by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Happy New Year party people! Hope you all had a nice long weekend, and were able to sneak away from get-togethers and the like to watch some hoops. We’ll get to all the games in a moment, but since I was back in my home parts of DC for the holidays, and I couldn’t leave without getting a glimpse of my Wizards up close and personal, you’ll have to endure a quick medium-sized recap of the Boston-Washington game last night.
Let’s start with the obvious: the new Wizards colors, from the jerseys to the hardwood to the new paint in the press room, are fresh as hell. Unfortunately, this year’s “team” is quite ugly. I am now a proud supporter of the NBA’s lone remaining winless team. Curse of The Post Up?
It was a weird scene at the Verizon Center on Monday night, as the Wizards went with the road red uniforms, the Celts suited up in home whites, and there were easily more C’s fans on hand than Wiz supporters (including one overweight fashionista who’s Rondo jersey matched his camouflage undershirt). By the fourth quarter, Paul Pierce was egging on the green gang in the arena, waving a towel and enjoying the away-court advantage.
The Celtics jumped out to a 24-11 lead in the first quarter after a Keyon Dooling three-pointer, and while the Wiz made things half-interesting in the third quarter, Boston had the game in hand from the start. But the C’s are clearly going to have depth issues, unless this late first quarter lineup that Doc Rivers put on the floor was actually a practical joke—Dooling, Brandon Bass, Marquis Daniels, Avery Bradley, Greg Stiemsma. That’s a pile.
Then again, Stiemsma threw down a dunk in the second quarter to make it 48-30 Celtics, and he had 3 blocks. Nothing against Old Greg, but that should probably never happen again. By halftime, the Wizards were down 51-34, having shot 0-9 from three-point range and 28 percent overall. Nick Young got hot in the third quarter, scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and a Jordan Crawford three brought Washington to within seven, but that’s as close as the game ever got.
The Wizards’ lack of defensive rotation on simple pick-and-rolls was astonishing to watch in person, as was the way Rajon Rondo toyed with John Wall and any other on-coming defender. Washington made Kevin Garnett (24 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) look like Bob Cousy on at least one occasion, and Rondo messed around and got a triple-double (18-11-14), including one ridiculously easy juke and finish. Wall flirted with a trip-doub of his own (19-7-8), but his supporting cast continues to make me want to smash my head into a concrete wall. At least Andray Blatche didn’t go on a Twitter rampage after the game. Let’s move on, shall we?
After trailing for most of the game by double digits, the Magic mounted a fourth quarter comeback, keyed by a 16-0 run and five three-pointers in the period, to come all the way back against the Raptors. Ryan Andersen, who is tops in the League in three-point attempts and makes, led Orlando with 24 points (his fourth 20+ point performance in the first five games of the season), while Dwight Howard went for 19 points, 15 boards and 3 blocks and JJ Redick added 21 off the bench. Andrea Bargnani led all scorers with 28 points on 10-21 shooting (and the only half-decent highlight from this game), and Jose Calderon had a nice game with 18 points and 13 assists, including the 3,000th dime of his seven-year NBA career. Calderon played 36 minutes with Jerryd Bayless nursing a sprained ankle. The Magic improved to 4-1 despite shooting a measly 67 percent from the free throw line.
Last Wednesday night, Miami needed a last-second bucket from Dwyane Wade to finish the pesky Bobcats. Last night, the Heat took care of business in a more timely manner, jumping out to a 33-15 lead after one quarter and never looking back. Chris Bosh scored 20 of his 24 points in the first half (after which Miami led 65-37), DWade scored 22 with boo looking on and LeBron James had himself a quiet 16-point, 9-board, 5-assist night in the win. Rookie PG Norris Cole had another efficient game off the bench, playing 20 minutes and finishing with 16 points (6-8 FG), 9 assists and 3 steals, but so did starter Mario Chalmers, who scored 16 (6-of-7 shooting) with 5 assists in his 28 minutes. As for Charlotte, it’s probably no surprise they took the L when you consider that DJ White was the team’s leading scorer with 21 points. And, the Bobcats’ top three leading scorers for the season did this:
DJ Augustin (17.7 PPG): 24 minutes, 1-11 shooting, 4 points
Gerald Henderson (15.7): 30 minutes, 4-13 shooting, 8 points
Corey Maggette (12.7): 19 minutes, 0-6 shooting, 2 points
Rough night for Charlotte’s “Big Three.” Kemba Walker, meanwhile, scored 17 points off the bench in 24 minutes, as he continues to make his bid for increased playing time. Thankfully for the ‘Cats, they don’t see Miami again until April, while James’ former team, the Cavs, is up next on the sked. Lastly—your requisite Heat highlights, which today we’ll call LIKE A BOSH and Touchdown, Miami!
Deron Williams’ struggles continued last night, and Antawn Jamison celebrated the New Year by partying like it was 2005, as the Cavs got back to .500 and New Jersey lost its fourth straight. Williams shot 6-for-16 from the field (16 points) and the Nets shot 38 percent as a team (7-22 from 3-point range) in the loss, despite every NJ starter finishing in double figures. Kyrie Irving scored 13 points, added 4 rebounds and 4 assists (even 2 blocks!) against his hometown team, and Jamison put up 23 points on 10-15 shooting. The Cavs hit 16 three-pointers (61 percent from deep), had 10 offensive rebounds and outscored the Nets 55-33 in the second half. Nets rookie Marshon Brooks was held scoreless in 12 minutes—he came in averaging more than 15 points per game.
Move over, Tim Tebow. You’ve been replaced by a new cult favorite, and his name is Ricky Rubio. People go goofy for this kid every time he hits the floor, jamming up every social media site with updates on his growing legend. Then again, dude’s got some game, and while Kevin Love’s 25 points and 17 boards probably had more to do with Minny’s first victory of the season (over the champs, no less), Rubio chipped in 14 points and 7 assists (4 turnovers) in 26 minutes off the pine.
Beasley also did something gross to his finger on a pass from Love—more than your run-of-the-mill finger jam, folks. His freak-out face doubles as a Rubio reaction, as well as my response to his 3-10 shooting and 8 points in 31 minutes. C’mon, Beaz!
Sure, it was the fifth game of the season. Sure, Zach Randolph played just 11 minutes after leaving with an apparent knee injury (differing reports on the severity of such). But damn, if that wasn’t a statement game from the Bulls. Not one Grizzlies starter scored in double figures, combining for a grand total of 21 points. As a team, Memphis shot just 31 percent from the field and 1-of-9 from three-point land. I am not ashamed to admit that prior to last night, I literally had never heard of Josh Davis, who—along with Sam Young—led the Grizz in scoring with 10 points. Let’s review: Josh Davis. Leading scorer. 10 points. Bingo!
The Bulls put on a show in their home opener, frustrating Memphis at every turn, starting from the opening tip. Chicago led 54-28 at the half despite being without Rip Hamilton, who was a late scratch due to a groin injury. Ronnie Brewer stepped into the starting lineup and had his best game of the season, finishing with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Carlos Boozer went for 17 and 11, and Derrick Rose enjoyed a casual 16-point (granted, 4-10 shooting), 6-assist night in just 26 minutes. Chicago is out to a 4-1 start, best since the ’96-97 title team that opened the season 12-0. If there were ever a play that sums up this Bulls team—and their league-worst announcing crew?—it’s this:
Kobe Bryant scored 16 points, helping him pass the 28,000-point mark (and become the youngest player ever to do so), but he shot 6-28 for the night and the Lakers lost to Denver despite a pair of huge performances from L.A.’s frontcourt. Andrew Bynum put up 18 points and 16 rebounds and Pau Gasol scored 20 to go with 11 boards. Kobe started his game with five missed shots and two offensive fouls, and never really found a rhythm. Still, the game hung in the balance into the fourth quarter, just like the previous night’s game back in Los Angeles, which the Lakers won. The Nuggets made just 2 of 18 three-point attempts, but Ty Lawson scored 17 points and dropped 10 dimes and Danilo Gallinari scored a team-high 20 points as Denver pulled away, thanks in part to their 31-16 advantage from the free throw line.
Earlier in the day, DeMarcus Cousins demanded he be traded, or the Kings demanded to trade him, or something like that. Bottom line, Boogie won’t be playing for Sacramento any time soon (I’m hoping my Wiz pick up the phone). But even with the DeMarcus drama dominating the day—sorry about going crazy with the alliteration there, couldn’t resist—the Kings gutted out a win against the Hornets, who are still without Eric Gordon. Ironically (or maybe not), it looked like the SacTown kids were having fun without Cousins on the bench. Jason Thompson had fun all over Chris Kaman’s beard, while Tyreke Evans told Greivis Vasquez “we’re the only ones having fun in here tonight!” Evans scored 27 points and Marcus Thornton had 25 in the win, and Trevor Ariza paced New Orleans with 17 of his own.
Rip City and Lob City hooked up for the late game last night, and it was a goodie, with the Clippers handing the Blazers their first loss of the season. Chris Paul sealed the victory with a big layup, jumpball win, and steal on consecutive possessions to preserve a slim edge for Los Angeles—he finished the night with 17 points and 7 assists (just 3 turnovers). Blake Griffin notched his second straight double-double with 20 points and 10 boards, and DeAndre Jordan, who put up 9 points and 11 rebounds, was the recipient of delectable CP3 dishes not once, but twice. Gerald Wallace was a complete no-show for Portland, finishing with zero points in 30 minutes of action. On the upside, he did throw a basketball as hard as he could into Caron Butler’s man parts. So there’s that.
Line of the Night: Rondo goes triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists, only 3 turnovers.
Moment of the Night: Kareem, Karl, Mike, Wilt, Shaq. Welcome to elite company, Kobe.
Block of the Night: Jason Richardson vs. the rim. Guess who won.
Tonight: Hope you all enjoyed the Wizards-Celtics write-up, because they’re playing again tonight, this time in Boston. (Assuming the C’s win comfortably, I’ll spare you the excess analysis, I promise.) We’ve got 10 total games going on, the most intriguing being Hawks-Heat, Spurs-Wolves and a rematch of one of the year’s best games so far in Dallas, as the 5-0 Thunder return to town. You remember how that one ended.