Posted on: November 15, 2010 5:53 pm
Posted by Royce Young
We're not there yet, but pretty soon, we'll be at the point in the season where we can quit saying, "Hey, it's still early." Pretty soon, the early season trends we've seen will no longer be potential anomalies, but actual cold hard facts in figuring out who's good and who's not.
But it's still early. We're not there yet. Though we're not far off. And part of getting there is taking in the information we've got. So here are five things to have been learned from the last week in the NBA.
Remember the Spurs? You probably aren't thinking about them. You're thinking about the Hornets who impressively moved to 8-0 over the weekend. You're thinking about the Lakers who despite losing two straight, look really, really good. You're thinking about if anyone can hang with a healthy Celtics squad. You're thinking about what's going on with the Heat.
But you probably aren't thinking about the San Antonio Spurs.
If you had to guess, what do you think their record is? Don't look. If I hadn't just watched them play Sunday night, I would've probably said 6-3. Maybe 7-2. Nope, the Spurs are 8-1 with only a loss to the undefeated Hornets. And they are winners of seven straight.
Every year without fail, we all try and write them off. We try and say, "Nah, this is when they get too old." But every year, again without fail, the Spurs are right there.
They are off to their best start since their last championship season in 2007-08 and have a roster that's completely clicking. Richard Jefferson is providing the extra scoring punch needed. Tony Parker is totally healthy and looking like his old self. Tim Duncan is settling in to a role that suits his older self perfectly. And the bench has guys like Matt Bonner (7-7 from 3 against Oklahoma City Sunday), Gary Neal and George Hill that can make an impact any given night.
It's just another boring old Spurs team again this season. And that's what makes them so dangerous.
It's time to talk about Michael Beasley. Before the season started, most agreed that Beasley getting away from South Beach and moving north was probably a good thing. And then David Kahn said Beasley stopped smoking pot, so of course there we all are expecting big things from him.
But he started slow. He was playing like his former inconsistent Heat self putting up 21 one night and six the next. So naturally, we all immediately forgot about Beasley and moved back to complaining about Kevin Love's playing time.
Except look at Beasley's last week. 42, 35 and 25, bumping his season average to 20.5 a game. He's scored at least 15 points in six straight games, is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3 and is getting to the line a decent amount.
What we're seeing right now is what we heard would happen all summer. Beasley can be a team's top option. Albeit, maybe a top option on a bad team, but a top option nonetheless.
He's a dynamic player that can balance the small and power forward positions extremely well, going inside and out. He's far more athletic than he appears and truly has a mature NBA game. It's always been the stuff upstairs that has held him back, but as of now, he looks to be figuring it all out.
Is this something we'll see all season? Hard to say. But today, Nov. 15, 2010, Michael Beasley is looking like a legitimately good NBA scorer.
The Heat are far from invincible. I think the rest of the league may send gift baskets to Boston. In two games, not only have they shown the blueprint for beating Miami, but they've executed it so perfectly that it's almost hard for teams to not try and replicate.
Basically, it's simple: turn them into a halfcourt team and move the ball offensively, making them work every possession. Eventually, your shots will come and the Heat will start taking bad ones, sinking into a one-on-one style game.
Again, too early to really draw any huge conclusions. We're watching a team that's a favorite to win the East, but is facing an unprecedented situation. It's almost an entirely new roster. No sport works as much off chemistry and knowing the guy next to you and his tendencies than basketball. And the Heat are essentially learning entirely on the fly.
Against the bad teams, they've overwhelmed them with speed, talent, size and everything else. They've absolutely suffocated teams and overpowered them. They've looked like an unstoppable force. But against teams with a scheme, a plan and some equal talent, the Heat have looked confused, befuddled and overmatched. All symptoms of a group getting by on talent alone and playing out of sync.
But give it two more weeks. If a consistent style of play isn't there and a real idea behind what they're trying to accomplish, that big red panic button might be getting a dusting off.
Good thing nobody panicked in Utah. It was just a few weeks ago, I sat here writing something about the Jazz's 0-2 start and how nobody should worry, but in the kind of tone that sort of suggested maybe you should worry.
Well, don't worry. The Jazz are good. Really good.
Yeah, they keep digging themselves in weird holes early. But the way in which they're digging out makes them look even that more impressive. They are one of those teams that really looks like it ha a switch to flip on and boom, they're playing well.
Utah basically demolished the entire upper scale of the Eastern Conference in one wave of the hand, beating Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte all on the road in a week's time. If that doesn't impress you, well, you're probably a Laker fan.
But it was so bright just a week ago. The Knicks were at 3-2 with a slate of very winnable games directly ahead of them. Thinking of a 6-4 start definitely wasn't out of the question, and really, fantasizing past that wasn't too much of a stretch. Philly, Milwaukee, Golden State, Minnesota and Houston were waiting and the Knicks felt good about a decent start to the 2010-11 campaign.
Except they lost all five. And then there was that whole Kevin Love 31 rebounds thing.
It was definitely premature to think the Knicks were to turn everything around this quickly. Amar'e Stoudemire was a big addition, but he hasn't been playing great and in order for the Knicks to be anything, Stoudemire needs to be excellent.
New York's offense is predicated on making shots and in order to make them, they need open ones. Mike D'Antoni had a point guard that was terrific at creating those in Phoenix, but Raymond Felton doesn't quite have that same knack.
It's too early on to write the Knicks off yet because the back end of the East appears to be wide open in the seventh and eight spots, but with a four-game road trip ahead, those illusions of a 6-4 start may quickly be the reality of a 3-11 one.
Posted on: November 14, 2010 12:51 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:43 pm
The Utah Jazz completed five straight double-digit come-from-behind victories in one week. Posted by Ben Golliver.
It's been one heck of a week for the Utah Jazz, who played five games in seven days and managed to win every single one of them. A 5-0 week is always special, but you won't find many like this in the NBA. Let's break it down for a minute. The Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats. The Jazz defeated the Clippers at home and then reeled off four straight road victories. In the Heat, Magic and Hawks you have three surefire playoff teams, and the Bobcats should be in contention as well when all is said and done. Adding a degree of difficulty, the wins over Miami and Orlando came on a back-to-back, as did the victories over Atlanta and Charlotte. Ridiculous. To make the feat even more impressive, none of the five games was a runaway victory that would have allowed the Jazz some time to rest their key players. On the contrary, the Jazz edged the Clippers by two points in double-overtime, squeaked past the Heat by two points in overtime, pulled away from the Magic at the end for a 10 point win, slipped past the Hawks by four points and topped the Bobcats by a single point. Add it all up and that's a average margin of victory of just 3.8 points. But, wait, there's more. All five victories came in come-from-behind fashion. Double-digit come-from-behind fashion.
And Utah’s confidence is so high after five consecutive comebacks that Williams answered the first question during his postgame interview by joking about his team’s recent penchant for late-game heroics after climbing out of deep, early holes.
“It’s just what we like to do. It’s our plan,” Williams said. “Just let teams get up us on 20 and then come back on ‘em.”Yuk away, Deron. You earned it with that week. To celebrate, the Jazz get a single day off on Sunday before hosting MVP candidate Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, winners of three of their last four, in Utah on Monday night.
Posted on: November 12, 2010 10:06 pm
Jazz topple Atlanta for their third road trip against Eastern powerhouse. Posted by Matt Moore
Three road games against three of the top teams in the East. Heat. Magic. Hawks.
Three wins for the Utah Jazz who every day look more and more like a Western Conference contender. Down multiple possessions with under four minutes to go, the Jazz did what they've done consistently this season. Keep coming, take the lead, keep the lead, get the win, this time over the Hawks 90-86 (GameTracker ). Deron Williams at one point scored 11 straight points for the Jazz on his way to 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 10 assists. That's how they roll. Of particular note in the first half, Williams crossed over two Hawks, split the lane and jammed it. With time closing in the first quarter, the Hawks freaked out trying to prevent Williams from getting an assist and in doing so, left him wide open at the arc. Kaboom.
Paul Milsap only had 11 and 6, but this was an Al Jefferson night. Jefferson looked very much like he was starting to fit in with the team, especially with Williams on the pick and roll, on his way to 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. His passing was superb, getting it inside to Milsap, and out for mid-range J's.
Despite all that the Hawks led for much of the second half behind an other-worldly performance from Josh Smith. 20 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks for JSmoove, and he was working it in the post and getting to the line. The Hawks shot 49% from the field and still lost. A tough loss, but that's how the Jazz operate. Silent but deadly, the Beasts of the East, in the Western Conference.
The Jazz have so much movement on their offense and while teams in the past few years may have had more perceived talent, Utah has a set of players that right now are playing tremendously well together. Kyrylo Fesenko had 5 assists. Because that makes sense in this world. You've got to think Jerry Sloan is an early coach of the year candidate. The Jazz finish their road trip tomorrow for their fourth game in five nights against the Bobcats.
Oh, and on November 24th, the Jazz travel to New Orleans. You know, if you're interested.
Posted on: November 11, 2010 10:17 am
Edited on: November 11, 2010 1:06 pm
Durant doing fine at the bank, Knicks decide to love Lee still, and is Splitter a good defender?
Posted by Matt Moore
Posted on: November 11, 2010 12:51 am
Do wins over the Heat and Magic on a back-to-back road trip make the Jazz giant killers or simply masters of parlor tricks they can't rely on? Survey says: Jazz fans don't care. Posted by Matt Moore
Jazz Giant Killer's Or Lucky Strikes?
You'd think that knocking off two of the best teams in the East, championship contenders both, on back to back nights, on the road, would clear up the angle of who the Jazz are. You'd think that surviving a LeBron James triple-double, a 39 point outburst from Dwyane Wade, and a 20 point night from Vince Carter would give the Jazz an air of invincibility.
But it wouldn't be the Jazz if the didn't leave just the slightest hint of doubt in the minds of neutral observers, enough to plant seeds of skeptical criticism and enabling Jazz fans to rally behind their team as the underrated superstars once again. Meet the New Jazz. Kind of like the Old Jazz. Only kind of better, so far.
The disturbing signs about the Jazz are based on probablities. Losing to the Magic in a close one would have actually seemingly cemented the win over Miami as legitimate, because it wouldn't be seen as a fluke. Instead, the Jazz now have back-to-back road victories on a back-to-back against two of the top 3 teams in the East (common sense, not record-wise). And that just seems improbable. It seems improbable that they survived James' triple-double and Wade's outpouring, that they managed to get Dwight Howard in foul trouble and still overcome Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson having it going. Mostly it seems improbable that they could do all of this after going down by 15+ in each of the two games.
So the question is there.
Is this for real?
The Jazz started off remarkably slow this season, with losses to Denver and Phoenix. But a big Halloween night win over the Thunder seemed to spur them into a wakeup call, and since then they've only lost once in November, and that was to a Golden State team that no longer is an unforgiveable loss. But no one could have seen this coming. Well, except Jerry Sloan. Sloan was his usual self after the game, unmoved by his team's performance. Happy with the win, sure, but he's been around the block too many times to get too worked up, though he made time to praise his point guard. As he should; Deron Williams was simply phenomenal.
Stan Van Gundy called the loss "disturbing" and he should refer to it that way. Not just for the Magic who saw Dwight Howard turn into Clark Kent getting pummeled by the suddenly superhuman Paul Millsap, but for the rest of the league and those that try and make sense of it. Are the Jazz this good? Was this just a fluke, again? Does Utah have something special going on here even in November, or was this just an anomaly on their way to where most predict them, a mid-level playoff seed and a second round exit at the hands of the Lakers again?
Playing from a deficit makes for great blog fodder and warms the hearts of fans, but it's also not a sustainable strategy. Eventually you'll dig a hole you can't climb out of, and when that happens, you'll find yourself regretting you need the shovel at all. But at the same time, the energy, enthusiasm, and burgeoning chemistry can't be denied on a team that managed to make the Magic look meek and the Heat seem sub-zero in the fourth quarters of both games. And so we'll continue to wonder if the Jazz are giant killers or just mosquitoes that managed to catch the goliaths napping long enough to draw blood.
After all, there were plenty of people saying the victory over the Heat Tuesday night was a fluke based on the perimeter prowess of Paul Millsap. Those same people will question how reliable it is to depend on the Magic to surrender 21 turnovers. In both games against the Sunshine Behemoths the Jazz were out-rebounded and faced significant deficits in field goal percentage. And in both games they seemed to go on a near-psychotic rush to pull the game back within reach. Those same people will question if this is a reliable strategy. But at the end of the day it was reliable enough to net them wins over two teams that aren't going to have too many losses come April.
And consider this: the Jazz are still integrating new players, too, and with the rest of their division looking weak early on, the Jazz are giving themselves an opportunity to do something big by winning games they're not supposed to.
But then, that's why we play them, isn't it?
Posted on: November 10, 2010 10:06 am
Edited on: November 10, 2010 12:07 pm
Was the Jazz win a fluke or a sign of the Heat's cooler underbelly? Did the Hornets just win with their bench? And are the Cavs leading their freaking division? All this and more in today's GameChanger .
Posted by Matt Moore
Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: JAZZ PULL A FAST ONE ON THE HEAT
So the question is... was this fluke a not? Because the implications are rather significant. Let's not, for a moment, take anything away from the Utah Jazz. They were on the road, in a hostile sleepy environment, and they simply scratched, clawed, and pounded their way to a win over the most star-studded team in the NBA. Down by 20 last night, they roared back in a 72-point second half to defeat the Heat. A huge win for coach Jerry Sloan, a win the team needed, and an amazing night for Jazz fans that shows their tenacity, their heart, and their talent.
The Heat won the rebounding battle, 46-44. The Heat split the turnover battle, with each team losing it a dozen times, nothing too egregious. The Heat fouled only 20 times to the Jazz' 32. And until the fourth quarter, they held a significant advantage in shooting percentage, with the Jazz shooting 41% to the Heat's 47%. There were a lot of things that would have to go right in the fourth for the Jazz to force overtime.
For starters, the Jazz shot 17 of 23 in the fourth, not Indiana numbers , but still an absurd streak. This was of course capped off by Paul Millsap. Millsap entered last night's game a career 2 of 20 3-point shooter (10%). In the final minute of the game, he drained three 3-pointers, making him perfect on the season, as they were the only 3-pointers he's taken this season. Swish. Swish. Swish. Throw on top of that the 46 point detonation he leveled with the other 37 points, including the two on the tip in to force overtime, and you have an amazing night for Millsap, and a huge outlier in terms of predictable results. The Heat suddenly found themselves dropped from an airplane and happened to land right in the middle of a tornado. That's what we're talking about here in terms of probabilities.
So was it a fluke?
I don't think so.
We see the same pattern carried out across the Heat's three losses. A scoring forward down low who's able to use his size to create points amid the barren trees of Miami (tall, sure, but not great defenders). And a point guard who can tear you up (Deron Williams tallied 14 assists last night). In Boston it was Rondo and Glen Davis; in New Orleans it was Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor. Now Millsap-Williams scratch their names onto the tree trunk of inside-out combos that have cooled the Heat. Furthermore, we see the same kind of discombobulation we've seen all season, especially in crunch time, the same reliance on sub-par players to take the biggest shots ("Eddie House for the win... clang!"), the same lackadaisical performance out of the Heat mentally, and the same defensive breakdowns in the biggest moments.
Adding to the improbability of the night was the fact that the Triad gave the kind of performance you'd want from them. Dwyane Wade had 39 and 6 rebounds, LeBron James had a triple-double with 20, 11 boards, and 14 assists, and Chris Bosh had 17 and 9. And they still lost .
The Jazz needed a few more things go their way in this one, that's for sure. The problem is the Heat handed the Jazz those things on a platter. And trying to establish exactly how to resolve those things isn't going to be easy for head coach Erik Spoelstra, who's got to be feeling a little hot this morning either way.
Great win for the Jazz, tough loss for the Heat.
GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:
Paul Millsap: Yeah, we'll go ahead and notch him down with 46 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block.
LaMarcus Aldridge: 19 points, 17 rebounds, and Aldridge seems more and more like he's taken a big step into becoming a legit big.
Kevin Love: 23 points, 24 rebounds. Amazing what happens when a good player gets playing time, isn't it?
Dwyane Wade: 39 points, 6 rebounds. Hard to argue that Wade didn't do his part last night.
LeBron James: 20 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists. His first triple-double as a member of the Heat. And again, they lost. So weird.
Al Farouq Aminu: 20 points, 8 rebounds. Look at the rookie make progress!
WHAT YOU MISSED:
Brandon Roy had his knee drained .
Our Power Rankings are out , and we went 3-Up, 3-Down .
Oh, and the Pacers went freaking En Fuego .
KB lays out how the Bret Bearup situation affects Melo .
HORNETS KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON (WINNING)
This time they didn't even need Chris Paul to be amazing. The Hornets had every reason for a let-down game after their last week and hot start. Hey, they've got to lose sometime, don't they?
The Clippers are a bad team, but again played well last night, enough to hang until the fourth, with Al Farouq Aminu emerging from the shadows looking like an actual NBA player. But this time it wasn't the starting superstars that did it for the Hornets. It was the bench mob. Jerryd Bayless ran the show, Willie Green filled it up (19 points on 7-10 shooting), and that was enough for the Hornets to pull away and not need Chris Paul to press his knee anymore. The Hornets just keep finding ways to get it done. The Hornets are running a weird modified break, where they force the issue, pulling teams inside, then using smart passing around the perimeter to get the job done with open jumpers. It may not be sustainable, but by God, it's working right now.
YOUR DAILY SIGN OF THE IMPENDING APOCALYPSE
The Cleveland Cavaliers lead the Central division at 4-3.
"Hold me... "
HERO OF THE DAY
Uh, yeah, I think we'll go with MANSAP.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
The Minnesota Timberwolves played a great game last night. It'll get glossed over in the headlines and be forgotten within about, oh, four hours, but they really did. Kevin Love was just tremendous on the glass and they had some good things going. They just couldn't get the last burst to get past the Lakers, who had one of their "Do we really have to care nights?" And the answer was no. But still, good stuff from the Wolves who responded to their beat downs lately with a respectable performance. And yet another loss.
Follow F&R on Twitter at @CBSSportsNBA and check out our RSS feed . This has been your daily edition of the Game Changer.
Posted on: November 10, 2010 9:34 am
Edited on: November 10, 2010 9:40 am
Posted by Royce Young
Posted on: November 9, 2010 10:37 pm
LeBron James gets a triple-double, Dwyane Wade gets 39, and the Heat are overtaken again as Jazz' Millsap scores 46 in overtaking Miami in overtime.
Posted by Matt Moore
Those in the NBA spheres who were waiting to start the clock on Pat Riley taking the reins of the Miami Heat may have held off after two losses in the first two weeks to two great teams. This will likely get them pushing those buttons if they're going to at all.
The Heat gave up 72 points in the second half after a 20-point lead in the first half to lose in overtime, at home to the Utah Jazz 116-114 . Paul Millsap was ridiculous, scoring 46 points with 9 rebounds while Deron Williams filled it up with 14 assists, as if to say to Chris Paul after his Hornets beat the Heat, "Match!".
The Heat are now 5-3, with three losses in the first three weeks of the season. Not exactly what the Triad was thinking would happen when they rose up from the floor to the excited fans. Oh,and those excited fans? They were nearly in a coma tonight, and tickets still remain for the Boston freaking Celtics' visit to American Airlines on Thursday.
As much as this was to some degree a fluke game, with Millsap draining three 3-pointers (!) for crying out loud, there are no excuses for this team. And the Heat still seem out of sorts, discombobulated, and without a guy they can definitively turn to. Dwyane Wade had 39 points, LeBron James had a triple-double, Chris Bosh had 17 points and 9 rebounds, and they still lost. The one thing that had been helping them in games, their defensive effiiceny, took a tumble as the Jazz simply picked them apart.
For the Jazz, they're finally starting to look like the team they need to be this season. Williams is getting back in the act, and even when Al Jefferson had a terrible night, Millsap more than made up for it.
It was recently reported that the Utah Jazz would start extension talks with Jerry Sloan. You have a feeling Erik Spoelstra will not be having the same conversations any time soon.
The temperature rises.