By Jason Wojciechowski on December 17, 2009 at 7:15 PM
I had the joy of spending last night wrapping presents and preparing them for mailing. Luckily, everything I'm mailing is going one place, and I had just received a pair of shoes in a box that turned out to fit what I was sending perfectly. I covered up the cat-scratch marks (they do love cardboard) with tape and off it goes today. I hope it gets there in time. I also hope it doesn't cost $40 to mail it. I did this while the basketball games were on the TV, so I wasn't paying much attention.
I was, however, paying enough attention to ESPN's pregame and halftime shows to notice that Jamal Mashburn looks a lot like D'Angelo Barksdale. (If you have to ask who D'Angelo Barksdale is, never mind. If you have to ask who Jamal Mashburn is, you're reading the wrong blog.) I know one person who's as into The Wire and the NBA as I am (E-Sex, of course), and Bomani Jones and Jemele Hill, whose Twitter feeds I follow, both have serious Wire and NBA credentials, so I posed the thought to the three of them. No response yet from E-Sex or Jemele, but Bomani, at least, agrees with me.
Grizzlies 97, Hawks 110: That's called taking care of business if you're the Hawks. The first quarter actually ended with Memphis up two, but the second and third were taken by a combined +19 for the Hawks, and that was that. Joe Johnson had 26/8/3 in just 29 minutes, Al Horford had a double-double (15/10) and Josh Smith had 14/7 with four blocks. Sam Young led the Grizz with 20 off the bench, and Marc Gasol did his usual work: 6-7 shooting, least FGAs among the starters. Poor guy.
Bobcats 98, Pacers 101: The Bobcats had a chance in this one, but Gerald Wallace missed a tying three with four seconds to go. Then, Dahntay Jones somehow missed both free throws for the Pacers, either of which would have iced the game, giving the Bobcats one more chance, but it appears they did not get a shot off. (The ESPN play by play does not show tenths of a second, so it records the Bobcats having 0:01 to take a three to tie the game, but it was probably less than that.) It was a shame for Wallace because he had a fine game with 29/12 and four steals, but he missed all three of his threes and turned the ball over five times. Those are the things you look at when you lose by a single shot. Troy Murphy had the big game for Indiana with 26 on 10-13 shooting (5-7 from three) with 15 rebounds and zero turnovers. TJ Ford had 13 assists and six turnovers while shooting 5-9.
Raptors 99, Magic 118: Another Raptors game, another huge point total for the opposition. The Magic shot 57%, which I think is about average for the Raptor defense. Rashard Lewis hit five threes, Dwight Howard had 18/14 and eight blocks while taking just seven shots, and Matt Barnes poured in 20 off the bench. Chris Bosh had 20. That's pretty much the highlight for Toronto.
Cavs 108, Sixers 101: LeBron had 36/6/7 and three steals, but the Cavs' minutes played are what jump out at me. James was on the court for 40 minutes, but of his teammates, only Mo Williams cracked thirty, and just barely, as he ended up with 31. The team really has turned into LeBron and a rotating cast of thousands. Nobody else on the team took more than eight shots (Mo), made more than four (Hickson, Varejao), grabbed more than nine boards (Shaq), or had more than four assists (Mo). Delonte led the Greek Chorus with two steals, and four different guys blocked one shot apiece. Of course, the positives aspects of this are twofold: 1. they won the game; 2. outside of LeBron, the team committed just five turnovers, with five guys having one apiece, including multiple guys playing significant minutes without errors (Varejao and Gibson had 29 and 27 minutes with zero TOs). Mo Williams has really not turned into the consistent second banana that the Cavs wanted and Shaq, who should be the third banana, isn't that, either. Further, Shaq's arrival has pushed Ilgauskas from "solid third banana" to "sometime bench contributor".
Anyway, for the Sixers, Thaddeus Young, who I really thought would lose a lot of point-production upon the arrival of Allen Iverson, had 16/10 last night. He seems to be rebounding more than ever (which can probably be explained, at least in part, by his move to the power forward spot, with Elton Brand going to the bench) and his points haven't gone anywhere (except maybe slightly up). Not that it's helping their record any. They still lost, and they're still 6-19. They're going to have a legitimate shot at a top-three pick, it seems.
Jazz 108, Nets 92: Speaking of top-three picks ... Brook Lopez continues to be the highlight of the season for the Nets, with 23/10 this time. Carlos Boozer had 26/10 of his own, and Deron Williams put up 20 with 14 assists and just two turnovers. Another "speaking of": speaking of third bananas. Who's going to do that for the Jazz this year? Mehmet Okur hasn't looked right, and his numbers are terrible. Paul Millsap's an excellent role player, but he's not going to fill up the basket on nights when Deron or Boozer are off. Ronnie Brewer, AK47, Kyle Korver, same. The team actually has a lot of talent, a lot of guys who do a couple things well (Millsap the rebounder, Korver the shooter, Kirilenko the defender), a couple of glue guys who play good defense (Miles, Brewer), and a couple of stars (Boozer, Deron). It's a bit of a mystery why they're only 15-10 and aren't really contenders.
Pistons 87, Hornets 95: Rip Hamilton missed this one with a sore hamstring, leaving the scoring load on Rodney Stuckey, who again didn't really care it all that well: 26 points on 26 shots, five assists, and six turnovers. David West busted out with 32/12 to lead the Hornets and Chris Paul had 16 with 12 dimes. David West did have six turnovers, which isn't great but also isn't horrible given how often it seems like he had the ball. I'm really only mentioning it because I don't like the guy.
Lakers 107, Bucks 106: The Lakers needed overtime for this one, and not just overtime, but a ridiculous turnaround fall away jumper from Kobe as time expired to win it. Kobe shot just under 50% overall and wound up with 39/7/4 on 28 shots, but the turnovers have reared their ugly head again, as he had seven of them last night. Pau got the ball a little more, putting up 15 shots for 26 points. He also had 22 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks, so his frustration about not getting the ball isn't seeping over into the other aspects of his game. (Not that anybody thought it would. Pau's just a different guy than, say, Shaq, who famously said he'd stop guarding the doghouse if they quit giving him bones or something to that effect.) Ron Artest was a box-score non-factor with 10 points and three boards, and who knows who he was guarding. Mbah a Moute, who had five points in 26 minutes? Michael Redd, with 25 on 24 shots? Delfino, no points and five turnovers in 18 minutes? None of those are particularly strong offensive games, so I'll just assume that Ron-Ron played good defense last night. (He was also a team-leading +10 in his time on the floor, so that counts for something.) It's not really clear what happened in this game that made it so close. Ersan Ilyasova had a nice game with 24 points on 18 shots, but, most guys were inefficient: I've mentioned three of them already, and in addition, Bogut had 16 on 16 and Jennings had 11 on 11. The Lakers shot 16 more free throws and made 17 more; they only commited four more turnovers; they outrebounded the Bucks 47-38; they outshot them 47-42. I guess what it comes down to is that Milwaukee made 10-29 from three to L.A.'s 4-16. Neither number is jump-out-at-you high or low, but a six-three difference can make up a lot of ground in foul shots and rebounds. Anyway, the win leaves the Lakers tied with the Celtics for the best record in basketball, each team with 20 wins and four losses.
Clippers 120, Wolves 95: If you get blown out by the Clippers, you've done something wrong. Of course, the fact that the Wolves have done some things wrong won't come as a surprise to anyone. L.A. had three players go over 20 points: Kaman had 23/10, Gordon had 25; and Rasual Butler continued to be an unheralded bench scorer with 21 in 25 minutes on five threes. Minnesota, meanwhile, was led by Kevin Love's 19 (and 12 boards, five offensive). Baron Davis had 13/8/13. He did take 17 shots, but he only turned it over twice, so overall, it was a pretty good game. Marcus Camby added 18 boards, seven offensive. If Camby and Love were going at it on the boards all night, how did they both end up with big offensive-rebound totals?
Mavs 100, Thunder 86: The Thunder are now 12-12, and while they had a good first half, leading by five at intermission, they fell apart in the second, and they just don't look ready to play with the big boys yet. Kevin Durant's shot was off all night, and he ended up 4-18. Jeff Green's a nice player and Russell Westbrook's a pretty good young point and James Harden's a bench scorer, but the team doesn't have the firepower yet to stand up to a bad Durant shooting night. Especially when Westbrook shoots 6-19 and Harden hits 3-9. (Harden's problems were from distance, though, as he hit none of his four threes. He got to the cup relentlessly, shooting nine free throws in just 29 minutes. JJ Barea, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry aren't known for their defensive prowess, but still, his ability to get wherever he wanted whenever he wanted was pretty alarming.) On the other side, Dirk was unstoppable, shooting 13-18 and adding 7-8 from the line for 35 points and eleven boards. Nobody else had a notable game, but with the Thunder unable to put the ball in the hole, one big night was plenty.
Rockets 101, Nuggets 111: Carmelo went off for 38 despite shooting just 9-23. He got to the line 20 times and made 19 of those, which is the best free-throw game this year, the best since Chris Bosh also hit 19-20 in March. (By best, I mean at least 20 attempts and at least 95% success.) Sorting that list by points is fun -- how did Corey Maggette shoot 19-20 from the line and only score 25 points overall in February, 2007? Trevor Ariza returned with 18 points on 18 shots, including 1-8 from three. David Anderson was the Rockets' Role Player of the Night, with 17/9 on 6-8 shooting in 21 minutes.
Spurs 103, Warriors 91: It's starting to look like Tim Duncan hadn't actually slowed down the last few years because of age so much as because he didn't need to put up the numbers he used to anymore. But with Tony Parker struggling, Richard Jefferson still not looking great, and Manu being unimpactful off the bench, Duncan has gone back to the old Big Fundamental we knew and loved. He racked up 27/15/4/1/4 in this one, all with just two turnovers and no fouls. No fouls! Granted, the Warriors' starting center was Vlad Radmanovic (who shot 0-8) because Mikki Moore, Ronny Turiaf, and Andris Biedrins are all hurt at the same time, but still. The Warriors started a lineup that has to challenge for one of the tiniest ever, with CJ Watson, Monta Ellis, and Stephen Curry all getting starting nods. I don't even know who to list at what position, but I am delighted by the idea of some stat keeper having mark Monta Ellis down as having logged a game at small forward. Ellis had 35 on 31 shots. He only turned the ball over once, though, despite the aforementioned 31 shots in 45 minutes played, along with five assists. That's pretty good, especially for a guy who's had real trouble taking care of the ball.
Wizards 109, Kings 112: This was my first time seeing Tyreke Evans, since I don't want college basketball. He was an entirely different player than I expected. He plays under control, backs guys down, drives to the basket, dishes, plays defense ... and he's big. I think 6'6", as he's listed by ESPN, is a little generous, but I was under the impression that he was going to be like a 6'2", 6'3" guard. He's not that at all. He's strong and athletic, and he uses that athleticism better than any 20-year-old rookie I can think of. He didn't have a "what!" night last night, but the fact that we're already at the point with him where 26 points on 50% shooting, 8-10 from the line, six boards, and six assists is a "pretty good, Tyreke, pretty good" says a lot.
Omri Casspi also looked good. The box score says he only hit 2-8 from three, so it's a good thing I looked at it before writing anything, because I really only remember the two makes. He's very smooth, not that smoothness necessarily correlates with performance (see Dirk, perhaps the least smooth great player in the game). Anyway, despite Arenas and Jamison both going for 30+, the Kings won by a nose on the backs of the aforementioned duo along with Jason Thompson, who had 17/13, including six offensive boards.