Thursday, Halloween, and Saturday in the NBA

By Jason Wojciechowski on November 2, 2008 at 2:37 PM

Cleveland walloped Charlotte in Charlotte's first game on Thursday. The names I'm watching in Charlotte didn't do much: D.J. Augustin had 12 points, two assists, four turnovers, and four fouls in 25 minutes; Adam Morrison had a respectable scoring game (9 points in 23 minutes) but added zero else: one board and one assist; and Alexis Ajinca played three minutes. LeBron did turn the ball over five times, he but he also went for 22/9/9, only shooting the ball 15 times, as Boobie Gibson was on his game, shooting 4/6 from downtown en route to 25 points off the bench. (Somehow he missed four of his five free throws, though, which is atrocious for anyone, but especially for a guard, and especially especially for a guard hitting 67% of his threes on the night.)

Houston's box score looks like a lot of Boston's from last year: one of the big three struggles, but the team still wins because the other two have good games. This time it was Tracy McGrady shooting just 3/10, but Yao had 30/13 on just 15 shots and Ron-Ron went for 29. This overcame a 36-point performance from Dirk and a double-double by Josh Howard.

It's almost old hat, but Chris Paul had a near-triple double in a win over Phoenix, racking up 20/8/10. Like LeBron, he turned the ball over five times as well, but the turnovers weren't fatal in part because the rest of the team combined to only turn the ball over five more times. Stevey Nash had an uncharacteristic seven turnover game, and Robin Lopez picked up three fouls in just two minutes for the Suns, which is pretty hard to do.

The Knicks took their first loss of the year on Friday, getting blown out (by 29) in Philly. The team's 13 steals to just ten turnovers was pretty much the only highlight. Philly's players played like they can: 24/14 with three blocks by Elton Brand, 20/7/8 for Andre Miller, and eight boards and four blocks for Sam Dalembert. Combine that with shooting off the bench (a combined 14/24 for Sour Lou Williams and Mean Willie Green) and maybe this team really can live up to the hype.

Toronto went to 2-0 in an overtime win over Golden State. Even with Ronny Turiaf and Stephen Jackson fouling out, Marco Belinelli, Marcus Williams, and Anthony Randolph couldn't sniff the floor. Andrea Bargnani shot 8/10 from the bench to help overcome Jermaine O'Neal's 2/10 night. O'Neal did contribute three blocks, so he wasn't useless.

Miami held Sacramento under 20 points for the first three quarters on their way to a 26-point win. Beno Udrih, fresh off a relatively big money extension signed to keep him in Sacramento, shot 1/7 and had five turnovers to just two assists in 22 minutes. Shawn Marion had a classic Matrix game: 13 points, 10 boards, three assists, four steals, and three blocks. Michael Beasley had 17/9: if he can average that for the year, the Heatians are going to be a lot better than some people thought they'd be. (On the other hand, the other half of the world is hyping them like there's no tomorrow because "Dwyane Wade is back and healthy!" They still won't be that good. Have you seen their bench?) Wade, by the way, kept up with Marion with 20 points, eight dimes, four blocks, and four steals his own self.

Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, and Ty Thomas combined for a brutal (SO BRUTAL) 7/37 shooting performance against Boston. We can guess who won this game.

Memphis edged Orlando, sending the Magic to 0-2 despite Hedo's 18/9/7 and Superman's 14/14. Rudy Gay managed to heave up 26 shots despite only winding up with 29 points. That, my friends, is efficiency. Darrell Arthur was 0-6 in 28 minutes as a starter for Memphis. This, remember, was the winning team! Arthur did have ten boards, however.

Denver won in overtime in L.A., against the Clippers. (The overtime game probably helped the Lakers beat them in Denver the next night. Thanks, Clippers!) Nene had 22/11 to go with three blocks before fouling out -- maybe he's back? J.R. Smith decided to rebound for some reason and grabbed ten boards to go with his 17 points. If Denver didn't blow, Smith would probably get mentioned in Sixth Man discussions, although that would be heavily influenced by the fact that he plays starter minutes off the bench (35 on Friday). Al Thornton had a ridiculous 30/11 game for the Clippers, with seven of those eleven coming on the offensive glass. Eric Gordon hit his first NBA field goal.

Portland edged San Antonio 100-99, sending the Spurs to 0-2. Roger Mason's 6/7 shooting off the bench for the Spurs is the only line that really jumps out at me.

My buddy Miggs and I own Joe Johnson in our fantasy league, and it looks like an inspired pick: 35 points last night en route to a victory over Philly, sending the Hawks to 2-0! Josh Smith had 14/11/3/3/2, which is basically a slightly below-average Josh Smith game. Craziness. Every starter was in double-digits for Philly, but nobody had more than 22 and they only got 10 from their bench. Elton Brand grabbed sixteen boards, though. He is the early league leader in that category and I wouldn't count him out in battling Dwight Howard for the top spot all year. (Joe Johnson, by the way, is leading the league in scoring.)

The Celtics took their first loss, going down by 16 in Indiana. Paul Pierce shot 3/15 and had five of the Celtics fourteen missed free throws. Rajon Rondo was an inexplicable 0-3 from the line. I understand the concept of not being a good field goal shooter in the NBA, because it's hard! Guys are in your face, the game is moving quickly, there's a lot of pressure, you're worried at the same time as you're shooting about rebounding and getting back on defense, and so on. But free throws are easy! Unless you have physical deformities like Shaq, you should be hitting your free throws. Especially if you're a guard. I don't know why teams don't just Hack-a-Rondo: every time he drives, wrap him up. Don't ever let him hit a layup.

Sacramento fell to 0-3 in Orlando despite Kevin Martin's 31points. The Magic had four starters score 20 points, with Jameer Nelson bringing up the rear with just 12. Josh Howard had 29 on just 14 shots to go with 14 boards and five blocks. Rashard Lewis? 26/7/6. Mickael Pietrus? 6/9 shooting. J.J. Redick had another ofer and is now 0/8 on the season. That's pitiful.

Michael Beasley paced Miami with 25, but Charlotte won anyway behind Gerald Wallace: 34/9/3/2/3, and just 16 shots. Emeka Okafor continued to look like Elton Brand Light (but only slightly Light) with 18/13. D.J. Augustin had a funny line off the bench: five assists, four turnovers, and five fouls in just 20 minutes. Adam Morrison shot 1/6, but did dish four dimes.

Detroit went to 2-0, beating Washington despite Nick Young's 23 points on 10 shots off the bench. Detroit outrebounded the Wizards by an absurd 49-24 margin. The Pistons had 16 offensive boards. The Wizards had 19 defensive. When you've got only a 50/50 shot of picking up a rebound on your own defensive glass, you're going to lose the game.

Detroit's box score is full of fun lines: Tayshaun? 1/5 shooting. Amir Johnson? Five fouls in eleven minutes. Chauncey Billups? 2/8 shooting. (Eight dimes, though.) Rasheed had a 7/9 shooting day, including 2/3 from downtown, winding up with 17 points, 12 boards, and six blocked shots. The bench mob came together for the Pistons, shooting 22/34, including 4/4 from Kwame Brown, 4/5 from Jason Maxiell, and 6/9 from Walter Herrmann, who also added seven boards and four assists. Move over Manu Ginobli!

Andris Biedrins shot 8/11 on the way to a Golden State victory over the Nets. Bets on whether six of those eight were dunks? Josh Boone had 17/14 in 27 minutes as a starter for Jersey, including nine offensive boards. He was, however, one of five Nets to pick up five or more fouls, which group includes Brook Lopez, who fouled out in just 19 minutes. It was a surprisingly productive nineteen minutes, though, as Lopez had 10 points, eight boards, two steals, and two blocks. Maybe these Lopez boys can play after all? For some reason, Sean Williams has fallen into the doghouse in Jersey, as he didn't get off the bench for the Nets and has yet to play this year. He's a high-energy guy who can rebound and dunk, and this is a team mostly lacking in size, so you'd think they could use him.

New Orleans went to 3-0, sending Cleveland home with its tail between its legs. LeBron had thirteen assists in the game, but nobody on the Cavs scored more than 18 points. The Hornets did what they do: Chris Paul had 24 points (on just 13 shots) and 15 dimes, David West scored 25, and James Posey hit 4/5 from downtown off the bench to go with six boards and four steals. Posey's contract will look like an albatross in three years, but that's the price the Hornets knew they were going to pay in order to have him on the squad this season and next. So far it's working out.

Rashad McCants shot 6/8 from the bench in Minnesota's loss to Dallas. That's really the only notable line, and I'm sure the game was exactly as scintillating as the box score is.

Chicago beat Memphis by nearly the same score that Dallas beat Minny (96-86 vs. 95-85). The teams combined to shoot in the 40% range, which is awesome. Drew Gooden did grab twenty rebounds, though, becoming the first player to pull that off this season. Ty Thomas had a line full of fives: five blocks, five boards, and 0-5 shooting.

Houston moved to 3-0, sending the Sonics to 0-2 despite Kevin Durant's 26 points. The Rockets shot 36.4% and still won by 12. The NBA: It's Fa .... bleh.

Toronto, surprisingly enough, is now 3-0 after beating the Bucks. Jose Calderon had 25 points and nine assists. Luc Mbah a Moute had a solid game off the bench for Milwaukee, shooting 4/7 with two boards, an assist, a steal, and two blocks in twenty minutes. He's that kind of rangy 6'8" small forward who could be a "box score filler" in the league.

The Clippers fell to 0-3 in Utah as Al Thornton followed up his magnificent night with with a five-point stinker. Eric Gordon shot 1-1 again, this time hitting a three. Carlos Boozer continued to put the Jazz on his back in Deron Williams's absence, putting up 25/10. AK47 did this again: 11/9/4/2/3. I'm very afraid of Utah.

Portland continued its early rough schedule by losing in Phoenix. Amare had 23/13 and Shaq had 16 points on eight shots, helping Phoenix to a 55% shooting night.

Finally, the Lakers moved to 3-0 in Denver despite shooting 38%. They outrebounded the Nuggets 53-38, most of that gap being a 15-3 edge on the offensive glass. L.A. also shot 13 more free throws than Denver, paced by Kobe's 10/12, but including seven for Vlad-Rad and six apiece for Bynum and Ariza. Bynum struggled with fouls, picking up five in just 21 minutes, but he managed eight rebounds anyway. Josh Powell filled in ably, shooting 2/3 and grabbing four boards in seven minutes. If Powell can do that kind of work, this team will once again be eleven or twelve deep, which is absurd. The front nine are all valuable players without question -- the only thing to be asked is "who's #9, Vujacic or Farmar?" Luke Walton can give a few minutes here and there and be solid and Chris Mihm remains my favorite white center in basketball (now that Pau is a power forward). That's nine good players and two useful ones. The question mark was Powell, but he's giving all indication that he can join Mihm and Walton on the "useful" list.

Actually, L.A. even goes deeper, since D.J. Mbenga is #13, inactive but available to be #12 if a big gets hurt (and misses work). I'm not sure Mbenga qualifies as "useful" in the same way that Powell or Walton does, but he's at least a big body who can bang a man on defense and grab a few boards. (#14, by the way, is Sun Yue, who's clearly a stash job -- if he gets a single minute in a Laker uniform this season, (a) I will be shocked; (b) the Lakers will have sustained massive injuries and be on their way to missing the playoffs entirely.)