by Anton Kudriavtsev/@TheDiesel
This is history in the making, so stop calling fouls and let the players make it.
Last name “winning”, first name “never”. As Melo called in sick for a second straight game, the Nuggets delivered an early Christmas present to George Karl, beating the Raptors to earn Karl’s 1000th career win. Al Harrington picked up the offensive load with 31 points and Nene tore apart Toronto’s great wall of frontline softness with 26 points of his own. The Raps made a run, mainly by jacking up threes from similar distance to their home country, cutting it to single digits with 2:18 to play before falling to Big Shot Billups and his free throws. Kleiza led the Raps with 26 points off the bench, in addition to grabbing three times as much rebounds as Bargnani (24 points, 3 rebounds).
I brushed off previous wins to early season luck but with a victory over the Bobcats, the Pacers are not only playoff-bound, but fighting for the 6th seed in the East. Their success partly relies on how terrible the Bucks have played, but in any case playing above .500 for this team should be accomplishment enough. Danny Granger led the balanced attack with 18 points while Roy “last name mostly likely to make you smile for no reason” Hibbert had 13 points,14 boards, 6 assists, and 3 blocks. Gerald Wallace had 26 but the Bobcats couldn’t get enough offense to match the Pacers’ 41% from distance, with Charlotte only shooting 3-of-17 from distance. Not only that, but Indiana was able to hold the Bobcats to 41% shooting overall and have quietly led the league in field-goal percentage defense. Why is Indiana still boo-ing Stephen Jackson? It happened over 4 years ago, get over it.
Speaking of potential first-round exits, the Knicks won their seventh straight game with a victory over the Wizards, thanks to Amare’s triple double of 36 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 turnovers. Like Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, this is kind of a big deal since the Knicks haven’t won seven straight in a decade and Stoudemire tied a franchise-best seven straight games with 30 points or more (shout out to Willie Naulls in 1962).The Wizards made some plays down the stretch to pull within three, but like McGee’s free-throw line dunk, failed in the end. Gilbert Arenas left a parting gift to Washington by scoring 20 points (just in case he’s traded by the time this post is up). Where does Amare rank on the MVP race? He’s at least in the top-3 in my book, rounded out by Dirk and D-Will. Maybe Rondo should be thrown in there somewhere in the top-10, there is no way you can deny shooting 53% from the field, dishing 46 assists in the last three games, and making Shaq-a-Claus look like he could play for another year or two.
This is why I never give advice to youngsters: they just might take it. Derrick Rose led the running of the Bulls with 29 points and 9 assists as they beat the Lakers. Not to exaggerate, but the last time Chicago beat LA we were all watching Titanic on double VCR tapes (and watching a very different Rose, too). The Bulls held off a late rally thanks to a 26-13 bench points advantage as well as superior (47%) three-point shooting, holding the Lakers to a season-low 84 points. Kobe has 23 in the loss but needed 23 shots to reach it, while Gasol followed up with 21. Carlos Boozer a.k.a. “The People’s Eyebrow” had 10 points and 11 rebounds while Korver led the three-point assault with 13 off the bench. Rose brought the dagger with a 15-footer as the shot clock expired to pull his team ahead by five points with 25.2 seconds to play. Is it time to start worrying about the Lakers? I had them sleep-walking through the regular season but now that San Antonio, Dallas, and Utah are leading the west, this puts some pressure on the champs . At least this will hopefully make for a competitive March and April as teams fight for home court in the western conference finals. I don’t see OKC or the Hornets sneaking into the top 4 so I’m going to go with the Spurs, Lakers, Mavs, then Jazz. Who you got?
Is Russell Westbrook the most important player for the Thunder? It seems like each time Durant has an off-night or even an average night, Westbrook steps in and keeps his team in the game. Russ had 29 points and 10 assists to Durant’s 25 points as the Thunder beat the Hornets. Another bright spot for the young Thunder came as Serge Ibaka showed off his offensive prowess en route to an 18-point, 9-rebound night. For New Orleans, David West did his damage early with 24 points and 13 rebounds and Paul finished with 18 points, 7 assists, and 5 steals. Westbrook delivered the dagger, a three-point play to give the Thunder a six-point lead with 1:41 to play. Belinelli/Rambo body double missed a game-tying three-point attempt with 10 seconds to go.
Kevin Love had 27 points and 18 rebounds (what a slacker, couldn’t even give us a 20-20 game) in a forgettable win over the Pistons. Free agent gold mine Luke Ridnour held Minnesota down with 20 points and 10 assists, including 3-of-5 from three-point land. Rip Hamilton raised his trade value by scoring 26 points as Detroit wasted a 13-point lead, being outscored 58-26 in the paint. Darko made his presence felt with 7 rejections, he now leads the league in blocks. Why is no one talking about this?!
Whatever they’re drinking in San Antonio, I want some. The Spurs kept their best record in tact with an easy win over the Hawks. With all five starters in double figures, Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson led the Spurs with 18 apiece, solidified by DeJuan “Heavy D” Blair’s 18 points and 12 rebounds. Jamal Crawford led the Hawks with 23 points, who are now 2-6 against teams with winning records.
A big night from the Aussie big-man meant a win for the Bucks over the Rockets. Andrew Bogut had 24 points, 22 rebounds, and 5 blocks in his fourth 20-20 game of his career. The Rockets went a good seven minutes without a field goal late in the game despite Kevin Martin’s 23 points. Bogut on the boards means a rebounding advantage for Milwaukee which gives the team a better chance at a transition game with long outlet passes. Good to see the Bucks finally rounding out in form, getting their shooting back on track and reaching closer towards their potential.
The Blazers made it four in a row with a win over the Suns. Brandon Roy led Portland with 26 and Marcus Camby took his slingshot jumper to Phoenix while scoring 16 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. As the Blazers are usually over-reliant on jumpers, they held a two-point edge in points scored in the paint and connected on most of their jumpers to lead the Suns in double digits throughout most of the night. Phoenix was led by Nashty’s 24 points and 5 assists, in a game where it would have been more useful to turn off the “defense” setting on the video game and watch each team shoot until the final buzzer sounds.
The Magic continued their downward slide in a blowout loss versus the Jazz. Deron Williams scored a season-high 32 points but it was CJ Miles who took the scoring load in the 4th, dropping 19 of his final 26 late in the game. I didn’t believe it at first, but if the Jazz keep playing tough as nails they are becoming more legit in an increasingly open western conference. For the Magic, Jameer Nelson had 19 points and 10 assists and Bass made use of his starter’s minutes with 18 but the team overall needs more than a cosmetic overhaul. I couldn’t believe the results of yesterday’s Polladaday where most believed the Magic would be fine in the long term. Unless the hidden writing was that Lewis is transformed into his contract-year self and takes Vince Carter with him. Why is White Chocolate getting so many technicals? Someone tell him that the veteran’s minimum doesn’t cover fines before he is forced to sell junk retirement plans to seniors in Florida.
The biggest challenge for the Heat was not whether they could get the win over the Warriors, but who would get the triple double first. Wade led Miami with 34 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists while LeBron spread his talents around with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Miami are starting to click and are now rolling on a season-high 7-game win streak, dominated the Warriors on the boards and killed them on fast-break points. Monta Ellis had 20 points and 7 assists but this one was over before the first substitutions. Final thought: when LeBron attends Bosh’s wedding, he will be the best man in every way possible.
“Check My $tats” of the night: Amar’e Stoudemire – 36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks. Forget the turnovers, STAT’s been doing this for 7 straight games.
As many of you know, Antoine Walker is now in the D-League. How is he doing? About as well as his neutral facial expression: sad. The Shimmy expert has recently been quoted as saying that “My dream is to play in the NBA”, which sounds more desperate than noble. As I watched ‘Toine air-ball a free throw in the D-League, I saw his career rise and fall with that basketball. As Shea Cotton said, “the ball stops bouncing a lot sooner than you think”.
The rules of basketball have now literally been sold out. James Naismith’s (shout out to Canada!) original 13 rules for the game of basketball have been sold for $4.4 million. I don’t mean to disappoint you all, but ever since the bottom of the peach basket has been cut out, the points never counted. Per rule 8: “a goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there.” No word on whether the buyer plans to re-sell the rules to Stern for imperial modifications.
I’m out like Toine’s happy ending.