off the game with hot shooting from the Blazers, the Knicks consistently crept their way back into the game, tying it going into the 4th quarter but couldn’t hang on to a 9 point lead with 5:30 remaining. Not a good look when your $100M dollar man grabs fewer boards than a role player. Amare (28 points, 5 boards) looked aggressive at times but was often double-teamed and swarmed late in the game as Portland mixed up man to man with zone defense, leading to steals and disrupting New York’s offensive flow. Wilson Chandler (22 points) kept the Knicks competitive as he cut through the thin Portland backcourt and hit spot up 3’s. Brandon Roy’s team-high 29 points were not the most crucial part of the game. Andre Miller brought his “old man at the YMCA” game and proved himself to be the most important Trail Blazer on this night with 19 points, 10 assists, and clever, on-point passes all night. He must be related to Big Z because his vertical is a solid 0.2”.
Not sure if it’s failing to meet expectations these past 2 years but I’m not feeling very confident about the internal workings of this team. Case in point: Andre “Knick Killer” Miller was taken out with 1:23 remaining, even though he was clearly the engine behind Portland’s comeback. Who was the point in his absence? Roy, of course. This seemed very strange not to have a second playmaker with the game on the line (I call Nate McMillan caving into Roy’s ball-dominant complaints). Along with Rudy Fernandez checking in on weather conditions in Spain on his iPhone during time-outs, I don’t think the Blazers are as close-knit as some might believe. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 10 rebounds in a hit-and-miss game. I have started a sophisticated tracking system for his career this season: for every game where he gets into the paint and settles for jumpers less, he gets a notch in a “dominant PF” column. For every game that he doesn’t, he gets a notch in a “Sheed” column. On this night, he did try to mix it up but overall did not look comfortable in the post, let alone grabbing critical rebounds. Are you above 6’7”? You probably could have helped the Blazers rebound on this night. A final bright spot for this team was Batum, with excellent perimeter defense and smart shot selection. The Blazers also showed signs of mixing up the offensive sets, opting for a faster pace when the game called for it, and multiple screens to free up the shooters.
In case you were wondering, the legend that is Timofey Mozgov was not seen on this night.
“Check My $tats” of the night: Derrick Rose – 39 points (13-for-27 FG), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 1 bad man.
ROY Watch: John Wall – 28 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds
So I’m pretty connected with the Cavs organization and after learning that Mike Brown is now a junior high football coach, I made some calls to get some insight into the sort of offense he installs. Apparently their quarterback if the best player by far and the rest of the team is comprised of either one-trick role players or over-the-hill faux all stars. Anyway, here’s an excerpt from his playbook:
“Play 1: Give the ball to QB, everyone else get out of the way. Including linebackers, they just take up too much space.
Play 2: Give the ball to QB, hold it for 20 seconds. Wide receivers sprint to end zone and wait for the pass, not moving an inch.
Play 3: Fake handoff to running back, QB moves out of the pocket and heaves a throw through the goalposts. That counts a field goal, right?
Play 4: I uhhh…can’t we just stick to the first three?
Note to self: Congradulate QB after the play is made to make it appear as though I played a part in his success.”
By the way, if anyone received lewd texts from me today, relax. I am going as Brett Favre tonight for Halloween, equipped with a Vikings jersey, camera phone, and no pants. What’s your costume for tonight? The ghost of Iverson’s career? Let us know.