by Abe Schwadron | Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Wow, what a night of NBA action. My beloved Wizards got win No. 1, the defending champs looked the part in Detroit, Andrew Bogut came back to get the Bucks on track, the MVP bested Ricky Rubio, Rip City beat Lob City, Kobe put up the season’s highest point total and to cap it all off, the Warriors beat Miami in overtime behind a big game from Nate Robinson, of all guys. Without further ado, I present to you 11 games of basketball goodness.
Make it six wins in a row for the Sixers, who shot 57 percent from the field as a team and got 21 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks from Elton Brand, who came in averaging just 8 points per night. Brand had three baskets during an 11-0 run that gave Philadelphia a 63-42 lead in the third quarter. It ballooned to as many as 34 in the second half, as the Kings shot just 4-of-19 from three-point range. Evan Turner has quietly developed into a quality option off the bench. He’s been upping his play this season on both ends of the court, as last night he flirted with a triple-double: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists in 34 minutes. Conversely, Jimmer Fredette got his first career start, but didn’t do much with it other than one incredibly deep three, scoring just 7 points on 2-of-7 shooting—he also had 3 assists and 3 turnovers. DeMarcus Cousins led Sacramento with 17 and 10, and Tyreke Evans chipped in 15, but the pair combined to shoot just 13-for-28. The Sixers are in New York tonight, but could be without center Spencer Hawes, who did not play in the second half because of a strained lower back.
Hallelujah! Just a couple days after we re-named them the Lizards, the Wizards get their first win of the season, moving to a still-terrible but no-longer-winless 1-8. And all it took was what Wizards fans have been bugging about for almost two seasons—a shake-up in the starting lineup. Out with Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis, in with Trevor Booker and rookie Chris Singleton. Neither of the newbies has much of an offensive game, but their hustler’s attitude rubbed off on the rest of the Wiz, and while both Blatche and Lewis also have nagging injuries, we can only hope Flip Saunders sticks with this lineup. Nick Young and Lewis each scored 15 points to lead Washington, but it was a balanced attack from the start, and the Wizards avoided being the sixth team since the 2002-03 season to lose nine straight to open a season, despite a brutal shooting night from John Wall (3-for-12, but did have 8 points, 9 assists and 3 blocks). Toronto shot just 4-for-20 from three-point land and turned the ball over 22 times. DeMar Derozan scored only 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the floor, plus 3 turnovers, while Andrea Bargnani paced the Raps with 22 points. Washington doesn’t get much time to celebrate, though, heading to Chicago to face DRose and Co. tonight at the United Center before a home-and-home with Philly. But maybe, just maybe, the Wizards won’t be a complete joke anymore. And maybe Andray Blatche sucks a little less coming off the bench.
Houston snapped a four-game losing streak behind a career-high 20 points from rookie Chandler Parsons (in his second career NBA start) and 17 from Kevin Martin. Charlotte shot just 34 percent from the field, made only 1 of 13 three-pointers, and was outrebounded 57-44 on the night. Parsons scored six of the Rockets’ first eight points, shot 9-for-16 overall and grabbed 7 boards, after averaging a little over 5 points per game coming in. Kyle Lowry provided 8 assists to go with 11 rebounds and 6 points, and Jordan Hill had a double-double (12 and 12) off the bench. Houston didn’t play great, but benefited from a brutal night from the Bobcats, who were led in scoring by Byron Mullens’ 15 points and 10 boards as a reserve, while Boris Diaw was ice cold—he shot 2-for-14 and finished with 4 points.
Dallas got back to .500 thanks to a date with the friendly Pistons, who never led in this game and turned the ball over 20 times, including 6 from rookie Brandon Knight. The Mavs got 18 points from Dirk Nowitzki, 14 from Shawn Marion, 11 from Vince Carter and 10 assists from Delonte West while shooting 55 percent as a team for the game and handing out 28 assists amongst one another. Dallas made eight straight shots to start the contest, opening up a 15-point advantage early in the first quarter, and the Mavs never looked back. In that first quarter, the Pistons had only two rebounds. Will Bynum was the high-point man for Detroit, with 20, but only two other Pistons players scored in double figures (Knight had 12 and Ben Gordon had 11) and not one guy had more than 4 assists or 7 boards.
Richard Jefferson missed a decent look at a three in the waning seconds, and the Bucks took out the Spurs in Andrew Bogut’s return to the lineup after missing four games while tending to personal matters back in Australia. Stephen Jackson welcomed him back by scoring 34 points of his own on 12-17 FG and dishing out 8 assists. Bogut and Brandon Jennings each turned in a double-double—Bogut had 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Young Money went for 15 and 11 assists—prompting Gregg Popovich to call this Spurs team the “worst defensive team” he’s ever had. With the Bucks up 104-103, the Spurs had a chance to take the lead with just under a minute left, but as Tony Parker initiated the offense, Jennings poked the ball loose to Jackson, who flicked it back to BJ for a wide-open fast break flush to give Milwaukee the final, three-point lead. Then, Bogut drew an offensive foul on Tim Duncan (20 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks) and the Spurs were sunk. Parker had 22 points and 8 assists, and rookie Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting off the bench, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Bucks, dropping San Antonio to 6-4.
In what was billed as a matchup of the MVP vs. the up-and-comer at his same position, Ricky Rubio played admirably, but Derrick Rose was just too much. Rubio played 36 minutes and racked up 13 points and 12 assists (5 turnovers), while DRose went for 31 points and 11 dimes (his seventh career 30/10 game), helping the Bulls separate from the Wolves in the final few minutes of crunch time. At this point, Minnesota looks destined to be the League’s “best worst team”—that is, the Wolves compete in every game, make things tough on the opposition, and keep it close for most of the contest, but ultimately take the loss. It’s a shame, since they’re so fun to watch (see here, via Ricky). Kevin Love had 20 and 13, and Luke Ridnour scored 22 points, but the Wolves were outrebounded 47 to 30 and Luol Deng put up 21 points and 11 boards for Chicago. Rose gave the Bulls an eight-point advantage with 2:30 to play with a floater in the lane, finally putting the game out of reach. He also rained in 4 threes in this one, making up for the absence of his backcourt running mate Rip Hamilton, who remains sidelined with a sore groin.
This is quickly becoming a nice little rivalry out west, on the heels of a fantastic playoff series last spring. Last time these two met, Russell Westbrook shot 0-for-13 from the field and scored just 4 points. This time was a bit different, as Russ shot 12-for-20 and cashed in for 30 points, to go with 22 from Kevin Durant, as the Thunder beat the Grizzlies in Memphis for the second time this season. Oklahoma City has won four in a row, taking this one in a close battle—neither team led by more than 8 points at any point in the game. Quincy Pondexter hit a corner three to bring the Grizz to within 95-92 but the Thunder salted it away from the free throw line down the stretch. Marc Gasol had 20 points and 14 boards in the loss, and Mike Conley added 15 points and 10 assists.
Don’t look now, but Utah is 6-3, and 5-0 at home, after Al Jefferson dominated the Cavs frontline to the tune of 30 points on 13-of-17 shooting and 12 rebounds, plus 2 blocked shots. Cleveland got within six points midway through the fourth quarter, but Jefferson, Josh Howard and CJ Miles hit clutch buckets down the stretch to hold off the Cavs, who were led by Antawn Jamison’s 22 points (although he needed 18 shots to get there). Rookie Kyrie Irving looked good yet again, scoring 20 points to go with 5 assists, and he also made a ridiculous spinning layup. Cleveland just couldn’t compete with the Jazz up front—in addition to Jefferson’s work, Paul Millsap had 19 points and Derrick Favors had 14 off the bench. As a team, Utah shot a ridiculous 59 percent from the field.
Portland and Los Angeles played almost dead even in three of the four quarters, but in the second, the Blazers scored 30 points to the Clippers’ 21, and that was enough of a lead to sustain them through the rest of the game. Gerald Wallace continues to be the emotional face of the Blazers, and he scored 20 points, prompting the Portland faithful to chant his nickname, “Crash,” in the third quarter. All five Blazers starters scored in double figures, including 18 and 7 from LaMarcus Aldridge, and as a team, they shot 51 percent on field goals. Some of the Clippers’ decisions late in the game were head-scratching, from lineups to specific plays, but Lob City managed to keep things close thanks to 18 and 12 from Blake Griffin and a team-high 20 points by Caron Butler. Howeva! The Blazers held the Lobsters to just 8 fast break points, using tough-as-nails defense to lead to their own easy offense. Portland’s home court advantage is bordering on the ridiculous, as is their record (7-2, 6-0 at the Rose Garden), while the Clips slip to 4-3, and host Miami tonight at Staples Center. That’s one big meatball!
Speaking of home court advantage, you can put the Warriors in that discussion, too. Golden State added Miami to a list that already included Chicago and New York as Eastern Conference foes to come to Oakland and take home the L. The Heat, winners of three straight and 8 of 9 coming in, let the Warriors (on a 5-game losing streak) hang around, as they rallied from 17 down to take out Miami in overtime. All this, despite a monster first half from Dwyane Wade, who ended his day with 34 points, and another classic LeBron line of 26/11/7. In the clutch, though, it was the Warriors who had the unstoppable offense. Dorell Wright hit 6 three-pointers (20 points, 10 boards in all), Monta Ellis poured in 22 (including the game-clinching bucket in OT), David Lee had 20 and 14 (and even played good defense on LeBron’s final tying attempt at a three-ball) and Nate Robinson had 24 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in 36 minutes off the pine (wow!). Nate Rob provided a huge spark and the Warriors played inspired ball all the way, flying around on defense and picking apart Miami’s famed defense. But let’s not overreact, folks, it’s one game in a long season. The Heat will win again, ya know.
Yeah, so that happened. Kobe Bryant scored a whole buttload of points. 48 to be exact. And for you all counting at home, that’s Bryant’s 108th career 40+ point game. He shot 18-for-31, part of the team’s 49 percent shooting on the night. Afterwards, he gave old buddy Shannon Brown a big hug (now of the Suns) and ran off to give his post-game press conference, during which he said: “Not bad for the seventh-best player in the league.” Someone didn’t read the SLAMonline Top 50! Steve Nash finished with 13 points and 8 assists, and Marcin Gortat had a big game with 16 points and 12 rebounds, but the Lakers won the rebounding battle 49-35 and led by as many as 16 points en route to their seventh win of the season. Predictably, the only other Lakers in double figures were Pau Gasol (16, plus 12 boards) and Andrew Bynum (12 and 8). The Lakers are at Utah and home to Cleveland before “Battle: Los Angeles” against the Clippers on Saturday. And lastly, from the sentences-that-make-me-laugh-at-3 a.m. department, via the AP: “The Lakers G Jason Kapono missed the game to be with his wife after she gave birth to twins and F-C Troy Murphy sat out with an upset stomach.”
Line of the Night: So many good ones to choose from (DRose, Evan Turner, Stephen Jackson, Al Jefferson, DWade, NateRob, Tim Duncan), but I have to give it to Kobe, who set the bar for this season with 48 points, plus 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and only 2 turnovers in the Lakers’ win.
Moment of the Night: Kobe caps off his monster night with the reverse oop from Matt Barnes.
Dunk of the Night: Brandan Wright is still in the NBA, and he wants you to know that!
Drunk of the Night: These guys grabbed a beer, then grabbed a seat on the Mavs bench.
(H/T: Busted Coverage)
Tonight: Another 11-game night, which means by tomorrow afternoon I’m going to need a man-sized nap. ESPN has Mavs-Celtics and Heat-Clippers (that one’s gonna be a doozy). Plus, we get a pair of Eastern Conference matchups with intrigue, as Atlanta visits Indiana and the Sixers are in New York.