by Anton Kudriavtsev/ @TheDiesel
On the surface, some predictable results from most teams. Dig deeper and you’ll find more highlights in these games than in Steven Tyler’s hair.
The Bulls pulled away late for a victory over the Pacers, thanks to hometown hero Derrick Rose. Though Rose wasn’t the pillar of efficiency (give him a break, the man’s playing through extreme pain), he picked up his energy level in the second half and surged the Bulls to 33-point quarter, finishing with 20 points and 7 assists. Part-time beard model Carlos Boozer led the way with 24 points and 10 boards while Korver discovered the art of the pump-fake and worked the mid-range game to the tune of 16 points off the bench. For Indy, Josh McRoberts led the way with a career-high 20 points (not sure if it’s a compliment if your career-high is in the 20’s), got dunked on by Ronnie Brewer, and his Pacers’ late rally wasn’t enough to overcome key shots from Rose and Korver. Chicago are now 21-1 when opponents score 90 points or less.
DeMarcus Cousins would like to know if the Rookie of the Year train has left the station. It has? Fine, whatever – he didn’t really care anyway. A night after dominating the Lakers’ bigs, Run DMC found himself matched up against a less talented front line of the Hornets and used the opportunity to get his teammates involved, finishing with 7 assists in the game along with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Check out this move my Cousins – spinning, taking the contact and finishing off of one foot. A little of bit luck on that rainbow shot? Maybe, but the big man has the footwork down. Tyreke Evans fought through foul trouble and scored 9 of his 18 in the fourth quarter as the Kings snapped the Hornets’ 10-game winning streak. Chris Paul had 19 points and 7 assists, with an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers while his Hornets rallied to within two points in the final minutes of the game. The Kings stretched the lead to 6 with 31 seconds left after born-again offensive talent Dalembert (16 points) tipped in a bucket followed by Udrih’s free throws. CP3 is my MVP. Best point guard in the league, leading an over-achieving Hornets team with efficiency. The stats don’t make you do a double-take (16/9/4/2), but it sure would restore some honour after he was robbed in 2008. I guess this is why I don’t get a vote.
The Grizzlies continued their playoff push with a win over the Wizards, led by Zach Randolph’s 24 points and 20 rebounds. The surprise came from Darrell Arthur, who semi-exploded for a career-high 22 points in just 26 minutes, working inside-out on the Wizards’ collection of pump-fake biters. Washington continued struggling on the road, as John Wall’s 14 points and 8 assists were made less impactful with his 5 turnovers. In any given part of the game, the young guns could either be moving the ball and shooting the lights out or miscommunicating and acting passive on defense. If the Wiz want to see a win on the road anytime soon, they need to play more consistent on both ends. One day late, but Rudy Gay delivers the monster mash on the Sixers.
Proof that that part of playing defense is a team-wide effort: the Wolves sometimes play it. Minnesota held Toronto to under 34% shooting and 21% from deep, sending them to their 11th straight loss. Kevin Love sprayed some of his own “Numbers” fragrance on himself as he recorded his 42nd double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds. The Raptors’ usual weapons of Bargnani and DeRozan combined for 7-of-35 shooting, as DeRex was hounded on the perimeter by Corey Brewer then contested on every drive inside by the ghost of Darko.
Seven Mavs scored in double figures, a balanced attack that was too much to overcome for the Hawks. Led by Dirk Faithful and his 19 points, Jason Terry decided to see what this whole “point guard” thing is all about, with 18 points and 11 assists off the bench. Though Terry is known for scoring more than Tiger Woods on a nudist beach, he found the open man once double-teams were sent to stop his hot shooting streak. Joe Johnson had 27 for Atlanta, but it came on 24 shots as his trigger-happy Hawks were chased off the 3-point line, shooting just 20% (4-of-20) in the game. Dallas were behind a point going into the 4th quarter but came out with a 14-1 run, the exclamation point coming from Terry’s 17-footer to extend their lead to a dozen. The ball movement is usually a good idea for Dallas, as they are 9-0 this season when at least six players score in double figures.
Brandon Jennings made his return but made minimal impact (2 points, 1 assist in 11 minutes) while his brother from another Australian mother Andrew Bogut held the Bucks down with 17 points, 18 rebounds, and 7 blocks in a win over the Nets. Crikey, look at the size of that stat line, mate! Makes me want to drink beer and watch rugby for 8 hours, it does! FaceBrook Lopez led the way with 26 points but the Nets as a whole had just 19 assists on the game. Guys, one-on-one basketball only works if you have immense talent and even then it can backfire (see: James, LeBron). New Jersey pulled within 8 in the final minute, but the Bucks had control of the game well before that point like a duct-taped alligator. I’m sure Milwaukee appreciate Aaron Rodgers repping the team, but isn’t it a bit of a slap in the face when he shows up well into the 3rd quarter? Who does he think he is, a Miami fan? If you want to make a brief but public appearance, just walk out to center court, wave, and leave like a drive-by greeting from the Queen. Milwaukee are now half a game behind the Sixers in the race for the final playoff spot in the East.
This means nothing to Pop; the wins, the records, the hype. The fact that the Spurs have reached 40 wins faster than any other time during their title years really doesn’t matter to them, and perhaps it shouldn’t. San Antonio handled their business against the Rockets with Manu Ginobili’s 22 leading the way. Luis Scola had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who were down just 5 points going into the 4th quarter before a barrage of 3’s knocked them out for good. Tiago Splitter– c’mon, son! You had the best opportunity to showcase something, but you couldn’t produce against a 6’6” center? Great moments in rookie thought patterns: “Duncan is shooting a contested jumper, I will position myself for a rebound by going under the basket and out of bounds”. I’m giving you the rest of the season before I start calling you the B-word. Will the Lakers catch the Spurs at this point? They’re a full 7 games ahead, and while the upcoming 3-week road trip has the potential to stack up some losses for San Antonio, the Lakers haven’t been playing well all year. I would love to see a Spurs/Lakers Western Conference Finals, with the Spurs having home court. Hopefully they can handle whichever 8th seed pretends to contend (Blazers/Grizzlies/Suns) and then handle their business in the second round. It’s still early, but I’m getting excited for the playoffs already
Shocker: Blake Griffin leads the Clippers over the Bobcats. What was a nice surprise is Randy Foye filling in nicely for Eric Gordon, who scored 21 points and made a playground 50-foot alley-oop pass to Griffin look professional. Blakezilla had 24 points and 10 rebounds, almost doubling Charlotte’s frontcourt production of 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Griffin has so many moves that they’re starting to sound like made-up skateboarding tricks. The alley-oop, the spin moves, running the break by himself, and this 360 lay-up and-1 are essential Blake viewing of the night. The Bobcats committed 17 turnovers but had a late 12-0 run that cut a 23-point lead to 11 before Baron Davis scored 8 of his 12 points in just over a minute and a half to put the game in the record books. After this monster block against the ‘Cats, DeAndre Jordan‘s new nickname is “Return to Sender”. Let’s say you’re a brand new basketball fan and have no idea who any of the players are. On one play, you see Griffin spinning and pulling off a Rose-like reverse, getting his own rebound, and converting an and-1 over 3 players under the basket. On another play, you see Kwame Brown somehow manage to brick a point-blank put-back dunk. All of those assumptions you’re making? They’re probably right. As an NBA fan, I’m always looking for ways to save the league money to avoid the lockout. Here’s another idea: instead of testing everyone for performance-enhancing drugs, why not skip certain players that are obviously not juicing? For instance, I can guarantee you that Boris Diaw has never taken anything to benefit his body.
“Check My $tats” of the night: DeMarcus Cousins – 25 points (50% FG), 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal.
Has anyone been watching the new Onion Sports Network show, “Sportsdome”? It’s a hilarious parody of our SportsCenter-obsessed news cycle. This week they announced that Kobe would reveal his new personality, and hilarity ensued.
You know the second half of the season is upon us when we have Sunday games on ABC. Today’s match-ups feature the Heat versus OKC and the Lakers taking on the Celtics. Am I the only one who wouldn’t mind a re-re-match between the Lakers and Celtics in the Finals this year? If for no other reason than for Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers to settle their verbal beef. If the Celtics win, Rivers claims he stashed $50,000 under a floorboard in L.A. again while Paul Pierce proclaims himself the greatest “kind of” Finals MVP of all time. If the Lakers win, Doc injures Rondo and sticks to his “they haven’t beaten our starting 5″ rhetoric.
I’m out like Splitter’s hype.