Post Up: Federal Holiday
Washington upsets OKC, Mr. Big Shot rides again, and the Spurs and Nuggets win in OT.
by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Kevin Durant played his high school ball in Rockville, Maryland, just a few miles north of where I played mine (okay, so it was only JV, whatever) and less than a half-hour from the Verizon Center, depending on your mode of transportation. So when KD comes back to Washington, it’s a big deal. He’s not shy about where he’s from, nor is he shy about spanking his home town team. That backdrop only added to the shock behind the biggest upset of the NBA season so far, as the 1-12 Wizards outlasted the 12-2 Thunder. How did it happen? I have no idea. Find out below, along with recaps of the ten other games from last night, including the return of Mr. Big Shot for some late-night drama.
Yeahhh, buddy. That’s right, my very own Washington Wizards, owners of the L’s worst record, beat the League-leading Oklahoma City Thunder. It wasn’t pretty early on, and it wasn’t a done deal until the final buzzer sounded, but a win is a win, and I speak for all of D.C. when I say, we’ll take it. John Wall continued his stellar play recently, posting 25 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds, Nick Young scored 19 of his 24 in the second half, and Jordan Crawford poured in 18 off the bench. The Wizards took advantage of 21 OKC turnovers and came back from a 12-point deficit. All this despite Andray Blatche being in the starting lineup (fine, he had 12 points and 10 boards). For Oklahoma City, it was the Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant show, as always. Russ had 36 points (14-26 shooting) and Durant had 33 (11-24 FG, 2-10 on threes). The rest of the OKC starters: 8 points combined. They allowed the Wiz to hang around thanks to poor rebounding and lights-out shooting from Washington in the second half. In the final few minutes, though, the Thunder refused to let this one go. Or, perhaps, the Wizards tried very badly to give it up. OKC started fouling with about a minute left, and Washington missed 8 free throws in the fourth quarter (Young, the NBA’s No. 1 free throw shooter coming in, missed 3 in the game), allowing the Thunder to creep back to within 3 points with 5 seconds to play and possession. Durant launched a deep three at the buzzer—and it looked pure—but it hit back iron and the Wiz came away with the win. The awesome, unbelievable win. Yeah, it’s only one game, but let a guy cherish one, please. Washington played with guts after a sloppy first quarter and pulled out a game they should have never had a chance at. Another DMV native comes to town on Friday, as Ty Lawson and the Nuggets invade D.C.
Gary Neal hit a three-pointer to break an 81-81 tie with under a minute to play in overtime, and Von Wafer could have tied it again, but couldn’t convert the free throw on a potential three-point play, and the Spurs escaped Orlando with a slim victory. And yes, I just talked about Gary Neal and Von Wafer deciding a game between two 10-win NBA teams. It was as weird for me to type it as it was for you to read it, trust me. JJ Redick—a familiar name—had a good look at a game-winning three-ball, but he took too long to load up, and the buzzer sounded just before he could get the shot off. In fairness, it was the superstars that led the way for most of the contest: Dwight Howard had 24 points, 25 boards and 3 blocks for the Magic, while Tony Parker had 25 (16 in the fourth quarter and OT) and 9 assists and Tim Duncan had 17 and 10 boards for San Antonio. Orlando had its 5-game winning streak snapped, while the Spurs finally won a road game after 10 straight L’s away from home, dating back to last year.
Once upon a time, Andre Miller was baller-blocking Jrue Holiday on the Sixers’ roster. Last night in Philly, Miller was a problem of a whole other kind, leading his Denver Nuggets to a hard-fought victory in overtime—handing the Sixers their first home loss of the season. Miller scored a season-high 28 to go with 10 assists and 8 rebounds, and he put away Philadelphia with the game-tying bucket in regulation, the go-ahead basket in the extra period (with 42.9 seconds to play) and the game-sealing steal, on a bad Holiday pass. Nene scored 20 points and had 14 rebounds, as the Nuggs rebounded from a 14-point deficit at one point early and survived 27 fast break points from the Sixers. It was a crazy back-and-forth, uptempo game, as Philly stormed back from down 10 in the fourth quarter, and could have won the game had Andre Iguodala (11 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) not missed one of his two free throws with 4 seconds remaining in regulation. Philly (now 10-4) got big performances from Evan Turner (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Thad Young (22 points) off the bench, but it wasn’t enough to beat the freakishly similar Nuggets (now 10-5).
How do you snap a five-game losing streak? Play Toronto, of course. Gary Forbes led the Raptors in scoring, with 18 points, and DeMar Derozan was the only Toronto starter in double figures, with 11, as the team shot 38 percent from the field for the game. Boston cruised to the victory, but at a price. Rajon Rondo appeared to fall hard on his wrist, and though he told reporters he’s “day-to-day,” it was a scary fall. Luckily, before he departed with the injury in the third quarter, he had time to rack up 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting to lead the Celitcs. And he won style points during his post-game remarks with the coolest hat ever. Boston also got 15 points from Kevin Garnett, while Paul Pierce shot just 3-10 for 8 points and Ray Allen had only 6, but that was largely due to the reserves taking over to finish things out in the blowout.
Once the Nets heard about the Wizards’ win, they knew they had to capitalize on the upside down day, so they went out and beat the Warriors for their first home win of the season (4-11 overall). New Jersey did it behind a dominant backcourt performance from Deron Williams (24 points, 10 assists, 8 boards) and rookie MarShon Brooks (22/6/8). Here’s a stat that I guarantee won’t surprise you: the Nets have all four of their wins when DWill and MarSwag both score 20 or more. New Jersey got a double-double from Kris Humphries (18/15) and overcame 18 turnovers to get the win. The Nets trailed by 3 headed into the fourth quarter, but with 3 minutes and change remaining had jumped out to a 105-96 lead, and held off the W’s in the waning moments. Monta Ellis had 30 points, 5 assists, 6 steals (and 1 block that led to this craziness) for Golden State, Dorell Wright pitched in 17, and GSW even outshot the Nets, at 51 percent on field goals, but had their two-game win streak snapped, and fell to 5-9 on the year.
Rather than simply beat a team they are clearly better and more talented than, the Knicks and their fans spent pre-game, post-game and probably in-game wondering how the opponent’s best player would look in a New York uniform. That player—Steve Nash—went out and scored 26 points and dished out 11 assists as the Suns stopped a five-game skid and sent the Knicks to their fourth straight L. Shannon Brown (14 points) provided the dagger with a three-pointer from the corner (that took a garbage bounce, or two, before dropping) with under a minute to play to give Phoenix a 5-point lead, and New York once again was left wondering where it all went wrong. Maybe not for long, since that pesky 37 percent field goal shooting statistic had a lot to do with it. Nash’s ex-running mate Amar’e Stoudemire scored 23 to lead the Knicks, while Iman Shumpert had 20, but Carmelo Anthony finished with just 12 points on 5-for-22 shooting. This game featured a good matchup of bigs, as Tyson Chandler had 17 boards and 9 points, and Marcin Gortat filed his usual double-double for PHX with 11 points and 12 rebounds. And hey, for what it’s worth, Nash says he likes playing at MSG, and is a free agent this summer. Then again, he turns 38 in February.
Joe Johnson isn’t known for his defense, but he came up with a big-time steal with just over a minute to play to help the Hawks beat the Blazers and improve to 11-4 (7-1 at home). With Atlanta up 4, Johnson poked the ball free from Wesley Matthews, then hit a wide-open Jeff Teague for a dunk and the Hawks held on from there. Johnson also had 24 points, even after missing his first five shots of the game. The Blazers went up by 1 on a Gerald Wallace bucket in the third quarter, before Atlanta went on a 14-0 run to close out the quarter and seize control. Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller looked riveted by the action. Jamal Crawford led the Blazers in scoring in his return to Atlanta, with 22 points, but Portland shot 38 percent from the field and made just 5 of 19 threes. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 and 11, but didn’t look comfortable down the stretch—a credit to Atlanta’s frontline D. Meanwhile, Josh Smith continued his hot start with 17 points, 11 boards, 3 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals. On a freaky play, Tracy McGrady poked Nicolas Batum in the eye and he had to be taken to the hospital. Ouch.
The Grizzlies have been through a lot, with injuries, trades and adjusted expectations, but finally, mercifully, they are back above .500, after beating the Hornets last night to get to 7-6. And while Rudy Gay (12 points) might be the team’s top option, you can’t say enough about the way Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have played over the last five games or so. Gasol scored all 22 of his points in the first three quarters, and also had 12 rebounds and 7 assists (!) while MC11 scored 18 points to go with 10 dimes. Memphis shot 49 percent and never trailed, while New Orleans trotted out its seventh different starting lineup in the last 14 games, and fell to 1-7 at home. Jarret Jack scored 27 points, Trevor Ariza had 18 and Jason Smith had 14 points (plus 2 blocks, both on Gay, within 3 seconds of each other), but Chris Kaman and Greivis Vasquez were a combined 4-of-13 off the bench.
Detroit led by 6 at halftime, and Tayshaun Prince scored 29 points, but Kevin Love and, yes, Ricky Rubio, were just too much in the second half for the Pistons, who faded late, falling to 3-12 on the year. Love finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds, and Rubio had a stat-stuffing night, despite shooting just 1-8 from the field: 9 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 6 steals. And for your nightly Rubio highlight, this time I give you a ridiculous (and arguably unnecessary) behind-the-back move to the hoop. As for the rest of the players who participated last night, the Wolves leaned on their defense, curiously enough, to shut down Prince in the fourth quarter (only 4 points) and turn Detroit’s errors into buckets (23 points off 18 Piston turnovers). Greg Monroe had 13 points and 12 boards in 28 minutes before fouling out. Dude looked frustrated. I would be, too. Detroit’s point guards had horrible nights, as rookie Brandon Knight, the starter, shot 3-for-11 with 7 points, and Rodney Stuckey backed him up with 4-12 shooting (10 points).
Sacramento snapped a three-game losing streak, outscoring the Pacers 26-8 in the fourth quarter to overcome a 14-point deficit. On a night when Tyreke Evans couldn’t hit water from a boat (3-of-14 shooting, 8 points), Marcus Thornton scored 17 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Kings to their fifth win of the season (10 losses). Indiana came in winners of three straight and every starter scored in double figures, led by 16 from Danny Granger and Darren Collison, but the Pacers shot just 1-for-13 from three-point range and gave up a ridiculous 30 offensive rebounds (12 to DMC alone). In case anyone still cares, The Jimmer continues to struggle mightily—he missed all four of his shots in six minutes of playing time, and he’s shooting sub-35 percent for the year.
For one night, we owe Chauncey Billups an apology. Because it’s easy to forget, between all the contract quibbles, bad shots, over-dribbling, and whatever else, that this dude is clutch as all hell, and equally as fun to watch in big moments. He morphed back into Mr. Big Shot again last night, drilling the game-winning shot from beyond the arc with 1 tick left on the clock—and he did it moments after Jason Terry provided two ballsy three-pointers of his own to pull the Mavs in front. (I was hoping JET’s three would be the game-winner, secretly, so we could talk about how bad the Clippers’ defense on that play was, but alas, Chauncey ruined it.) The officials tried their darndest to sap all the drama out of the arena by reviewing every last out-of-bounds call, but in the end, there’s really no other way to say it than “that game was awesome.” The Mavs suffer yet another agonizing loss, dropping to 8-7, while LAC improves to 7-1 at home, and 8-4 overall. Billups took center stage at crunch time, but it was Mo Williams’ 26 points that kept the Clippers afloat, teaming up with Blake Griffin and his 14 points, 17 rebounds and 7 assists. Chris Paul missed his third straight game nursing a hammy, but lob-buddy DeAndre Jordan didn’t seem to mind, finishing with 19 and 9. Los Angeles found enough firepower—and, more importantly, defensive effort—without CP3 to overcome 17 points in the first half from Delonte West (a season-high, but he had 0 in the second half) and 17 from Dirk Nowitzki.
Line of the Night: About a dozen guards flirted with triple-doubles last night (plus Blake), and Dwight Howard did all he could in an OT loss to San Antonio, but I’m giving last night’s award to Andre Miller, who low-key willed the Nuggs to a win over the Sixers, with 28 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds and 2 steals off the bench.
Moment of the Night: Mr. Big Shot one-ups the JET, and lives up to his name.
Dunk of the Night, Take One: Johnathan Hildred Wall, rising for the ferocious finish.
Dunk of the Night, Take Two: Blake Austin Griffin, dropping the hammer on the break.
Tonight: A light night—only 3 games—but I can guarantee we’ll have plenty to talk about tomorrow morning, as the Lakers take on the Heat at 8 on TNT, and the still-unbelievable Jazz get a visit from the tired World Champs in game two of the doubleheader. If anyone wants to talk Hornets-Rockets, well, bless your heart.