Peja, the Rockets, LeBron, the struggling Bulls, the NBA last night

By Holly MacKenzie

Lots of excitement in the NBA last night. We had the Nuggets at the Garden for the first time since the big meltdown last season that saw Carmelo sit 15 games and we had New Jersey against Lang’s Hawks. Neither of those games will be recapped below because our boys were at each of them and will have game notes that I’m eagerly awaiting. Onto the rest. I said yesterday that I wasn’t too worried about the Suns yet, nor too excited about the Lakers, and last night validated both of those statements. While the Suns were without Amare again (although he is expecting to suit up tonight. Just take your time Amare!!), their offense was clicking and they looked good against Charlotte. I am happy to hear Raymond Felton’s MRI and x-rays came out negative after a nasty looking knee crumble but ugh, way to make my stomach turn. As for the Lakers. Yeesh, I felt like it was groundhog day again and again as all I seem to remember is Chris Paul penetrating at will and Peja making it rain threes. That was a rough one. The Raptors completely folded in Milwaukee and Desmond Mason had quite the game. Some of those shots he was throwing up were just unreal. Jump-hook shots? One-handed? They all fell for him last night. Houston looked good against San Antonio and it was nice to see Yao come up strong in the second half. My favorite game of the night was the Cleveland/Golden State match up. LeBron was LeBron and it was an exciting finish. Also, LeBron’s blocks, youtube-worthy.

Phoenix 115 Charlotte 83

While the Phoenix Suns were again without Amare Stoudemire for their match up against the Bobcats, they got contributions all across the board and they pummeled Charlotte 115-83. After lackluster play in their first 3 games, Phoenix began to resemble the Suns of seasons past, with their trademark up-tempo offense, and multiple scoring threats. In the game against the Bobcats, 8 Suns finished in double-figures. Proof of that crisp ball movement? The Suns finished with 31 assists and only 9 turnovers as compared to Chalotte’s 11 team assists and 22 turnovers. With sharp-shooting, the Suns led 29-20 after one and then outscored the Bobcats 30-16 in the second to blow the game open at the half, 59-36. In the second half, Phoenix outscored Charlotte by 5 points in both the 3rd and 4th, and by the final quarter D’Antoni was able to clear his bench and rest his starters who will be playing again tomorrow evening in Atlanta. After opening their season 2-0 for the first time in franchise history, Charlotte suffered more than just their first loss last night. Point guard Raymond Felton injured his knee and had to leave the game in the 3rd. Felton underwent an MRI and x-rays, which were both negative, and is currently listed as a game-time decision for the Bobcats game in Philadelphia on Wednesday. In the win, Shawn Marion, Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell each scored 16 points to led the Suns. Marion also hauled down 11 boards. Boris Diaw started in place of Amare and he had a great game, scoring 15 points and dishing a game high 11 assists with only one turnover. Sean Marks had a nice game, finishing with 13 points and Marcus Banks has continued his hot shooting this season, netting 14 points (6-8 FG) in his 16 minutes, mostly coming in the 4th. For Charlotte, it was rookie Jared Dudley who led the way with a team high 16 points, but most of those came in the final quarter, with the game far out of reach. Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace each had 12 and Emeka Okafor had a rough outing, shooting 0-6 as he ended up scoreless in his 22 minutes on the floor.

Orlando 111 Minnesota 103

Rashard Lewis was brought to Orlando to open things up for Dwight Howard underneath the basket. So far, the partnership between the two has proven golden for the Magic, as the tandem combined for 55 points in their 111-103 victory against the Timberwolves last night. In addition to scoring 28 points for Orlando, Howard was a monster on the boards, grabbing a game-high 16 while shooting 8-12 from the floor. While Minnesota went into the 4th down 88-74, the young team fought back behind Al Jefferson, who led the way on a 14-0 Minnesota run. In that span, Jefferson scored 8 and the Orlando lead was cut to 92-90. Once the lead was all but gone, it was Lewis who stepped into the role that was waiting for him when he signed with the Magic this summer. Lewis calmly knocked down back-to-back threes, keeping the Magic up 101-95 and Minnesota was not able to overcome the distance the rest of the way. Orlando also got a boost from Carlos Arroyo, who was playing in the place of Jameer Nelson who missed the game due to a concussion. The Timberwolves were not so lucky as they lost Rashad McCants in the 1st quarter to an ankle sprain and he did not return. Arroyo scored 18 for the Magic, Hedo Turkoglu had 14 and Keith Bogans had 9 points and 9 boards. In addition to Jefferson who finished with 25 and 10, Greg Buckner had 18 points, Marco Jaric scored 10 and dished 10 and Craig Smith added 13.

Milwaukee 112 Toronto 85

After averaging 86 points in their previous 3 contests the Bucks exploded for 112 points against the Raptors lackluster defense on their way to routing them 112-85. The Bucks were red-hot from the floor from the opening quarter on, leading by 14 after one and finishing the game shooting 60.3% from the floor. In the contest Milwaukee had 15 more made field goals than Toronto, while also outrebounding them by 13. As hot as the Bucks were as a whole no one was hotter than Desmond Mason, who finished the game perfect from the floor with 10-10 field goals to get his 21 points. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Chris Bosh who went scoreless from the field and got his sole point on a free throw to finish with only 1 point and 2 rebounds in his 15 minutes of play. While the Raptors were led by Juan Dixon and his 20 points, Kris Humphries and his 16 points and 9 boards, they were the only Raptors to reach double-figures while the Bucks had 6 guys posting 11 or more. In addition to Mason’s big night, Michael Redd nabbed 17 points, Andrew Bogut had 12 points and 11 boards and rookie Yi Jianlian added 12.

Houston 89 San Antonio 81

After being handed their first loss of the season the Houston Rockets paid it forward, taking down San Antonio 89-81 in Houston. After their loss against Dallas on Monday night, although they knew it was the 2nd game of a back to back, the Rockets wanted this victory and coach Rick Adleman was going to use it to gauge where his team was in this early season. From the statistics, his team is going in the right direction as they hopped on the Spurs from the beginning and their hustle was evident throughout. While Houston was up 45-32 at the half and then were up 8 to start the fourth, it was their hustle for every loose ball that guaranteed them the win in the end as they outrebounded the Spurs by a ridiculous 55-28 margin. Included in that was a 25-5 advantage for offensive boards. All of those extra rebounds gave Houston 17 extra field goal attempts and they needed each one as the Spurs shot 46.4% for the game as compared to Houston’s 40.7%. At the end of the night, there was a new face that was standing atop the scoreboard for Houston. While Tracy McGrady has led the way in their first three victories, last night it was Yao Ming outplaying Tim Duncan to give his team the win. Yao finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks while McGrady added 12 points, 9 boards and 6 assists of his own. Bonzi Wells had a double-double for Houston with 14 points and 15 boards and Shane Battier had 12. In their first loss of the season, Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 23 points, Tony Parker had 21 and Tim Duncan struggled from the field, shooting 5-15 on his way to finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

LA Clippers 97 Chicago 91

The Clippers and Bulls both continued to surprise last night; The Clippers for continuing to win and the Bulls for being unable to do so. While the game started out evenly the Clippers used a 13-0 run in the 2nd quarter to move ahead at the half by 5. LA continued to stretch the lead into the 3rd quarter and went up by as many as 13 before the Bulls rallied back and tied the game late into the quarter. That push to come back in the third was led by their defensive effort. After giving up 60% shooting in the 2nd quarter the Bulls held the Clippers to 27.3% shooting in the 3rd quarter. Going into the 4th, the Clippers lead it by one, 75-74. Things stayed close in the 4th with the Bulls up 4 with 4 minutes remaining in the game before things started to fall apart for them. Ben Wallace was called for goaltending, Chris Kaman came back with a block on Ben Gordon and then Corey Maggette had a dunk. It was the dunk that tied things at 89, but Maggette wasn’t done yet. On his way to helping the Clippers get their 3rd win in as many games, Maggette hit a huge three to put LA up 92-89 and they went on to win it with a final score of 97-91. While Maggette saved them late his 18 points were not tops for the Clippers who got 33 points from Cuttino Mobley and 16 points and 11 boards from Chris Kaman. Luol Deng led for the Bulls, scoring 22 points and pulling down 8 boards. Kirk Hinrich had 18, Joe Smith scored 17 and Ben Gordon had 15 points on 4-18 shooting in a game where the Bulls shot only 35.7% from the floor as compared to 45.6% for the Clippers.

Sacramento 104 Seattle 98

Sacramento used a late push to come away victorious against the Supersonics last night, 104-98. It was a disappointing finish for Seattle, as it appeared they were on their way to posting their first win of the season until their youth gave way and they cracked in the 4th being outscored 32-20 for their fourth loss of the season. While Seattle was up 61-48 at the half, the Kings took advantage of costly turnovers made by Seattle down the stretch to close the gap and ultimately take control with just under a minute to go. It was Francisco Garcia’s three-pointer with 39 seconds remaining that sealed the deal for Sacramento, as Seattle could not execute to finish the game. Rookie Kevin Durant attempted the last shot for Seattle and airballed a jumper but he still finished with 27 points for the Sonics. Wally Szczerbiak had a big game for Seattle, finishing with 32, including 18 coming in the 2nd quarter. Kevin Martin continued to lead the way for the Kings, scoring 31 points, while John Salmons finished with 23. Brad Miller had a big game for Sacramento with 16 points and 11 boards and Quincy Douby added 13. The disparity in free throws was a key in the game with the Kings shooting 29-37 as compared to the Sonics who only attempted 18 free throws, making 14.

Cleveland 108 Golden State 104

The Warriors made a colossal mistake in their match up with the Cavaliers last night. They let them hang around until the final minutes where LeBron James decided the Cavs were going to come out on top of the game and, with some help from Daniel Gibson, got them there. While Cleveland was up 10 early, by the start of the 4th Golden State was up one, 81-80 and the stage was set for a close finish. In the fourth there was a lot of Baron Davis but even more of LeBron James. With the two going back and forth, hitting big shots, making big passes and doing whatever their teams needed of them, James came out on top, largely because of three huge blocks he made on Golden State fastbreak attempts. In the final possession of the game for Cleveland who was up by one, Golden State threw the triple-team at James and he quickly passed the ball to Zydrunas Ilgauskas who in turn swung it to Daniel Gibson where he calmly drained a three with 19 seconds left on the clock, sealing Cleveland’s victory. For the game, James had a huge line, just missing out on a triple-double. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists and those 3 spectacular blocked shots. Gibson and Ilgauskas each had 22 with Ilgauskas adding 13 boards as well. Drew Gooden added 16 points for the Cavs who were without Larry Hughes (bruised knee), Eric Snow (sprained knee) and Donyell Marshall (sprained wrist). Baron Davis was big in the loss for Golden State, finishing with 29 points and 10 assists while Monta Ellis added 22. Al Harrington had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds as did Andris Biedrins with 12 points and 11 boards.

New Orleans 118 LA Lakers 104

After the Lakers started out the season surprising people with their high-scoring offense and hard-nosed defense something eventually had to give. Last night their offense remained while their defense crumbled as Peja Stojakovic and Chris Paul dismantled Los Angeles 118-104 on route to their 4-0 start to the season. While the game was close in the 3rd, Stojakovic went on a scoring spree, hitting 5 threes in the quarter, including 3 consecutively to close out the 3rd and put New Orleans up 89-80 going into the 4th. Once the final quarter got underway, the Lakers got within 4 points on two occasions, but Paul ensured the Hornets came away with the win, spellbinding the Lakers with his playmaking abilities. For the game, Paul set a new franchise record with 21 assists and only 2 turnovers in 35 minutes of play. He also had 19 points. Stojakovic had the STAPLES center on edge as he crept closer and closer to breaking the league’s record for three-point shots in a game, currently held by Kobe Bryant. For the game, Stojakovic ended with 10 threes, two off of the record of 12. Stojakovic was 10-13 from beyond the arc and he finished with 36 points. David West had 22 points for the Hornets as they got inside with little to no resistance. Bryant led the Lakers with 28 points, 7 assists and 3 blocks. Ronny Turiaf had 15 points and Vladamir Radmanovich and Jordan Farmar each added 11. Andrew Bynum had 13 rebounds for the Lakers off of the bench. The Lakers were without Kwame Brown who sat out with a bruised heel and Mo Evans out with back spasms.