by Anton Kudriavtsev/ @TheDiesel
The Nets and Raptors kicked off the first regular season game overseas in London with New Jersey coming out on top, led by Brook Lopez (25 points). Deron Williams scored 16 points and dished 11 assists on the way to his first victory as a Net while Kris Humphries added 18 points and 17 rebounds. The Raptors led by 3 points at the end of 3 quarters when the Nets’ bench went on a 20-6 run (Sundiata Gaines, stand up!) which gave enough lift for D-Will and Lopez to finish the game as they combined for 11 points down the stretch. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 30 points but the true highlights came from the British fans in the O2 arena. Someone needs to get Luol Deng to clarify this for us, but apparently it’s customary to boo both teams equally on every free throw, yet cheer if the shot goes in. With David Stern’s thirst for international flavour only increasing, will he eventually force the NBA to accept a team overseas? I can’t imagine the player’s association being thrilled about the logistics, wouldn’t the Spurs’ rodeo road trip would take 2 months to finish?
A night after surfing a wave of three-pointers in South Beach, the Magic didn’t have another comeback in them as they fell to the Bulls. The Magic seem to have Rose’s number because they routinely cut off his driving lanes by putting Howard behind the player guarding Rose but tough defense and a supporting cast were key for Chicago. Hedo Turkoglu left the game in the first quarter with a sore elbow (and attitude), and his return didn’t make much difference as Chicago led by 14 at halftime but Orlando cut it to 8 before the 4th quarter. For the Bulls, the scoring came from Rose (24 points), Deng (16 points), and Kyle Korver (10 points) made up for his air-balling against the Hawks as he hit three key triples down the stretch which kept Orlando at bay. Howard had 20 and 10 but got his 16th technical of the year after Korver, of all people, got under his skin so he will be suspended Monday night against Portland. I firmly believe that if given more minutes, Ronnie Brewer could win the Defensive Player of the Year if the judges let someone else contend for the award. Check Dwight’s stats in February: 26.6 pgg, 14.8 rpg, 2.0 bpp and 66.7% shooting. If that’s not an MVP, I don’t know what is. Dwight took out some of his frustrations by sending Asik back to Turkey with his dunk. Some observations about Tom Thibodeau – why so serious? Even if Chicago is up 20 points, he’s frowning like me when I couldn’t find Sugar Crisp in the grocery store. We know that players tend to take the personality of the coach, but I didn’t know assistant coaches take the voice of head coaches (what’s up, Doc?). The Bulls face Miami on Sunday morning’s prime time schedule.
Andre Iguodala triple-doubled his way to another Sixers win as they took down the Wolves. Iggy had 22 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds as the Sixers overcame Kevin Love’s 10th 20/20 of the season, putting up 21 points and 23 rebounds on the night. As usual, the Sixers received well-rounded contribution (6 players in double figures) but Minnesota kept it close, pulling within 1 before falling to 10 straight Sixer points to close out the game. Love is now just two double-doubles away from tying Moses Malone’s 51-game streak from 1978-1979.
The Thunder returned to their winning ways with a victory over the Hawks. The dynamic duo of Durant (29 points) and Westbrook (28 points, 9 assists) proved too much for Atlanta to handle. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 24 points and after Atlanta led by two points before Westbrook hit another clutch shot. Taking the pass from Durant, Russ curled around a screen and hit a triple to regain the lead for OKC as they held on for the win.
The Celtics secured their 4th straight win with a close victory over the Warriors. Ray Allen (27 points) was key for Boston, as he couldn’t miss early in the game and grabbed an offensive rebound with 12 seconds to play to help the C’s escape with a win. Boston gave up an 18-point lead as Monta Ellis exploded for 28 of his 41 points in the second half to surge Golden State down the stretch. Jeff Green (21 points) is starting to find his rhythm in the offense, while Rondo dished 16 assists. Outside of Westbrook, Green hasn’t had such a willing group of distributors on the floor and he’s beginning to take advantage. After the backlash that Danny Ainge has received for the deadline trade, Green and Krstic are paying dividends while Perkins and Robinson are having knee issues in OKC. Maybe Ainge knew something about their health that the general fan base didn’t? The playoffs will tell all.
So much for Melo’s proclaimed “revenge game”. Baron Davis made his Cavalier debut, starting off by an alley-oop to J.J. Hickson (23 points) and finishing with 18 points and 5 assists as the Cavaliers took down the Knicks. New York entered the game ranked 3rd in the NBA in points off turnovers (17 ppg) but committed 16 turnovers of their own as the Cavs rallied in the 4th quarter for the win. The trio of Melo, Douglas, and Fields shot 16-of-20 in the 1st half but cooled in the second while Amar’e took over (41 points, 9 rebounds) but it wasn’t enough. Davis scored 12 of his 18 in the final 6 minutes in a furious comeback while the Knicks folded like new IKEA furniture. An offensive foul on Anthony later, and the revenge game was not to be. Melo and STAT combine for 70 points in a loss to the Cavs? No matter how you slice it, this is not a good look for a team who haven’t beat Cleveland since December of 2007.
Chris Paul broke out of his recent slump to lead his Hornets over the Grizzlies. CP3 had 23 points and 14 assists and Willie Green (15 points) heated up at the right time as the Hornets rallied past the Grizzlies in the 4th quarter. The Grizzlies had balanced scoring with Z-Bo scoring 20 and rebounding 11 but Gasol missed two free throws as New Orleans pulled away after Jarrett Jack (19 points) hit two late free throws to stretch their lead to four. The Hornets are currently sitting as the 6th seed but considering the Western standings are about as stable as Libya’s democracy, Paul and company will need to stack up some wins to maintain their spot or move up.
Having a competent closer on contending teams is always beneficial but having a little extra help doesn’t hurt either. As usual, Dirk Nowitzki came through in the clutch with 29 points while Jason Terry had his back, adding 21 of his own as the Mavs won their 8th straight game. After giving up a 14-point lead, the Pacers rallied back within 3 after Darren Collison (17 points, 6 assists) hit a 3-pointer with 3:24 to play. The JET took off from there, hitting back-to-back jumpers to add to their lead as himself and the Dirkster combined for 15 4th-quarter points. Fans talk about sleeping on Dwight for MVP, what about Dirk? He’s consistently leading Dallas to more winning streaks than a card counter in Vegas and hitting big shots in crunch time.
The Suns kept their playoff hopes alive with an easy win over the Bucks. Channing Frye scored 20 points, Nash dished 13 assists and Phoenix rattled off a 19-0 third-quarter run and coast for the victory. Corey Maggette led Milwaukee with 21 points but the Bucks were missing 4 rotational players and simply ran out of energy down the stretch.
If the sky isn’t falling, it’s getting lower with every game. One night after falling to their Floridian rivals, the Heat suffered their worst loss of the season at the hands of the Spurs. LeBron got his stats (28/8/7) but San Antonio crushed Miami twice, once in the 1st quarter and again in the 4th to put the finishing touches on a 30-point rout. With 8 Spurs in double digits, Manu led the way with 20 points but the bench kept momentum on their side, out-scoring 4 of 5 Miami starters. Exactly how bad did the Spurs want to make a statement? Tony Parker was supposed to be out for 4-6 weeks, but he came back, shook off the flagrant 2 foul, and scored 15 points in addition to dishing 8 assists. What’s impressive about these Spurs (besides their record), is how smart they play. The coaching staff (most credit goes to Pop) implements a system and infuses their players with trust. Whether it’s a starter of a bench warmer, they’re willing passers and rarely force shots. San Antonio made it rain from the 3-point line like Latrell Sprewell on his payday, hitting 17 triples led by Matt Bonner (6-of-7 from distance, 18 points). You know you’re in a blowout when Tim Duncan is saying “game over” in the 1st quarter. Where do the Heat go from here? The “gelling” should have happened in December, injuries are part of the game, and coaching seems to have gone AWOL. Three straight losses puts them as the 3 seed as they face the Bulls on Sunday. One thing is for sure in their sea of uncertainty – they will remember the Alamo.
With vengeance on their minds, the newly focused Lakers took down the Bobcats to earn their 6th straight win. Kobe scored 27 points and Gasol had a strong 20/10 game while L.A. managed to keep Charlotte from making a comeback in the 2nd half. D.J. Augustin scored 22 points but he was the only ‘Cat keeping his team in the game early and the Lakers grinded it out to hold on for the victory.
“Check My $tats” of the night: Monta Ellis – 41 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block.
Separated at Birth of the day: Steph Curry and the Childlike Empress.
Time for roll call – did someone forget Bosh again? The Real GM and Heat message boards always deliver after a Miami loss, I think I found this album at a garage sale last week. Seriously, I hope all those bricks LeBron puts up go towards building some schools in worthy places.
I’ve been waiting to put Charlie Sheen in the Post Up for weeks, and I finally have the excuse to. In an interview with ABC last week, Sheen quotes Allen Iverson’s “practice?!”
Speaking of Sheen, the Dirkmeister channels his inner Charlie for this bobblehead promotion.
In case you were wondering, Shaq is still Shaq.
Think Perkins is happy about his move to OKC? Think again.
Finally, the craziest free throw you’ll see.
I’m out like Spo’s career security.