by Anton Kudriavtsev / @TheDiesel
Points dropped, records copped, this is why the game should never stop.
Without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook switched his Robin mask for a Batman on his way to 31 points and 6 assists and leading his Thunder over the Celtics. Rondo had 14 points and 7 assists but lost the overall point guard battle as he couldn’t handle the athleticism of Westbrook. Both teams shot pretty poorly but the difference came from the Thunder’s hot 3-point shots (67%) and 84% at the charity stripe. A very impressive win for the rising and expectation-laden Zombie Sonics.
The Sixers snapped a 5-game losing streak with a win over the Bucks, led by Thaddeus Young’s 23 points. Corey Maggette led the Bucks with 20 points but the difference maker was the Philly bench, outs-scoring the Bucks 47-32. While Brandon Jennings had an off night (3-of-13 shooting), the Bucks took his leadership and finished with 34% from the field, not giving Milwaukee a chance at a win. I have to say that this inconsistent Bucks team is under-achieving. Bogut is healthy and human Michelin Man stand-in Maggette is getting buckets off the bench like Baron Davis in the offseason at the KFC. Wasn’t this supposed to be a dark horse contender in the east? Milwaukee, if you want us to fear the deer, you have to show us why. As for the Sixers, I think they’ll surprise some people this season. Not in a good way, but surprise them nonetheless.
With a win over Utah, the San Antonio Spurs are on a 9-game winning streak. To put that into perspective, the last time that happened, they still had an asterisk next to their championship trophy. Tim Duncan passed David Robinson to become the Spurs’ all-time leading scorer with his 19 points and 14 rebounds and Tony Parker ran the team with 24 points and 7 assists. The Spurs manhandled the Jazz on the boards (46-31) and made all the key plays down the stretch to halt an always-present Utah comeback. Deron Williams finished with 23 points and 5 assists for the Jazz.
Gregg Popovich on Duncan: “Just go up and down the court and go home and get a sandwich. That’s what he does.” Timmy is one man who deserved that sandwich.
Give the ball to Bargnani and get out of the way. That strategy has historically failed but Andrea dropped 26 points and 6 boards on this night as his Raptors beat the Rockets. Good to see Kleiza’s NBA comeback in full effect, with 17 off the bench. Kevin Martin equalled his season-high with 31 points but his squad couldn’t close the game out. The Rockets were up by one early in the 4th as Martin started the comeback with a layup and some free throws but Bargnani protected the score like his mother’s pasta recipe, going in for a running jumper to push the lead further. If these Raps can establish a more consistent help-defense, they might be able to compete for the 8th seed come April.
With John Wall still sidelined, Gilbert Arenas (24 points) and Kirk Hinrich (22 points) held down the Wizards with a close win over the Grizzlies. Zachory Randolph notched his familiar 19 points and 12 rebounds in Memphis’ 5th straight loss. Trailing by 4 with 8 minutes to play, Arenas and Hinrich fist-bumped each other and went to work, scoring the following 12 points for the Wizz and playing off each other with easy looks. Andray Blatche (17 points, 9 boards) solidified the win with a 3-point play.
If the Heat play at home but no one shows up, does the game still exist? This philosophical thought lingered in my mind throughout the night Miami held off a resilient Bobcats squad. With D3 (Sorry Dwyane, but this nickname is not catching on. At all) batting the flu and no plans for a flu game, LeBron took an extra long nap to prepare for the gruelling 39 minutes of action, leading the Heat with 32 points, 5 assists, and 2 rebounds (like a Bosh!). This had all the makings of a blowout early but tightened up like Mark Cuban’s t-shirts as Stephen Jackson began to heat up, finishing with 30 points including a three to make it a two point game with just under 5 minutes left. LeTalents then hit a jumper then let his boy Chrissy Bosh “chill” at the free throw line to push the lead up to 5 with 1:07 left. Is it just me or does Boris Diaw’s lack of conditioning makes you believe you can play in the NBA? As much as it’s fun to point out Bosh’s short-comings, he had a season-high 14 boards to go with his 22 points against a resilient team. Coming into this game, Miami ranked last in the league in points in the paint per game (33.6) and percentage of points in the paint (32.2%) and made an effort to change that on this night, including 10 offensive rebounds. It will be interesting to see how the Heat continue to evolve throughout the season in that department.
As I was amping myself up for the Michael Beasley vs. Ron Artest match-up (seriously), I quickly realized the battle was more like Beas against Artest’s reputation for a lock-down defender. I’m not hating on Artest, but his defense was suspiciously more impressive when coupled with Battier’s Jigsaw-like preparation for every game. Regardless, the Lakers ran through the Wolves thanks to Matt Barnes’ perfect shooting night (7-of-7, 24 points). Minny kept it relatively close early on thanks to some defensive work by Darko Milicic (23 points, 16 rebounds, 6 blocks) but couldn’t keep it up as LA’s HOV triangle wore them down with tremendous execution. Kobster ended with 23 points and 8 boards. Beezy finished with 25 points and 10 boards but his league-leading rebounding star Kevin Love only had 7 boards and went scoreless. At the end of the day, the Lakers aren’t looking at you bottom-feeders, they’re looking past you.