By Jason Wojciechowski on November 4, 2006 at 10:53 PM
The Lakers improved to 3-0 last night with a win over the Sonics. The game was on national TV, and I've DVR'd it, but not watched it yet.
Kobe made his season debut and had an ok night: 8-15 shooting (which is good for him, particularly the fact that he only took 15 shots, regardless of how many he made) for 23 points, six assists, but just four rebounds, and he tossed in six turnovers to boot. A couple of other players broke out for big nights, though: Lamar Odom did what he's "supposed" to do, with 28 points on just twelve shots, while dishing six assists. He also had just four rebounds, which is more surprising than disappointing; Luke Walton scored 20 for the first time in his career, and also had eight boards, five dimes, and even two steals; and Ronny Turiaf scored 13 in just 16 minutes off the bench while also grabbing seven rebounds and swatting three shots.
On the defensive side, even though Earl Watson, Rashard Lewis, and Ray Allen (the top three scorers for the Sonics) combined for 71 points, it took them 60 shots to get there. Ray-Ray, in particular, struggled from downtown, hitting just three of his twelve trey attempts. Allen did manage six steals in the game, though, which is a little excessive from the L.A. standpoint.
Kobe's return spelled a "DNP Coach's Decision" for Sasha Vujacic, which is too bad. The acquisition of defensive stalwart (and all-around good athlete) Maurice Evans and the drafting of Jordan Farmar seems to really have squeezed Sasha out. One problem with this is that he's the guy on the team most likely to turn into a real sniper from the outside. His spot on the pine didn't hurt the team last night, though, as the Lakers shot 9-16 from outside the arc.
Speaking of getting squeezed out, I'm having a hard time figuring out what's going to happen when Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm, and (lest we forget) Aaron McKie return from their injuries. It'd be kind of funny to send Andrew Bynum to the injured list considering that he's been the starter in the absence of those two guys. Ronny Turiaf has been out of his mind in these first three games, doing precisely what a good-athlete / widebody is supposed to do for a basketball team. Shammond Williams hasn't gotten into a game yet, so he's likely out. Brian Cook, as much as he might have been obsoleted by Vlad-Rad, just signed a two-year extension, so the team has committed to him. It'd be kind of senseless to then dump him.
My guess, then, is that Aaron McKie never makes it off the list, Shammond Williams heads there whenever Brown or Mihm comes back, Sasha heads there when the later of the two injured bigs returns. That'll leave the Lakers with just two backup guards, though (Evans and Farmar), and one of them's a rookie who's likely to be just as shaky at times as Smush Parker is all the time. This isn't that alarming on the offensive side, since the triple post kind of de-emphasizes traditional positional roles, but on the other end of the court, you need some people who can guard the other team's little men if someone gets hurt or into foul trouble.
All of that said, it's a nice situation to be in, certainly a better one than having three or four guys on the 15-man who you know aren't going to make an impact. I see the benefits of having every single one of these current Lakers on the roster (except McKie).
Around the rest of the league, then:
- The Hornets went to 2-0 against the Pacers, with rebounding being the story of the game. Tyson Chandler grabbed 15 boards for New Orleans, with eight of those coming on the offensive end. (He didn't have many putbacks, though, as he only took five shots in the game.) Desmond Mason also had more offensive rebounds than defensive, by a four-to-three count, and David West had three of each kind. In fact, the Hornets' 19 rebounds on the offensive side nearly matched the Pacers' 23 on the defensive side. That's just a terrible job by Indiana of protecting the glass. The best individual game of the night came from the guy who was probably the best player on the floor, Jermaine O'Neal (though Chris Paul would argue the latter contention): 25 points, six boards (three offensive), and five blocks. No assists to go with 19 shots is a little troubling, as is only getting to the line three times (post players should get fouled more than that, shouldn't they?).
- Philly beat Orlando by two, with Allen Iverson (duh) carrying the day: 39 points, ten assists, and one technical foul. Kyle Korver did what the Sixers are paying him to do, scoring 28 points in 30 minutes off the bench, shooting 10-13, including 4-4 behind the arch. He contributed nothing else to the box score aside from five fouls, but his job is to be a shooter. When he's doing that, it doesn't matter if he's not rebounding. The problem is that he doesn't go off for these kind of nights often enough to justify his long and expensive contract. The ever-rejuvenating Grant Hill led the Magic, scoring 25 on just eleven shots. J.J. Redick was active, but didn't get into the game, while Darko shot 5-6 off the bench. Somehow, the Sixers won despite grabbing just 22 total rebounds (compared to 44 for the Magic). How often do you see that?
- Toronto took out Milwaukee in Canada, winning by 17. All five Raptor starters scored in the double digits despite none of them playing more than 33 minutes. Those minutes came from Chris Bosh, who had a great night, shooting 12-16 for 26 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. T.J. dished 11 assists, and two benchies added double-digit scoring as well: Jose Calderon scored eleven and Fred Jones fifteen. Michael Redd had an off night shooting the rock, hitting just five of his fourteen shots. Andrew Bogut shot well (8-12), but couldn't pick up the slack left by Redd. Charlie Villanueva had another nice night, though, shooting 8-15 and grabbing eleven rebounds.
- Atlanta beat the Knicks. Fire Isaiah! The S.O. asked me last night whether it was ok to dislike Isaiah as a coach. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's ok. Whether Isaiah's good or not, though, he must've gotten into the heads of Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury. The two combined for 71 minutes in which they dished fourteen assists while turning the ball over just three times and, most shockingly, taking just fifteen shots. These are guys who haven't had trouble taking that many shots in a half in the past. Of course, it'd be more impressive if they'd done this in service of a win, but you have to think that would've come with better performances out of guys like Channing Frye (2-11 shooting), Jamal Crawford (1-8), and Eddy Curry (just two rebounds). In Curry's defense, he led the team with 20 points, but if you're as big as he is and you're on the floor for 39 minutes, you have to have more than two boards to show for it. Hell, Nate Robinson, all 5'9" of him, had two rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 30 points and also passed out eight dimes while turning the ball over just twice. He missed a fair number of shots (twelve), but the guys around him (Zaza Pachulia at 8-11 and Josh Childress at 5-8 in particular) shot well enough to make up for it.
- Detroit laid out Boston, beating them by 13 in Beantown. The Pistons did their usual, with the Big Four (Rip, Chauncey, Sheed, and Tayshaun) each playing a minimum of 35 minutes, scoring at least 12 points (Tayshaun bringing up the rear, Rip leading the way with 27), and each playing their role (Chauncy: 11 dimes; Tayshaun: helping keep Paul Pierce to just 22 points; Rip: four steals; Sheed: nine boards). Even Nazr Mohammed got into the act, going for fourteen and eight (five offensive rebounds) in just 22 minutes. The bench managed just ten points, though Antonio McDyess grabbed ten rebounds in his 27 minutes. Wally Szczerbiak and Paul Pierce shot well (8-13 and 7-13 respectively), but Wally turned the ball over six times, helping Detroit to a 15-6 turnover advantage that was partly responsible for the Piston's getting the chance to take 13 more shots than the Celtics. Sixteen offensive boards (eight more than Boston) also played a role. The "no rotation" Celtics had an odd distribution of minutes, with Bassy Telfair starting but playing just 19 minutes (which likely contributed to his having just one assist), while Delonte West got 16 minutes off the bench (enough time to shoot 1-8), and Rajon Rondo played 32, dishing six dimes in that time. Al Jefferson had 11 points and ten boards off the bench while playing more minutes than starter Ryan Gomes.
- The Heat beat Jersey, with Shaq having a near-vintage night, shooting 10-16 (21 points) and grabbing nine boards. The difference between this Shaq and the old one is that he went to the line just three times, while also turning the ball over five times. The Heat either won with defense or won because the Nets couldn't shoot, as Jersey made just 39% of their shots, "led" by Richard Jefferson's 4-15, as well as Jason Kidd and Marcus Williams' matching 2-7's. Nenad Krstic was the only Net with a significant number of shots to break 50%, at 7-11.
- Bron-Bron, as you've likely heard by now, went into San Antonio and beat the Spurs, leading the Cavs to an 88-81 victory. The numbers for the two teams match up pretty well: LeBron outscored T-Dunk by 10, but the Spur's next two highest scorers (Parker and Ginobli) made up seven points of that difference over the Cavs' next two highest (Hughes and Big Z); the teams matched assists, with sixteen apiece; the Spurs shot four more free throws, and the teams tied in makes; and the turnover count was 12-11. The significant gap seems to be the nine more rebounds that the Cavs grabbed, allowing them to take five more shots, which led to four more makes, and, hence, a seven-point win.
- Memphis beat Charlotte with a huge fourth quarter, winning it 36-13, turning a ten-point deficit into a 13-point win. Adam Morrison had his first good game for the Bobcats, shooting 8-15 (3-7 behind the arc) for 21 points (and, typically, doing nothing else: no rebounds, one assist, no steals, one block). The rest of the team, though, did nothing offensively, managing just 62 points. Raymond Felton had eight dimes (out-assisting even Brevin Knight), but 4-15 shooting and no free throws isn't pretty. Mike Miller showed Morrison how it's done, scoring 27 on just 13 shots, with 5-7 shooting behind the arc and six free throws (eight attempts). He also added nine rebounds, so he wasn't utterly useless on the other end of the court. The key, as in a few of the other games last night, was the shot disparity: the 'Cats actually outshot the Grizz by twelve percentage points, but Memphis managed to take 19 more shots overall by grabbing 19 offensive boards (just five for Charlotte) and turning the ball over six fewer times. Memphis also shot what you're supposed to shoot (24-28) from the charity stripe, allowing them to win eight points in that department compared to Charlotte despite shooting one fewer free throw. In the "big name rookie watch" department, Rudy Gay shot 0-4 in 14 minutes for Memphis.
- Chicago fell to 1-2, losing at home to Sacramento, who were led by Ron Artest (22 points, 13 boards), Mike Bibby (23 points, nine assists), and the kind-of out-of-nowhere Kevin Martin, now the starting two-guard for the Kings (30 points on just fifteen shots). The Kings held down Ben Gordon (2-7, five points, three turnovers) and Chris Duhon (3-10, six turnovers). It kind of looks like it was an ugly game, though. Artest shot just 7-20, clanked five treys, and committed five fouls. Bibby went 5-15, turned the ball over a whopping eleven times, and also had five fouls. Kenny Thomas shot 0-1 and fouled out. Shareef Abdur-Rahim committed five fouls off the bench. John Salmons got whistled four times in just eleven minutes. Luol Deng, in the midst of a good scoring night (29 points), committed five fouls. Kirk Hinrich had five more. Ty Thomas had four fouls in just six minutes off the bench. Victor Khryapa had three in nine minutes. The teams shot 37% and 41%, with the winning team shooting the lower number. Ugh.
- Minnesota improved to 2-0, sending Denver to 0-2 by turning a seven-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter into a three-point win. K.G. took care of business as usual, scoring 27 points on 16 shots, grabbed fifteen rebounds, and swatted three Nugget attempts. He also got good work from Ricky Davis (19 points on 6-11 shooting) and Craig Smith (20 points on 10-16 shooting in just 15 minutes off the bench). The Nuggets also had some great individual performances, with Carmelo going for 28 points and Earl Boykins matching that point total with just ten shots off the bench (13-15 from the line will do that) while adding seven dimes. The key to me looks like shot distribution. On a night when Earl Boykins, Andre Miller, Nene, and Kenyon Martin all shot pretty well, 'Melo missed seventeen shots all by himself, including five from behind the arc, while contributing just two assists (compared to four turnovers). This is the big reason why 'Melo is a clear (at best) third in the behind Wade and LeBron: he just shoots too damn much, and he doesn't do enough other things to make up for it (compared to LeBron's excellent all-around game especially).
- Phoenix dropped to a disappointing 1-2 as Utah won their second straight. This was another game where the losing team went into the fourth quarter with a not-insignificant lead (six points this time). The Sun starters went for all but 18 of the team's 108 points with a balanced effort: 22, 19, 17, 17, and 11 (Barbosa and Thomas at the front and back). The Suns didn't shoot very well, though, hitting just 41% of their shots, with Barbosa "leading the way" at 5-15, including 1-7 behind the arc. He did hit eleven free throws, though. The key looks like Utah's big men, who, as you'd expect (this is the plan for every team against the Suns now, particularly after what the Lakers did to them last year), pretty much took it to Phoenix: Kirilenko, Boozer, and Okur combined for 51 points and, most important, 37 rebounds, despite the AK-47 fouling out. The Jazz also balanced their scoring, though it was four starters and two benchies who went for 21, 18, 17, 17, 13, and 12. Raja Bell fouled out in just 32 minutes for the Suns, though Phoenix got whistled ten fewer times overall than Utah.
- Golden State killed Portland in Oakland, winning by 13. Michael Pietrus was the key off the bench for the Warriors, scoring sixteen points on 6-9 shooting and grabbing ten rebounds. Brandon Roy scored 19 for Portland despite shooting 5-16. My man Troy Murphy managed just two rebounds in 35 minutes, which is pretty terrible. Jamaal Magloire picked up two techs off the bench for the Blazers, though he managed 28 minutes and ten boards before getting run.