Post Up: 20-20 Vision
Dwight bullies the Magic past Miami, Cleveland tops Lob City and the Knicks keep Linning.
by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
It’s no days off right now for NBA fans—to miss a night’s worth of action is to miss a lot. 11 games going on last night, so here’s what you missed if you had a hot date, or had to “work,” or just went to bed early (I’m jealous). 3, 2, 1…
Despite another cold shooting night from Brandon Jennings, who made just 3 of his 12 shot attempts (1-7 on threes and 4-8 at the FT line) and scored 11 points, the Bucks snapped a three-game losing streak, thanks to huge games from Carlos Delfino and Drew Gooden. Delfino finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals and Gooden 20 points and 14 rebounds—and for what it’s worth, 8 of BJ’s 11 came in the fourth quarter. Toronto countered with 25 points from DeMar Derozan and 15 assists from Jose Calderon, but it’s still a struggle on the offensive end for the Raptors without Andrea Bargnani’s 23.5 ppg. Milwaukee bumped its record to 11-14, and we even had a Mike Dunleavy sighting! He put up 16 of his 18 points in the second quarter alone. And while the Raps lost the game, they won the highlight battle, with nods to James Johnson and Derozan.
Why does it seem like every time a young team starts getting all the hype and all the love, the Spurs take it personal and take them out? The latest team to suffer San Antonio’s wrath was Philadelphia, who took the L last night as Tony Parker went for 37 points (on 24 shots) and 7 assists, while Tim Duncan chipped in a casual 16×11 double-double. The Spurs, now 18-9, survived a late push from the Sixers, who pulled to within 5 on a Lou Williams three-pointer with 1:46 left, but Philly didn’t score again in the game. LouWill finished with 22 points, Andre Iguodala went 17/7/4 and Elton Brand had 13 rebounds, but San Antonio outscored the Sixers in every single quarter, and protected the basketball—the Spurs turned it over just 6 times. Gary Neal scored 18 points, including 4-4 from three-point range and 12 of those in the first quarter. The Sixers’ (18-8) cap off a brutal 7-game stretch against the Clippers on Friday—a win would get them to 5-2 against a murderer’s row of Orlando, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, LA Lakers, Spurs, LA Clippers.
This is getting Linsane. Sure, it’s against the Nets, Jazz and Wizards, but wow! Jeremy freakin’ Lin delivers another monster night in a Knicks win. That’s 3 in a row, ladies and gents. Lin scored 23 points (9-14), and had 10 assists (only 2 TOs) and 4 rebounds, while working the pick-and-roll to perfection all night long. He even slammed home his first dunk as an NBA player. I’m only not excited about that because it came against my Weeeezards. The biggest benefactor of JLin’s playmaking was Tyson Chandler, who seemingly caught lob after lob on his way to 25 points and 11 boards. And Landry Fields also thanked his new PG properly after slamming home a put-back finish off a Lin miss. The most frustrating part from a Wizards angle was that, as swingman Mo Evans later pointed out, the Knicks basically ran the same exact thing on every possession, and it was the oldest “play” in the book—pick-and-roll. John Wall did his best to get Washington (5-21) going, going for 29 points and 6 dimes, but his teammates—surprise here—couldn’t deliver. Nick Young shot 3-11, Jordan Crawford 2-10, and the only other Wiz player to score in double figures was Trevor Booker, who muscled his way to 17 points despite rarely having a play called his way. The next test for Lin and the 11-15 Knicks looms on Friday when they host Kobe and the Lakers at MSG. You don’t think many people will be interested in that game, do ya?
The term “making it rain” is severely overused, but the Magic hit 17 threes, helping them run up the score on Florida rivals the Heat. Orlando led from start to finish (by as many as 19) and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, improving to 16-10 on the year. Dwight Howard scored 25 points and grabbed 24 rebounds for his sixth 20-20 game of the season, shot 7-10 from the free throw line, and most importantly, drew enough attention from Heat defenders to continually set up outside shooters. Ryan Anderson used his open looks to the tune of 27 points (5 first-half threes), and also had 11 rebounds. As for Miami, LeBron’s 17/6/10 night would be monstrous for anyone else, but for The King, it was the Magic holding him in check. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade went off for 33 points, but the Heat got little from the reserves and couldn’t cool down Orlando’s deep shooting. Norris Cole played 31 minutes and had 9 points and 4 assists in his first career start.
This game was billed as a showdown between the latest and greatest point guards in Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul, but Irving was held out after being diagnosed with a concussion from Tuesday’s game against Miami, and Ramon Sessions stepped into the starting lineup. Normally, that wouldn’t be more than a footnote, but Sessions decided to ball out, scoring a season-high 24 points and dropping 13 dimes in a team-high 39 minutes, besting Chris Paul’s 16 points and 12 assists to lead the Cavs past the Clippers. Cleveland, now 10-14 and back to .500 at home, shot 51 percent from the field and held the Lob City boys to just 2 fast break points on the night. And yet even after trailing by 15 in the fourth quarter, the Lobsters came all the way back to tie things up with 2:10 to play. But Boobie Gibson (17 points) nailed a big 3-pointer, then ex-Cav Mo Williams botched a wide open layup and Cleveland held off the Clips (15-8 on the year). Blake Griffin finished with 25 and 15, and Caron Butler added 21 points.
Is this real life? Don’t look now, but the Pistons beat the Nets last night for their third straight W, and are now 7-20 on the season. Greg Monroe dominated inside, with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Detroit shot a season-high 53 percent from the field as a team to beat New Jersey (8-19). The Pistons used a Monroe-Prince-Jerebko-Stuckey-Knight lineup for the majority of the game, and each scored in double figures, as they held off a late push from Deron Williams and the Nets. DWill scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter (10-21 shooting), but it wasn’t enough, as the Nets lost their fourth straight. A Williams four-point play brought NJ to within one at 78-77, but that was as close as it got. Jordan Farmar had 22 off the bench in the loss and Kris Humphries had a game-high 16 rebounds, but he also got a face full of Jason Maxiell. These two will go at it again on Friday in Detroit.
Atlanta jumped out to a 59-41 lead by halftime and weathered the storm in the second half as the Pacers attempted multiple comebacks. The Hawks (17-9) were led by 28 points, 12 boards, 5 steals, 3 assists and 3 blocked shots from Josh Smith and 20 points from Joe Johnson. Atlanta outrebounded Indiana 45-33 and scored 28 fast break points, plus got bench contributions from Kirk Hinrich (17 points) and Tracy McGrady (13 points) to extend their winning streak against the Pacers in Atlanta to nine games. The Pacers were led by 21 points from Danny Granger, 15 points each from Tyler Hansbrough and David West, and 13 rebounds and 10 points from Roy Hibbert. But even with Indiana’s frontline playing well, it was JSmoove who outclassed the bigs on the court. This game got nasty, too, with multiple skirmishes breaking out, including a heated exchange between McGrady and Louis Amundson. Also worth noting: sick pass from Zaza Pachulia here.
The Grizzlies overcame 37 percent field goal shooting and 16 turnovers to beat the Kevin Love-less Timberwolves behind 19 points and 9 rebounds from Rudy Gay and 17 points from Quincy Pondexter in his second career start. Pondexter went scoreless in his first start against San Antonio on Monday. His emergence, though, and Memphis’ ability to work the ball inside in the first half—30 of the Grizz’s 44 points before the break were scored in the paint—helped get its record back to even at 13-13, same as Minnesota’s. Mareese Speights grabbed 15 rebounds and OJ Mayo (10) and Dante Cunningham (12) scored in double figures off the bench for Memphis. The Wolves’ backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour had a sub-par game to say the least, combining for 2-14 shooting, 6 points, 4 assists. Yes, that’s combined. Rubio also had 4 turnovers. JJ Barea was among the only Minny players to turn in a noteworthy performance, with 17 points off the pine, while Mike Beasley and Derrick Williams added 13 points apiece.
Let’s Bully! This game was a joke—and I’m not just referring to Will Ferrell’s pre-game player introductions (see below), which apparently even had Coach Thibs in stitches. New Orleans shot just 37 percent from the floor, turned the ball over 18 times, and were outrebounded 49-39. The Hornets’ most productive starter was Marco Belinelli, who scored 13 points, and NOLA was led in scoring by none other than the unwanted Chris Kaman (17 points, 9 boards). Meanwhile the Bulls only needed 22 minutes from a still-sore Derrick Rose (6/5/6 line despite dealing with lingering back spasms) and got 18 points from Carlos Boozer and 13 and 10 from Joakim Noah, beating up on the reeling Hornets. The Bulls now have as many wins (22) as the Hornets have losses, and they face the lowly Bobcats on Friday.
Dirk Nowtizki scored 25 points and the Mavs stopped a three-game losing streak by beating a banged up Nuggets team last night. Dallas had 30 assists on 44 field goals, including 8 from Vince Carter, who also scored 17 points. Each team hit 9 three-pointers, and Denver lost despite outscoring the Mavericks 20-8 form the charity stripe and having six players finish with double-digit scoring nights. One reason may have been the lack of defense, as the Mavs scored 64 points in the first half—most by a Nuggs opponent this season. Al Harrington and Rudy Fernandez each scored 17 points a pop off the bench for Denver, and Ty Lawson and Nene had matching double-doubles, with 16 points apiece and 10 each of the assisting and rebounding variety for the point guard and center. But the Champs took advantage of a tired, shallow Nuggets roster and took home the win, matching these two teams’ records at 15-11.
Uh-oh. The Rockets got a big win, but not before Kyle Lowry exited the game in the third quarter with an apparent right arm injury. He did not return to the game. Yikes. Dude has been absolutely balling this year, so hopefully by the time you’re reading this we have more (and good) news. In his absence, Houston’s bench went to work on the Blazers, as Chase Budinger led all scorers with 22 points, Courtney Lee had 16 and they helped the rest of the Rockets bench combine for 66 points. Houston led by as many as 19, but let Portland get back in the game and tie it at 77 on a LaMarcus Aldridge dunk in the fourth. LMA scored 13 points, while Jamal Crawford (21) and Gerald Wallace (20) shouldered the scoring load for the Blazers. But the Rockets finished with a 53 percent field goal percentage and won the rebounding battle 39-29. Praying for Lowry…
Line of the Night: Dwight Howard — 25 Pts, 24 Reb, 4 Ast to lead the Magic past Miami.
Moment of the Night: I don’t care that it’s a college game. And I don’t care that he doesn’t have a clear-cut position at the next level. I just have a feeling Austin Rivers is going to be a problem in the L one day, superstar or not. Onions!
Dunks of the Night: John Wall and Jeremy Lin trade shots.
Funny of the Night: Will Ferrell introducing the starting lineups for Bulls-Hornets. Yes, it’s awesome.
Tonight: The NBA takes a quick breather on Thursday night, with only 4 games on the schedule, starting with a classic Lakers-Celtics clash on TNT (are there any records left for Kobe and Pierce to break?), followed by Thunder at Kings. Your non-national TV games are Warriors-Nuggets and Rockets-Suns. Catch you all back here same time tomorrow.