Post Up: New Kids on the Block
Kobe goes for 40 again but Lob City gets the win, plus the return of Ivan Johnson.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Another great night of hoops saw the much anticipated “Battle For Los Angeles,” an overtime dog fight between the Rockets and Trailblazers, and a tremendous contest between the Rockets and the emerging Trailblazers. Let’s go…
Doug Collins has his team playing some great basketball and they have now won eight out of their last nine games. Despite not having a bonafide superstar, the Sixers continue to win with fundamental basketball and teamwork. In a star studded league, it’s refreshing to see a team that relies on each player to play their role and operate as a unit instead of players going 1 on 1 from the 3-point line then chucking up a shot. All nine of the Sixers wins have been by at least 8 points, with 6 of them by 20 or more. It should come as no surprise that with this type of play, Philly has found early season success and look to be the deepest team in the East. On the other end of that spectrum lie the Washington Wizards who, to put it bluntly, suck. Washington jumped out to a 26-23 lead after one, but couldn’t take care of the ball and proceeded to commit 13 first half turnovers helping Philly take a 52-40 lead into the half. The 76ers cruised in the 2nd half using their stellar defense and potent offensive attack to wear down the young Wizards squad. Philly’s bench aka “The Night Shift” had another strong outing, including 24 points from Lou Williams and 18 from Thad Young to help outscore D.C.’s bench 46-15. The triumvirate of Nick Young/John Wall/JaVale McGee had a good night for the Wizards. Young scored a season high 27 points and 7 rebounds but 0 assists. John Wall nearly scored a triple double with 19 points 9 rebounds and 9 assists but also had an absurd 8 turnovers. McGee had the best stat line of the game with a 23 point 18 rebound 5 block effort.
After beating the Heat, Monta Ellis proclaimed that these, weren’t the “same Warriors”. After shooting a putrid 6-26 and falling to the lowly Bobcats, Monta may have to rescind that statement. Ellis did have one of the better dunks of the season thus far though. Paul Silas decided to switch things up a little bit last night and started rookie Kemba Walker, who definitely made the best of his opportunity. Walker came out hot and dropped 15 first quarter points on the way to a career high 23 points. With Kemba in the starting lineup, the Bobcats played a much more up-tempo game and were able to jump out to a 12 point lead in the first and never looked back. Gerald Henderson scored a season high 26 points and he’s another guy who has stepped up his game this season. Henderson is now averaging 13.4 points per game, nearly double his career average and has looked much more comfortable in his third year in the league. David Lee had a big night for Golden State scoring 24 points (including this monster dunk) and grabbed 16 boards but it wasn’t enough as first year coach Mark Jackson goes back to the drawing board.
Despite taking a L last night, I’m hopping on this Timberwolves bandwagon before it’s too late. As this team matures and learns to close out games, they will be deadly. Ricky Rubio is the real deal and had 18 points, 12 assists and 5 steals. Rubio also stepped up and showed brass balls by hitting a clutch 3 pointer late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 91. The Hawks were down big in the second half but journeyman and Twitter favorite, Ivan Johnson played the hero for his squad last night. Johnson scored 4 of his 10 points in the final 49 seconds of play and grabbed 8 of his 11 boards in the fourth quarter, he also iced the game by hitting two huge free throws with 4 seconds left to lead ATL to the victory. The backcourt duo of Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague combined for 45 points and Josh Smith chipped in with 8 points 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. Kevin Love had his typical 30 points and 13 rebounds but got outplayed by Johnson down the stretch. Despite a rash of injuries, the Hawks have now won 5 out of their last 6, I’m curious to see if they can keep it up.
For the second time in two weeks, the Pacers bullied the Celtics and beat them convincingly. The Pacers held Boston to 38% shooting, outrebounded them 42-24 and outscored them 42-24 in the paint. The Celtics were also outscored 23-9 on second chance points, and 83-28 during their current 4 game losing streak. That’s a telling stat; Boston is getting outhustled by opposing teams. I don’t know if that’s attributed to age, conditioning or overall laziness but Doc Rivers has to figure out what the problem is and fast or Boston will continue to slide in the standings. After being tossed last night Danny Granger came out and dropped 21 while the athletic backcourt of Darren Collison and Paul George scored 17 apiece. David West only had 8 points but did have this monster dunk all over Jermaine O’Neal. The Celtics did get 21 from both Paul Pierce and KG but Rondo and Ray Allen combined to go 6-18 for 13 points.
With Andrea Bargnani looking on from the bench due to injury for the second night in a row, the Raptors shot a horrid 35 percent from the field and only took 7 free throws total as they were held to 64. Unfortunately for the Raptors, this wasn’t their worst offensive performance of the seasos, they scored 62 points just a week ago against the Sixers. As if things couldn’t got worse for T.Dot, Leandro Barbosa went out with an ankle injury and the Raptors now have only nine healthy players on their roster–yikes. Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 18 points and 11 assists while teammates Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer combined to shooot 15-31 for 31 points. All three have been playing well recently which must have coach Thibodeau excited about the rest of the season.
On the second night of a back to back, Memphis’ Marc Gasol notched his third straight double double with 20 points and 11 rebounds as he dominated the Hornets frontcourt. Up by as many as 17, it looked like the Grizzlies were going to run away with it in the second half until coach Monty Williams went to a lineup of four bench players and Jarret Jack helping ‘Nawlins cut the lead to 2. Grievis Vasquez, who was traded from the Grizzlies to the Hornets came off the bench and scored 14 points to go along with 6 assists. I really like Vasquez’s game, he is super confident and if given the opportunity I think he could put together a nice season for the Hornets. Reserve center Jason Smith played a season high 26 minutes and had a nice stat line of 15 points and 10 rebounds as he did his best to contain Marc Gasol. Rudy Gay had 23 points on 9-19 shooting and Mike Conley chipped in with 17 points and 7 assists to help Memphis get within one win of a .500 record.
Kyle Lowry has been straight balling this season and should be in serious consideration for an All-Star Game invite. Lowry had a season-high 33 points, dropped 9 dimes and grabbed 8 boards. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the league. Portland showed great resilience after trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter but chipped away to eventually take the lead. But, while leading 95-94 with under a minute to go in regulation, Lowry came off of a Luis Scola pick and absolutely buried a 3-pointer to give Houston a 97-95 lead. The Blazers counterpunched with a pick and roll play of their own to force overtime but fell flat on their faces committing two turnovers, missing five of seven shots and two free throws to essentially hand the game to the Rockets. Kevin Martin poured in 28 points but couldn’t escape Nicolas Batum (29 points) who had two huge blocks on separate fast break attempts. LaMarcus had another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Blazers couldn’t put away the pesky Rockets in overtime.
With Melo on the bench, the Knicks got ran off the court out in Oklahoma City. The Thunder took a 10 point lead after the first and ended the half up 23 and were able to overcome a hideous fourth quarter to beat up on the Knicks who have now dropped two in a row. Kevin Durant had a game high 28 points (21 in the first half) on 10-13 shooting, while Russ Westbrook scored 21 with 8 assists 8 boards and 3 steals. James Harden came off the bench to add 24 to help blow out the Knicks. New York predictably struggled with Carmelo on the bench and STAT just does not look like the same player he was a year ago. He lacks the explosiveness Knicks fans saw last year (though he did have a big dunk over Ibaka early) and looks genuinely disinterested in the game at times. It’s disheartening to watch considering he had a tremendous first half of the season last year, but maybe his knees are starting to bother him. Whatever it is, here’s hoping he snaps out of it to come back and help the Knicks get back on track. On another note, Melo’s pinky ring game is ABSURD.
In an absolute blowout, the defending champs held the Kings to a shockingly low 25 percent shooting performance and led wire to wire in an ugly game for the Kings. Jason Terry led the Mavs with 21 points, who have now won 5 straight after getting off to a slow start. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am absolutely loving mini Vince Carter resurgence. Vinsanity struck again last night with a huge dunk after beating Francisco Garcia off the dribble. For anyone feeling nostalgia for some prime Vince Carter, do yourself a favor and peep this.
In a homecoming of sorts for the New Jersey Nets, the Jazz certainly didn’t make them feel welcome and cruised to 107-94 victory. At one time or another Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, DeShawn Stevenson, Kris Humphries and Sundiata Gaines all played for the Jazz. Utah jumped out to a 23 pont lead and destroyed the Nets on the break, accumulating 23 fast break points on the night. Every player Utah’s bench got some burn and they were led by Al Jefferson’s 20 points and Paul Millsap’s 12 rebounds. Playing in their third game of a four game road swing, the Nets were worn out by Utah’s uptempo attack and never had a chance.
In the most anticipated matchup of the weekend, the Clippers led from wire to wire to outlast the Lakers on the strength of Chris Paul’s 33 point (including this loooong range 3), 6 assist performance. CP3′snight would have been even more impressive had he not left in the second half with a strained left hamstring. The Lakers entered the game as the best rebounding team in the league but the Clippers outrebounded their crosstown rivals 57-48 behind a combined 24 rebounds between Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. To no one’s surprise, the game became very chippy and the teams had to separated several times. The Lakers were called for six technical fouls on the evening–three on players, two for defensive three-second violations and one on coach Mike Brown. The Mamba started off slow, but exploded in the third quarter for 21 points en route to a 42 point performance, his 4th straight 40+ scoring effort. Kobe was trying to will his team to victory and I thought he was going to pull it off after the Lakers got within 2 in the third quarter. But, the Clippers stretched the lead to 6 early in the fourth and Lob City was able to fend off the Lakers for the victory. Blake Griffin had 22 points 14 boards and 5 assists while veteran Chauncey Billups had 19 points and filled in nicely after CP3 went down. Rookie Darius Morris, who will be getting major minutes now that Steve Blake is out with a rib injury, had 7 points 4 assists and only 2 turnovers and a desperation heave to end the first quarter.
Stat line of the Night: Kyle Lowry with 33 points on 50 percent shooting, 8 rebounds and 9 assists to lead the Rockets to a victory in OT.
Play of the Night: Chris Paul from the parking lot.
Block(s) of the Night: Nicolas Batum swats Goran Dragic on separate fast break attempts.
Dunk(s) of the Night:
Monta Ellis takes it to the rack.
Vince Carter down the lane.
Tonight: Abe is back to recap the three Western Conference games that take place tonight and will keep you up to date throughout the week. Hope everybody had a great weekend, thanks for rocking with me. Peace!