By Holly MacKenzie
Another Monday means another weekend in the NBA has passed. I struggle with which games to recap for Monday’s “Post-Up” (That’s the name we’ve finally decided upon, thanks Eboy), because I want to pick the exciting games, or the ones that make a difference in the standings but when it is so early in the season it’s not so clear-cut. For this weekend I chose to concentrate mainly on those teams who earned their first victories of the season, (note: I had started to do my recap of NY/Miami, but the humor of Lang beats out any recap), and then add in some of the other games I enjoyed. I know that Minnesota, Golden State and Seattle are still winless, but I’m tired of writing the same recaps about these teams falling apart in the final minutes. It is getting tough to watch Seattle get oh-so-close every night and then one play here or there and the game is gone. Of course, Minnesota’s game versus the Lakers was chosen because LA finally got Lamar Odom back from his off-season shoulder surgery.
It is just crazy watching Boston roll through teams. I am looking forward to seeing them face some of the elite teams from the west to see how they turn out. Minus their OT win against Toronto, Celtic victories have seemed effortless. The Phoenix/Miami game on Friday night was exciting for a Suns fan like myself. It was sweet justice to see Nash go on his own personal 11-0 run to take over the game after everyone has been talking about him being too old. It was also nice seeing Marion play his heart out. I thought it was funny seeing Dwight Howard and Amare exchange jerseys after the game. Also, Shaq, watch those bows!
This whole situation in Chicago is a mess. After getting their first win of the season against Detroit on Thursday night, they come out at home on Saturday and get absolutely embarrassed by the Raptors who were playing in the second game of a back-to-back. The Kobe chant could be heard clearly throughout the arena and I just felt bad for the Bulls guys sitting on the bench. Another team that I have enjoyed watching is Utah. They are currently on a three game win streak and Boozer and Deron Williams look good. The Spurs are still the Spurs of course, but wow Houston looks great when Yao and Tracy have their game faces on. The Clippers have dropped their last two but they have impressed me as well, especially Cave-man Kaman.
On a completely unrelated note, I just heard news of the death of Kayne West‘s mother, Dr. Donda West. As a Kanye fan and as someone who plays the song “Hey Mama” for her own mother because she is the definition of strength to me, my heart goes out to Mr. West and his entire family. I cannot even imagine the pain that is being endured through this tragedy. All I can picture is the two of them on Oprah together. Being across the country from my own mother, this really hit me hard and I felt it deep within my heart. My thoughts and prayers are being sent to Mr. West as well as everyone else who was touched by this strong and vibrant woman.
Washington 101 Atlanta 90
After going 0-5 to start the season, Washington jumped on the Atlanta Hawks from the beginning of the game and did not let up. The reward? Notching their first victory of the season and avoiding a franchise worst 0-6 start. In the game the Wizards never trailed after going into the second quarter up 26-23. Atlanta cut the lead to 90-85 with 3:57 left in the game, but they did not get any closer. While the Hawks came out strong in the final minutes, Washington was able to withstand the push by Atlanta to come out on top. Washington were led by Antawn Jamison’s double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds with Caron Butler adding 23 points and 8 assists. Brendan Haywood also had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds as the Wizards out-rebounded Atlanta 53-41. Gilbert Arenas had 18 points in the contest. In the loss Josh Smith led Atlanta with 23 points while Joe Johnson scored 22 points and Marvin Williams had 20 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists.
Houston 85 Charlotte 82
While Tracy McGrady led Houston in their first few games of the season, it has been Yao Ming who has stepped up in the last three. That is the luxury that comes along with having a talented tandem like McGrady and Ming. In their game against the Charlotte Bobcats last night it was Yao who scored the go ahead free throws with 20.6 seconds left in the game to put Houston in a position to win after coming back from a 7 point deficit in the 4th quarter. While Yao hit two huge free throws for Houston and finished with a game-high 34 points, McGrady scored 12 of his 26 points in the 4th. Before the Bobcats amassed their seven-point lead, the game was close throughout with numerous lead changes and ties. After being down 7 points, the Rockets went on an 11-4 run to tie things at 78 with 1:24 left in the game. From there the teams traded baskets and three-point plays before Raymond Felton downed two free throws with 38.1 seconds on the clock to put Charlotte up 82-81. Then the Rockets got lucky as Yao grabbed the offensive board off of Rafer Alston’s three-point attempt and was fouled. At the line he hit both shots and then on the next possession for Charlotte, McGrady drew the offensive foul on Gerald Wallace which led to the final possession for the Rockets. On that possession, Mike James was fouled and sent to the line where he hit both foul shots, final score Houston 85 Charlotte 83. In the loss Matt Carroll had 17 points for Charlotte while Raymond Felton and Jason Richardson each added 16. Emeka Okafor had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Phoenix 106 Orlando 96
While the Phoenix Suns have gained Amare Stoudemire to their lineup, they lost Raja Bell to an ankle sprain for their game against Orlando Saturday night. The loss was not a cause for concern as Leandro Barbosa started in place of Bell and went off for a career-high 39 points including dropping 8-13 three-pointers, leading the Suns to a 106-96 victory over the Magic. Phoenix led 34-27 after the 1st quarter, in large part to Barbosa’s 16 points in the period. From there they continued to pull away and went into the fourth up 20, by a score of 85-65. The Phoenix lead was never in any real danger despite a 33 point, 18 rebound performance by Dwight Howard. Although he had a great game, Howard was only 7-16 from the free throw line as Orlando went 8-19 (42.1%), as a team. Besides Barbosa, Steve Nash finished with 19 points and 11 assists for Phoenix, Grant Hill had 14, Shawn Marion with 11 and Amare Stoudemire added 13 in his second game back after taking three games off with a sore knee. For Orlando, Carlos Arroyo had 13.
Toronto 101 Chicago 71
While the Raptors have had some ups and downs already in this young season, they came together and routed the hapless Bulls 101-71, Friday night. While the Raptors led the entire first half, it was in the 3rd where they completely blew the game open. Starting the quarter on a 14-1 run the Raptors then went on to outscore the Bulls by a 36-13 margin, and were up by as many as 39 points in the contest. For the fourth quarter, the bleeding continued for the Bulls as Coach Skiles had cleared his bench and the starters watched from the sidelines helpless, as the chants for “Kobe!” rang out. Jamario Moon, the 27-year old rookie for Toronto got his first career start, had a couple of dunks against the Bulls and also managed to hold Luol Deng to just 5 points on 2-8 field goals. The Raptors were led by a 16-point effort from Carlos Delfino, 14 points each from Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, while Moon finished with 12 points and TJ Ford dished 14 assists. In the loss, Andres Nocioni finished with 20 and Ben Gordon added 11 for the Bulls.
Detroit 103 LA Clippers 79
While the Clippers have started out strong and were 4-0 coming into this game, Detroit was on the second night of a back-to-back that had just resulted in their first loss of the season. How did Detroit respond to their first loss? By paying it forward to the Clippers, of course. After the Pistons took down the Clippers 103-79, Boston became the sole team in the NBA to remain unbeaten so far this season. Detroit came out of the gate strong, hitting 15 of their 20 field goal attempts in the 1st quarter and they went into the 2nd quarter up by 10. They went on a 10-0 run within that quarter to stretch the lead to 20 and the Clippers were never able to recover finishing the game shooting only 35.1% from the floor as compared to Detroit’s 48.3%. The Clippers were out-rebounded by 20, 53-33 and they gave up 13 offensive boards while only snagging 7 of their own. For the duration of the game the Pistons simply outworked the Clippers from all areas. Chauncey Billups led the way for Detroit, scoring 23 points, including 5 three-pointers in the 2nd half. Richard Hamilton had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, Antonio McDyess added 14 and Nazr Mohammed scored 15 off of the bench. The Clippers were without Cuttino Mobley who injured his hip abductor in their game against the pacers. Chris Kaman was tops for LA with 25 points while Corey Maggette had 19.
Portland 91 Dallas 82
After dropping their first three games this season, the young Portland Trailblazers have fought back to win their next three with their most recent victory coming against the Dallas Mavericks. While Portland had lost 13 straight regular season matches against the Mavs, Brandon Roy showed why he was rookie of the year last season as he outworked the Mavericks and led his team to a 91-82 victory behind his 32-point, 7-assist effort. While the Blazers shot 50.0% for the game, they held Dallas to only 35.4% shooting and most importantly, they keyed up on Dirk Nowitzki and allowed him only 11 points on 4-13 field goals. Portland led after one, they led at the half and they led again going into the fourth, outscoring Dallas in the first three quarters of the game. While Dallas won the 4th quarter scoring battle 25-21, they were never able to come closer than seven points and Portland’s lead was safe even before the final buzzer sounded. In addition to Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 8 rebounds and Travis Law had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Josh Howard led the Mavericks with 20 points and Jerry Stackhouse had 16 as the Mavericks dropped their 2nd game so far this season.
LA Lakers 107 Minnesota 93
The Lakers celebrated the return of Lamar Odom to the starting line-up with a victory over the Timberwolves, 107-93. While Odom said his conditioning would be an issue in his first game back the forward played 36 minutes and finished with 18 points on 7-10 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, giving the Lakers back an important piece of their line-up. While the game was close for most of the 1st half, the Lakers went on an 18-3 run to finish the half and start the 3rd, ending with them up on top 68-52, with eight minutes remaining in the 3rd. The Lakers remained in control the rest of the way, as the Wolves never got any closer than seven points. Besides Odom’s return to the line-up, the Lakers got contributions across the board as six players finished in double-figures, Kobe Bryant leading the way with 30 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. Andrew Bynum and Chris Mihm each contributed a 10 and 10 double-double in the win. For Minnesota, Al Jefferson had 24 points and a game-high 15 boards while Ryan Gomes added 17 and Sebastian Telfair scored 15.
Cleveland 93 Sacramento 91
To fans watching, the Cavs came dangerously close to losing their game against Sacramento. Ask LeBron James and he will say it’s all about seizing the moment. Friday night he seized a bunch of moments in the end of the game, scoring 8 points when his team needed him most, helping them to come away with the 93-91 victory on the road. While the game was close the entire first half and then tied at the half, the Kings managed to go into the 4th up by one, 70-69. The Kings held onto that slim lead for most of the 4th before Big Z tied the game with 2:08 remaining. From here, James knew it was time to take over, and he proceeded to go to work. After the teams were tied, James had a dunk to give the Cavs an 88-86 lead. Then on consecutive possessions for Cleveland, he hit a jumper and then followed it with a 3-point play, giving them the 5 point lead, 93-88. The Kings were not done just yet as John Salmons converted a 3-point play of his own, cutting the lead to 93-91. For Cleveland’s final shot of the night, they went to Damon Jones and he missed, giving Sacramento a chance to take the game. Luckily for James and the Cavs, Kevin Martin missed a jumper on the baseline, giving Cleveland the win. Despite the slow start James finished with 26 points for Cleveland while Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 11 points and 15 boards. Devin Brown scored 20 points and pulled down 11 boards. On the King’s side, Kevin Martin had a game-high 32, while John Salmons and Francisco Garcia each contributed 18.