Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Once again, big thank you to Abe for holding us down for another week. These recaps are a lot of work and he has been doing a great job. Clap for him.
Anyway, eleven games were played last night including a matchup between Eastern Conference powerhouses Chicago and Boston, a battle for supremacy in the west between the Spurs and the Trailblazers, and the Heat traveled to Denver to take on the upstart Nuggets. Aside from the rash of injuries that took place this week, the last seven days have seen some great basketball and this season is shaping up to be a great one. Look for even more unpredictability and surprises as the games drag on and players start to hit a wall. Here we go…
After losing four out of five, the Raptors came out and played some competitive ball despite missing eighth leading scorer (you read that correctly) Andrea Bargnani. This was one of the more entertaining games of the night; Toronto was up by as many as 16 in the first half but couldn’t keep Indy down in the fourth quarter. After nine lead changes and 11 ties in an exciting final quarter of play, it was free throws that wound up being the determining factor in a back and forth game. The Pacers hit five free throws in a row, including two by Tyler Hansborough to seal the game (13 points, 7-7 from the line, and 6 boards off the bench) to go up 93-90. Jamaal Magliore stepped to the stripe with a chance to chip away at the Pacers lead but airballed his first free throw and bricked his second ending Toronto’s hopes of winning. DeMar Derozan filled in nicely with Bargnani out and dropped 23 points in 4o minutes of play. After finally breaking out of his slump earlier this week, Danny Granger earned two technical fouls before the first half was over and was promptly ejected from the game. Fortunately for Indiana, both Roy Hibbert (15 points, 9 rebounds) and George Hill (22 points, 5 steals) picked up the slack. Leandro Barbosa had a solid game coming off the bench scoring 20 points and denied Darren Collison on a fast break layup. Toronto’s poor free throw shooting ended up killing them as they left 12 points at the free throw line which ended up costing them a victory.
The Sixers improved to 5-0 at home after absolutely destroying the Wizards. Philly may not have a premiere scorer on their roster, but they are one of the deepest teams in the league. Seven Sixers scored in double figures last night, including a game high 26 points from Jodie Meeks who shot the lights out going 10-11 from the field and 6-7 from three point range. Illadelph beat the breaks off the Wizards in the third quarter, stretching the lead to 25 halfway through the quarter and entered the fourth up 92-58. After being benched early, Jrue Holiday returned nicely with 12 points and this facial on Jan Vesely. Welcome to the league rook. Lou Williams continued his strong start coming off the bench and scoring 19; if he keeps it up, he will definitely be in consideration for Sixth Man of the Year. John Wall’s struggles continue, Wall scored just 7 points on 3-8 shooting, and had 5 turnovers as D.C. continues to play dreadful basketball. Hopefully he can put it together and break out of his slump and help save Abe’s sanity.
In perhaps the most uninteresting game of the early season, Jonas Jerekbo scored a game high 22 points and helped the Pistons snap a 6 game losing streak. All five Piston starters scored in double digits and Greg Monroe had himself another impressive outing, scoring 19 points and grabbing 9 boards while also dishing out 5 assists. Monroe is really shaping out to be a nice pickup for the Pistons, unfortunately the organization is such a mess. For Charlotte, D.J. Augustin had 13 assists, as he and Kyle Lowry battle for under the radar point guard supremacy in the early going. In a battle of 2011 lottery picks, both Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker had solid games for their respective teams. Knight scored his first double double of his young career with a stat line of 13/10/4 while Walker came off the bench and dropped 16 points for Charlotte. Not much else to see here.
It doesn’t matter who you throw at Derrick Rose, he will inevitably end up eating them up. The reigning MVP took over in the fourth quarter scoring 12 points and crushing any hopes the Celtics had of a comeback. Leading by as many as 20 in the third, Boston stormed back to get within one but DRose scored 7 straight and the C’s never got back within 6 as they dropped their third straight. Rose finished with 25 points and 7 assists while showing no ill effects from a turf toe injury that sidelined him on Thursday. Luol Deng played a game high 42 minutes and made every second count. Deng scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, Rose may have been the star, but Deng was undoubtedly the X-factor. Paul Pierce has not been playing up to par and has really been hurting the Celtics. After missing three weeks due to a heel injury, The Truth has been shooting a putrid 23.5 percent over the last three games. Pierce finished with only 13 points and one rebound; Boston will need him to pick up his play if they expect to compete in a loaded East. Rajon Rondo had another double double double scoring 14 points and dropping 11 dimes. He also had 4 steals, including this one (how the hell did he even do that?).
For anyone doubting that Kevin Love is the best power forward in the league, all you need to do is check the stat sheet. Women lie, men lie but numbers don’t. Love has been averaging 24.5 points per game (6th in the league) and 14.7 rebounds per game (2nd in the league) and has been leading a young, but incredibly talented Timberwolves squad. I’m very interested in where his career is going to go, especially once his contract is up in Minnesota. I get the impression that he will sign elsewhere (L.A.?) but with all the talent in Minnesota it may be hard from him to walk away from what could potentially be something special. Anyway, Love had another double double last night, scoring 34 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to pace the T’Wolves. Ricky Rubio got his first career start and played a game high 43 minutes and did his usual thing, wowing the crowd with incredible assists and constantly making the right decision. Rubio finished with 12 points, 9 assists and only 2 turnovers. For Nawlins, Emeka Okafor had 16 points and 14 boards but it wasn’t enough. The Hornets have now dropped eight of their last nine games and have really been struggling to put it together and having Eric Gordon out certainly hasn’t helped their cause.
Once again, the Rockets prove that they are a different team at home compared to on the road. Houston is now 3-1 at home and 1-6 away from the Toyota Center. Kyle Lowry is putting together a great season for coach Kevin McHale and continued his hot start with a 25 point, 9 assist effort and is now averaging 16 points and 9 dimes a game. Samuel Dalembert looked like he was out for blood against his former team as he had by far his best game of the season with 21 points and 16 rebounds and played stout defense against a recharged Boogie Cousins who was held to 4 points and 4 rebounds. I wouldn’t expect him to keep that pace up though. Late in the game, it looked like the Kings were set to make a run as they got with 7, but Kevin Martin and Lowry hit back to back three pointers and Sacramento never got within 9. ‘Reke Evans had himself a strong game for the Kings scoring 27 points but didn’t get much help from his teammates, reserve rookie Isaiah Thomas was the second leading scorer with 13.
Big congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki who scored his 23,000th point last night as the Champs laid the smack down on the visiting Bucks. Dallas scored a season high 60 points in the first half and went on a 14-0 run in the third to stretch the lead to 27. The Mavs were able to get some much needed rest; all 13 players on the roster checked in and Jason Terry led the team in scoring with 17 in a team high 25 minutes. Although Vince Carter is a shell of his former self, he has been showing some flashes of brilliance for Dallas thus far and had 16 points last night. Brandon Jennings had 19 points but only 1 assist for Milwaukee in an overall underwhelming performance.
If LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t make the All-Star team this season it will be a travesty. But, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yao Ming voted as the starting center for the Western Conference come February. Aldridge has been in beast mode for Portland and had another stellar performance last night tallying 29 points and 7 boards in a losing effort. After Marcus Camby went out with an ankle injury in the first half, the Spurs owned the paint. They beat Portland on the glass 50-36, and led 17-10 on second chance points. After injuries to both Manu Ginobili and T.J. Ford, rookie Kawhi Leonard has been thrusted into the starting role and has filled in nicely for Greg Popovich. Leonard was an instrumental part of a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter. The young’n hit a 3-pointer, notched a steal and scored a fast break layup to push the lead to 12. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points and 9 assists and teamed up with Leonard to go 8-9 in the final quarter of play to put the Blazers away.
After last night’s loss to Jersey, the Suns have now lost back to back games at home against sub .500 teams–not a good look. Both Steve Nash and Grant Hill looked on from the sidelines as Deron Williams dropped a smooth 35 points and 14 assists. This was a good game of basketball to watch, all five starters on each team scored in double digits including 20 from promising rookie Marshon Brooks and 20 from Suns center Marcin Gortat. Even with Nash on the pine, Phoenix had 26 assists but had no answer for Williams who became the first player in almost 2 years to score 35 points and drop 14 dimes. New Jersey has been hot from the three point line recently and continued that trend with another 15 long range field goals last night. If they can start getting some stops they may be able to string together a few wins and at least be competitive in the East.
After losing last night in Denver, Miami has now lost 3 in a row, and may be in even more trouble after Dwayne Wade went down with an ankle sprain in the fourth. Having already missed some games, Wade’s injury is the last thing the Heat need, expect him to miss even more time. Miami will definitely miss this. What’s surprised me the most about the Heat this season is their poor free throw shooting. After essentially losing the game at the stripe in LA earlier this week, the Heat once again left points at the line. LeBron scored 35 but also missed 6 free throws, his poor shooting after fouls has been alarming. The Norris Chalmers collective combined for 23 points but only 2 assists, an incredibly low number for two point guards. Ty Lawson was able to do pretty much anything he wanted for Denver, amassing 24 points on 9-11 shooting and dishing out 9 assists to lead the Nuggets. Denver was able to match Miami’s fast break attack and outscored the Heat 21-14 on the run. After losing Wade to injury, the Heat’s offense really struggled and they fell behind by 19 in the fourth. Denver’s bench outscored Miami’s 42-30 with Rudy Fernandez and Al Harrington scoring 15 apiece.
I heard some rumblings that Kobe Bryant fell off, that he couldn’t compete anymore. Too many miles, too many injuries, couldn’t keep up with the young cats in the league. Oh word? I think three straight 40+ games should silence any non-believers. Bryant shot 15-31 from the field, 4-7 from beyond the arc, and 8-10 from the stripe as the Lakersbeat the Cavs. Pau Gasol had a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists, and also showed off his point guard skills. Steve Blake went down with a rib injury and will miss 3-4 weeks but rookie Darius Morris gave the Lakers solid minutes off the bench. LA will need him to give them solid minutes as Derek Fisher will certainly need rest as the season drags on. Kyrie Irving continues to impress out in Cleveland as he scored 21 points but didn’t get much help from the rest of his teammates. The Lakers frontcourt defense has been dominant and they continued their strong play by shutting down Antwan Jamison who shot a putrid 4-16 from the field for 9 points. The Lakers battle the Clippers tonight in a huge showdown. Get the popcorn ready, this one is gonna be good.
Stat Line of the Night: Tough to compete with Kobe but Deron Williams had a spectacular night. 35 points (11-18), 14 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers.
Play of the Night: Rondo with the steal.
Dunk of the Night: Dalembert all over Boogie Cousins.
C’mon Son: Jamaal Magliore airballs a free throw.
Tonight: Another 11 games on the slate for tonight (and we don’t stop). Abe’s Wizards take on Philly for the second night in a row, Boston travels to Indy to exact revenge after last weekend’s loss at home, the Knicks get their first true test of the season in OKC, and for the night cap the Lakers and Clips battle for bragging rights in LA. Can’t wait.