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Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am  |  48 responses

Post Up: Scared Yet?

The Blazers beat the Thunder in impressive fashion… again.

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LSepkowitzSLAM

Blazers 98, Thunder 94

As if we needed more evidence that the Blazers are legit in the West… 

OKC led by as many as nine in the fourth quarter last night—at home—but Portland battled back and took a three-point lead with nine seconds left. Kevin Durant split his free throws, but an offensive board by Serge Ibaka kept the Thunder alive. But Durant missed a game-tying jumper with a few ticks still on the clock, sealing the W for Portland. 

Neither team was particularly sharp offensively, but the Blazers got it done when it mattered. LaMarcus Aldridge hit 10/23 shots for 25 points to go with his 14 boards, and Damian Lillard dropped 21 with 11 dimes. Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews all joined them with at least 12 points. 

Kevin Durant dropped 37 and 14 for the Thunder, but nobody else really stepped up. Serge Ibaka scored 17, but obviously the team misses Russell Westbrook, and a game like last night’s really highlights how key he is (was) to the team’s success. 

Hawks 92, Celtics 91

Boston led by as many as 18 in the early second quarter before letting this one slip away. They had four chances in the final minute to take the lead, but couldn’t convert.

Paul Millsap shouldered the load for Atlanta with Al Horford down—he dropped 34 (12/19, 10/14 FT) with 15 boards and a pair of blocks. Jeff Teague added 16, 5 and 6 and Kyle Korver added 14. 

The Celtics got most of their offense from unlikely sources—Kelly Olynyk scored 21 (8/11) and Kris Humphries hit 7/13 shots for 18 points while grabbing 10 boards. 

Cavaliers 91, Pacers 76

Cleveland hung in there in Indiana yesterday—they even led early in the fourth—but the Pacers put the clamps down late and ran away with a win. 

The Pacers didn’t have a great shooting night, but it was good enough and their defense was great. Paul George (21 and 8) and Roy Hibbert (19) led the way in the W. Danny Granger came off the bench for 12 points and 4 boards in 16 minutes.  

Nobody cleared 15 points for Cleveland. Anderson Varejao (14 and 11) was solid, but Kyrie Irving hit just 3/9 shots and Dion Waiters needed 13 shots to score 12 points. 

Warriors 94, Magic 81

Golden State controlled this one the whole way. David Lee paced the Dubs with 21 and 9, and Steph Curry kicked in 15 (7/12). 

Arron Afflalo was Orlando’s leading scorer with 15. The team shot 38 percent from the field and just 5/19 from deep on the night. 

Kings 110, Rockets 106

DeMarcus Cousins (17 & 16) out-dueled Dwight Howard (15 & 8), and Rudy Gay (25) was great against the team that traded him on draft night back in ’06, leading to an upset win for the Kings on Tuesday night. 

Isaiah Thomas dropped 17 with 10 dimes, too, and Marcus Thornton kicked in 15 off the bench. 

James Harden was huge for the Rockets, hitting 12/26 shots and 9/10 free throws on his way to 36 points and 10 boards, but it wasn’t enough. Trailing by three with 12 seconds left, he got called for a charge that essentially put the game away. 

Nets 92, Spurs 113

San Antonio handled the Brook Lopez-less Nets with ease last night. They led by 23 at the break and then dropped 39 points in the third quarter. 

Tony Parker scored 18 points in just 27 minutes, and Tim Duncan went for 15 and 5 in the blowout win. 

The Nets had a decent offensive output—five guys in double-figures including Mason Plumlee (15 and 13) and Paul Pierce (13)—but just couldn’t slow down the Spurs’ offensive attack. 

Raptors 85, Bulls 79

The Raptors might actually be kinda good. Last night, they held the offensively challenged Bulls to just 36.6 percent shooting from the floor en route to a nice road win. 

Jonas Valanciunas scored 15 with 9 boards, Kyle Lowry added 13 with 6 dimes and the bench was solid, as Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez each scored at least 8. 

The Bulls got 16 from Luol Deng, 15 from Jimmy Butler and 16 boards from Joakim Noah, but Carlos Boozer had an off night (1/8), and that did them in. 

Bucks 94, Lakers 79

The Lakers were pretty brutal last night. Pau Gasol and Nick Young each scored 25, but they combined to shoot only 17/44, and the rest of the squad was even worse from the field. Guys like Shawne Williams (2/5, 36 minutes), Jordan Farmar (0/5, 20 minutes), Jodie Meeks (2/9, 42 minutes), Ryan Kelly (2/6, 19 minutes) and Jordan Hill (2/5, 12 minutes) really struggled. 

Meanwhile, the Bucks got a huge 37 from Brandon Knight. He hit 15/25 shots, 3/8 treys and snagged 8 boards. Ersan Ilyasova finally woke up, scoring 15 points with 12 boards, and the Greek Freak had 8 points and 11 rebounds in the win. 

Bonus: Vintage Show Of The Day

This season, I’ll be posting a semi-random highlight video of a former baller at the bottom of my Post Ups. This is my last Post Up of the season, as I’ll be passing the torch to a great new SLAM writer for January and beyond. It seems only right that I finish this thing with the GOAT. Thanks for reading this season and have a great 2014. 

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  • JML-G

    Lillard and Aldridge will get a ring before Durant and Westbrook

  • Lissa

    Good job on the stuff Leo.

  • TriggaMan

    I’ll take you up in that, shoot to many jumpers

  • TriggaMan

    Its crazy, raptors are better without gay and kings are better with him, great trade for both teams.
    love Paul millsaps game, trying to figure out who he reminds me of?

  • spit hot fiyah

    it’s not that crazy. memphis was also better after trading him. i saw a stat that said that the raptors pass the ball on average 30 times more per game after the rudy gay trade.

    and the kings have been a little better but not much. their defense is still awful

  • spit hot fiyah

    isiah thomas would be an all star lock in the east

  • TriggaMan

    They have beat the heat, and the rockets and another decent team I can’t remember. They are outscoring there opponents not by defense lol. Cousins, gay and Thomas score like 70 of there points

  • spit hot fiyah

    yeah they have some good wins and gay is shooting like 48% which is great for him. poor maclemore is happy if the ball even gets close to him on offense

  • Nathan Shane Long

    NEW YEARS EVE THOUGHTS

    1.Brandon Knight lights up the hapless Lakers i like that SH*T

    2.The Cavs are a F’N joke and the biggest disappointment this season #FREEKYRIE

    3.The DI*KRIDE DURANT strategy did not work against Portland

  • guest

    Well said lissa.

  • Caboose

    Hey Leo, you have the scores switched on the Cleveland-Indiana game

  • Caboose

    Free Kyrie? He’s been the reason the Cavs suck.

  • guest

    It’s his last day and he’s hung over, cut him some slack!

  • Caboose

    Haha just trying to help.

  • Caboose

    Yet no Kings fans are happy when the ball gets near Ben Black Hole McLemore.

  • Caboose

    1. There are stats that point to the Blazers being a flash in the pan. but they continue to do so well. They’re certainly fun to watch, and I hope this streak continues.
    2. Man, the Kings are SO CLOSE to being good.
    3. Still not sure if the Lakers have been better with or without Kobe this season.
    4. I still like the Spurs coming out of the West. It’s just incredible how long their run of dominance has lasted. Thanks, Timmy.
    5. With Horford out, the first two rounds of the East Playoffs are gonna be f*cking BORING.
    6. Yes, Orlando, yes, keep losing, this is good.

  • brothasdontsurf

    I was watching the Lakers game, they didn’t score a single point until 5 MINUTES LEFT IN THE 1ST QUARTER against the Bucks. Im a through and through LAL fan but I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Also, the Thunder couldn’t secure a single loose ball in the ending moments of that game….not a good look for them.

  • Mo

    Okc will win this year

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Lol you must not have watched any Cavs games

  • Caboose

    I have, you’ve seen his “defense” right?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    K. Let me know when one PG’s defense has ever made a whole team that terrible…..
    And then let me know how often one PGs defense has meant almost nothing to his whole teams ability to win.
    I realize you have your opinion on Kyrie set that he’s overrated, but don’t go out of your way to show it. You end up saying stupid nonsense like Kyrie and his defense is the reason the Cavaliers suck.

  • Nathan Shane Long

    he has been the reason why they win any games Kyrie has to go off and play at an all-star elite level for the Cavs to have a chance

  • spit hot fiyah

    i wasn’t even a fan before the draft. i have seen some kings games and he can be out there for literary 10 minutes and u don’t notice him once on offense or on defense

  • http://www.offthebackboard.wordpress.com/ Off The Backboard

    The Lakers are better without Kobe this year because the makeup of the team doesn’t really mesh well with how Kobe plays. He was making strides in his come back, but the team still hadn’t meshed together, and this injury only makes that worse.

    This team’s identity is a bunch of scrappy young players on one year deals passing and making plays off of each other, and giving it all on the defensive end (where possible). Kobe hasn’t really done much on the defensive end since about 2008, and his offense, especially coming out of injury, is more based on slowing it down and posting it than it is handling it on the perimeter. Its just an awkward mix.

    Re: #5 – The first 2 rounds of the East are always boring. I can’t remember the last exciting first round matchup I saw after Celtics-Bulls in 2009 (Rose’s coming out party).

  • JML-G

    dont be silly

  • LouisVuittonDon

    Kobe played 6 games with that team and wasnt even at 100% and yet they still went 2-4 which is a better winning % then without him, plus he didnt have blake or farmar and had to play the point position while getting back into game shape.

    There’s no way this laker team is better without kobe when he is able to play his natural position. Their second unit doesnt differ from the way there starting line-up plays, you cant just push the ball down the court all game.

    With kobe and pau playing alongside each other, l.a can slow the game down and play a more controlled game and then have their second unit come in and up the tempo and catch opposing defenses off guard. Plus pau has to work for every single basket he gets, with kobe however the lakers had a guy who broke down the defense attracting doubles on every drive and creating easy opportunities for pau and others and it was a better brand of basketball then the way they play without him.

  • Max

    2 and 4 is not a better winning percentage than 11 and 15.
    That is all.

  • LouisVuittonDon

    thanks captain obvious, it was a typo i meant to say better record but u cant edit on guest accounts

  • danpowers

    LA is the best 4 in the league hands down

  • http://triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Nbk…. what of Nash? Often ridiculed for his defensive lacking but offensively he had those PHX Units so well tuned and the suns bench was often as potent. Would that fit with the 2nd thought/question of yours above? ie; a pg’s defensive lacking didnt hamper overall W’s?
    Not arguing your point so much as thinking if Kyrie played better D I wonder how they would look? The biggest effect though for the Cavs has surely come from Anthony “photo shop” Bennett his nightmare rookie showing is having all kinds of locker room impact? !

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Nash would definitely qualify. My point isn’t that Cleveland couldn’t use a much better defensive effort from Irving. Just that Irving’s defense is about last in the list of reasons that team is struggling. His defensive struggles have been no more significant than the struggles of Jack or Waiters anyway. Cherry picking just Irving as the scapegoat is plain ridiculous.

  • i_ball

    I think Kyrie should get a lot of the blame – the best player on the floor has the biggest impact on the game. In the East Kyrie is the best player on the floor in most games

  • i_ball

    I have my doubts against the Spurs – they need to win a few games against the better teams to convince me. The West is pretty unpredictable

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    have you actually watched Cleveland play? or is that just an assumption? because in general, i agree, the best player should have the largest effect on a game. But there is only so much that best player can do….especially when said player is only really the “best” at one thing.

    idk, maybe you guys are the one’s who overrate Irving, because there is no reason any player outside of LeBron/Durant/Paul should be expected to get this Cleveland team any wins. They are putrid.

  • i_ball

    I haven’t watched the Cavs play but only the Knicks and Bucks have less wins than them… The Cavs roaster is bad, but it’s not worse than Charlotte’s and Boston’s. Kyrie shouldn’t take all the blame of course but a lot comes down to his play and leadership.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    yes. it really is worse than Charlotte and Boston’s.

  • i_ball

    The rosters are probably even in terms of talent and ability (with Rondo injured). The Cavs have 4 top 5 picks from the last 3 drafts, so management should take a big chunk of the blame too

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    right, the majority of the blame should fall on management. That I agree with 100%.

    Cleveland is poorly coached.
    Cleveland is poorly constructed.
    in essence, Cleveland is poorly run as a whole.

    Cleveland is terrible.

  • AlbertBarr

    The Kings have had a good 3 game stretch to close the year. Maybe 2014 will see us play close to .500 ball?

  • AlbertBarr

    Exactly. Ben is still very raw and makes lots of rookie mistakes. He plays committed to hustle and defense though and doesn’t complain. ANd the other options at SG are Marcus Thorton and Jimmer. Ben is the best option if you have been watching games.

  • davidR

    i just wanna see IT and DMC in the playoffs

  • LakeShow

    Definitely not even close to hands down.

    Kevin Love is alive.

  • LakeShow

    That’s the silliest sh*t I’ve ever heard.

    Better, as in “better off”… I hope? That I can agree with.

    A team better without Kobe Bryant though… that’s insane… but okay.

  • danpowers

    yup, he fills the stat sheets nicely, ill wait to put him in that place though whenever ill see him in the playoffs. not to see how he does in the playoffs – in that case, based on playoff performance – i couldnt call LA the best in the league – but unless love didnt even make it there i wont consider him the best 4.

  • LakeShow

    That’s fine, but that is in no way an accurate metric to use.

    Portland is the better, more talented team. They are rightfully better.

  • danpowers

    portland also had to deal with a lot of losses due to injury and LA has always been one of their main guys to suprisingly make up for riptowns losses (personnel wise). the franchise had an off year last season, but look how they did prior to that.

    imo LA has always been better than his stats suggest and finally he has his break out year in a way that his stats finally imply his true value.

    k-love is great individually, no doubt. im just a little higher on LA for being part of more wins throughout the years than on love. imo being durable is also an aspect here. no doubt k-love will take over soon, ill jus wait till i see him in the playoffs till i jump on his bandwagon.

  • LakeShow

    So it wasn’t an off year for K-Love and the Wolves last year? What about his first two seasons when he didn’t start or play meaningful mins?

    He played what 17 games last season?

    You realize that he has never had the competent talent that this current version of the Blazers has, right?

    K-Loves teammates are not as good as LA’s in PDX.

    Rubio < Lillard
    Martin < Matthews
    Brewer Lopez

    Is it really that surprising that the Wolves aren’t as good as the PDX Blazers?

    It’s a flawed metric to say since one is on a team that wins games and one is on a team that loses more, that one player is better than the other. Too many variables.

    I assume you maintain that metric across the L right?

    For instance: Damarcus Cousins is not as good as Nikola Peković due to the difference in win total correct?

    You can wait to jump on the bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t already chugging full speed ahead.

  • danpowers

    i didnt blame k-love for anything. im just impressed by how LA developed during the years and by how he was an essential part of a portland team that overcame major injuries over and over and over again. instead of disappearing into irrelevancy some guys in portland stepped up and he was one of those guys stepping up during the last couple of years. finally his quality shows in a way in his individual stats that even the last doubters have to admit how good he really is.

    “He played what 17 games last season?”

    yes, he just played 18 games last season and he hasnt been in a surrounding yet to be able to show if he is able to lead a winning team. he showed that in spurts and im sure he will do so whenever the wolves will be able to stay healthy for more than half a season. they still have to prove the consistency and durability to do so tho.

    “You realize that he has never had the competent talent that this current version of the Blazers has, right?”

    I agree that the blazers squad is a bit better than the wolves, but not by that much. i wouldnt even consider lillard as “better” than rubio. lillard is the better scorer, rubio has better court vision and is the better defender. so if you need scoring from your point guard, youre better off with lillard. if you need an orchestrator, youre better off with rubio.

    i didnt want to put it that way “look at the wolves now and look at the blazers now”.

    LA is helping the blazers win since he is 22 and i am impressed by his development. it looked like he took a step back last season, but he bounced back nicely.

    the sample size of love being a leading guy on his team is just not that big yet. sorry if i repeat myself, but ill wait till he made it to the playoffs once before i consider him as the best power forward in the league. im aware that he is right there among the best, but these days LA is just ahead of the pack.

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