Caron Butler effectively summed up just about every NBA skirmish in the recent history of the league with his taunt of Tyler Hansbrough. As you can see, he kept the camera rolling while the actors played their tough-guy roles. There are a few dudes in the league that will actually swing; Kenyon Martin once threw a couple nasty punches at Corey Maggette, and Jermaine O’Neal hit that Pistons fan with his legendary sliding right-hander, but 99% of the league, as Charles Barkley is always quick to point out, is made up of lovers, not fighters.
In the end, I suppose the joke was on Butler. Hansbrough came off the bench and scored 17 for the Pacers, who easily beat the Clippers 102-89. LeAndro Barbosa put up 12 points of his own in his Pacer debut, matching Mo Williams’ total in 10 fewer minutes. Last year, Blake Griffin set a career high with 47 points (plus 14 boards and 3 assists) against Indiana. Blake got off to a strong start last night, scoring 14 in the first quarter… but he finished with just 23 on 10-18 (2-7 from the line). I still haven’t quite figured out what it is about Griffin’s ’11/12 season that’s caused me to feel so underwhelmed, but taking a look at that 47-point game… first of all, he got more shots (24), but notice how many good things he did off the dribble. Four of his buckets came on drives to the basket, and he put that beautiful spin move on Jeff Foster. I feel like he used to do things like that more often… but maybe I’m just imagining that. Maybe I was so fascinated by his dominance in his first NBA season that I became delusional over the course of the lockout. His shooting stats are basically the same, if not slightly improved. The mystery of my disappointment continues.
The Abuser (Jamaal Tinsley, n00bs) continues to bring a little bit of Rucker Park to Utah as he helps the Jazz make a playoff push…
Tinsley has filled in for the injured Earl Watson and played extremely well lately… so well, in fact, that I’m not sure Earl figures to get his job back (based on Earl’s smile after Tinsley schooled Mohammed, I’m not sure he even wants it back). Trust that it isn’t all flash with Jamaal… he does an excellent job of running the team and getting the ball where it needs to go. He can be a brilliant playmaker, and he can score a little bit if need be. He showed that last night as he put up 11 points on 5-7 to help the Jazz earn another impressive victory, this time over OKC. After holding Kobe Bryant to just 3-20 in their previous game, Utah was able to shut down Kevin Durant (6-22, 18 points). The Thunder came up with just 15 assists to 20 turnovers and uncharacteristically left 8 points at the stripe. Paul Millsap led Utah with 20 and hit quite a few of the big shots down the stretch. He had a beautiful driving dunk late in the fourth after faking Serge Ibaka out of his socks. Al Jefferson returned from his two-game absence and contributed 16 points. Had the Rockets lost to the Lakers, the Jazz would’ve been in 8th place.
Getting back to Tinsley’s move, can we please stop calling it a ‘nutmeg’? According to my google search, “nutmeg” is a British “football” term referring to any play where a “footballer” kicks the ball through another “footballers’” legs. Are we British footballers, or are we basketball fans? No, you can’t be both. Soccer is so boring even Grant Hill says it’s gay.
Collapse #1: Phoenix loses to Miami, 95-99. Oh man, what a depressing defeat this was. When Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown knocked down back-to-back threes to give Phoenix a 10-point lead with 7:28 to go in the fourth it really felt like it was time to bring on the fat lady. Phoenix had turned the ball over about 19 too many times, but they’d gotten back on defense (observe this end-to-end gem from the aforementioned Morris) and closed out on shooters. The Heat were totally out of sync, and all of the Suns’ role players were contributing. Then Miami went on a 17-0 run. The depressing part was watching Phoenix blow opportunity after opportunity during this seven-minute stretch of scorelessness. It all started to go wrong when Robin Fropez missed on back-to-back possessions from point-blank range. He should’ve dunked both balls, and I think each miss served as a huge blow to his team’s momentum. Phoenix went on to commit three unforced turnovers, fumble away a pair of defensive rebounds, and give the Heat an extra point on a technical free throw. Even when Miami gave them new life by failing to control a free-throw rebound they were unable to capitalize. Channing Frye blew a layup that would’ve made it a one-point game with 20 seconds to go, and that was all she wrote.
Collapse #2: Los Angeles loses to Houston, 104-107. Give Goran Dragic all the credit in the world for knocking down the biggest shot of the night… but it never should’ve come down to his corner three-pointer. Still, awesome shot from The Dragon!
That young man is going to get PAID this summer. I still don’t understand why Phoenix let him go… I think he’s a legitimate starter in this league, and he’s actually got a little bit of Steve Nash in him. Anyway, the collapse… LA had stretched their lead out to 12 points with just six minutes to go. Ramon Sessions probably had Laker fans drooling with the way he was playing… he either scored or assisted on six of eight Laker field goals between the final minutes of the third and the middle part of the fourth. Without Kobe on the floor, LA appeared to be closing a team out–and on the road, too. When Kobe checked back in at the 4:45 mark the Lakers held a nine-point lead. He shot three of the next four shots… and the Rockets went on a 12-0 run. Bryant went 3-4 from that point on, but Dragic out-heroed him and Courtney Lee made the free throws to ice it. Ironically, it should’ve been Chandler Parsons, a 46% free-throw shooter, at the line instead of Courtney Lee with 10 seconds to go. The officials refused to call a foul on Kobe, though, as he blatantly raked across Chandler’s arms (the ball was nearly jarred free… I guess they were gonna let it go). That’s the ironic part.
Kobe is obviously going to win you more close games than he’ll lose for you, but these last two have been really ugly for him. He should’ve dumped the ball in to Andrew Bynum more frequently late in the loss to Utah, and what had been LA’s offense simply died as soon as he re-entered last night’s game. Whether it was his fault or not, the Lakers had trouble getting into their sets, and guys stood around and watched as he attempted to take over and bring it home. I suppose this will probably be overblown by the media… I mean, how often is Kobe going to miss three times in a row in he final five minutes? Yeah, his shot selection was questionable, but it’s not like his hands are typically a bad place for the ball to be. Ramon Sessions did his part by leading the Lakers to a nine-point advantage with Bryant on the bench, and Kobe came in to close it out. Play out that scenario 100 times and the Lakers probably win 97 of them. I suppose you could argue that LA should’ve continued to allow Sessions to do his thing throughout the closing minutes, but games naturally slow down and become more isolation-oriented as they advance into the latter part of the fourth quarter. Honestly, this particular chokejob looked worse than it really was. If the Rockets miss one three down the stretch we aren’t talking about this.
Looks like Wilson Chandler signed just in time, because Danilo Gallinari could be out four weeks with his broken thumb. Honestly, whatever chance Denver had of making noise in the postseason was traded away to Washington, so I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m still not sure I like the Wilson Chandler signing. What are they paying him, like $8 million a year? That’s a lot of money for a back-up wing player who tends to display questionable shot selection. Maybe they’re planning to send him to Washington too. I will say this… those who added Chandler to their fantasy teams and held onto him over all this time are now in great position, assuming they didn’t dig themselves a huge hole. Wilson will probably put up 15 or 20 PPG over the stretch run.
NBA teams are now 5-0 in their first game under a new coach this season. DeMarcus Cousins, who replaced Keith Smart last night, ironically preached ball movement and shot selection as his Kings racked up 28 assists and shot 53% in a 119-110 victory over the Grizzlies. Time to start the debate: better player-coach, DMC or Bill Russell?
Keith Smart, quote of the year: “[The jacket] actually fit him. Either he’s losing weight, or I’m gaining weight.”
Box Score Observations: Amare Stoudemire had 22 and 12 as the Knicks won their fourth in a row. Try not to get too excited, they only beat the Craptors. Drew Gooden, the Eastern Conference’s reigning player of the week, scored 19 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, and dished 5 assists as the Bucks absolutely destroyed the Blazers in Portland. In a game that ended at 116-87, Portland’s bench only managed NINE points. That’s astonishing to me.