NBA 11/18 by Jason Wojciechowski Saturday, November 25, 2006, 05:44 AM
Miami squeaked one out against Atlanta, winning in overtime. The game was clean in terms of turnovers (14 and 11), but it was a brick-fest, with the Hawks having the higher shooting percentage of the teams at 37.1%. Four guys ended up in double digits in rebounds, with Udonis Haslem leading the way with 17 (he also added 21 points, second only to Dwyane Wayne on the team).
Josh Smith had a nice line for the Hawks, with 16 points, thirteen boards, four blocks, and two steals.
Joe Johnson's poor shooting from the floor can be excused, because no one was exactly pouring it in, but missing six of his eleven free throws really cost the Hawks, it seems.
Orlando won again, beating Charlotte by fourteen. Forget Adam Morrison, Jameer Nelson, Darko, Grant Hill, Ray Felton. Forget everyone but Emeka Okafor vs. Dwight Howard. Okafor's undersized compared to Howard, which is probably what caused him to lose the rebound battle 21-9 (yes, Dwight Howard had 21 boards), but offensively, you can't complain about 13-15 shooting, especially against a monster inside like Howard, one who has far more defensive skills than offensive at this point. That said, Howard's 7-12 shooting and thirteen trips to the free throw line (leading to 24 points) show that he's learned a lot on the offensive side of the floor.
By the way, I know I said forget Darko, but he had a nice all-around game off the bench for Orlando, with 14 points, eight boards, three assists, two steals, and four blocks. Maybe he'll never be a star worth of the #2 pick, but I think he's showing that it was far too early to call him a bust. I can absolutely see him pulling a Mehmet Okur in a few years. (And don't forget where Okur got his start, just like Darko.)
Washington beat Cleveland, led by a prolific Gilbert Arenas night: 45 points, 7-11 from three, and six assists for good measure. When you shoot that well from three and get to the line twelve times, you can score a lot of points with just 22 shots, which is great for your efficiency rating.
LeBron, by contrast, needed twenty shots to get his twenty points, and nobody really picked him up: Big Z was the next-highest scorer, with 16 points.
Houston lost to Detroit as Yao and Tracy got no help. Those two combined for 57 points, helped by Yao's 20 trips to the foul line (and 16 boards, to boot), but the rest of the team shot 12-35. In addition Yao out-turnover'd the Pistons' entire team by a count of 8-6. Rip Hamilton had 30, eight boards, and seven assists, with just 18 shots, to lead the Pistons.
Portland beat New Jersey in the swamp by holding the Nets to 68 points, with just eight of those coming in the first quarter. Zach Randolph had 20 and 16, which wasn't dominant enough the other night (higher-scoring game), but was enough this time around, particularly on the boards, where the next-highest rebounder for either team was Antoine Wright with eight. The Nets hit exactly 1/3 of their shots, which is all you need to know.
Boston beat the Knicks 122-118. That sounds, at first glance, like a fun game until you realize that there were 69 fouls whistled, leading to 113 free throws being shot. The Knicks actually shot under 40%, and Boston didn't crack 43%, so it wasn't like this was some up-and-down-the-court, balls-to-the-wall kind of offensive fun-fest. Instead, you had Wally World, Delonte West, Quentin Richardson, Steve Francis, David Lee, and Nate Robinson all fouling out, and Sebastian Telfair coming close. You had four guys shooting ten or more free throws (Paul Pierce, Ryan Gomes, Francis, and Robinson), with Telfair again coming close. Let's just move on.
New Orleans beat Minnesota, sending the Wolves to their sixth loss out of nine games. Kevin Garnett seems to be struggling from the floor (9-23 here), though his other game seems to be present, with 17 boards and five assists in this game. Troy Hudson's 4-5 shooting from three, for 20 points, made him the "second banana who's not enough" du jour.
Chris Paul poured in 35 points, though is 6-5 assist-to-turnover ratio wasn't scintillating. I guess he can't be perfect every night. We'll have to settle for 85% of the time, I guess.
Dallas beat Memphis, who lost their eighth game out of nine, despite Rudy Gay having the first good game I remember him having, leading the team with 23 points, grabbing seven boards, and picking up three steals. The guys I named in the last post as the ones who are supposed to lead the team, Mike Miller, Hakim Warrick, and Chucky Atkins, combined to shoot 10-38, with Warrick's 1-13 being especially egregious.
Dirk had 24 points and 13 boards, leading the game in both categories. Who needs threes if he's going to shoot 10-10 from the line, I guess?
Indiana edged Milwaukee by two, evening the Pacers' record at fives. Jermaine O'Neal finally had a strong game with 20 points, 12 boards, eight blocks, and four assists.
Mo Williams moved to the starting lineup for the Bucks, and finished one rebound short of a triple double, but it looks like Michael Redd got the ball in good spots, as he took just 14 shots, two fewer than Williams himself. Until / unless Andrew Bogut develops into a real offensive force, the Bucks have to get Redd the ball in places where he can bury that sweet jumper of his if they want to win. Of course, everyone else knows that and just keys in on denying him the ball with their defense. Which means that Redd is going to have to respond with a Rip Hamilton-like array of off-the-ball moves. On the other hand, Hamilton has a couple of very good offensive teammates to draw some heat. Mo Williams and Andrew Bogut (to say nothing of Ersan Ilyasova ... who?) don't generate the same kind of respect.
Denver beat Toronto in a shootout, with Carmelo Anthony leading the Nuggets. His 34 points were tops in the game, leading the seven players on his team who scored in double digits.
TJ Ford had a remarkable 26 points and 18 assists for Toronto, and Chris Bosh had 31, but letting the other team score 117 points negates a lot of offensive highlights. Jorge Garbajosa started for the Raptors instead of Rasho Nesterovic (who played just nine minutes), and had a very nice 17 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. It's very possible that Rasho just saw his career slip through is fingers. Which is unsurprising, if his fingers are as stiff as the rest of his game.
Utah won its ninth game, the kind that Jerry Sloan probably hates, beating Phoenix in overtime by a 120-117 count. Four players fouled out in the game, but the Suns felt the brunt of it, losing Boris Diaw, Amare Stoudemire, and Raja Bell, while the Jazz lost only Paul Milsap, who's not even a starter (though he has been very good this year, especially in AK-47's absence, as his 18-point, 10-board performance in this game shows). Deron Williams had 25 points and 14 assists while Carlos Boozer added 22 and 16 boards.
Leandro Barbosa had eleven assists, but also seven turnovers and twelve missed shots. Nobody else really had a bad game, which just backs up the fact that team defense is what beat the Suns in this game: letting Utah take ten more shots and make 50% overall is going to hurt.
Golden State continues to surprise, beating up on hapless Seattle by 12. It looks like Seattle responded to the Warriors' four-guard lineup by going small themselves, starting Earl Watson along with Ray Allen and Luke Ridnour in the backcourt. The Warriors in return, went even smaller, using their usual starting five, but only letting two players get off the bench: swingman Mike Dunleavy (who's tall, but plays small) and 6'2" guard Keith McLeod.
All of these machinations aside, it always comes down to the players. Monta Ellis and Ray Allen went toe-to-toe, scoring 31 and 34, respectively. Allen was also doing all the rebounding for his team, with eleven boards. The next-highest player, Rashard Lewis, had seven. Ellis actually had seven boards himself, but that was fourth on his team.
The game featured the only Mickael vs. Mickael matchup I've ever seen, with Pietrus for the Warriors and Gelabale (a 6'7" rookie forward from France) for the Sonics. The latter played six minutes, but put up an all-zeroes box score, while Pietrus had nineteen points and twelve rebounds. The lesson? If you have to pick a Mickael on the playground, get the one from Guadeloupe, not the one from mainland France.
The Clippers beat the Sixers in overtime. Elton Brand had another MVP game, with 33 points, 12 boards, and four steals, overcoming Allen Iverson's 29 points and nine assists. Sam Cassell shot poorly (3-14), but he was matched by Andre Igoudala (4-14).