Post Up: Harden!

by November 01, 2012

by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad

Thanks to Sandy, I’m without a television and extremely envious of everyone enjoying their free week of League Pass while I’m stuck following games on Twitter and watching bootleg feeds.

Nine games on the slate last night:

Pacers 90 (1-0), Raptors 88 (0-1)

With Danny Granger out indefinitely with a knee injury, the Pacers needed someone to step up and reassure their fanbase that they would be okay without their star (and I use “star” very lightly). Last night, David West stepped up and played the role of go-to guy for Indiana.

West scored 14 of his 25 in the fourth quarter and led the Pacers to a tough road victory in Toronto. Down 84-74 with under six minutes to go, West scored on back-to-back possessions to cut it to six and kept Nap Town in the game. West’s persistence set the stage for teammate George Hill to provide som late game heroics.

Hill, who missed all of the preseason with various injuries, scored six of his eight points over the final three minutes of the game. First he nailed a three pointer then followed that up by hitting one of two free throws to tie the game at 88. After the referees gave the ball back to Indiana after an official’s review, Hill dribbled down the clock before working his way around Kyle Lowry to get himself in the lane to hit the game winning floater.

Quick Hitters: –Lowry, who will be even further under the radar now that he’s in Toronto, finished with 21 points, 8 dimes and 7 boards.

— The 40 million dollar man DeMar DeRozan finished with 10 points.

— Jonas Valanciunas made his NBA debut and notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.

— The Pacers are deep and Frank Vogel is going to use a lot of different rotations. Last night he played 10 players in double-figure minutes.

— Roy Hibbert and Paul George each finished with 14 points. George also added 15 boards and 5 dimes.

Sixers 84 (1-0), Nuggets 75 (0-1)

A lot of people (including myself) expected the Nuggets to come out and drop 100+ points with no problem every game this season. The Sixers apparently didn’t get the memo and they completely shut down the high-octane Denver attack. On opening night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers held the Nuggets to under 40 percent shooting and only three Denver players (Lawson (16), Dre Miller (10) and Iguodala (11)) scored in double-digits. Philly actually shot a lower shooting percentage than their opponent, but in true Doug Collins coached team fashion, they played hard nosed defensive, grind it out ball and forced 20 turnovers while getting to the free throw line 10 more times than the Nuggs.

Late in the third quarter, Philadelphia stretched the lead to 13 and were on the verge of running Denver out of the gym heading into the final quarter of play. The Nuggets were able to claw back into the game during the fourth and Ty Lawson cut the lead down to one with 4:39 left, putting momentum on their side. Up one, Philly turned to Spencer Hawes who hit a few huge mid-range jumpers and grabbed some big time boards to help the Sixers preserve the victory.

Quick Hitters: –Much like last year, the Sixers got a full team effort as five players scored in double figures. Spencer Hawes led the way with 16 points, 12 boards and 5 blocks and the Philly faithful rained down chants of “Spen-cer Hawes!”

— Philly fans inexplicably booed Iguodala proving once again that Philly fans, regardless of sport, are assholes.

— Both teams shot terribly from two-point range and beyond the arc (Philly 7-25, Denver 4-18). The game was won at the free throw line as Philly shot 17-21 compared to Denver’s 4-18.

— Jrue Holiday vs.Ty Lawson: Holiday – 14 points, 11 assists, 6 boards and 2 steals / Lawson – 16 points, 7 assists 5 boards, 2 steals

— The Nuggets controlled the paint and outrebounded their opponent 54-47. They also outscored them 48-26 inside.

Rockets 105 (1-0), Pistons 96 (0-1)

James Harden: Welcome to Houston. Before the ink was dry on his new max deal contract, the bearded lefty got busy in the Motor City. Harden finished his H-Town debut with an impressive stat line of 37 points, a career-high 12 assists, 6 boards and 4 steals–to put it simply, he was unstoppable.

Despite Harden’s dominance, the Pistons had a chance to put the Rockets away in the fourth quarter. Detroit led by nine entering the fourth quarter and eventually pushed the lead to 11 before falling apart down the stretch. Harden hit a three to start the comeback, then Greg Smith converted a dunk followed by consecutive Carlos Delfino three-pointers which cut the lead to two. Houston had all the momentum at that point and after Chandler Parsons tied the game with a layup, the Pistons had no chance. Harden sealed the game with a three-point play with a minute and a half to play and put an exclamation point on his Rockets debut.

Quick Hitters: — Since 1987, only four players have had a stat line of at least 37 points, 12 assists, 6 boards, 4 steals and 1 blocked shot. They are: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Dwyane Wade and James Harden.

— Jeremy Lin rebounded nicely from a tough preseason with a 12-point, 8-assist effort.

— Outside of Carlos Delfino, every player on the Rockets is under 30 years old.

— Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 15 points while Greg Monroe had 14 points and 8 boards.

Bulls 93 (1-0), Kings 87 (0-1)

Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls are going to have to win ugly more often than not this season and last night’s victory was the first of what Bulls faithful hope will be many tough victories. At times, this one was unbearable as the two teams combined for 37 turnovers and 48 fouls while shooting just over 40 percent from the field at the United Center.

Chicago only took nine three-pointers in the contest as their frontcourt of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer dominated the paint against Boogie Cousins. Noah and Boozer combined for 41 points and 18 boards while outhustling and outworking their opponent. Noah played particularly well as he added 5 steals and 3 blocks to his 23 points.

After Tyreke Evans got off to a hot start–he finished with 21–the Kings hung around for much of the first half and only trailed by four going into the break. Evans was then mysteriously benched and the Bulls proceeded to go on a 12-2 run and built a 14-point lead that the Kings were unable to overcome. The Kings eventually cut the lead to four but a costly five-second violation on an inbounds play with half a minute to go killed any opportunity to steal a victory.

Quick Hitters: –Many, including the staff at SLAM, are expecting Cousins to have a big year. Let’s hope last night was not an indication of things to come. The talented center turned the ball over 7 times and committed a technical foul in 25 minutes of play.

— The Bulls were one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the League last year. Last night, they went 25-33 a trend they will hope to continue. No other team will rely on getting points at the stripe like the Bulls, they may have one of the lowest point per game averages in the NBA this season.

— ‘Reke Evans was damn near unstoppable in the first quarter, then was taken out by Keith Smart and benched for a considerable amount of time. It made no sense to me and I thought he could have gone for way more than 21; he was doing whatever he wanted against the Bulls defense early on.

Spurs 99 (1-0), Hornets 95 (0-1)

Even though it doesn’t happen as often as it did a decade ago, whenever Tim Duncan swings a game in favor of the Spurs with all of his fundamental greatness it is still a joy to watch. With the Spurs down by four and only a few minutes left, Duncan took over. In a minute and a half span, the power forward scored seven points, grabbed a rebound and took a charge that completely changed the energy of the game and put the Hornets–who started two rookies–on their heels.

Trailing 95-94 with a little over a minute left to play, Kawhi Leonard drove the paint drawing multiple defenders before kicking the ball to Tony Parker who nailed what would be the game winning three-pointer for the Spurs. On the other end, Greivis Vasquez’s shot hit the front rim and bounced to Duncan who was fouled and hit both of his free throws to ensure victory. Duncan finished with a game-high 24 points and 11 boards while Leonard had 19, 7 and 5 steals. Parker chipped in with 23 points and 6 dimes.

Quick Hitters: –Anthony Davis was impressive in his Rookie debut, finishing with 21 points and 7 boards while shooting 9-9 from the stripe. Rookie teammate Austin Rivers wasn’t as great. Doc’s son shot 1-9 for 8 points.

— Eric Gordon missed another game due to knee problems. Uh-oh.

— Anyone else think Kawhi Leonard is ready to take the next step?

— Greivis Vasquez finished with a 13:2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Jazz 113 (1-0), Mavericks 94 (1-1)

One night after embarrassing the Lakers in LA, the Mavs got waxed by the Jazz out in Utah. With the score tied at 74 apiece in the third quarter, the Jazz took over behind the Brothers Williams who each finished with 21. First Mo Williams hit back-to-back three-pointers and a layup, then Marvin Williams hit a corner three of his own to push the lead to 11. After that, Enes Kanter blocked a shot and hit a jumper on the other end followed by a Marvin Williams layup that stretched the lead to 13 and helped the Jazz cruise to victory. During that decisive third quarter, the Mavericks shot 5-22, committied six turnovers and only scored two baskets over the final 7 minutes.

Quick Hitters: — Utah absolutely dominated inside, outrebounding the Mavs 61-40 and outscoring them 44-30 in the paint.

— The Jazz front office made it a point to improve their three-pont shooting in the offseason and it paid off in the first game as Utah shot 6-11 from behind the arc.

— Enes Kanter’s hat.

— After Vince Carter’s technical in the third, the Jazz went on a 23-6 run to end the third quarter.

Warriors 87 (1-0), Suns 85 (0-1)

In a back and forth contest between these two Western Conference foes, the Warriors were able to hold off the Suns and earn an early road victory. Carl Landry scored 14 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and helped push the Warriors over the edge against a Phoenix team that was wearing their road orange unis at home for some bizarre reason. Although the score was close, the game was tough to watch. Both teams shot horribly, the Warriors at 38.5 percent and the Suns at an even 40, and both committed 18 turnovers.

Down by 17 in the second, the Suns battled back and continued to chip away at the Warriors lead, eventually taking a one-point lead after a Marcin Gortat putback. The teams continued to trade buckets until Landry hit a driving layup with a minute and change left to take a 85-84 lead. Landry then nailed a 17-foot jumper with 54 seconds to go to make it 87-84. Jared Dudley had a chance to tie it up but his three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining fell short and the Warriors walked away the victors.

Quick Hitters: — Steph Curry played downright awful after signing a huge contract earlier this week. The Davidson alum didn’t hit his first field goal until there were about eight minutes left in the game and finished 2-14 from the field for 5 points. The career 90 percent free-throw shooter also missed consecutive free ones late in the game.

–Okay, Brandon Rush.

— Goran Dragic: 17 points, 8 dimes, 6 boards. Love that dude.

Clippers 101 (1-0), Grizzlies 92 (0-1)

Jamal Crawford claimed that he practiced his shooting for the first time in his career during this past offseason. If last night’s 29 points in 30 minutes is a hint at what is to come this season, opposing coaches should be very, very concerned. Along with Crawford’s 29, five other Clippers scored in double-figures–Vinny Del Negro has so many options this year, if he can figure out sensible ways to use everybody the Clippers could be dangerous. Chris Paul was tremendous as usual, posting a double-double with 12 points and 12 assists while earning 4 steals.

Quick Hitters:LA was able to convert 22 Memphis turnovers into 29 points.

— Rudy Gay finished with 25 points, Zach Randolph had 15 and 16 boards and Marc Gasol scored 20.

— Mike Conley had no answer for Chris Paul.

— Good to see you, Blake.

Blazers 116 (1-0), Lakers 106 (1-1)

NBA fans, say hello to Dame Lillard. The Rookie put on a masterful performance scoring 23 points and dishing out 11 dimes while keeping the Lakers backourt on their heels and giving the Blazers faithful a new kid to cheer for. Along with Lillard, all four of the other Portland starters scored in double figures and Nicolas Batuma and Wes Matthews each scored 20+.

The Lakers offense shouldn’t be their number one concern right now, if they don’t start playing some defense it won’t matter how many points they score. Add the fact that Steve Nash was last seen hobbling off the court and there is reason for worry out in LA–even if it has only been two games. Dwight Howard finished with 33 points, 14 boards and led(!) the team in assists with 5. Kobe added 30, 6 boards and 3 dimes.

Quick Hitters: — I feel sorry for Mike Brown.

— Hope Steve Nash’s injury is nothing serious.

— Can’t wait to watch Dame Lillard turn into a top point guard.

— Absolutely love Nicolas Batum’s game when he’s not pouting or hitting people below the belt.

— C’mon, Kobe! Fix this!

Stat Line of the Night: Who else but James Harden? 37 points, 12 dimes, 6 boards and 4 steals.

Dunk of the Night: Al-Farouq Aminu catches the alley from Vasquez.