Post Up: Clutch City
Starring Durant, Griffin, Dirk, and Wall.
by Anton Kudriavtsev/@TheDiesel
What should I do? Should I skip the blowouts this time? Should I just focus on the night’s most exciting games? They’re the most exciting games! After a night of blowouts, the basketball gods delivered a showcase of surprises. Hold on tight.
After attempting to play with their shorts around their ankles, the Hawks rebounded from their worst franchise loss in history in a comeback over the Bobcats. The $120 Million dollar man Joe Johnson led his squad with 32 points while D.J. Augustin had to carry the load himself for Charlotte, finishing with 20 points and 7 assists. After shooting just 29 percent the previous night (coach Drew claimed he burned the tape), Atlanta went on to shoot 51 percent from the field and kept the ‘Cats from gaining any offensive flow.
I was having an easy time with this one, as the Thunder were looking to fall into their usual defensive trap and get knocked against being an elite team in the process. After all, the Knicks kept making shots and OKC haven’t had a lead since early in the 2nd quarter. New York stuck to their game plan and did everything right: balanced scoring (6 players in double figures), well-executed plays, and forgetting to rebound. Danilo Gallinari led the team with 23, including a flopping performance which would have given him a yellow card in soccer, while Felton and Stoudemire ran the pick-and-roll until the cows came home, tearing up OKC’s defensive rotations for most of the 4th quarter. Scott Brooks rallied his troops and the Thunder dug in defensively, while Westbrook (28 points) and Durant (30 points, 12 rebounds) held it together offensively. Crowding the paint and pushing the ball, the Thunder rallied and tied the game at 98 with 6.5 seconds to play. As I was watching the game with my little brother, he said the Thunder will probably go for a three. I explained to him that it’s not the best shot in a tie-game situation, only to watch Durant glide up the right wing, rise up over Gallinari and bury a three at the buzzer to win it. Kids say the darnest things.
The Dirkman cometh, injured or not. Despite shooting 7-for-24, Dirk hit a clutch jumper in the lane that put his Mavs up for good with 6 seconds to play against the Nets. Dumbo stunt double Jordan Farmar had a chance to assist in being the hero, but his inbounds to Devin Harris was off and Harris couldn’t get a quality look after being double-teamed. Brook Lopez had 24 points while Tyson Chandler continued his steady play with 19 points and 8 boards for the Mavs. For the average team this would be a heartbreaking loss against the Mavs. For Jersey, it was more spine-breaking as a few more free throws would have given them their 13th win of the year.
Eventually, injuries will grind down the deepest team, as is the case with the Celtics right now. Though the C’s still played their brand of team defense, last time I checked (and I check twice daily), you need to have more points than the other team to win. Rondo had a typical Rondo-ish stat line of 13 points and 9 assists but it was John Wall (16 points, 4 assists) who got the last laugh with a banked-in 3-pointer to push the Wizards into the win column. Rashard Lewis taunted his former overpaying bosses with a solid contribution of 18 points and 11 rebounds and the rest of the Wiz followed suit. Boston led for the majority of the game but Washington made a late run capped off by a Wall fast-break layup and the three.
The Pistons rallied from their patented deficits to steal a win from the jaws of the Suns. Tayshaun Prince led his team with 17 points and 13 rebounds but it was Austin Daye who made another clutch play in the form of a jumper with 53 seconds to play to complete the rally and escape with a win. Detroit contained Nash (14 points, 8 assists, 5 turnovers) and rotated effectively to the rest of the Suns, holding trigger-happy Phoenix to just 7 of 27 three-point attempts. I realize that Nashville is still efficient as his age, but he should take the high road and give up his All-Star votes to Monta Ellis.
It’s Miller time! After reading my Post Up last week calling him out, Mike Miller took my advice and stepped up for the Heat – big time. M&M scored 32 points, including a barrage of 22 points in the second quarter alone to help the Heat break their 4-game losing streak. Playing without Wade (headache from Melo texting him) and Bosh (ankle sprain from showing too much hustle), Miami relied on LeBron and his role players to lead the Heat back into the land of wins. Five players for Miami scored in double figures, as LeBron had a Cleveland flashback with his team relying on him for…well, everything. James delivered with 38 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, crushing a Raptors team that desperately needed a pick-me-up victory. Jose Calderon played well with 14 point and 13 assists and DeMar DeRozan (30 points) is rounding into form, keeping his team fighting with acrobatic layups and strong drives to the rim. If DeRex could put a little bit of Big Baby roundness into his game on the boards and passing (and be more consistent), he could be an All-Star in a few seasons. Ladies and gentlemen, the worst crossover of the year has arrived! The fact that Chalmers wasn’t dribbling and Calderon went for a spill is just sad. Is Eddie House allergic to the paint? Every time he drives, he looks about as comfortable as Michael Richards in the Apollo Theater. Alas, Arroyo is slowly being phased out of the rotation, much to the delight to the delight of some SLAMonline regulars. Post-game, LeBron had this to say: “It was great to see Mike make himself relevant again in this league.” I would hate to see how he treats his enemies.
If Utah was the dark horse Western Conference title contender, the horse just escaped the ranch. Despite Deron Williams playing well with 20 points and 14 assists, the Jazz lost their 4th straight game. The Sixers held a 7-point lead in the third and went on a key 4th quarter run to seal the game. After Andre Iguodala (22 points, 5 assists), missed a free throw after a made triple, Elton Brand tipped-in the miss for the rare 5-point play. Jerry Sloan believes the team “lost [its] focus…we’re just feeling sorry for ourselves”, and it’s hard to deny. We’ll see if the Jazz re-gain their focus in the second half of the season in time for the playoffs.
Derrick Rose ran circles around the Cavs on his way to 24 points and 8 assists but the Cavs showed a rare display of effort and played with heart until the closing minutes. Antawn Jamison‘s mini-resurgence (31 points, 11 boards, 5 assists) sparked the Cavs to keep feeding him the ball and the strategy was almost enough to overcome a 20-point deficit. Chicago played with low energy late, as their first field goal in the 4th came with 4:20 to play but the Bulls got to the free throw line while Korver’s three pushed their lead to eight and sent the Cavs on a negative win streak of 16 games.
If you were surprised by yesterday’s Hornets blowout over the Hawks, take a look at another one, except against the team with the best record in the league. David West led New Orleans with 18 points and 10 rebounds (in fewer than 30 minutes of action) in a blowout over the Spurs, with Marcus Thornton’s target practice-like 18 points off the bench put the icing on the cake. San Antonio shot just 36% from the field, when the starters were pulled after the group couldn’t respond to a 31-point hole before halftime. When you think of the best defensive team in the league, who comes to mind? The Hornets now take that spot (at least statistically) with a league-low 91 points allowed and held the Spurs to a season low in points.
Orlando cruised over the Rockets by shooting the lights out and keeping the ball moving around the perimeter. Dwight Howard had 22 points and 14 boards while Hedo “ball” Turkoglu added 21. Chase “Air Bud” Budinger scored 19 for the Rockets but they shot just 39% from the field and couldn’t keep up with the Magic’s onslaught. Who would have thought Jason Richardson (18 points) would be playing better than Arenas in the big trade?
The Bucks came back to earth in a struggle against the Grizzlies. Memphis leaned on their front line with Marc Gasol leading the way with 24 points and 16 rebounds while Z-Bo added 16 and 11. While Gasol was enjoying his first 20-10 game of the season, Randolph’s consistency has him at a franchise-best 10 straight double-doubles. The Bucks’ only bright spot was Earl Boykins (23 points) while the rest of the team regressed back to their poor-shooting ways. Get ready to hear “Memphis” and “playoffs” used more frequently.
LaMarcus Aldridge – All Star? Though it might not come to fruition in a stacked West, LA has led the injured Blazers all season, including tonight’s 25 points and 12 rebounds in a win over the Pacers. Danny Granger had 24 points for Indiana but the Pacers couldn’t contain Portland’s late surge. “My three-pointers, they will block out the sun” Nic Batum did not necessarily say after finishing 5 of 8 from downtown, 23 points in all. Living by the three must be feeling great for the Blazers right about now, who shot a dead-eye 50% (10-of-20).
Spoiler alert – Blake Griffin enjoys the occasional monster mash. Blakezilla (copyright me) smashed the Warriors for 30 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 assists in a shootout with a man half his size. Steph Curry executed with crisp precision, going for 32 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds and got a taste of his own medicine as Griffin nailed a late three as he led his team to glory (Griff’s now 6-of-10 from downtown this year). Eric Gordon rounded out L.A.’s attack with 23 points and 4 assists. The Clippers have now won 12 of their last 17 games. Dunks like this and this by ‘zilla never get old, so here’s hoping BG never changes.
“Check My $tats” of the day: Blake Griffin – 30 points, 18 rebounds, 8 assists. Both he and LeBron had near triple-doubles in wins. I gave it to the player who never gives up on a play.
Does anyone else think the new back-in-time “Amazing” ads are more creepy than amazing? I would love to know how they even filmed them, digital gurus stand up and explain it to us regular folk.
I wasn’t aware of this (I doubt you were either), but the Nets and Raptors are playing the first regular season games in Europe, with a back-to-back in England on March 4th and 5th. Granted, both teams’ seasons are over already but it’s interesting how Stern will evolve this schedule to fit more teams in the future.
I’m out like Arroyo’s minutes.
P.S. Go Packers and Steelers!