By Jason Wojciechowski on December 12, 2009 at 9:00 AM
As between Ninja Assassin ("review" here) and ESPN's Friday doubleheader, I'll say this: I didn't fall asleep on the couch during the movie. (Then again, there are no couches at the theater.)
Nets 91, Pacers 107: The Nets just cannot score. The only player on the team to shoot 50% in this game was reserve guard Terrence Williams, who hit two of four. Brook Lopez put in 25, but shot 8-23, and took ten free throws on top of that, so he used a lot of possessions to get his points. He did have fourteen rebounds, though. Rafer Alston, Devin Harris, and Courtney Lee took 15 or 16 shots each, and each hit just six or seven. The team was good on its own offensive glass, as Josh Boone and Lopez grabbed eight boards apiece, but they gave up just as many offensive rebounds to the Pacers, especially to Roy Hibbert, who had seven. Indiana was actually led in scoring by Tyler Hansbrough with 21, although he shot 8-18, which is mediocre enough as it is, but worse when you consider that he's a big man who should be putting up a lot of shots down low. He grabbed seven rebounds (four offensive) and had three steals, though, so it wasn't all bad. (And really, I guess 8-18 isn't bad anyway, it's just mediocre.) Mike Dunleavy added 15/5/4 and hit all three of his threes in just fifteen minutes off the bench.
Rockets 96, Sixers 91: Carl Landry led the Rockets in scoring again with 20 on the strength of 12-14 free throw shooting. Trevor Ariza couldn't put the ball in the hole (5-13 shooting, 1-6 from the charity stripe), but he did end up with a double-double, leading the team in rebounds with 12, a season-high. The dual AI's scored 44 on 31 shots for the Sixers, and Brand, Young, and Dalembert each reached double-digits in rebounds, but the bench scored just six points while shooting 2-16.
Hawks 111, Raptors 89: Toronto gave up 52% shooting, 50% from three, and ended up allowing 111 points? Shocker! The bench were the beneficiaries of the Raptor largesse this time around, as four reserves scored double-digits. Jeff Teague's 11 were two off his season (and career -- he's a rookie) high, which also came against the Raptors. Teague added seven assists and three steals to boot. Chris Bosh had 14/10 and Hedo Turkoglu came alive a little bit with 12/7/8, but there's not much to say: Toronto just got shot out of the gym. Again.
Mavs 106, Heat 93: Thirty assists on 39 buckets tells the story for Dallas, and Wade and Beasley shooting 8-24 and 7-19 respectively is the Heat half of the tale. Jason Kidd and JJ Barea, both starters, had ten assists apiece, which is probably pretty rare, although I don't think I can use the Basketball-Reference Play Index to figure out the last time it happened. Erick Dampier added 20/17 for Dallas. Udonis Haslem had 22/10 on 9-10 shooting for Miami, but when you've got Wade using as many possessions as he did, and not incredibly efficiently (28 points on 24 field goals and 15 free throws, five assists, but four turnovers), it takes a lot more than a role player going off to beat a very solid (16-7! Did you notice?) Dallas team.
Knicks 113, Hornets 96: The Hornets are going nowhere, and the Knicks are in the midst of a resurgence the last few games, but you still wouldn't have expected a 17-point loss, would you? The Knicks shot 55%, got 28 from Al Harrington, 17/14 from David Lee, 12/11 from Big Cock, and 16 assists from Duhon and Hughes. Eddy Curry was the token eighth guy this time around, instead of Toney Douglas, so it looks like Hughes was the actual point guard for Duhon's 14 bench minutes, as opposed to the sort of distributing two-guard role that he often plays. Chris Paul had 13/6/13 and just three turnovers, but shot 4-14. David West led the team in scoring with 20.
Warriors 91, Bulls 96: The Bulls needed overtime to take this one, and Luol Deng played 52 of the 53 game minutes, winding up with 21/6/6 (but on 20 shots). Brad Miller, playing as a starter, had 12/13, and Joakim Noah added 18/14 with three blocks. If Noah continues to play for bad teams and continues to look as awkward as he does on the floor, he could end up a very underrated player despite being such a high draft pick and being on such a high-profile college team. I think people look at the hair and the antics and the name and come up with either "Anderson Varejao" or "clown", and he's really a very good player.
Blazers 99, Cavs 104: Portland let this one slip away, and Cleveland narrowly escaped another disappointing loss. But speaking of Varejao, he had a monster game off the bench with 22/10, filling in very well for Shaq, who had to leave the game with an eye problem after Joel Przybilla hit him in the face on a shot attempt (by Shaq). It's too bad, because Shaq was very effective, putting up 14/11 in just 23 minutes, and hitting all four of his free throws. LeBron had 33/7/7, of course. Brandon Roy's 9-25 shooting didn't help things for the Blazers. I don't watch Portland all that often, but I can say now that his frequently low shooting percentages result from some questionable shot selection. One terrible missed three late in this one sticks out in my mind. He's too good down low and too good at breaking down defense to settle for straightaway threes early in the shot clock. That's positively LeBronian.
Thunder 102, Grizzlies 94: Hijack City got stuffed in the third quarter, getting outscored 28-10, but came back strong with 36 in the fourth to pull out the win. Kevin Durant had the kind of game I think he should be having more frequently with 32/10/4, missing all but one of his seven threes, but getting to the line 12 times. Russell Westbrook added 23/6/7 of his own. Z-Bo had a crazy game for Memphis, getting eleven offensive rebounds and twenty overall, but shooting poorly, hitting just eight of twenty-one en route to 19 points. I wonder if the missed field goals and the offensive rebounds are both inflated, though -- i.e. was he grabbing a lot of his own misses and going right back up? O.J. Mayo has no such excuses for his 8-23 shooting, though, since he didn't have any offensive boards. He shot like Durant from downtown (1-8), but unlike Durant, didn't get to the line (1-1 from there). Rudy Gay also shot poorly.
Bobcats 85, Spurs 104: San Antonio may have gotten a little complacent in the third period, losing it 29-13 after leading by 17 going into the half. A big fourth, though, like the Thunder (32-14) put Charlotte back in their place. Of course, I say that and then I look at their records, which aren't as far apart as they've been in years past, or as far apart as you'd expect them to be this year (9-12 vs. 11-9). Manu Ginobili led the team in scoring with 22, hitting four threes in five attempts, and Tim Duncan had 17/9/6. Can we just stop for a second and marvel at a guy who's still averaging 19/10.5/3.5 and two blocks at the age of 33, with over 40,000 NBA minutes on his knees, 917 regular season games, 160 playoff games, just two seasons where he's missed even semi-significant amounts of time (13 games in 2004, 16 games in 2005)? PER has its problems, but it does tell us something, and Duncan's career-low PER was his rookie year, when he put up an excellent 22.6. His career-high is 27.1, in 2004. He's at 27.2 this year. (Remember, the league average PER is defined to be 15, so Duncan's never been worse than significantly above average. Not even as a rookie, and not even as a 33-year-old big man who's still expected to be the best player on his team.)
Wolves 92, Lakers 104: L.A. had a bit of a scare here, as Kobe Bryant went out of the game with an index-finger issue. He returned, though, and wound up leading the team in scoring with 20 while adding five boards and five assists. Pau Gasol had a 20-rebound game to go with 17 points and Andrew Bynum added an efficient 12/8. Bynum was the only starter with fewer than five assists, with Pau leading the way with seven. Sometimes it's a bad thing if your power forward leads the team in assists, but when it's Pau Gasol, and when the total is seven, you'll take that. (He did have five turnovers, though, so it wasn't all positive.) Sasha Vujacic actually got his shot going, hitting 3-3 for seven points. Sasha! On the Minnesota side, Al Jefferson welcomed Kevin Love back to the starting lineup with an excellent 24/13 game. Love, though, struggled with his shot, hitting just three of fourteen, but he did have nineteen rebounds, eight offensive. Ramon Sessions had 15 on 7-9 shooting off the bench. When was the last time two teams running the triangle faced each other?
Magic 103, Suns 106: That's a good, solid win for the Suns against a championship contender that tends to play well on the road. Steve Nash had 20/7/18 with just three turnovers, and he stayed on the floor for 40 minutes, limiting the amount of damage that Goran Dragic could do. Amare added 28/10 and Jared Dudley got big minutes off the bench, scoring 19 in 33 minutes. Orlando got balanced bench play, with 38 points spread very evenly amongst five guys, but White Chocolate and Vince Carter couldn't score, shooting 3-14 combined (0-4 of that was Williams) and 0-6 combined from three. They did have six assists apiece, though, and Carter only turned the ball over twice. Alvin Gentry clearly went for the Hack-a-Howard approach in this game as Da-wight was credited with just one field goal attempt (he made it), but seventeen free throws. The strategy worked, as Howard made just eight of those seventeen attempts, leading to a line of 10/18 with five turnovers. Mickael Pietrus hit four of his eight threes for 23 points, and Rashard Lewis led the team in scoring with 24.