Frenemies and fingers [NBA roundup]

By Jason Wojciechowski on December 13, 2009 at 8:40 AM

Bill Simmons on Twitter was making some jokes about the Lakers after Kobe missed a bunch of shots en route to a loss. Their first loss in twelve games. (Also their first road game since November, 2005.) Where was Simmons for the rest of those games? Why is a Celtics fan, someone who has to root for this husk of Kevin Garnett, poking fun at a Laker team hobbled by an injury to its superstar? Most importantly: do people actually act like this?

I don't really have many friends who are fans of rivals. Most of the people who I talk about sports with are fans of the Mets, Knicks, (football) Giants, and Jets. To the extent the A's have a rival (Angels? Giants?), I don't think I really know anybody who likes those teams. The 49ers haven't been good enough to talk about rivalries in a long time, but I've never known any Cowboys fans. (The people I know here in Texas care much more about UT football than they do about the NFL.) I do have one Celtics-fan friend, and we have arguments in which our biases toward our own teams come out, but I can't think of any taunting that's ever happened. We're just ... past that in some way.

Actually, I remember a friend in high school who was a (baseball) Giants fan. We would tease each other about our respective teams, but we were fifteen at the time. That approach to sports just isn't interesting anymore. (That said, I did fire back a twitter response to Simmons, something about Garnett's three-inch vertical. But I'm sitting here now and I don't really feel any satisfaction from it. It didn't make me feel better.) That, friends, is my intro to last night's NBA action.

Pacers 114, Wizards 113: The ESPN play-by-play and box score actually disagree as to the final score of this game. (The play-by-play has 115-112.) I have no idea what went on in this game, and I'm not going to go researching around to find out, because let's face it, it's the Pacers and the Wizards. Hopefully Gilbert Arenas's final tallies hold up, because he racked up a triple-double with 22/10/11, albeit on 20 shots. Antawn Jamison had 31, but when you lose a close game like this, you look at things like "I shot 1-5 from the free throw line" and just shake your head. The bench came up big for Indy: 24 points for Mike Dunleavy, including 4-6 shooting from three and ten free throws; 10 assists from Earl Watson; and 19 points from Tyler Hansbrough. Troy Murphy, a starter, had 28/12/4 and four steals. That kind of game used to be much more regular for him than it is these days. O the ravages of age. (And also of playing for the Pacers.)

Warriors 95, Pistons 104: This was a two-point game with five minutes left, but the Pistons scored on all but one of their possessions from there on out, including hitting all eight of their free throws in the final minute. Rip Hamilton made a semi-triumphant return with eighteen points, but he shot just 6-15 and actually took four threes. This from a guy whose career high in attempts per game, set last year, is 2.8. Charlie Villanueva had 24/9 off the bench for the Pistons, but the leading scorer was again Rodney Stuckey, who had 29 with seven assists, but also seven turnovers. He actually made his shots and got to the line last night (18 field goals, 9-10 from the stripe), but he turned the ball over. If it's not one thing, it's another, I guess. Monta had 29 for the Warriors and Corey Maggette went for a very efficient 23 off the bench.

Celtics 106, Bulls 80: That's not like last year's playoffs at all. The second half in particular was ugly, with the Celtics outscoring the hometown team 52-34. Rajon Rondo played 39 minutes, presumably because there's still no backup point guard on this team (in the three years that the Celtics have been in their return-to-glory phase, their points guards have been Rondo, Rondo, and Rondo+Daniels; how hard is it to find a backup or two?), but nobody else played more than 30 minutse. Rondo made good use of his time to the tune of 16/7/14 and three steals. He also had five turnovers, but that wasn't so hard to swallow when you compare it to the 14 assists and add in the fact that the rest of the team committed just four gaffes combined. Eddie House turned the game into his own personal workout, chucking ten threes in 21 minutes (making three). The Bulls shot 33%, so their offensive numbers aren't exactly a sight to behold. Joakim Noah had thirteen rebounds, though.

Bobcats 97, Mavs 98: This one required overtime. Dallas led with 10:15 left in the second quarter, then trailed by as much as eleven before tying it on the final shot. They were down six with 1:30 to go, but Dirk scored those six unanswered. It was then a back-and-forth overtime, with Gerald Wallace and Dirk trading points in the final thirty seconds (Wallace with two free throws to go up one; Dirk hits a jumper to go up one; Wallace with two more free throws; then Dirk with a 10-footer with 0:01 on the clock; Stephen Jackson missed the last-second three for the win).

Three different Bobcats scored 20+: Wallace, Jackson, and Ray Felton. Wallace added 16 rebounds, Jackson's 20+ was actually 28, and Felton had eight dimes. The bench, despite getting an extra five minutes to play with, managed just seven points. Dirk led the Mavs with 36 points, although he took an astounding 34 shots, tying his career-high set last season. Erick Dampier and Shawn Marion each had seven offensiv boards en route to 18 and 15 total, respectively. Jason Kidd had six steals, nine assists, and five points. Jason Terry shot 4-19 and got a technical foul in overtime, which should be grounds for immediate benching.

Blazers 101, Bucks 108: This one got two overtimes. Brandon Roy hit the jumper that tied the game, completing the comeback that started at 8:08 left in the third, when Brandon Jennings gave the Bucks a lead that held until Roy's shot with 12 seconds remaining. Jennings missed a jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game. Jennings then hit the game-tying jumper with four seconds left in the first overtime, capping a 6-0 run over the final 2:30 that responded to an 8-0 run by the Blazers. This time Roy missed the eleven-footer that would have won it. The second overtime was all Milwaukee and that was that.

The foul situation was most dire for the Bucks, as they committed 30 personals and lost Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Andrew Bogut to the Six-Foul Beast before the end. Portland committed just 19 personals and nobody had more than four, not even LaMarcus Aldridge, who played 52 minutes and wound up with 31/11, although 22 shots and zero assists isn't the greatest number ever. Joel Przybilla had ten rebounds, two steals, and four blocks in 44 minutes, but was a remarkable -20 on the +/- scale. To go -20 in 44 minutes in a game that goes overtime is pretty remarkable. Bogut, before fouling out, had an efficient 27/9, Brandon Jennings missed shots but still wound up with 18 and eleven dimes, and Luke Ridnour poured in 20 in just 22 bench minutes.

Suns 99, Nuggets 105: This wasn't a true six-point game. It was tied at 97 with 2:42 to play, Chauncey hit a three, then one of two from the line, then Nash made a layup to get the lead down to two with 1:00 to go. Then Channing Frye fouled Carmelo with 0:02 on the clock, Alvin Gentry got two technicals and Carmelo hit all four of the three throws to seal it. Nash had missed a layup with 0:07 left after Jared Dudley stole the ball from Chauncey, and, at least according to Bill Simmons's Twitter feed, there was a terrible no-call on Nash's miss. Obviously seven seconds is still a lot of time, so maybe the Nuggets win anyway, and even a free-throw shooter of Nash's caliber misses sometimes. But anyway, this one did not end happily for the visiting Suns.

Carmelo ended up with 32/8 and Chauncey had 24 with eight assists. Nash had 28 with seven assists and Louis Amundson made one of his rare box-score contributions with 6-7 shooting leading to 12/11/2/2/4 in his line. That's pretty awesome for an awkwawrd white guy in 25 bench minutes. Amare's seven turnovers in the game tie in very nicely with is team-trailing -20 plus-minus rating. Finally, a note about the fouls: the game looks like it was called pretty tight all night, with 55 fouls handed out overall, and three technicals before Gentry's two (one for defensive three seconds, one on Carmelo, and one on George Karl).

Lakers 94, Jazz 102: This was, of course, the game that got Simmons all happy in the first place. Kobe shot a miserable 7-24, which he's prone to do from time to time whether he has a finger injury or not. The scoring wound up very balanced for the Lakers: 16, 16, 16, 15, and 13 for the starters. The problem is that Kobe took the aforementioned 24 shots to get his 16 while everyone else had 8, 9, 10, and 11 shots. In fact, take out Kobe, and the team shot spectacularly: 30-56, although just 2-12 from three (Kobe was 1-9). This is one of those nights where you look at the box score and you see 17 missed shots and five assists and you ask why Kobe kept shooting. But to ask why Kobe keeps shooting is a lot like asking why rain keeps falling. It's just physics.

Anyway, Pau had his second straight twenty-rebound game, which is pretty impressive considering that the big Spaniard had never done it before Friday night in his career to date. Nine of the twenty were on the offensive glass and he added five dimes to boot. It doesn't look like the ball moved very well for L.A., though, as they had 16 assists on 37 free throws, ten of those, as you've already surmised, coming from Kobe and Pau, leaving just six for the entire rest of the team. That includes Lamar Odom and Ron Artest, who had just one apiece.

The Jazz, meanwhile, got 21/4/11 from Deron Williams, 12/8/7 from Carlos Boozer, and even 19/8 from Ronnie Brewer (to go with, presumably, good defense on Kobe).

Wolves 100, Kings 120: Al Jefferson continued his road back with 26/11, but Kevin Love struggled with his shot again, undermining his 14/12 by missing nine shots. Ramon Sessions scored well again, with 14 points on eight shots, the exact opposite of (starter) Jonny Flynn, who had eight points on fourteen shots. Jason Thompson continues to periodically look like a beast as he had 23/12 in this one. The International Revue known as the Kings' bench contributed, with Beno Udrih's 16 and Omri Casspi's 14 leading the way. Udrih also had seven assists.

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