by Anton Kudriavtsev /@TheDiesel
Admit it – you missed the weekend Post Up, didn’t you? Before we get rolling with the night’s 12-pack of games, I want to assure everyone that despite recent rumours – I have not been traded. The details are fuzzy, but the men in suits claim that my contract is too large to move. It’s not that it’s financially large, I just buried it in a crate with concrete, it’s very hard to move. Let the games begin.
Starting life without Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats beat the Kings led by Stephen Jackson’s 30 points. Dressing only 8 players, Charlotte pulled away late as Gerald Henderson scored 10 of his 21 points in the 4th quarter. Samuel Dalembert had 18 points and 10 rebounds but the Kings turned it over 18 times in the game, including sloppy possessions at critical moments. As bad as Krause was back in his day, is Jordan trying to one-up him in the “worst GM” category? Both of you guys need to go through Kerr anyway.
Just days fresh from his trade to the land of newer Yorks, the Melodrama rolled through Cleveland and came to an abrupt stop as the Knicks lost to the Cavs. Amar’e and Melo have found their easy life: the stats are delicious (31 and 11, 27 and 8, respectively), the defense has gone fishing and doesn’t plan to return, and both have gotten their licenses to shoot renewed as their roster thins down. What could be better, except for wins? Antawn Jamison led the Cavs with 28 points and 13 rebounds and J.J. Hickson had 24 points to go along with 15 big rebounds as the Cavs hustled early for loose balls and set up a textbook finish in Cleveland. Just how bad a defensive player is Anthony? Jamison was going off on him, especially down the stretch, side-winding his way to the bucket and drawing back-to-back foul calls as Jamison was battling for position. Despite missing 13 free throws, the Cavs led by 4 with under 2 and a half to play before Billups (26 points, 8 assists) posted up and spun around Sessions (22 points) for an easy bucket, cutting the lead to 2. The lay-up drill was on, as Sessions and Billups traded buckets before JJ Hickson put in a critical two points with under a minute to play. Amar’e cut the lead to 2 but walking 90’s barber shop throwback Daniel Gibson came up big with a clutch 3-pointer with 30 seconds to play, putting the Cavs up 5. A five-point lead would be comfortable for teams who play defense, but these two teams have as much chance of that as the Pistons showing up to a shoot around. Melo converted an and-1 on Hickson, but missed the free throw before fouling out of the game. Did the New York give up too much for Carmelo? Maybe, but the only contracts the Knicks have on the books for 2012/13 are Amare ($20M), Carmelo ($22M), and Balkman ($1.7 M). As fun it is to make fun of the Baron-to-Cleveland trade, Baron’s contract in 18 months will be a hugely valuable trade asset for the Cavs.
For those of you wondering, Al Jefferson does not need a point guard to set him up. Big Al put up 30 points and 9 rebounds as the Jazz snapped a five-game losing streak and beat the Pacers despite Danny Granger‘s 17 points. Utah’s southern-fried big men went to work, as Paul Millsap went for 23 points and a season-high 18 boards while the Jazz never trailed after the first quarter and maintained momentum throughout the game.
Fresh off their morning players’ revolt, the Pistons folded to the Sixers as Philadelphia reached .500 for the first time this season. Elton Brand had 20 points and 17 rebounds to surge the Sixers to a 29-29 record, including winning 12 of their last 16 games. Compared to their 3-13 record, this is impressive to the least and inspiring at most. Andre Iguodala added 21 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds as he sealed the game with a pair of explosive fast-break throw-downs (check out the windmill jam) while Detroit suited 6 players (any guesses as to which ones sat out?). Will Bynum turned the opportunity into a “pad-your-stats” day, contributing 29 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds while the rest of the patchwork starters each scored in double figures. Where do the Pistons go from here? I say rebuild. Not just the team, but the entire city. For whatever rises will give the Detroit fans more pride than this recent mess ever has.
Here’s a question for NBA fans attending games: what do you do when an enemy and a hero come into your arena? What if both are on the same team? Vince Carter scored 17 points while Nash added 11 assists as the Suns beat the Raptors. Andrea Bargnani scored 26 points but his Raptors trailed by as many as 24 points and since they were playing the Suns, they basically held themselves to 92 points. In the game’s second possession, Nash hit Carter for a half-court alley-oop while the crescendo of boos quieted down. At one point during the 3rd quarter as Vince was checking into the game, a fan called out: “Retire, Vince!” in his direction, prompting Carter to respond with a “Not yet”. Say whatever you want about the artist formerly known as Vinsanity, but Carter always gets the upper hand in Toronto.
This game demonstrates exactly why OKC made a big-man trade. Dwight Howard had 20 and 7 by halftime, finishing with 40 points and 15 rebounds as his Magic took down the Thunder. After losing to the Kings at home, the Magic came out with 3’s blazing as four players scored in double figures in the win. Orlando had control for most of the game, as the Thunder couldn’t get over the double-digit deficit barrier despite Kevin Durant’s (23 points) best efforts. The Magic shot 50% from the field, holding the Thunder to 33% shooting and out-rebounding them 53-46. Get healthy soon, Perk. Your services will be needed.
Chris Paul had 17 points and 8 assists to help his Hornets bounce back with a win against the Wolves. Team defense was the key, as the scrappy Hornets battled for loose balls and played tough team-defense that led to 21 Minnesota turnovers. Without David West, Trevor Ariza chipped in the scoring department, hitting 4 three-pointers to finish with 18 points. Okafor made his return for New Orleans with 10 points, 7 boards, and 3 blocks including a stuff that sent Beasley’s mind to near-sanity. Wes Johnson led the Wolves with 22 points. United on the defensive front and led by their floor general, the Hornets look to maintain or improve upon their 5th seed standings in the West.
Wondering why the Nets kept it close on the scoreboard against the Spurs? Deron Williams made his New Jersey debut with 14 points and 12 assists but it wasn’t enough against a complete Spurs team, led by Manu Ginobili’s 26 points. Mikhail Prokhorov even interrupted a trip, presumably to take a shot of vodka while flying over every state, as he visited San Antonio to see his new acquisition in action. Williams looked comfortable running the show, and kept his sense of humour while rallying his new troops, ending a huddle with a “Go Jazz!” It remains to be seen whether Prokhorov has enough resources to make Deron an offer he cannot refuse in the Jersey shore.
The Hawks celebrated their Bibby-less roster with a blowout over the Warriors, led by Josh Smith’s 26 points. For the Warriors, this is what happens when your dynamic backcourt shoots for a combined 9-of-28: David Lee leads the team in scoring (20 points and 10 rebounds), while the rest of the team dials in long jumpers like their long-distance plan is about to expire. Golden State face a 7-game road-trip ahead.
Dwyane Wade was feeling the Heat as he scored 41 points in a win over the Wizards. Nick Young held his own against Wade, scoring 38 of his own while John Wall side-stepped the rookie wall with 24 points and 12 assists. After twisting his ankle, Young wasn’t as effective on the offensive end and yet a hobbled shooting guard was still the focus of the Wizards’ plan of attack. A Miami 20-8 run sealed the game as the Wizards never got closer than 5 points. In the midst of the Miami trade rumours, it may have gotten lost that Eddy Curry wanted to sign the veteran’s minimum with the Heat. Riley decided against it, since Curry also wanted the veteran’s maximum of the team buffet.
With a small line-up that might as well run garden gnomes at the guards, the Clippers fell to the bigger and more experienced Lakers yet again. Blake Griffin was double-teamed all night (22 points and 10 rebounds), while Randy Foye got it going early from distance, finishing with 24 points but Gasol (22 points) kept the Lakers close early. We all agree that Pau is soft, but he has shown he can put his head down and get to the rim in crunch time. Either he’s embraced this Black Swan persona or he’s mad about his beard volumizer not performing as advertised. Kobe injured a nerve in his shooting arm, but the display of pain was not up to par as last season’s LeElbow soap opera. Coming out after halftime, Bryant basically played with one hand and still scored 18 points in the 3rd quarter, finishing with 24 points. This man is going places. Attention free agents: don’t sleep on the Clippers next summer, they have just $25M in payroll for 2012 and their power forward makes children weep with joy. If you’re wondering why Mo Williams and Jamario Moon didn’t play for the Clips (and you shouldn’t), they can’t suit up until Baron Davis passes a physical in Cleveland. In other words, Williams and Moon may never play again.
The closest game of the night came from two teams that are on the bottom-end of the playoff standings in the West, as the Blazers edged out the Nuggets in overtime. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 24 points and 14 rebounds and Brandon Roy played his second game back from surgery on both knees and hit a game-tying 3-pointer to send it into overtime. Have to hand it to Aldridge – he’s averaging 26 and 10 since Dec.5th, finally showing that he can be the focal point of an offense. Portland was short-handed as Crash has not yet joined the team so Roy played over his recommended 15 minutes limit and scored 18 points in the process. Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 30 points while Arron Afflalo (19 points) re-gained his clutch jumper with a triple that tied the game at 104, and another jumper to put the Nuggets up 2 with a minute to play. After Wes Matthews (16 points) split a pair of free throws, Aldridge redeemed himself after misses against the Lakers as he hit the game-winning freebies to put Portland up a point with 23 seconds to play. The Nuggets had a few chances to win it but Gallinari and Afflalo missed 3-pointers down the stretch. Can the Nuggets still make the playoffs? They’re deep enough at nearly every position and Nene is playing for a contract. Shock the world, Denver!
“Check My $tats” of the night: Dwight Howard – 40 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks.
Charles Barkley quote of the week: “I always laugh when people ask me about rebounding techniques. I’ve got a technique. It’s called just go get the damn ball.”
Fans are having a field day with Bosh’s 1-18 flop-o-Rama, and even Google is in the mix. Go to Google, then type in “Chris Bosh is” and laugh at the recommended search results.
Elsewhere, Shawn Kemp is not impressed by Blake Griffin’s All-Star dunks. In a related story, Griffin plans to dunk on Kemp while he’s eating his breakfast.
I’m out like Bosh’s street cred.