by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Another great week of NBA action in the books and last night’s games ushered in what promises to be an exciting weekend. Friday’s 11 games saw the Celtics’ struggles continue, a certain Young Buck roll into Madison Square Garden and make light work of the Knicks, a Roseless Chicago team lay the smack down in Cleveland and a wild finish out in Los Angeles. Here we go…
After dropping five of their last seven, the Blazers waltzed into Toronto and easily defeated a woeful Raptors team. Portland scored its first basket with 10:21 left in the first quarter and trailed 4-3 before going on a 27-10 run and never looked back. LaMarcus Aldridge had 33 points and a ridiculous 23 rebounds, including 9 offensive. He nearly outrebounded Toronto’s starting 5 himself as they combined for 24. Aldridge’s performance prompted teammate Marcus Camby to say, “…[he is] the best power forward in the game, if not he’s definitely under consideration.” Based on Aldridge’s performance thus far this season, it’s tough to argue with Camby. He has been putting up 22.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while leading Portland to a 9-6 record, good enough for sixth in the West. If Aldridge doesn’t make the All-Star team, it will be one of the bigger snubs of the season. Ray Felton had 14 points and 5 rebounds while Jamal Crawford chipped in with 10 points off the pine, including this dunk. James Johnson had 23 points (and dunked on Aldridge) and DeMar Derozan had 22 but until Andrea Bargnani returns from injury the Raptors will continue to struggle.
In a battle between two of the more surprising teams in the East (Philly is 11-4, ATL 11-5) the Sixers shook off an uninspired first half and came back strong in the second holding the Hawks to 29 second half points. Trailing 51-44 in the third and looking out of it, the Sixers exploded with a 14-0 run behind two Jodie Meeks long balls and a monster alley-oop connection between Iguodala (11/6/6) and Jrue Holiday (16 pts, 11 ast). After that spurt, the game was never close and Philly rode the momentum to a 14 point dub. Philadelphia continues to get solid contributions from pretty much every player who touches the floor. Five players scored in double figures for Philly including 20 off the bench from Thaddeus Young and a double-double (16 and 10) from Elton Brand. Josh Smith showed last night that on any given night he can be the X-Factor for the Hawks, in either a positive or negative way. Against Philly, J-Smoove decided to ignore his talent of getting to the rim and dunking on people and instead camped out on the perimeter and settled for jump shots. Smith, who has been playing some impressive ball this season, displayed some poor shot selection going 5-15 for 10 points and really hurt the Hawks with his play. Also, Andre Iguodala picked up the 1,000th steal of his career, big congratulations to him.
Although the Wizards haven’t been winning, fans down in D.C. (I see you Abe) have to be happy that they are at least playing some competitive ball and finally getting some solid play from John Wall. The second year PG, who many deemed ready for a breakout season, has been disappointing fans and the Wizards with his lackluster play. But, it looks like Wall is turning the corner and getting over his slump. Although he is still not shooting well from the floor, he is seeing the court much better (35 dimes over the last 4 games) and is cutting down on turnovers. Last night, Wall finished with 13 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds but the Wizards couldn’t catch a break as Al Harrington scored a season-high 29 points and hit a huge 3-pointer late in the fourth. Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari each had 21 for Denver as they head to Manhattan for a highly anticipated game against the Knicks. Could Timofey Mozgov be the new Shawn Bradley? He is certainly making a habit of getting maliciously dunked on and last night it was JaVale McGee’s turn.
The ship is sinking fast in Beantown and the C’s dropped another one at home to the Phoenix Suns. With Rajon Rondo on the bench due to a sprained wrist, the Celtics offense looked out of sync and only scored 71 points in another disappointing outing. Trailing by 5 late in the third, the Suns managed an 8-0 run and never looked back as Boston sputtered during crunch time blatantly missing Rondo’s heady play. The Celtics got killed on the boards, losing the rebounding battle 44-32 thanks to Marcin Gortat’s 24 and 12 effort. With Danny Ainge openly discussing the possibility of trading Boston’s stars (minus Rondo) the C’s have to turn things around–fast.
Let’s take a trip back in time:
The 2009 Draft is underway and the New York Knicks are sitting pretty at the number 8 spot and fans are anticipating a new point guard to replace Chris Duhon. With Brandon Jennings still on the board, David Stern steps to the podium and fans are ready for their point guard of the future. “With the eighth pick of the 2009 Draft, the New York Knicks select…Jordan Hill.” Jaws across Manhattan drop and a pissed off Brandon Jennings falls to the Milwaukee Bucks at number 10. Fast forward to today and Jennings looks as if he is on his way to becoming a successful NBA point guard and Jordan Hill–well, to be honest, I have no idea what Jordan Hill is doing.
Last night at MSG, Doo Be Doo lit up the New York Knickerbockers to the tune of 36 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. After his electrifying 55-point performance during his rookie year, a lot of pundits claimed that Jennings was a one hit wonder and looked to be right after a disappointing sophomore campaign. But, Young Money worked hard in the offseason and is putting together a nice season out in Milwaukee–he is averaging 18.7 points on an improved 45 percent shooting, 5.1 assists and close to 2 steals per game. New York had no answer for Jennings as Brandon toyed with the Knicks who dropped their fifth straight. Melo had 35 points for New York but was ejected after getting into with Jennings late in the game. One of my favorite stories so far this season has been the play of Shaun Livingston. After suffering one of the most grotesque sports injuries of all time, Livingston battled back and is now playing solid minutes for the Bucks. Last night he got the start scoring 18 points and committing one turnover in 33 minutes of play. Hopefully he can keep it up.
Detroit had an atrocious 25 turnovers which led to 32 Memphis points and the Grizzlies had no problem putting away the 3-13 Pistons. Five Grizzlies scored in double figures including a game high 24 from Rudy Gay and a 14 point 11 assist effort from Mike Conley. Detroit cut the lead to 7 in the fourth, but committed 7 turnovers and fell behind 95-74. After getting out to a hot start, Greg Monroe has averaged 9 points in the last three games and has shot a dismal 11-32 from the field. Against Memphis, Monroe’s struggles continued; he shot just 4-12 and was shut down by Marc Gasol who finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds. Rookie Brandon Knight had a team high 22 points but the Pistons are now 1-10 in their last 11 games. Ouch.
Derrick Rose missed last night’s game with a sprained toe but it made no difference–Chicago handed Cleveland its worst home loss in team history. Chicago blocked a NBA season high 16 shots and held the Cavs to 30.3 percent shooting from the floor. After allowing 75 points in last night’s game, the Bulls reduced their season defensive average to 85.1 points per game–good enough for tops in the league. Offensively, the Bulls got great production from their front court as Boozer, Deng (21 points) and Noah (10 boards) each had solid outings. Boozer paced the Bulls with a 19 point, 14 rebound effort–over the last 4 games, he has really picked up his play and if he can keep this pace up and stay healthy the rest of the season, the Bulls will be dangerous come playoff time. The Cavs played some abysmal basketball and will need to have a short memory if they plan on building on their strong (6-8) start.
For at least one night, the debate between who the best center in the league is can be put to bed. Up against his most worthy competition, Dwight Howard scored 21 points and grabbed 23 rebounds while Andrew Bynum could do nothing but look on in awe. Howard, who now has three 20-20 games in his last five outings, forced Bynum into early foul trouble and the young Laker could never recover–he finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Orlando, who now sits at 11-4, had all five of its starters score over 10 points, including a combined 32 from Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick. The Magic also continued their hot shooting streak from outside, hitting 12 three pointers while shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc (if Ainge really does blow up the Celtics, could you imagine Ray Allen on this team?). For the Lakers, Kobe Bean had 30 points and 8 assists, but he didn’t get much help. The Laker bench only mustered 11 points and L.A. shot 38 percent from the field. The Lakers have now dropped three out of their last four–I’m sure Kobe is ecstatic.
Break up the Kings! Sacramento won its second game in a row after defeating a Spurs team who had previously won 10 straight home games. Tyreke Evans had himself 23 points (10-19) 11 rebounds and 7 assists–’Reke was balling! This may be a fluke win, but I would LOVE to see the Kings make some noise. They could potentially have one of the most exciting young teams in the L and if they put it together they could be a sleeper team out West. In all likelihood though, Sacramento will revert back to its bad habits of 1 on 5 basketball and go back to getting blown out–but we can hope for the best! (Yes, that is now three exclamation points.) The Kings jumped out to a 12 point lead to end the first quarter thanks to ‘Reke’s buzzer-beater but blew the lead and found themselves down 6 with a little under 4 minutes to go. Then, from out of nowhere, John Salmons got hot and hit two straight jumpers over Richard Jefferson to tie the game. Evans then hit a 22-footer and the Kings stole a victory in San Antonio. Boogie Cousins, who found himself in early foul trouble, bounced back nicely and scored 17 points while nabbing 13 boards. For the Spurs, Tony Parker scored 24 points and dropped 6 dimes but the team shot 37.8 percent from the field and lost a winnable game at home.
In a matchup between two of the youngest, most exciting teams in the league it was the “old” heads that paced each teams respective effort. Darko Milicic emerged from the graveyard and dropped 22 points and proved to be the only person capable of stopping Blake Griffin. Milicic nearly doubled his season average of 4.4 by the end of the first quarter and actually looked like a formidable center displaying flashes of brilliance. For the Clippers, Mo Williams came off thebench and dropped 25 points but hurt his team by acquiring his second technical with 6:21 left in the contest. Chauncey Billups, who has been giving Lob City great minutes while Chris Paul gets healthy had 20. The game was close throughout and was decided in crunch time. With 20 seconds left and the game tied, the Clippers turned to Billups, who has been living up to his “Mr. Big Shot” moniker recently, but he missed a shot after driving to the rack leaving Minnesota with 1.5 seconds left. After a timeout, Ricky Rubio, who struggled all night but stepped up big by hitting a clutch 3 to tie it up, inbounded the ball to Kevin Love at the top of the key. Love caught it, let it fly and nailed a 3. Game. Set. Match.
Winning on the road is never easy and the 10-4 Pacers needed all 48 minutes to put away a pesky Warriors team in the Bay. With the game tied at 91 with seconds remaining, George Hill (14 points) and Monta Ellis (25 and 6 assists) squared off at the top of the key. Ellis drove right then tried to crossover left, hitting Hill’s foot in the process as Hill stole the ball drove the length of the court, scored a layup and was fouled effectively putting the game away for good. Despite another poor shooting night, Indiana was able to compensate by forcing 18 turnovers which led to 22 points, including 9 in the 4th quarter. Danny Granger had a season high 26 points, David West had a season high 18, and Roy Hibbert chipped in with a double-double of 10 and 16. Steph Curry returned to the lineup to score 12 points on 5-15 shooting and hopefully he can stay healthy for a Warriors team that needs his presence.
Stat Line of the Night: Going against Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard ended any debate on who is the best center in the league with 21 point, 23 rebound effort.
Random Fact of the Night: 9 teams won on the road last night in 11 games.
Play of the Night: Kevin Love hits the game winner.
Dunk of the Night: JaVale McGee on Timofey Mozgov.
Block of the Night: DARKO.
Tonight: Another ten games on deck including a great matchup between the Sixers and Heat which should determine whether Philly is for real or not. A west coast matchup between the surprising Rockets and the always competitive Spurs and a pairing of two of the youngest teams in the league as Minnesota travels to Utah. Plus, the Nuggets take on the Knicks which may cause a riot in Manhattan if Denver emerges victorious. Catch you all tomorrow, peace!