Post Up: Beasts of the East

by January 18, 2012

by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad

Miami without DWade, Chicago without DRose, Orlando without a shred of public confidence—they all won last night, asserting the Eastern Conference’s authority (don’t worry, Philly, love you too). Then again, the Jazz made their pitch for being one of the League’s best loud and clear in the lone late-night game. Who’s best, East or West, will once again be a theme this season. Let the debate begin.

Warriors 105, Cavaliers 95

David Lee scored 13 of his season-high 29 points in the fourth quarter, and Nate Robinson had 17 points and 10 assists in a familiar sixth man role en route to a Warriors win that spoiled Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s 50th birthday. Kyrie Irving continued his stellar play early on for Cleveland, finishing with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists (6 turnovers) and Anderson Varejao had 13 rebounds and 10 points, but the Cavs turned it over 23 times and scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Warriors won despite getting only 10 points from Monta Ellis (23 PPG this year), who survived a late-game elbow to the face from Varejao—his nose bled all over the place but early indications say he’ll be okay, no broken nose.

Magic 96, Bobcats 89

Orlando took home a fifth straight win (10-3 overall) behind 25 points and 17 boards from Dwight Howard, who also had 4 assists and 4 blocks. Gerald Henderson scored 22 points for the Bobcats and had Charlotte within two down the stretch, before a Ryan Anderson triple (13 points, 4-13 shooting) put the Magic up 86-81 with just over 90 seconds to play. Jameer Nelson scored 8 points (including 6-6 free throws) in the final minute, part of his 17-point performance for the game. Charlotte held a 3-point lead as the teams headed to the half, but Howard was just too much to handle. For what it’s worth, the ‘Cats got solid contributions from Kemba Walker (in the starting lineup) with 15 points and Bismack Biyombo, who shot 5-for-5 with 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

Heat 120 Spurs 98

A tale of two halves would be putting it lightly. The Spurs were on fire to start the game, leading 52-35 with 3 minutes to go in the second quarter and taking a 63-49 lead into halftime after a Danny Green halfcourt buzzer-beater. Then, the third quarter happened. And damn, did it happen. Miami outscored the Spurs 39-12 in the third—LeBron James shot 7-9 in the quarter, while San Antonio shot just 4-of-19 as a team. If you blinked, you would have missed the Heat taking the lead and completely taking over the game. LeBron finished with 33 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds, while Chris Bosh had 30, 8 boards and 5 dimes (plus 4 steals) and Mike Miller returned from the dead to shoot a perfect 6-6 from three-point range (18 points). Miami shot 58 percent from the field in all, including 16-of-26 from deep—all without Dwyane Wade in uniform. The Heat even added injury to insult late, courtesy of one of the hardest picks ever. Not surprisingly, Coach Pop was not too pleased with his team’s second-half performance: “They out physicalled us and beat our ass. We should be embarrassed by playing that soft. Any questions?”

Bulls 118, Suns 97

Without Derrick Rose in the lineup, Chicago continued to roll last night, this time riding a season-high 31 points from Carlos Boozer, who dropped 26 of those 31 in the first half. CJ Watson added 23 points and Joakim Noah had 13 points and 12 rebounds, as the Bulls shot better than 53 percent and had 10 players play at least 13 minutes. By halftime, the Suns trailed by 20, and despite the dependable work of Steve Nash (25 points, 9 assists) and Marcin Gortat (14 points, 15 rebounds), never got back in the game. The Bulls are 6-0 at home, but the most incredible stat from this game is that Phoenix’s 97 points last night was the first time this year an opponent came to Chicago and scored more than 74. Defense (without DRose) wins championships?

Rockets 97, Pistons 80

How in the world did the Pistons win 3 games already this season? Usually, even in a loss, we can look to Greg Monroe for some redeeming statistics, but last night Monroe put up just 4 points on 2-of-9 shooting—though he did have 11 boards and 6 assists. We forgive you for one night, Greg. Tayshaun Prince scored 20 and Ben Gordon had 18, but the Rockets led by 8 after the first quarter, and by as many as 18 at one point on the way to improving to 7-7 on the season. Houston used a balanced scoring attack (6 players in double figures) to beat Detroit. Samuel Dalembert had 14 points and 12 boards, Luis Scola had 14, Kyle Lowry posted a 13/5/5 line and the Rockets grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. One of those O-boards was a monster follow slam from Chandler Parsons, who is starting to rack up quite the highlight reel of dunks in his rookie season.

Nuggets 105, Bucks 95

Corey Brewer played a season-high 34 minutes, shot 8-of-14 from the floor and scored a team-high 22 points off the bench in the Nuggets 9th win. Denver took a commanding lead before Brandon Jennings turned things up in the fourth quarter—he scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Bucks back from down 21. In typical Denver fashion, the Nuggs handed out 27 assists and had six players score in double figures, including Al Harrington, who scored 16 points (4-6 threes) in a reserve role. Milwaukee got next to nothing from Stephen Jackson and Andrew Bogut, who scored just two points apiece. Captain Jack shot 0-6 in 17 minutes, while Bogut battled foul trouble, and shot 1-5 in only 19 minutes. Rookie Tobias Harris scored 14 points in the loss.

Jazz 108, Clippers 79

If you had a basketball fan with no prior knowledge of the NBA watch this game, then asked them which team was nicknamed “Lob City,” they’d answer the Jazz, 100 percent of the time. Sure, the Clips were without Chris Paul, but CP3 or not, Utah proved again why playing in Salt Swat Lake City is so tough, and the Jazz are beginning to rattle off some seriously convincing victories. They’re currently in 2nd place in the Western Conference and have won 8 of their last 9 games, after holding L.A. to sub-37 percent shooting and Blake Griffin to just 10 points and 1 highlight. Paul Millsap scored 20, CJ Miles had a season-high 19 points, and by the second half, LAC gave up, relegating Griffin and the gang to the bench as Utah morphed into its own version of Lob City. High-flyer Jeremy Evans was catching alley-oops left and right, even from benchwarmers like Jamaal Tinsley (!) and the Jazz cruised to the double-digit win. Caron Butler (14) and recent D-League call-up Courtney Fortson (13) led the Clippers in scoring, and one YouTuber provided a nice, albeit biased summary of the game, with the apt tagline “Flop City.” The Clippers will have to turn things around quickly, as they get the Mavs at home tonight.

Line of the Night: Tough call last night, with lots of mighty-but-not-mind-blowing performances, including Carlos Boozer, Steve Nash, Brandon Jennings, David Lee, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. But I’ll be predictable and pick LBJ’s 33-10-5 in 35 minutes.

Moment of the Night: Chris Bosh with the nasty move, right smack dab in the middle of Miami’s big run.

Dunk of the Night: Jeremy Evans hammers home one of about a million Jazz dunks last night.

Funny of the Night: Big Baby gets buckets, hits the deck, gets revived by Dwight.

Tonight: ESPN has a double-header featuring Portland-Atlanta and Mavs-Clippers, but there are 11 games in all on the schedule. Be sure to keep an eye on two big inter-conference games, as the Sixers host the Nuggets and the Spurs travel to Orlando to face the Magic. Personally, I’ll be ducking for cover as Kevin Durant and the rolling Thunder invade D.C. to lay the beatdown on the Wizards, but since that one ought to be over by mid-first quarter, I’ll have plenty of time to watch your favorite team, too.