by Adam Figman | @afigman
It was slightly surprising to see this game so close going into the fourth quarter, with the Cats up one. But then the Thunder got serious. They outscored Charlotte 31-12 in the fourth, running away with the W behind Kevin Durant’s 32-7-7 line. Once OKC’s offense got rolling, the Bobcats had no chance, as they simply don’t have the firepower to compete once the heat gets turned up. The loss was their four in a row, and sixth in seven games. I noted yesterday that the Bucks’ spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs might open up (though, maybe not; see below), but the Bobcats don’t seem to want that spot very much. Or at all.
Another Dwight Howard (26 points, 23 boards) beasting, another Magic loss. I won’t play the They have no defense! They can’t win! card yet (though some already have), because—well, have you seen the Mavs play recently? And this one was close, too, as a couple of Dallas stops down the stretch made all the difference. Caron Butler led the winning squad with 20 points, while Jason Kidd scored 13 and dished 12. The Mavs—now victors of 16 of 17—are off until Monday, when they’re in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, Orlando needs to keep improving, if only so we can have some quality hoops to watch at 2:30 p.m. EST on Saturday. Nobody wants to watch a blowout on Christmas.
So maybe Sasha Vujacic injected some energy in this previously lifeless basketball team? Certainly seems like it. The Nets had their way in Memphis, dominating behind their Twin Towers (um, what?) of Brook Lopez (26 points, 6 rebounds) and Kris Kardashian-Humphries (12 points, 15 boards). Equally important, New Jersey shot 52.6 percent from the floor, and contained all of the Grizzlies’ key assassins in the victory. The Nets will look to go for three in a row tonight against the struggling Hornets.
This is how you defend your home court. Straight from the opening tip, the Bulls played their game and ran the Sixers right outta town, outscoring them 33-19 in the first quarter and only building on that from there. Derrick Rose (22 points, 12 dimes) and Carlos Boozer (16 points, 11 boards) both had double-doubles, but check this: Chicago shot 64.5 percent from the field, almost doubling Philly’s production. Gonna go out on a limb and say Coach Thibs didn’t have many complaints or dramatic post-game speeches after this one. The Bulls are in Washington tonight, and then in New York on X-Mas.
Inexperienced teams blow leads. It’s just how it works. So if Coach Westphal wasn’t comfortable with a 14-point advantage going into the fourth quarter, we understand. And if he wasn’t comfortable when Vladimir Radmanovic launched a potential game-tying three as the clock expired in regulation, we understand that too. The jumper fell in, and sent the game to overtime, during which Monta Ellis (36 points, 9 in OT) took over and the Warriors jumped ahead to earn the W. Beno Udrih scored 34 for the Kings, who now officially reside in the League’s cellar and sit in prime position to win the 2011 Lottery.
Every once in a while, the Lakers completely lose focus and get shocked by an unsuspecting opponent. I won’t make a big deal out of that (though something tells me some may…), but it’s definitely not a good look for a group looking to take home its third straight championship. The Bucks, san Brandon Jennings, played great, shooting over 50 percent and shutting down all of L.A.’s offensive weapons. Kobe Bryant scored “just” 21 points and was tossed in the final quarter after his second technical, which pretty much sums up his squad’s frustration. For the Lakers, it was just that kind of night. Cool to see Milwaukee has no intentions of bowing out gracefully while their point man is sidelined, and even cooler to see Earl Boykins come up huge (OK, enough); he led the Bucks with 22 points. They play tomorrow night in Sacramento, while the Lakers are off until their nationally-and-internationally-and-universally televised game against the Heat this Saturday.
Actual Stats: Dwight Howard: 26 points, 23 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks.
Moment of the Night: Needing a three, and hoping to avoid getting fouled on the floor, DJ Vlad gets some space…