by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Big shoutout to Abe for holding down the opening week of the season and providing the SLAM fam with great coverage.
Eleven games last night, some good, some not so good. The Heatles closed out their 2011 tour in fitting dramatic fashion while CP3 and Lob City took on reigning MVP and point-god DRose and the Chicago Bulls. A lot of highlights and huge stat lines from superstars across the map last night, let’s get right to it…
Man, if the Magic played the bottom feeders of the NBA every night, Dwight Howard would have some of the most impressive stat lines of all time. The Bobcats simply had no answer for Dwight inside, as he notched his second straight 20+ rebound effort and first 20/20 game of the season. Along with his 20 and 24, Howard also had 4 steals and 4 blocks (Damn!), but left 8 at the line as he shot 6-14 from the stripe. The Magic had five players in double digits and are playing some good ball after beating up on the Nets and Bobcats on back to back nights. The schedule certainly doesn’t get tougher as they play the Toronto, Detroit, Washington before finally getting a test with a matchup against Chicago next week.
The Bobcats are just not a good basketball team, and whenever you have Boris Diaw playing 30+ minutes a night and an offense centered around Corey Maggette, the outlook for the rest of the season is pretty grim. Charlotte does have some hope in rookie Kemba Walker, but he struggled mightily last night scoring just 2 points on 1 of 9 shooting. The game was never close as Orlando jumped out to an 11-0 lead and didn’t let the Bobcats get within nine in the second half.
I like this Pacers team and really think they can make some noise in the East and could be a potential nightmare matchup come April. They have a go to scorer in Granger, one of the better front courts in the league with West and Hibbert down low, and a deep bench with Hansborough, George Hill, and Dahntay Jones. The Pacers have jumped out to a 3-0 record, but it hasn’t been pretty. They play what coach Fred Vogel, describes as “smash-mouth” basketball and win ugly, as evidenced by their victory against the Cavs last night. As a team, Indy once again shot under 40 percent from the field but hung on to win in overtime. Danny Granger dropped 9 of his 22 in the extra session and hit a big 3 to stretch the lead to six with 90 seconds to play. The Pacers had six players in double figures and early on are playing some of the best team basketball in the league.
For Cleveland, it looks like it’s going to be another long season, but there is a silver lining as rookie Kyrie Irving continues to impress. The super quick rookie had by far his best game of the season last night, as he dropped 20 on 8-19 shooting, and was inches away from winning the game in regulation as his last second layup barely missed. Byron Scott is going to let the kid play, and Irving will have a long leash as he continues to get back into the swing of things after coming back from last year’s toe injury.
Turns out all the Celtics needed was some home lovin’ to get back on track, as they notched a 10-point victory in Paul Pierce’s season debut. The C’s looked immediately more cohesive with The Truth on the court and blew the game open in the third quarter as they put up 36 points on an absurd 71.4 percent shooting. Jermaine O’Neal had his best statistical game in a Celtics uniform as he tallied 19 points, 7 boards, and 2 blocks while Rajon Rondo had an unusually quiet night with just 9 points and 5 assists.
The Pistons remain one of the most dumbfounding organizations in the NBA. They have talent but absolutely no rhythm or sense of “team” and it looks like they have already tuned out new coach Lawrence Frank; never a good sign. Detroit only had 18 assists on 34 field goals (compare that with 25 on 35 for Boston), with seven of them coming from Rodney Stuckey. Second year big man Greg Monroe had 22 points and 9 rebounds and looks to be one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dismal Pistons squad.
Atlanta continued their winning ways as they got great backcourt play from Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague who combined for 43 points. The Hawks gained the lead with 2:18 left in the first and never looked back while the Nets, playing their fourth game in five nights, lost another home game. The Nets enjoyed great guard play themselves as Deron Williams bounced back from a rough outing against Orlando to the tune of 23 points on 50 percent shooting. Rookie Marshon Brooks continues to get buckets, putting up 21 on an efficient 8 of 13 shooting while the former Mr. Kardashian proceeds to dominate the boards with 13 rebounds to go along with 10 points. Oh, and Marvin Williams also hit a ridiculous half court shot to end the first half.
The Rockets simply had no answer for the frontcourt duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as they combined for 43 points on 17 of 22 shooting. Memphis dominated inside and outscored the Rockets 56-36 in the paint. Z-Bo did it on both ends with his signature crafty low post offensive moves and along with Gasol absolutely shut down the Houston frontcourt defenisvely. The Griz had six players in double figures and jumped out to a 21 point lead in the third. The Rockets, who were playing the second of a back-to back-to back stretch looked tired in the second half and were abused down low. Kevin Martin had his second straight 20 point effort, but he can’t do it all by himself. It could get ugly in Houston this season; the Rockets really have no true offensive threat outside of Martin and look like they might be the biggest losers in the CP3 trade fiasco.
Jarrett Jack made Steve Nash look every bit his 37 years on Friday night after he had him on skates not once, but twice down in ‘Nawlins (ice them ankles Steve!). Despite the ooh’s and ahh’s from Jack, the Hornets (sans Eric Gordon) shot a putrid 29.8 percent from the field while the Suns got their first dub of the season. Hakim Warrick had a game high 18 off the pine and Nash had 12 dimes helping Phoenix cruise to an easy win.
Happy Birthday LeBron!
On his born day, King James certainly didn’t disappoint, leading the Heat to a victory with a crazy 34/8/10 performance while giving his best Brandon Jacobs impersonation, bowling over Anthony Tolliver for the layup. LeBron always brings his ‘A’ game on his birthday (he averages 35.8 ppg on December 30th) and this year was no different, notching his 38th career 30-point 10-assist effort. Look out world, the man looks determined.
Is there a more entertaining team in the league than the Heat right now? Not only are they providing fans with breath taking plays, and a break neck open court game, they also have a flair for the dramatics. Against the Celtics, it was rookie Norris Cole playing the hero. Later on during the week, it was Dwayne Wade bailing the Heat out two games in a row against the Bobcats and last night in Minnesota. Playing on a sore foot, DWade had 19 points and 5 turnovers, but came through when it mattered most, catching and finishing an alley-oop with 4.6 seconds left toensure victory. Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers combined for 21 points and nine assists and if the Heat can get solid play from them every night, they will be extremely tough to beat.
Minnesota may have something special brewing in the midwest. The T’Wolves have now played OKC and the Heatles to the wire, but continue to shoot themselves in the foot–last night it was 25 turnovers which led to 31 Miami points. Kevin Love has been unstoppable thus far, and last night was no different; it doesn’t matter who you throw at him, he will get his numbers. But, Love was shut down by new acquisition Shane Battier on a potentially game winning possession.
Hype usually kills, but thus far, Ricky Rubio has lived up to, and exceeded expectations. The Spaniard scored his first career double-double with 12 points and 12 dimes, and if the Wolves can keep him and Love together (Love will be a free agent after this season) they will be one of the most exciting tandems in the L. In an ode to their depth, every single bench player for Minnesota scored in double figures. Look for the young Wolves to be competitive and learn how to close and win games as the season progresses.
It a battle of young, up and coming point-god’s, Brandon Jennings got the better of John Wall this time around. Young Money continued his strong start with 22 points on 8-15 shooting (1-6 from 3) 5 assists and 4 turnovers and looked strong in the 2nd half. Wall on the other hand, had a tough night, scoring just 6 points on 1-9 shooting and 7 assists. The Wizards have gotten off to a terrible start, and now their ineffectiveness has become comical. Roger Mason Jr. hit a jumper…but, Roger Mason Jr. wasn’t even supposed to be in the game. Coach Flip Saunders forgot to put Mason Jr. on the active roster list, and the Wizards received a technical foul for their ineptitude. Yeah, that pretty much sums up Washington’s season thus far.
After dropping a heartbreaker to the Thunder on Thursday, the defending champs finally got in the win column for the season. The Mavs benched outscored the Raptors bench 56-26 as Mahinmi, the JET, and Vince Carter all scored in double figures to grab a win against the lowly Raptors. Toronto did take a seven point lead in the third behind Bargnani’s 30 points, but they couldn’t hold off the Mavs as they exploded for a 16-2 run to end the third quarter and never looked back. DeMar Derozan also had this huge dunk.
Al Jefferson was held out from last night’s game, but Derrick Favors filled in nicely and earned his first career 20 and 10 game. The Jazz provided their fans with a little glimpse into the future as both Favors and Enes Kanter gave Utah solid minutes and helped fill the void left by Jefferson. Gordon Hayward did an admirable job against the bigger and stronger Andre Iguodala; Dre repeatedly went at the wiry forward, but Hayward held his own and Iguodala scored a quiet 16.
After getting yanked in the first quarter, Devin Harris returned in the second and dropped 13 points to help the Jazz take the lead into the half only to be pulled again in the third quarter after some uninspiring play. Harris looked spectacular at times and unfocused at others, not sure if that’s due to the extended off-season or him tuning out coach Ty Corbin. Jrue Holiday scored a game high 22 and Lou Williams had 20 off the bench for the Sixers, but it wasn’t enough as Holiday missed a 3 at the buzzer to seal the win for the Jazz.
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the Clippers since they acquired CP3 from the Hornets and the reigning MVP didn’t look to pleased about it last night. Rose dropped 29 points to go along with 16 dimes and 8 boards and reminded the rest of the league that he is the best PG until someone rightfully takes his spot. Chris Paul certainly made a case for Rose’s spot as the two traded blows and tried to best each other throughout the game. But, in the end, DRose proved to be to strong for the Clippers and led the Bulls to a 13 point victory. As a fan, it was incredible to watch Rose and Paul go at it like two prize fighters, but the Clippers, as a collective unit, aren’t ready to compete with the elite teams…yet. Blake Griffin had himself a helluva game, scoring 34 points and gathering 13 rebounds, but looked run down in the fourth and wasn’t as effective as he was to begin the game. The game was all about DRose and CP3 though and we are lucky that this won’t be the last bout between the two.
Line of the Night: Tough choice between Howard / LeBron / Love / Blake / DRose but I gotta go with the birthday boy with 34 Pts, 8 Reb, 10 Ast, and 4 Stl.
Play of the Night: DWade’s game winner.
You Serious, Bro?: Mo Williams’ intro.
Seven games tonight to bring in the New Year: Denver takes on the Lakers in the afternoon. Indiana takes on Detroit, Houston hosts Atlanta, OKC plays Phoenix, New York finishes up its west coast trip in Sacramento, the Spurs host the Jazz and Golden State hosts Philly to close out 2011. Have a happy and safe NYE everybody!