Post Up: Night of the Kevins
Kevin Durant finishes off the Wizards, Kevin Love and Kevin Martin destroy the Lakers
by Jay Wallis / @jaywallis11
Spurs 120 (6-1), Knicks 89 (2-4)
Gregg Popovich recently said that he thinks the Warriors are “for real.” Even though he won’t admit it, his team is as well. The Spurs absolutely embarrassed the Knicks in their own building. In the first three minutes of play, the Spurs made 4 of their 5 attempts—making two lay-ups and two threes. As Popovich’s teams always do, they played efficient, unselfish, inside-out basketball. The Knicks, on the other hand, missed their first five shots and looked like a team that had no real desire to compete that day. It only got worse from there as Tony Parker (17 points, 6 assists) and the Spurs built up a 35-17 lead going into the second quarter. This separation continued to grow, eventually ballooning to a 106-69 fourth quarter San Antonio lead. The Spurs starting five (Parker, Green, Belinelli, Duncan, Diaw) were fantastic before the game got out of hand. During their 12 minutes on the floor together, the starters shot 72 percent from the floor and created a quick 23-point lead. Newcomer Marco Belinelli (9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) may not have had gaudy numbers, but he has stepped into the starting lineup, discovered his role and looked like he was born to play for Popovich. For the Knicks to have had any chance in this game, they would have needed J.R. Smith to have a strong season opener. He started by having yet another more-shots-than-points performance—5 points on 1-9 shooting from the field. Danny Green (24 points, 10 rebounds, 6-9 on 3-pointers) had his best game of the season by far as he returned to his home state. When Green has the green light and gets in a rhythm, his quick release makes him one of the most dangerous shooters in the League. The problem for the Knicks is simple: They need Tyson Chandler and they need his defensive leadership. Desperately. Without the former Defensive Player of the Year, most Knicks players assume a teammate will play defense or point and yell for someone else to play defense. Who knows how big of a hole this team can create before Chandler comes back.
Thunder 106 (5-1), Wizards 105 (2-4) OT
Oklahoma City showed Sunday night that you can be young while still being a composed, veteran group. The Wizards seemed to have this one in the bag, being led by Bradley Beal (career-high 34 points, 6-8 on 3-pointers) and five other teammates that ended in double-figures. John Wall (10 points, 8 assists) had a decent game but now has at least 4 turnovers in four of six games so far. He’ll need to work on his ball security if he wants to try and push this team into the playoffs. Washington held a 12-point lead with 8:03 to go and a 10-point lead with 3:01 left in the game. Then the Thunder came crashing down. After a Beal layup, the Thunder were only down 96-93 with 18 second left in the game. Kevin Durant (33 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists) decided to do what he has done so often in his young career—pull up for a game-tying 3-pointer. And make it. Durant now has 12 career game-tying shots in the last 24 seconds of a game—the most since the start of the 2007-08 season. The Thunder played some stout defense to close this one out in overtime. Durant seems to be in “angry mode” to start the season, taking down any and all obstacle that get in his way. His co-star Russell Westbrook (13 points, 5 turnovers, 4-16 shooting from the field) is still trying to shake off the rust and is showing everyone the bad Russ because of it. After his third called charge of the game with 3:19 to go in the fourth quarter, Westbrook took a shove from Nene (14 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and retaliated with a push of his own, leading to a second double-technical and consequent ejection for these two. Whether or not Westbrook is having a good game, the kid has to learn to control and harness his emotions. He can’t let the frustration build up and eventually negatively impact his play on the court. The other piece to the Thunder Big 3 had one of his best games of the season as Serge Ibaka had a season-high 25 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Suns 101 (5-2), Pelicans 94 (3-4)
This game was an evenly matched game as young stars Anthony Davis (14 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals) and Eric Bledsoe (24 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) continued their hot starts for their respective teams. Jason Smith also played well, scoring a team-high 22 points to go along with 8 boards. Holding an 80-79 with just under 6:00 minutes left in the game, the Suns called upon Markieff Morris (23 points, 9-12 shooting from the field), who knocked down a mid-range jumper and sparked a 15-6 Suns run that put the game out of reach. Playing both sides of the ball very well and averaging 23.8 points the last four games, Morris might finally be finding his groove in the NBA. During this time period, Bledsoe and Gerald Green (15 points) each hit desperation 3-pointers as the shot clock was expiring. Due to Bledsoe’s expected emergence, Morris’ unexpected consistency and Miles Plumlee’s (8 points, 12 rebounds) regular double-doubles, Phoenix is tied for the fourth best record in the League and hasn’t lost at home yet. Even if this team’s success is short lived, right now, they are buying into Jeff Hornacek’s system and playing solid, team defense.
Timberwolves 113 (5-2), Lakers 90 (3-5)
When asked about being outscored 47-23 in the first quarter, Chris Kaman put it best, saying, “it was like a nightmare.” The rest of the night didn’t go much better as Kevin Love (25 points, 13 rebounds)—who had 18 points and 8 rebounds in this demoralizing first quarter—looked like he should go try out to be the Vikings quarterback with all his full-court outlet passes and Kevin Martin (27 points, 3-5 on 3-pointers) continued to shoot the ball extremely well. Ricky Rubio (12 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds, 5 steals) put it all together with his second career triple-double as this game was over before it even had a chance of starting. Nikola Pekovic (14 points, 10 rebounds) played a major role in helping the Wolves attack a dreadful Lakers defense, as his team ended up with a 50-32 points in the paint advantage. Thanks to Rubio and Corey Brewer (17 points, 4 steals), the Wolves also pushed the tempo, outscoring the Lakers, 19-9, in fast-break points. Out of the many bad Lakers defenders, Chris Kaman (8 points, 5 rebounds) looked the worst, always being out of place on defense. But Minnesota didn’t just beat Los Angeles with their offense, though, as they consistently got back on defense. In fact, the Timberwolves have the best transition defense in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports. To make matters worse for the Lakers, Steve Nash left the game with back spasms and said he doesn’t know when he’ll be back. The only thing for certain about this perplexing Lakers team is that Kobe Bryant wants nothing more than to get back on that basketball court. (And that Mike D’Antoni has increased his Excedrin usage.)