The eighth of the month saw the Lakers in the second game of a back-to-back, traveling to Portland. They shot well (47.1%), but that's about the extent of the good news. The Blazers out-rebounded L.A. (36-28), out-stole them (13-4), out-foul-shot them (33-23), and out-shot them (51.5%). That last number is especially damning. It's the rare team that can win in this league when you let the other team shoot over 50%.
Zach Randolph, as you might have heard, had the monster night (again - he's been doing this repeatedly, and looks juvenated, maybe the point of early MVP talk) with 36 points, 10 boards, three steals, and even a three-pointer. Nobody else on the team shot more than nine times (that was Martell Webster, who jacked up six threes but made just one), which implies that Portland was just dumping the ball down low every time and waiting until the Lakers could stop it. Which they apparently couldn't. Andrew Bynum, showing that, as exciting as he's been, he's still a rookie, fouled out in just 21 minutes. Remember that the Lakers don't have anyone backing him up at this point. Ronny Turiaf committed four fouls in 18 minutes, implying that he was also on Randolph. And if anyone else had to guard Zach (Lamar? Brian Cook? Vlad wince Radmanovic?), you just have to shake your head.
Kobe Bryant was 12-19 for 32 points, but he continued to be turnover prone, losing six balls. Lamar Odom also had six turnovers, but didn't make up for it with the points, scoring just 11.
Luke Walton was the other bright spot, scoring 22 points on 8-16 shooting and adding four assists, two steals, and a block. He also didn't turn the ball over. I'm telling you, Phil, just put the ball in Cool's hands.
Ten other games:
Orlando and Seattle went to the final quarter tied and the Magic wound up winning by one. Hedo Turkoglu hit a "lucky" (according to him) fadeaway at the buzzer to win the game, giving him his 17th and 18th points (for the team lead, tied with Jameer Nelson). Dwight Howard had his usual ten boards, and Grant Hill has apparently turned into a jump-shooter who doesn't get the ball that much: 6-11 shooting, 12 points, 0-2 from the free throw line. Ray Allen had 21 for the Sonics, and Chris Wilcox managed five steals, but it's tough to win when you lose the shooting battle 54% to 41.6%. Only by taking fourteen more shots did Seattle manage to stay close (+9 in the o-board battle and +4 in turnovers will do that). When you have numbers like that, you end up saying that the winning team got a little lucky no matter who it is: either you gave up a ton more shots and thus shouldn't have won, or else you got ridiculously out-percentaged and thus shouldn't have won. But somebody has to win.
Washington was a no-doubter over Indiana, finishing the game up 26. Gilbert Arenas poured in 40 on 14-20 shooting, and the rest of the guys lived up to Crazy Gilbert's example, helping the Bullets to shoot 51.8%, compared to just 38.6% for the Pacers. Jermaine O'Neal was out with an ankle, so Al Harrington led the team in scoring with 23, but Stephen Jackson has to do more: 2-9 for five points doesn't cut it.
Toronto beat Philly by two, with Chris Bosh hitting a three with six seconds left as the deciding points. Bosh hit two treys in the game. This reportedly represents a new dimension for him, which is kind of scary: he scored 29 in the game and added fourteen rebounds. He has to be that good for the Raptors to win, because he's really got nothing around him. The team as a whole shot just over 40%, and nobody else had more than six rebounds. They did take care of the ball, though, with just ten turnovers. Allen Iverson scored 35 in a losing effort, and added ten assists. It's a tough game for Philly to lose, because they outshot the Raptors by nearly 10% and got a bunch of good performances: Willie Green going 5-7, Steven Hunter shooting 4-4 with three swats, Chris Webber with 13 boards and six dimes, and Samuel Dalembert with eighteen boards and five blocks (before fouling out). Iverson missing six threes and Webber shooting just 7-19 are the only offensive negatives that really jump out.
The Celtics won by two in overtime, overcoming Emeka Okafor's 28-point, 18-rebound game for Charlotte. In a game this close, you look for the guys who missed shots, and that's Adam Morrison this time around: he got to the line eleven times, making eight, but shot just 2-11 from the field. Paul Pierce and Wally World were the entire team for Boston, scoring 35 apiece, with both guys getting to the line (10-12, 9-10), and Wally getting it done from behind the arc (4-7). Pierce had a really fun triple-double: 35 points, 13 rebounds (again, when did he turn into a board monster?), and 12 turnovers. I've never seen that before. Fantastically, Ryan Gomes had an actual triple-double for the Celts, with a Jason Kidd-like 10 points, 12 boards, and 10 dimes. Gomes didn't turn the ball over once.
New Jersey beat Utah by seven, which remains the Jazz's only loss of the year. The three stars got it done, as Richard Jefferson scored 23 on 5-11 shooting (oh that free throw line), Vince Carter scored 30 despite shooting 10-24, and Jason Kidd added 15 (though he had a very un-Kidd-like two dimes). Andrei Kirilenko is looking more and more like Ben Wallace in the box scores: eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks, but 2-10 shooting for just six points. Six guys went in double digits for Utah, but none had more than 15 points. Carlos Boozer had seven assists from the power-forward spot, which isn't something you see every day.
Houston won again, beating Milwaukee despite the Bucks winning the fourth quarter by 13. Tracy McGrady had the big game for the Rockets, scoring 32. Yao took a ton more shots than he usually does, 24 of them, but made just ten (he's normally a very high percentage shooter), and he didn't really get to the line, so he finished with "only" 23. Michael Redd scored 34, and Charlie Bell added 22 off the bench, but no one else scored more than nine for Milwaukee. The Bucks also got out-rebounded by ten, as only Dan Gadzuric (12 off the bench) had more than five.
The Spurs beat Phoenix, but it took an overtime period to do so. Amare Stoudemire started for the Suns, and shot a very nice 8-11, but played just fifteen minutes before fouling out, so he didn't have nearly the effect the Suns would like him to have. Steve Nash had his usual 20 and 11, and Shawn Marion grabbed 16 boards, but Marion's offensive game was off, as he hit just four shots, was 0-5 behind the arc, and didn't get to the free-throw line. Fabricio Oberto had a remarkable game for the winners, shooting 11-11 and grabbing ten boards. He also didn't make it to the line, but does it matter if you shoot 100%? Tim Duncan had 26 and 14 and Tony Parker had 29, with six dimes and four steals. Ho hum. The Spurs, very uncharacteristically, shot 22-25 from the free-throw line. Only Duncan missed from the stripe.
The Knicks won in Denver by outscoring the Nuggets by 12 in the final period. Jamal Crawford and 'Melo squared off in this one, with Jamal scoring 35 points and adding seven assists and six rebounds (but turning the ball over seven times), while 'Melo had 37 points (18 trips to the line), with eight assists, six rebounds, and three steals. Channing Frye had another awful game, shooting 2-11. The bench was the difference for the Knicks: they shot 14-22 and grabbed 22 boards. Energetic White Guy (TM) David Lee had ten of those rebounds in 23 minutes.
The Clippers beat Dallas by 18 in L.A. Dallas is off to a horrible start. Dirk grabbed 12 rebounds, but shot just 7-20, and only Jason Terry had his back, with a 9-18 night. Stack? 5-12. Devin Harris? 2-7, five dimes. The bench? 18 points. And who's going to stop Cat Mobley? 10-15 for 28 points, and four steals. Beyond Cat, only E.T. Cassell shot well (8-15) for the Clippers, but it didn't matter, with Dallas shooting under 40% and forcing just nine L.A. turnovers in the game.
Do the Pistons miss Ben Wallace? Sacramento scored 99 on them, winning by 13 in Cali. Kevin Martin went off again, shooting 10-16 for 30 points, and he and Mike Bibby got to the line a combined 19 times. That implies that they weren't afraid to go inside against Rasheed Wallace and Nazr Mohammed. It didn't help Detroit that Tayshaun Prince (3-13) and Rip (5-12) weren't that good offensively.