Post Up: Righting the Ship
Melo buries the Wizards, Rubio and Irving go at it and the Point God continues his strong start.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
What’s good everybody? Hope you all had a great week to start the New Year. Big thank you again to Abe for holding down the SLAMily with great recaps of each night’s action. Last night featured 12 games including a matchup between the Bulls and Magic who have been playing some good ball to start the season. The Cavs traveled to Minnesota in a showdown between rookies Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio, and a battle for bragging rights between myself and Abe as the Wiz took on the Knicks. Let’s get right to it…
Deron Williams has had a rough start to the season. On the court he, to put it frankly, hasn’t been playing the best ball of his career and off the court he has found himself caught up in trade and Brooklyn talk. But, he seemed to put that all behind him last night and played one of his better games of this infant season to help the Nets get a much needed victory. Williams led the Nets to a 12 point victory on the strength of 24 points (6-18 from the floor) and 9 assists helping the Nets end their 6 game skid. The Nets torched the Raptors with 15 three pointers including 5 from DeShawn Stevenson (15 points) and 6 from Anthony Morrow who matched Deron Williams’ game high 24. Despite shooting better overall from the floor, the Raptors couldn’t compensate for Jersey’s 15 3 pointers. It also didn’t help that DeMar DeRozan only scored 3 points on 1-6 shooting and was sent to the bench for most of the 4th quarter. Double-double machine Kris Humphries only scored 6 points but snatched 16 rebounds. Random stat: during the 3rd quarter, all four of the Nets with the last name “Williams” were on the court at the same time (Deron, Shawne, Shelden, and Jordan).
The Sixers finally made their home opener last night after starting the season with five straight games on the road, and they didn’t disappoint the fans in attendance at the Wells Fargo center. The Sixers have to be pleasantly surprised by the sudden emergence of center Spencer Hawes who has become a nightly double-double threat. Through the first five games of the season Hawes has averaged 13 points and 11 boards a game and added 16 and 14 in last night’s blowout of Detroit. Jodie Meeks provided instant offense for Philly in the fourth, scoring 17 of his team high 21, including 9 straight in a matter of 54 seconds. The Sixers were able to overcome the poor play of Elton Brand and Dre Iguodala who totaled just 9 points on 3-13 shooting thanks to the strong bench play of Thaddeus Young (15 points) and Lou Williams (16 points). Detroit played some overall poor basketball; they shot a dismal 36 percent, missed all 10 of their 3 point attempts and committed 16 turnovers. Greg Monroe had 22 points and his improvement is one of the few bright spots to an otherwise poor start.
It wasn’t easy or pretty (the teams combined for 43 turnovers), but the Knicks ended their losing streak while the Wizards pushed theirs to a league worst seven games. Neither team came out shooting well as they combined to go 2-12 to open the game before Nick Young and John Wall got hot to finish the quarter with a combined for 22 points. The Wizards played a strong first quarter and led the Knicks 32-18 while shooting 58 percent from the field and looked like they were on their way to their first dub of the season.
But, the Knicks came roaring back in the second riding the backs of Melo and STAT, who combined for 22 of the team’s 24 2nd quarter points to cut the lead to one at the half. The Knicks seemed to wake up in the second quarter, and were clicking on all cylinders, getting it done on both ends of the floor. A big part of their comeback was the play of Iman Shumpert (10/3/7/5 stls in 37 mins) who brought intensity on the defensive end and was responsible for a couple nice dimes on the other end. As a team the Knicks were +23 with Shumpert on the floor and looked much more fluid and coherent offensively. The Wizards got great minutes from rookie Chris Singleton, who looked impressive, making some big defensive plays and hitting a few threes. He finished with 12 points and 7 boards and a blown fastbreak dunk. The Knicks transition D left much to be desired and John Wall was able to get out and run off of defensive rebounds with ease. Displaying his explosive first step and ability to get to the basket, the Knicks simply had no answer for him on the break and Wall had 22 points and 9 dimes but also 5 turnovers. Amar’e, who has been playing some uninspired ball to begin the season and exhibiting some poor body language, finally woke up and finished the game with 23 points, 12 points and what seemed like his first big dunks of the season. In the 4th it was all Melo as the Knicks reverted to their patented “All-Melo Everything 4th quarter offense” routine. Anthony hit a game sealing 3 pointer with 15.5 seconds left to finish with 37 points and sent the Wizards home with another loss.
Following a marathon three overtime loss against the Heat, the Hawks picked up a dub against the Bobcats, but once again couldn’t get it done in regulation (they play again tonight, somebody might die). Josh Smith led the Hawks with 23 points and 19 boards and the Hawks were able to put away a pesky Bobcats team. Each team had a shot to end it in regulation but Al Horford missed a baseline jumper and Boris Diaw couldn’t capitalize for the Bobcats. In their fourth overtime session in two days it was all Hawks after Jeff Teague (7/9) hit a quick 3 pointer helping Atlanta pull away. Five players scored in double digits for ATL including Al Horford and Marvin Williams who each chipped in with 15 points. The Bobcats have been getting some great minutes from both D.J. Augustin and Byron Mullens. Augustin has quietly put up averages of 16 points and 7 assists and doesn’t seem to feel the pressure of highly touted rookie Kemba Walker (who had 19 off the bench) breathing down his neck for minutes. Mullens has become a presence for the Bobcats and must have picked up a thing or two in the jailyard during the offseason. The Hawks finish their back-to-back-to-back stretch against the Bulls tonight and if I was a betting man, I would put everything I own on Chicago.
I said it last weekend and I’ll say it again this weekend, I REALLY like this Pacers team. They came into Boston last night and smacked around the Celtics, matching them with their physical play and wearing them out with their depth. Indy had six players score in double figures, outscored Boston’s bench 33-14 and rebounded from an ugly first half to bury the C’s by 13 on the road. The Pacers held the Celtics to a franchise low 25 points in the first half and they never recovered. Paul Pierce shot a putrid 3-17 from the field and Ray Allen was the only Celtic able to find the basket as he dropped 23 on an efficient 7-11 shooting. Roy Hibbert displayed some crafty moves in the post and Frank Vogel has to be thrilled with his play thus far, the G’Town alum is playing himself into the upper echelon of centers in the L. David West, who was met with a chorus of boos, grabbed 10 rebounds for the Pacers but only added a single field goal. The Celtics had no answer for Indy in the paint as they were outscored down low 42-28, out rebounded 47-36 and out hustled 19-5 on second chance points.
DRose hasn’t missed a beat after his MVP outing and had another tremendous showing for the Chicago Bulls. Rose finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double with 21 points 10 assists and 8 rebounds, which seems like a typical night for him thus far. He just looks way more comfortable and patient in half court sets this season and is becoming a more polished point guard right in front of our eyes. Make no mistake about it though, the kid can still get out and run and play off the ball when he needs to. The Bulls absolutely shut down Orlando Magic forcing them into poor shots the whole night and a 7-27 stretch in the first half. Along with Rose’s 20, starters Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng chipped in 20 and 21 respectively and Kyle Korver had 18 (5-7 from 3) off the bench helping to put the game out of reach early. Dwight Howard put up his usual 28 and 15 and helped resuscitate Big Baby Davis after he took a tumble in the 4th.
The Nuggets are another team I really like this year. Like the Pacers, they have a lot of depth and will be able to run teams ragged. The only thing that will hold them back from making a deep playoff run is the lack of a go-to scorer. Unless somebody (Gallinari?) emerges during the season, they will be hindered in close games.
Anywho, the Nuggets used those fresh legs to force 17 turnovers and capitalize with 19 fast-break points. Despite that stat, Denver found themselves down at the half but used a 19-0 run in the 2nd half to catapult them to victory. Gallinari led the Nugs with a season high 23 points and Ty Lawson had a strong game with 12 points and 8 assists. Timofey Mozgov picked up right where he left off last season–getting put on posters. This time, Al-Farouq Aminu had the honor. The Hornets are really missing Eric Gordon right now, but Grievis Vasquez did all he could off the bench hitting 4 three pointers and finishing with 16 points. Once Gordon comes back the Hornets should be able to win a few games, they have been playing competitive hoops but are really hurting without his scoring ability.
Kevin Durant must have been feeling inspired by his SLAM cover (go pick it up!). KD had 26 points and only missed 6 shots as the Thunder led for all but a minute and a half of game time. OKC also got 23 from Harden as he looks like the way-too-early-to-predict candidate for 6th man of the year. Scoot Brooks sat his starters for the entire 4th quarter as this one never got close. The Rockets are a different team when they play on the road, they are now 0-5 when playing outside of Houston and allowed the Thunder to 52.5 percent for the game. They have also been getting dominated inside and they have now given up 114 points in the paint over their last two contests.
In an early matchup between two of the best rookie point guards, Kyrie Irving got the best of Ricky Rubio as neither failed to give the fans some highlight worthy plays. To be honest, Irving has really surprised me thus far. After playing in so few games while at Duke, I was expecting him to experience a lot of growing pains early on in his career–that’s not to say that I didn’t think he would be a solid pro, I just didn’t expect him to be this good, this fast. Granted, it’s still incredibly early, but I like what I’ve seen from him. Makes the NBA Draft eligibility rule look even sillier, doesn’t it?
Irving finished with 14 points 5 assists and 5 rebounds and Antwan Jamison added 22 and the Cavs beat the T’Wolves on the road. The Cavs won it with their defense though as they put the clamps on the Wolves fast break offense, holding Rubio and Co. in check on the break through the first 41 minutes of the game. Kevin Love may just be the best power forward in the game. He led the wolves with 29 points and 14 rebounds. I’m interested to see if he will stick around when his contract runs out with so much young talent floating around in Minnesota. Regardless of his decision, that boy is gonna get PAID.
The Jazz remained perfect at home thanks to a strong bench performance. Utah’s reserves outscored the Grizzlies bench 41-11 and every player that came off the bench scored. Al Jefferson had 20 and 9 to lead the Jazz but it was a total team effort for Ty Corbin’s crew. The game was close throughout, but Utah used a 9-0 fourth quarter run to pull away from Memphis for good. Rudy Gay had 17 points and a nasty dunk for Memphis and Marc Gasol and Tony Allen each had 21, but their weak bench play turned out to be their achilles heal.
After beating the Lakers Thursday night, the Blazers came out flat against Phoenix. After playing four games in six nights, Portland shot an abysmal 32.5 percent as no starter played more than 3o minutes. The Suns jumped all over them early and definitely looked like the more rested team. I hate to say that the Blazers looked like they threw in the towel early, but we may see this more and more as the season progresses; there are just too many games to be played in such a short time and Portland, who has been hot, looked like they took the night off. The Suns are not a poor team; they saw a weakened Portland squad and took full advantage. But, had they Blazers been at full strength, I’d like to think that this game would have been much closer. Steve Nash shot a perfect 7-7 from the field and finished with 17 points and 9 assists while Shannon Brown had 14 off the bench.
If Kobe Bryant has a wrist injury, I think I’m going to spend the rest of my day trying to get the same one. Kobe torched the Warriors to the tune of 39 points(13-28) 4 rebounds and a team high 7 assists as the Lakers held off the Warriors at the Staples Center. After Dorrell Wright hit a 3 pointer to take a 46-39 lead, the Lakers went on a 14-2 run and never looked back as Kobe Bean scored 17 of his 39 over the last 9 minutes of the third. The Lakers have been playing stifling defense at home this season and have now held all 5 opponents to under 100 points in LA. Derek Fisher continues to make timely clutch plays to end games; last night he sealed the victory with a steal late in the 4th. Steph Curry sat last night after re-injuring his ankle so Nate Robinson returned to the hardwood after being signed to the Warriors earlier this week and finished with 9 points in 31 minutes of play. It’s good to see Nate back out there, he’s always a source of entertainment. Matt Barnes had his best offensive game since 2010 last night as he scored 7-9 from the field and finished with 16 points. The Lakers are going to need solid minutes from him this season if they expect to make a run.
Dunk(s) of the Night: Aminu over Mozgov and Rudy Gay with the flush.
Play of the Night: Melo puts the nail in the coffin.
C’mon Son: Chris Singleton misses the wide open dunk.
Tonight: Ten games on the slate. The Hawks play their third game in three nights and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them collapse with exhaustion. The always interesting Knicks take on the Pistons in Detroit, and Chris Paul battles Brandon Jennings as the Bucks travel to Lob City. Enjoy your Saturday everybody, I’ll be back tomorrow for a full recap. Peace!