by Ryne Nelson / @slaman10
Good morning, SLAM fam! Here we are, on a random Tuesday, and I’m authoring this space for the first time. It’s a bit of a daunting task if you look back at the history of the Post Up and the work we’ve put in to recap the night, every night, in hoops.
That said, we’re here to discuss basketball, which is what we do best. Day in and day out. Let’s get to it!
Washington was playing well against the Heat two nights ago… until Miami went on a 21-0 run in the second half. The Wizards would have to quickly forget that implosion heading into last night’s matchup against the Northwest Division-leading Thunder.
The Wiz only had eight or nine guys who were ready to play—John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Nene and Cartier Martin were out with injuries and Trevor Ariza and AJ Price were suiting up for the first time in months. With OKC playing as well as anyone recently, this one was supposed to be a laugher. But it turned out to be the game of the night.
The Wiz started out with a 30-20 lead after one—which equaled their largest lead on the season. But of course, OKC’s trio of Kevin Durant, Russ Westbrook and Serge Ibaka would all have moments of dominance to help the Thunder take the lead. Playing with unprecedented confidence, Ibaka finished with a career-best 26 points.
But it was Washington’s Brad Beal (22 points) who stole the show, hitting a career-high 5 treys to keep the Wizards in the game. Several Wiz turnovers and poor free-throw shooting allowed the Thunder to regain momentum in crunch time. When local product KD tied it up with a huge three in the final minute, the odds were no longer in DC’s favor.
But the rook out of Florida hit the Dagger! with 0.3 seconds remaining to give Washington something to build upon heading into a four-day layoff. With Beal’s confidence being “sky high right now” and Wall returning sometime in the next few weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wizards pull off more upsets in the coming months.
The Hornets looked very good last night. The Spurs, on the other hand, did not.
The difference for the Hornets was Eric Gordon. Dude was easily the most exciting player to watch on Monday night. The Indiana product played both sides of the court with tenacity and when healthy, clearly justifies his max contact.
The NBA’s first MVP, Bob Pettit, was at the game and was impressed with the young Bees. (Pettit also threw praise on the League, saying he loves watching today’s game.) Greivis Vasquez (14 and 11) is finally coming into his own this season. Al-Farouq Aminu is looking more than solid in the starting lineup.
Ant Davis hitting the rookie wall? Nope.
The first overall pick was active all night against Tim Duncan, frustrating the vet with tough defense and hustle.
Tony Parker and the Spurs were playing from behind for most of the game, and Gordon wouldn’t let San Antonio get close in the fourth. EG, looking like an All-Star, killed Danny Green in isolation. San Antonio threw a couple different defenders on Gordon—but it didn’t matter. He was making shots! He finished with a game-high 24.
Since Gordon’s returned to the lineup, New Orleans is now 3-1 and is riding some serious momentum in 2013.
It was a emotional first meeting of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals.
Paul Pierce (23 points) and Kevin Garnett (19 and 10) led the way for the Celtics, who even without Rajon Rondo, won their third straight and played like the team that has ruled the division for the last half-decade.
Carmelo Anthony dropped 20 points but shot an abysmal 6-26 in front of the sold-out Garden crowd. Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony jawed at one another repeatedly throughout the matchup, and eventually both earned a T in the process.
Carmelo told KG he’d see him after the game, and he wasn’t lying at all, with Anthony attempting to confront the Celtics forward both in the locker room and near the team bus. The two never confronted, thankfully, but Melo’s actions will most likely lead to a suspension from the League.
It could be just me, but maybe Melo and the Knicks should start to think about Boston next time.
Orlando must be tried of losing close games. The Magic fell to the Heat and Bulls in 2-point losses, and played tight with the Knicks ’til the very end this weekend. And here they were again, trying to pull off the upset against Portland in the game’s final minutes.
JJ Redick was feeling it last night. He started off hot with 12 points in his first five minutes of action and finished with a game-high 29. Redick, Arron Afflalo (24 points), Jameer Nelson (21 and 12) and Nikola Vucevic (17 and 13) were able to answer every Portland run to send the game into OT.
But it was the rook Dame Lillard who silenced the Magic’s hopes in the extra period, coming up with big buckets and a huge steal. The Blazers proved to have too much firepower, pulling away in effortless fashion.
Portland has been brilliant in close games this season. They’re now 5-0 in overtime. After a rocky start to the year, they’re now four games above .500 and 13-4 since November. They’re dangerous.
Orlando painfully notched its ninth-straight loss, but are looking very competitive in the process. Jacque Vaughn appears to be the right man for the job.
Dirk Nowitzki has not looked like himself on the court this season, and last night was no exception. The future Hall of Famer was struggling against the stingy Utah defense, looking very cautious on his surgically repaired knee.
His team-high 20 points were a testament to his offensive brilliance, but the Mavs themselves looked no better with Dirk in the lineup.
Gordon Hayward (season-high 27, 4 treys) directed the Jazz down the stretch, as Utah pulled away. It was a promising night for Alec Burks (8 points in the fourth) and Enes Kanter (6 and 7 in 15 minutes, and a load of altered shots).
The Cavs began red hot, dropping 30 in the first quarter—the most they’ve dropped in the initial stanza since November. The Bulls cut at the lead through solid bench production and big performances from Carlos Boozer (24 and 11), Joakim Noah (11, 11 and 4 swats) and Marco Belinelli (15 points). The Bulls are 3-0 in the new year, and perhaps uncoincidentally, Boozer has eclipsed 20 points in all three games.
The Cavs were atrocious when Kyrie Irving wasn’t on the floor, but the Cavs PG wasn’t much of a factor when he played. Kyrie injured his right ankle in the second quarter but was able to play through it. (In case you were wondering, his left foot was giving him problems last year.) Irving only had 15 points against Kirk “Kyrie Kryptonite” Hinrich.
It was all garbage time by the fourth quarter.
See Isaiah Thomas’ tweet below for all you need to know about this blowout. Despite a great start from John Salmons, the Kings couldn’t do anything to please their fans at home last night.
The Grizzlies were just too smooth and too collected all night long. Even Memphis’ bench was putting on a show in the fourth quarter. Wayne Ellington was on fire all night, knocking down long bombs, and finished with a season-high 26 on 10-11 from the floor. Jerryd Bayless, Darrell Arthur and the rest of the Memphis bench shined in the final quarter.
The Kings’ abysmal night was summed up when Aaron Brooks completely air-balled a 28-footer in the fourth, which elicited loud boos from the crowd. But there was one piece of silver lining for Kings’ fans to hold their hopes on: TRob. The rookie was impressive in his minutes. Unfortunately, consistent playing time has been hard to come by for the Kansas product.
— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas2) January 8, 2013