by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Breathe easy easy-ish, New York. It wasn’t pretty, but the Knicks managed not to drop a second straight home matchup with Charlotte. And while last night wasn’t the most exciting round of NBA games, neither was LSU-Alabama. So let’s dive in, starting with the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers—winners of five straight.
Philly used a 15-3 third quarter run and got 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 dimes from Andre Iguodala to fend off the Pacers. Indiana got within six with just over two minutes to play when Roy Hibbert dropped in a mini-hook shot and was fouled, but he failed to convert the three-point play and the Sixers—now off to their best start in a decade at 6-2—took home their third win in four nights, all at home. In fairness, the Pacers played without Danny Granger and his team-leading 15 PPG. The rest of the Indiana squad shot 37 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range, while Philly had six players score in double figures, including 13 and 6 assists from Lou Williams and 12 apiece from Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner. Even rookie Nikola Vucevic dropped 11 points (including a 3-ball to cap off that big third-quarter run) and snatched 8 boards in 17 minutes off the bench, as the Sixers played team ball, hustling, playing defense and even getting out on the break for 17 points in transition. Both these teams sit with six wins, and both look to be in the mix for a jump in playoff seed from last season.
Andrea Bargnani matched his season-high with 31 points while Kevin Love scored just 13 points on 3-of-16 field goal shooting and the Raptors won despite shooting only 16 percent from beyond the arc. Bargnani (who also had 9 boards in a whopping 45 minutes) tied the game on a reverse layup with 6:36 to play, then Amir Johnson slammed home a tip-dunk to give the Raps the lead, and the Wolves never got back in the game. Johnson notched his second consecutive double-double—this time 19 points and 11 rebounds—as Toronto won without Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza who are still nursing injuries. But perhaps the biggest storyline of this game was the head-to-head matchup of Spanish point guards Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio, in the first NBA meeting between the countrymen and Olympic teammates. (Okay, so Rubio is the storyline in every game, but still.) Their lines from last night:
Rubio: 10 points, 2-9 FG, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 turnovers, 30 minutes
Calderon: 14 points, 6-11 FG, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 41 minutes
Ironically, JJ Barea bested both of them (reppin’ Puerto Rico), scoring a season-high 16 points in just 17 minutes. Love ended his streak of 20+ point, 12+ rebound games at 8, but he still finished with a double-double (13 x 14). As a team, the Wolves shot just 34 percent from the field and only hit 6 of 20 shots in the fourth quarter.
Add this to the list of scheduling quirks this year: the Hawks beat the Nets for the third time already this season. Atlanta has seven wins on the year, and 3 are against New Jersey. Ha! The Hawks led by as many as 16, though the Nets kept it to as close as 5 in the fourth quarter. Deron Williams scored 15 points and had 14 assists, but shot just 6-for-17 from the floor and had 6 turnovers. On the upside for the Nets, it was the first time this year they’ve scored 100+ points, and Anthony Morrow led the Nets in scoring with 20, while rookie MarShon Brooks continues to impress, finishing with 19 points and 10 boards. New Jersey couldn’t stop ATL’s hot shooting, though—the Hawks hit at a 54 percent clip and Josh Smith went 10-for-14, ending his super night with 26 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. All 5 Atlanta starters scored in double figures.
Carmelo Anthony scored the go-ahead bucket on a drive with 2:39 to play, and the Knicks survived a late push from the Bobcats to get to 5-4 on the year. That doesn’t mean New York fans didn’t sweat this one out, though. After Landry Fields made one of two from the free throw line, the Knicks led by four with 13 seconds remaining. But DJ Augustin drilled a corner three to cut the deficit to one, then had another clean look at a trey that would have tied things after a pair of Melo free throws. Sadly for Charlotte fans and the ever-present anti-Knickerbocker contingent across the L, his shot clanked iron, sealing Charlotte’s seventh loss of the young season. New York avenged last week’s embarrassing loss to Charlotte behind 22 points from Anthony, 25 and 12 rebounds from Amar’e Stoudemire (despite an ugly 7-25 FG shooting night) and a big game from Tyson Chandler, who had 20 and 13. Melo also had 6 assists, two of which you’ll want to watch, as he helps out the other Big Three members: take one, take two. The Knicks won even while shooting just 38 percent, and allowing Boris Diaw to show his continued love for playing at MSG—dude turned in a 19-point, 10-rebound, 7-assist night to lead the ‘Cats. And in the rookie “point guard” battle (is Iman really a 1-man yet?) Iman Shumpert posted 16 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, 4 turnovers and 3 steals in 35 minutes, while Kemba Walker played just 16 minutes and scored 10 points, with more turnovers (4) than assists (3).
Detroit is dead-last in the NBA in scoring offense at just over 82 points per game and were without Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva for a third straight game. And the Bulls are pretty darn good on D. But still, 68 points? Yikes. Greg Monroe “led” the Pistons with 14 points and 10 rebounds, as Detroit turned it over 18 times and scored just 9 points in the fourth quarter. They simply had no answer for Chicago on either end of the floor. Carlos Boozer scored 23 points and had 8 boards, Derrick Rose went for 22 and 8 assists as the Bulls cruised to their 8th win of the season. Or in DRose’s case, floated. Rip Hamilton and CJ Watson both sat out with injuries for Chicago, whose next three are Minnesota (cool!), Washington (eek!) and Boston (classic!).
It feels weird to call a regular season NBA game an “upset,” but if you guys are cool with it, I’ll use it here: this was an upset. Denver was 4-0 at home coming in to the game, but turned the ball over 17 times and couldn’t handle the New Orleans frontline tandem of Carl Landry (21 points, 5 rebounds) and Chris Kaman (20 points, 7 rebounds) just a few days after beating the Hornets in the NOLA. Jarret Jack continued his solid play to open the season with 13 points and nine assists, the Hornets led by as many as 21 thanks to 52 percent field goal shooting, and they made a 12-2 fourth-quarter run to put the game on ice. Ty Lawson injured his foot in the second quarter and was taken for X-rays, but he returned to the game in the third and finished with 15 points, matching Danilo Gallinari for the team lead in scoring on the night.
Line of the Night: Tyson Chandler, 20 points (7-8 FG), 13 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks.
Moment of the Night: It’s not a game-winner or even a Top 10 SportsCenter highlight, but this play encapsulates the Sixers last night, and for the last few games.
Dunk of the Night: Anthony Randolph from a non-Ricky Rubio teammate. Kabloom! Dennis Scott had this to say on NBATV upon seeing the highlight: “Boy, young fella, you can stretch out on somebody.” Insert your own “pause” joke here. And peep an honorable mention from fellow Wolves forward Derrick Williams.
Tonight: 11 games in all for Tuesday night, including two gigantic matchups out West: Thunder at Grizzlies and Clippers at Blazers. Plus a pair of highly entertaining inter-conference games as Chicago visits Minnesota and Miami is in Oakland to play the Warriors. And, of course, the Lizards look for win No. 1 in D.C. against the Raptors. Deuces!