by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Back at it…
Twenty teams took to the hardwood last night, making for 22 games in two days…whew, that’s a lot of hoops. Saturday night saw the Hawks finish their marathon back-to-back-to-back stretch end against the reigning MVP and the Chicago Bulls, OKC battle Houston for the second night in a row, the Knicks travel to Detroit, and a Chris Paul-Brandon Jennings matchup in the night cap. Here we go…
I hope no one took my advice in betting on this one because I could not have been more wrong. Al Horford scored an uncontested layup to start the game and the Hawks never looked back, leading wire to wire and blowing out the Bulls. After losing to Chi-Town on Tuesday night, ATL came out with a vengeance and despite playing in the third game of a marathon back-to-back-to-back, looked like the more rested team and ran the Bulls ragged. In the early going of the season, the Hawks have emerged as the most confusing team in the league. One night they look unstoppable, the next they play sloppy and give away games. Hawks fan and SLAMonline commenter Myung called them “Team Jekyll and Hyde” and I think that’s very fitting. Just look at their last two weeks of games: went to Miami and beat the Heat, gave up a 16 point lead and lost to the Bulls, lost in a 3OT game against Miami, squeaked by the Bobcats, then proceeded to demolish Chicago. Weird. I’m not sure what the cause of the inconsistent play is, but if they can put it all together they may emerge as a sleeper pick in the East–they certainly have the talent.
Josh Smith has been the best player on the roster for the Hawks and continued his strong play last night. He had 25 points on 11-17 shooting 5 assists and 6 blocked shots including this one on Omer Asik. Six Hawks finished in double figures last night including Jeff Teague (12), Joe Johnson (17) and Vladimir Radmanovic who was 5 for 5 from three point land to finish with 17. Atlanta led by 17 at the end of one, by 18 at the half, 29 in the third, and 27 in the fourth; incredible considering the amount of basketball they have played this week. For the Bulls, backup point guard John Lucas had 16 points while Derrick Rose looked on from the bench for the final 14 and a half minutes because the game was so lopsided.
The Pacers continued their hot start last night by beating up on the Bobcats one night after bullying the Celtics in Boston. Indy once again did it with tough defense, holding the Bobcats to 32 percent shooting from the field and held Charlotte to 28 points on 21 percent shooting in the second half. The Pacers have been downright dominant on the defensive end and have been able to overcome numerous slow starts thanks to their effort on D. Frank Vogel has gotten great minutes from his bench so far this season and last night was no exception. Tyler Hansbrough had 15 on 6-12 shooting and George Hill had 13 on 6-8 shooting. Roy Hibbert scored a season-high 20 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks and helped the Pacers improve their record at Conseco Fieldhouse to 3-0. Despite getting blown out, the Bobcats did provide some highlight worthy plays. Gerald Henderson had a huge dunk and D.J. Augustin dipped and dived (Get at me Clyde!) for 2. Augustin had another strong outing scoring 20 points 7 boards and 4 assists, he has been playing some of the best ball of his career to start the year.
LeBron’s old friend DeShawn Stevenson had the job of guarding Lebron last night and James answered with 22 points…in the first quarter. James finished with 32 points 9 assists 7 boards but also 8 turnovers. It’s unreal that a 32/7/9 stat line is typical of LBJ, forget hating on the man for his past decisions just enjoy one of the greatest talents the basketball world has ever seen. DWade sat for the second game in a row, but it didn’t look like the Heat needed him; they led by 20+ for a majority of the game. Norris Cole (9 pts 6 ast) keeps giving the Heat great minutes and I really like the PG tandem of he and Mario Chalmers, although I can’t decide whether to name it “Norris Chalmers” or “Mario Cole”. New Jersey was shorthanded as Mehmet Okur, Brook Lopez and Damion James all sat. Kris Humphries tried to pick up the slack with 25 points and 12 boards (I love his game, dude is tough as nails and does all the dirty work for New Jersey) but it wasn’t enough and the Heat got an easy dub at the Rock.
That’s more like it. The Knicks finally put it all together and beat up on the lowly Pistons in Detroit. Even though I didn’t get a chance to watch the game (thanks a lot Jimmy Dolan) I knew things were going well when my Twitter feed didn’t read like the Rapture was coming. Iman Shumpert got the start over Toney Douglas and the team once again looked more fluid with him on the floor. Douglas only played 5 minutes and I hope this isn’t a recurring theme; Coach Antoni does have a history of putting players in the dog house (see: Nate Robinson). He has had a rough start to the season but, Douglas can be a valuable member to this team, he’s just not the right starting PG for the system. If he can come off the bench, hit a few shots and play tough defense for the Knicks he will have a successful season; if he can’t find his role look for his minutes to continue to dwindle once Baron Davis comes back. New York finished the game with 13 dunks, including a posterization by STAT (22 and 8) all over Jason Maxiell. Over the last two games, Amar’e has looked much more focused. He was really lacking intensity and wasn’t playing with his usual aggression over the first handful of games, I guess winning can change that. Everyone got involved for the Knicks last night. Melo dropped 7 dimes, Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 9 boards and even Mike Bibby found the fountain of youth, scoring 14 points in the second quarter including 4 three pointers. The Pistons woes continue and Lawrence Frank doesn’t look like he can get this team to play together. Detroit only had 17 assists and committed 20 turnovers, including 9 from Ben Gordon. Rook Brandon Knight got the start while Rodney Stuckey nursed an injury and had 19 points but only 4 assists. It looks like it’s going to be another long season in the Motor City.
The Raptors only scored 62 points last night. 62 points in a normal NBA game. There were 10 players on the court, referees, a PA announcer, fans, everything and the Raptors only scored 62 points. Damn. Props to the Sixers for absolutely shutting down Toronto, but man, 62 points in 48 minutes for a professional basketball team is abysmal. Tzvi could have suited up for the Raptors and been more productive and he’s only got one healthy leg! The Sixers haven’t had to rely on one just one player to do it all for them, they have one of the most balanced and potent attacks in the league. No Sixer scored 20 points but 5 players scored in double figures and 10 players had at least a field goal. Jrue Holiday had 14 points and 6 dimes, and Lou Willimas, who has been super productive off the bench, had 13 and 4. Spencer Hawes went down with a back injury in the third quarter but it didn’t look to be too serious, he’ll probably be listed as day-to-day.
Playing for the second time in an as many nights, the Rockets and Thunder went back and forth for four quarters last night before Kevin Durant (27 points) hit a dagger with 22 seconds left and OKC were finally able to put it away. I know I said it in yesterday’s Post Up, but I think it’s worth repeating: the Rockets are a different team when they play at home. When they are away from the Toyota Center it’s like they completely forget how to play hoops. Kevin McHale has to figure out how to get this team to bring it every night–they are capable of being competitive but need to find consistency. With his teammates struggling in the first half, Russell Westbrook took over in the third quarter and according to Coach Brooks, Westbrook “willed our team to win with his toughness on both ends of the floor. He was controlling the game with his shots, his attacks, his penetration.” Westbrook finished with 25 points on 5o percent shooting and kept his team in it until KD took over in the fourth. Kyle Lowry missed his second straight game with a foot injury and Goran Dragic played his best game in a Rockets uniform. The young’n straight balled out with 20 points on 7-10 shooting, 8 assists and only 2 turnovers, but the Rockets just couldn’t close out the relentless Thunder. Eric Maynor also went down with a scary knee injury, let’s send him positive energy and well wishes.
The upstart Nuggets took on the aging Spurs down in San Antonio last night in a game that went down to the wire despite the Spurs leading by 2o early on in the game. After cutting the game to 5, Ty Lawson was blocked by Richard Jefferson on a fast break, Jefferson then got back on offense and hit a 3 (all of which can be seen here) to push the game to 7. Seven Spurs scored in double figures and Danny Green led the team with 24 points off the bench. Danilo Gallinari had his second big night in a row leading all scorers with 31 on an efficient 10-16 shooting–if he can continue to fill it up, the Nuggets will be even more dangerous. The Spurs led wire to wire but just couldn’t put away Denver until the end. I think we’re going to see a lot of this from Denver. They have such a deep team and it feels like they are going to be one of those pesky teams that gets under their opponent’s skin. The Spurs now sit at 6-2 and if they can keep playing good team basketball, they will only get better once Manu Ginobili returns from injury.
Emeka Okafor must be confused on what year it is. In last year’s playoffs he got dunked on by Kobe Bryant and last night Vince Carter looked less like Eric Dampier and more like the Vinsanity of old as he went baseline and put it right on Okafor’s head. After taking a lead 18-16 in the first, the Mavs never looked back and handed New Orleans its sixth straight L. The Hornets really need to get healthy and string some wins together–they are not as bad as their record suggests. Six Mavs scored in double figures and Delonte West filled in nicely with 12 points 4 assists and only 1 turnvoer as he started for JKidd. Dirk had another rough outing, scoring only 10 points on 2-11 shooting and will need to pick it up as the season moves along. Al-Farouq Aminu paced the Hornets with 15 points and 12 rebounds. For no particular reason, I’d like to see him have a nice season.
Blake Griffin got BUSY last night in LA. Blake had 22 points and 14 boards to lead the Clip show and it seemed like every time I looked up, he had his head at the rim. See Blake drive down the lane for the flush. Now, see Blake catch an alley from CP3 and absolutely abuse the rim. As the Clippers continue to familiarize themselves with one another, teams are really going to struggle to stop them from doing whatever they want. In a battle of two of the most talented PGs in the league, Brandon Jennings got the best of Chris Paul, but Chauncey Billups picked up the slack and finished with 19 points while his backourt mate had 9 (3-6 shooting) and 7 assists. Young Money looked happy to be back in LA and dropped 21 points on 9-21 shooting had 7 assists, 6 boards and only 2 turnovers. Jennings did all he could to try and overcome Blake’s strong game but the Bucks didn’t have enough firepower to overcome Caron Butler’s 14 third quarter points.
Gordon Hayward has quietly been putting together a nice early season out in Utah and last night came through in the clutch to help the Jazz beat the Warriors for their first road win of the season. Hayward had 18 points 6 boards and 4 assists to lead the Jazz and hit a go-ahead free throw with 11 seconds left to seal the win. Monta Ellis had 32 points but was 0-5 from beyond the arc. I really do believe that Monta is one of the best scorers in the league, his game is so smooth but I’d like to see him become a better passer especially now that Steph Curry is sidelined with a nagging injury. Raja Bell put the clamps on Ellis in the fourth and forced the final turnover that led to a foul on Hayward on the other end and his free throws to end the game.
Stat Line of the Night: Gotta give it to Josh Smith who had 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 blocks.
Play(s) of the Night: Kevin Durant with the game winner.
Richard Jefferson block and 3-pointer.
Ankle Check: Ice them ankles Russ!
Dunk(s) of the Night: A lot to choose from, so here’s a collection:
Vince goes baseline.
LeBron on the Break.
Blake catches the lob.
STAT on Maxiell.
Melo puts it on Monroe’s head.
Tonight: That wraps it up for me for the weekend. Abe is back tomorrow, let’s hope the Wizards get a win today, I don’t know how much more of this he can take. Have a great week everybody, thanks for rocking with me–ONE.