Tag:Game Changer
Posted on: March 17, 2011 11:20 pm
 

Game Changer: Knicks rain from deep

Posted by Royce Young


THE BIG ONE: TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGLAS

If the focus is on your defense and the issues with it here's a way to fix it: play awesome offense. That's what the Knicks did Thursday against the Grizzlies, bombing a franchise record 20 3-pointer en route to a big 120-99 win.

Leading the charge was backup point guard Toney Douglas who contributed nine (nine!) of the Knicks 20 3s. The best part? Douglas only needed 12 attempts to do it. He went 10-14 for the game for 29 points and really was about as hot from outside as you'll see a player. The nine 3s tie the Knicks franchise record, also held by Latrell Sprewell and John Starks. Not necessarily elite company to be with, but with a franchise like the Knicks, having your name at the top of any record is special.

The win though was much needed for the Knicks who had dropped three straight and are now in surprising fight for the six-seed with the 76ers. What once appeared to be a foregone conclusion will be a pretty good race to the end it looks like. And beating a good team like the Grizzlies is something to build on. People seem to keep forgetting that this Memphis team is actually pretty darn good.

And it's not like the Knicks played a great game, outside of shooting incredibly well. The defense was better, but it's not like it was leaps and bounds improved. New York still allowed Memphis to shoot 46 percent and the Grizzlies took 30 free throws. That's become a problem with the Knicks too -- they don't defend well without fouling.

But like I said, when you play awesome offense, it excuses mediocre defense. I think that's like one of the five founding principles of basketball or something. There's no defense for great jumpshooting. And that's what the Knicks had. Ironically, the previous franchise record was 19 and it came against the Grizzlies in 2008. So the Knicks just save this stuff for Memphis I guess.

Wins are at a premium for the Knicks any way they can get them, but maybe this is one to build on. Carmelo Anthony played well scoring 28 on 19 shots. Amar'e Stoudemire just played a role scoring 16 on 6-12 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds. This game was about Douglas and the Knicks did a good job of just getting out of the way. Hot shooting isn't something to live by, but momentum is important as the regular season winds down and maybe the Knicks built a little Thursday.

CHICAGO STILL BULLING WAY TO THE TOP

Hold most teams to 84 points and you're winning. Or at least you're close. Unless the team you're playing is the Bulls. Then you're almost definitely losing.

Chicago won its eighth straight, beating the Nets 84-73, while holding New Jersey to just 35 percent shooting. Deron Williams went just 1-12 from the floor for only five points. No way the Nets are beating anyone when that happens.

Derrick Rose wasn't great going 8-23 from the floor for 21 points, but this is the reality with the Bulls -- he doesn't have to be. Rose is going to walk his way to an MVP mainly because he just has to play relatively well for the Bulls to win. They can beat teams like the Nets in their sleep as long as the offense does just enough. Not taking anything away from Rose because he's the offensive focus and without his 21, Chicago's not winning. But he can lean on that defense at all times because Chicago plays it nightly.

EVERY DUNK HAS ITS ROSE

Man, I really hate Chicago's green uniforms. But not even those gross unis can ruin this pretty dunk from Derrick Rose.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Toney Douglas: Again, 29 points on 10-14 shooting including 9-12 from 3.

Carmelo Anthony: 28 on 10-19 shooting

Brook Lopez: 22 points and eight rebounds in a loss to the Bulls.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 12:52 am
 

Game Changer: Have the Mavs stopped scoring yet?

Posted by Royce Young

THE BIG ONE: DALLAS DESTROYS NEW YORK

After the big trade, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire talked a lot about how the Knicks were going to play defense.

Starting tomorrow, I guess.

Against the Mavericks, the Knicks were steamrolled early, giving up 72 points at the half en route to a 127-109 whipping at the hands of a rolling Dallas squad. Since Dirk Nowitzki's return, the Mavs are 20-3 and have taken solid control of the two-seed in the West.

New York, coming in winners of two straight on the road, just didn't stand a chance. The Knicks got their scoring from Amar'e (36 points), but lacked getting it from Melo (18 on 5-15 shooting). Tony Douglas and Landry Fields both had nice games and Shawne Williams had a quality night off the bench, but scoring wasn't the problem. Stopping someone was.

The Mavs got 53 points off their bench, led by super sixth man Jason Terry's 21. Brendan Haywood showed his worth filling in for Tyson Chandler who was strapped with foul trouble all night. And Corey Brewer provided a nice little spark, playing intense defense while scoring eight points.

Dallas is a clicking unit, while the Knicks are a group that has no idea what they are. The Mavs have it all settled, and with Rodrigue Beaubois returning, they just got stronger. The Knicks are good, they have talent and ability. But they don't know what they are. They want to play defense, they want to get stops but words don't play defense. And New York's defense Thursday was plain awful.

MIAMI GETS DEFENSIVE IN CRUNCH TIME

With a minute and a half left and we were right back at that same old place. The Heat were in a tight game and somehow, they had to figure out a way to finish. Against the defending champs nonetheless.

The game was tied at 88-88, Lakers with possession. With possession and Kobe Bryant on their team, mind you. The Heat were doing a better job of executing the past few minutes, but the game was still a total grind on both ends, for both teams. Decent looks were at a premium and baskets were rare.

And with all the focus on the Heat's inability to close games -- notably on the offensive end -- they finally stepped up in crunch time. But on the other side of the floor. A wild scramble resulted in a run out for Miami with Dwyane Wade leading to LeBron James for a dunk. 90-88, timeout Lakers.

But that's no good unless you get another stop. Scoring is good, stopping is better.

The next Lakers possession, Ron Artest fired a corner 3 that missed. Ball out to Los Angeles. It's passed in to Kobe who took what you can only call a curious contested 3 from the corner which airballed. Artest gathered the rebound but missed a bunny at the rim. Miami escaped three looks from the Lakers and had possession with 60 seconds left.

Again, here's where Miami had to overcome some demons. Finding a way to put this little leather ball in that rim had become quite the challenge for this gifted group. And the Heat went with a wonderful play that had LeBron setting an on-ball on Kobe, which Wade false-stepped off of, going left, uncontested, to the rim. Heat 92, Lakers 88.

And then a funny thing happened. It was almost like the two teams swapped jerseys. Kobe fumbled a good pass of of bounds (he was probably fouled, but in this game, who wasn't?), relinquishing possession back to Miami. Wade returned the favor, losing his handle out of bounds but Kobe took yet another odd shot, a wild 29-foot 3 that missed long. Artest fouled LeBron off the ball, James sunk his two free throws and that was basically that. Heat 94, Lakers 88.

Read the rest of how Miami locked down on L.A. and what it means going forward.

THAT'S CERTAINLY A FORM OF CRUNCH TIME OFFENSE

With the Heat needing a stop and a score in the worst way possible, Miami stepped up and got it. All in one swoop.

DENVER... WINS AGAIN

If you thought the Nuggets were fun to watch with Carmelo, you're right, they were. But in terms of basketball, moving the ball and playing together, the current incarnation is a pure joy.

Denver shared the ball all over against Phoenix Thursday, piling up 28 assists as the Nuggets pounded the Suns 116-97. Five players scored in double figures for Denver with no one scoring more than 22 (Nene). It was all balanced. The Nuggets ran at every opportunity, moved the ball and made shots. It was kind of a clinic.

The Nuggets were supposed to fade down the stretch after trading Melo, but they continue to impress. The new guys quickly bought in and while they may not have the big guns to really win in the playoffs, they are certainly a tough group to top right now.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Amar'e Stoudemire: 36 points in 13-27 shooting. Defense though? Bad.

Marcin Gortat: 14 points and 18 rebounds, but in a losing effort to Denver.

Nene: 22 points on 9-12 shooting.

Ty Lawson: 20 points and 11 assists.
Posted on: March 10, 2011 1:37 am
Edited on: March 10, 2011 1:48 am
 

Game Changer: Game-winners galore

Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins got tons of late touches, Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson got a tip in at the buzzer, Kevin Durant stars in an amazing picture and Blake Griffin throws down a lefty finish. All that, plus plenty more. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: ALL DEMARCUS, ALL THE TIME ALMOST WORKED

If you're not rooting for the Sacramento Kings on behalf of their awesome fanbase given the possibility that the team relocates to Anaheim, there's something wrong with you. But Tuesday night's 106-102 loss to the Orlando Magic was painful enough to keep even a bandwagon-jumping sympathetic observer up at night, befuddled at how it went down. 

The Kings jumped out of the gate thanks to a double dose of Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins, who combined for 19 first quarter points. Playing with life and energy, the Kings held on to a slight edge throughout most of the game, looking stoic enough to hang on despite the Magic finally getting serious midway through the fourth quarter.  Even as Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson was in the midst of scoring eight straight Magic points, the Kings had an answer, as Cousins swished a beautiful turnaround jumper to give Sacramento a 97-93 lead with 4:03 to play.

Unfortunately, That jumper might have been the worst thing that happened to the Kings. Playing without lead guard Tyreke Evans, the Kings simply turned over the entirety of their offense to Cousins for most of the rest of the game. Given that he finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 36 minutes and was being guarded by Dwight Howard, who was playing with five fouls, it wasn't a horrible idea. But as the possessions added up, it did start to feel forced, especially as he was often isolated well outside the paint. 

On the first possession following his made jumper, Cousins missed a jumper and committed a turnover and then, with one possession off in the middle for a Thornton three-pointer, Cousins missed another jumper. Unswayed, and now trailing thanks to some more Nelson heroics, the Kings went back to Cousins again. He succeeded in drawing Howard's sxith foul on a drive to the hoop. Howard argued the call, but replays showed he had a hold of Cousins' jersey and didn't do an adequate enough job of moving his feet. Cousins missed the front end of the free throws, much to his own dismay, as the familiar head shake and "negative body language" was definitely in the building. Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu responded by hitting a three-pointer -- which he followed up with a wave goodbye -- to make the score 105-100, and that was essentially the ball game. 

The three or four minute stretch of play encapsulated Cousins' season: tantalizing yet, ultimately, frustrating. His combination of a pure shooting stroke, handle, ability to snare offensive rebounds and his uncanny ability to draw fouls around the hoop made this game must-see TV, even as the Kings were busy blowing a late lead throughout all of it. 

It's no big secret that Cousins needs to mature. This was the type of night that makes it possible for diehard Kings fans, and their sympathizers, to come away thinking: "Take your time growing up, big fella. We'll be here waiting for you."

AL JEFFERSON'S GAME-WINNER:

Earlier Wednesday night, we brought you video of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony's game-winning jumper against the Memphis Grizzlies. Anthony's shot wasn't the only game-winner of the evening. 

Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson had one of the most improbable game-winners you'll see, topping the Raptors in Toronto. With the game tied at 94 with less than two seconds left, Jazz point guard Devin Harris drove into the lane to throw up a flip shot. The shot missed off the backboard and caromed into a four-man scrum in the middle of the paint. 

Both Sonny Weems and Reggie Evans, one of the league's best rebounders, were in between Jefferson and the basket, however Jefferson was able to extend above both of them and teammate C.J. Miles to get his right hand to the ball. He propelled the ball upwards, well above the rim level, and it looped down slowly, directly through the basket. Jefferson's bucket provided the Jazz with the winning margin as time expired, 96-94. 

Here's video of the play, courtesy of YouTube user ESPN.


GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:

Kevin Durant: 34 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, one block on 13 of 26 shooting in 43 minutes in an Oklahoma City Thunder road win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tyler Hansbrough:  21 points, 10 rebounds, three steals on 6 of 12 shooting in 36 minutes in an Indiana Pacers road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Kevin Love:  16 points, 21 rebounds, one steal in 27 minutes in a Minnesota Timberwolves home win over the Indiana Pacers.

Carmelo Anthony:  31 points, five rebounds, six assists, one steal on 12 of 24 shooting in a New York Knicks road win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

DeMarcus Cousins:  29 points, seven rebounds, two assists, three steals on 8 of 16 shooting in a Sacramento Kings home loss to the Orlando Magic.

DON'T MISS:

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

This is far from Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin's finest work, but he threw down a nifty, lefty dunk against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. Griffin slips the pick, levitates, clutches and finishes over Nenad Krstic. Pretty sweet. Video courtesy of YouTube user QuakeGriffin.

 

WHIMSY:

I'm not sure if this picture of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant requires 3D goggles to view properly but it's pretty awesome.
kevin-durant-blur

FINAL THOUGHT:

The Utah Jazz called up D-Leaguer Marcus Cousin on Tuesday and he made his NBA debut on Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors. Only one problem: The Jazz didn't have a jersey with his last name on it, just the number zero. RidiculousUpside.com comes through with the you-have-to-see-it picture and an explanation of what happened. 
Posted on: March 9, 2011 1:09 am
Edited on: March 10, 2011 1:41 am
 

Game Changer: Heat lose 5th straight game

The Miami Heat lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, Erik Spoelstra looked even more overwhelmed than usual, LeBron James threw down a sick dunk and Brandon Roy had his best game of the spring. All that, plus plenty more. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: DEEPER BLAZERS DROP HEAT

Posted by Matt Moore.

The loss to the Knicks? A bizarre turn based on an offensive flourish from a team playing with emotion in its first week together. The loss to the Magic? A division rival with a furious comeback thanks to hot shooting and some system systemic offensive breakdowns on the other side. The loss to the Spurs? A back-to-back road blowout against the team with the best record in the league. The loss to the Bulls? A fiery, emotional team with a superior defensive effort, a magnificent superstar, and a blown rebound by the other guys. But the loss to the Blazers?
 
That was just the case of a superior team 1-10 beating the Heat. A superior team performance, a superior coaching performance, a superior star performance, a superior overall win for Portland, who have gone from looking at a rebuilding project to right in line for a serious playoff run. They are deep, they are talented, and they close games. Yeah, that's right. Portland with the five knee surgeries and missing Greg Oden and Brandon Roy unable to play full games and the aging point guard and having just acquired their All-Star? They are what the Heat tried to buy.

The game itself was a slow, methodical affair (84 estimated possessions, which is glacial), and favored the Blazers' deliberate style rather than the Heat's up and down attack. There were some exceptional highlights (see below for the Chalmers behind-the-back wizardry), but still a loss for the Heat. Isn't that the formula this year? Amazing highlights, lots of hype, national television appearance... and a loss.

The culprits were who you'd expect. While the Blazers were peeling Gerald Wallace of the bench for 22 points on 14 shots, 9 rebounds, an assist, a block, and two steals, the Heat were pulling the lifeless corpse of Mike Miller off the pine for two points on seven shots. But really, the Heat still could have won this game even with the loserly henchmen pulling a "Die Hard" (fire 2,000 rounds, don't hit anything) and James and Wade combining for 7 turnovers. That's how good James and Wade were. The real problem? Chris Bosh.

Forget the shooting. Some nights you're going to be off from mid-range. It happens, not much you can do to control that. Bosh says he needs more touches in the low-post. Forgetting the fact that this goes against every trend in his career and against the logic of having the kind of perimeter players the Heat have, it also ignores the fact that Bosh needs to try getting some easy buckets. The hard kind. I'm talking about tip-ins. Offensive rebounds and put-backs. Instead, Bosh had four total rebounds, and only one offensive. But hey, at least he played pretty good defense, right?
 
Or, you know, LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points. This is where the line between Bosh's incompetence and Spoelstra's mistakes blur. In the second half when Aldridge started to go off after a slow first half, Bosh was showing way too strong on the pick and roll, jumping over to cover Andre Miller (you know, he of the ridiculous explosiveness), and allowing Aldridge all the room in the world to operate. Bosh gave himself nearly no chance at recovering.
 
Meanwhile, Brandon Roy was nailing the kinds of key shots Dwyane Wade is supposed to and the Heat were throwing away opportunity after opportunity. Great teams capitalize on chances they have to destroy their opponent. The Blazers did. The Heat did not.

At this point in the season, these two teams could not be headed in more opposite directions. Judging from how this game went down, it's not hard to see why.

SNAPSHOT:

The Miami Herald quoted Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after the game: "Frankly, we don’t have a lot of answers how to get over this hump. We can just keep grinding and not let go of the rope."

 This picture says about 1,000,000 words.

erik-spoelstra  

GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:

Andrew Bynum: 16 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, +17 on 8 of 10 shooting in 35 minutes in a Los Angeles Lakers road win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Gerald Wallace:  22 points, nine rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block, +7 on 8 of 14 shooting in 35 minutes in a Portland Trail Blazers road win over the Miami Heat.

Dwyane Wade:  38 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks on 12 of 21 shooting in 43 minutes in a Miami Heat home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

LeBron James:  31 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, one steal on 14 of 17 shooting in a Miami Heat home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

DON'T MISS:

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

The Heat lost to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, but LeBron James threw down a sick tomahawk dunk off of a behind-the-back pass in transition. Small consolation.


WHIMSY:

Houston Rockets forward Chase Budinger makes a silly face as he dunks one home during a loss to the Phoenix Suns.

chase-budinger-dunk

FINAL THOUGHT:

Against the Heat, Blazers guard Brandon Roy had his most effective game since his post All-Star break return from arthroscopic knee surgeries. Roy hit all three of his three-pointers en route to 14 points on eight shots in 23 minutes. Often hiding out on the weakside, he is theoretically the ideal spot up shooter to space the floor off of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Nate McMillan smartly managed Roy's minutes, sitting him for nearly the entire third quarter so that he would be fresh to close the game. The Blazers went small down the stretch and outscored the Heat 12-5 in the final 3:25 of the fourth quarter, including a huge Roy three-pointer. 
Posted on: March 2, 2011 12:32 am
 

Game Changer: Knicks just not ready yet

Posted by Royce Young


THE BIG ONE: FREE THROW CONTEST IN ORLANDO

Here's a fun stat from the Knicks-Magic game: Combined, the two teams attempted 97 free throws. Ninety-seven! The Knicks took 47, the Magic 50. And somehow, someway, the game didn't last six and a half hours. Really, that's a basketball miracle.

The Magic took the game 116-110 largely due to better late game execution, better shooting and some well-timed defense. It was kind of ugly as the Knicks took 17 more shot attempts because of 15 Orlando turnovers, but what we already knew was on display for this Knick team: They aren't ready.

The Miami win Sunday was a thing of beauty and something to obviously get charged about. But in order to take another step, it takes winning consistently. And New York isn't ready to do that. Their main weakness -- the interior -- was on prime display as Dwight Howard chewed them apart for 30 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks.

New York though, is slowly figuring out the Carmelo Anthony conundrum: He shoots a lot. And sometimes, doesn't score a whole lot. Melo is definitely one of the most gifted offensive forces in the league, but there are nights where he performs like he did Tuesday. As in 24 shots to get 25 points.

Amar'e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Melo combined to score 85 of the Knicks total 110 points, as was the fear, the rest of the team all drops duds. The bench scored 11, the other two starters (Shawne Williams and Landry Fields) combined for 14.

The Knicks, much like the Heat, have a formidable three-headed monster. But it comes down to what the other guys can do. And not only is the New York trio not as good as the Miami one, the Knicks don't have near the role players either. Hence, they're still a ways off from being a legit threat.

Can they jump up and surprise on any given night? Absolutely. But in terms of consistent winning, there's work to do.

AN INDIVIDUAL NOTE

Dwight Howard averaged 26.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in February, plus shot 67 percent from the field. And to start March, he dropped 30 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks on the Knicks. Let's all have a moment of silence for this.

PARKER-LESS Spurs DROP IN MEMPHIS

When word that Tony Parker would miss a couple weeks because of a strained calf dropped, nobody really panicked. First, the Spurs have a pretty big cushion in the standings. Second, George Hill is a fine backup point guard. Third, the rest of the team is really good.

But in their first tilt without Parker, San Antonio struggled against the surging Grizzlies, losing 109-93 in Memphis.

Before you blame this entirely on the Spurs missing Parker, you've got to give credit to the Grizzlies. This team is quietly becoming 2011's Thunder. They've jumped up the Western standings, beating good teams behind solid defense and have even overcome some pretty big injuries and team issues. They're getting great contributions from role players, Zach Randolph has been great and Lionel Hollins deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration. So give Memphis some credit here.

However, the Spurs definitely missed Parker. The San Antonio offense just entirely out of sorts. Check this out: The Spurs had all 12 active players score, but only one guy finished in double figures (Gary Neal, 14). It was just a really weird night for the Spurs and it showed how important Parker is to diversifying their offense. Without him, they become almost exclusively a jumpshooting team. They need Parker's creating and slashing ability badly. It helps free shooters, which the Spurs have a heavy helping of.

They'll survive the next few weeks, no doubt. But the first run without Parker definitely wasn't pretty.

RIP RETURNS (AGAIN)

First, it was a return from being inactive for two weeks. Now, Richard Hamilton returned from being in coach John Kuester's doghouse. Hamilton scored 10 points in 26 minutes but on 4-17 shooting. After the game, Hamilton said he wasn't loving his shot.

"My shot felt terrible," Hamilton said. "It felt terrible. The good thing is that I was able to get to where I wanted to get to on the floor, but every bread and butter shot that I pride myself on I missed.

"I expect it," he said. "That was only my second game in almost two months. I didn't expect it was going to be great. I just told myself, talk to your legs."

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Dwight Howard: 30 points on 15 shots, 16 rebounds and six blocks.

Jose Calderon: 22 points and 16 assists in Toronto's big win over the Hornets.

Jason Terry: 30 points off the bench for Dallas.

Chauncey Billups: 30 points on just 12 shots (4-9 from 3, 18-20 from the free throw line).

PARTING THOUGHT

Can someone please tell me what to think of the Hornets? They randomly lost to the Raptors 96-90 in what can only be described as a dumb loss. I just wish I could understand that team. They're all win streaks and dumb losses.
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:38 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 11:57 pm
 

Game Changer: How did the Knicks do with Melo?

Posted by Royce Young

THE BIG ONE: MELO NEEDS SOME TIME TO GEL-O

(OK, I admit, that was terrible.)

Madison Square Garden buzzed like it hasn't, well, since the last time we all said it hasn't buzzed since the last insert time period.

But New York was definitely excited. Carmelo Anthony was making his first appearance and with a heavily produced pre-game introduction that had a long welcome video and the players entering through the tunnel instead of off the bench, there certainly was another level of excitement at MSG.

The Melo trade has been almost five months in the making, but these past 24 hours feel sort of rushed. Melo was in Los Angeles yesterday finishing up All-Star Weekend duties before getting word he was dealt. He, along with teammates Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams, had to rush to New York to get their physicals done as well as their introductory press conference.

And with all that hurrying, the play on the court was certainly affected. The Knicks scored their usual tilt of points beating the Bucks 114-108, but they weren't near as good offensively as their output would suggest.

Melo needed 25 shots to score 27, Amar'e Stoudemire had 19 and Billups added 21. But late in the game, with the Bucks pushing, we saw a small glimpse of how the Knicks have changed. Instead of the usual pick-and-roll butter that they usually go with, they went to Melo isolated on the block.



The first play, it's the Denver Nugget offense. Melo is posting, Billups is feeding him. Stoudemire is floating as a weapon to potentially cut, but Melo gets an isolation and uses his skill to beat Carlos Delfino for a dunk. This is an option the Knicks didn't have before the trade. If this game were last week, the Knicks would've been running pick-and-roll here with Raymond Felton and Stoudemire, with the option to kick to Danilo Gallinari. Now, they could run that pick-and-roll, or go iso on the block to Melo.

The second play, what's interesting is that Stoudemire fouled out on the previous defensive possession. so New York's prior go-to player wasn't there. Again, if this game is in January, the Knicks are kind of screwed. Now, there's really no worries. Billups and Anthony just go right back to the same post up play they used the previous possession and Carmelo beats his man for a crucial bucket.

Of course what makes any isolation play like this work is the spacing. And the Knicks spaced well. They're missing a few shooters, but with Toney Douglas on the floor who had hit a bunch of shots and had 23, the Milwaukee defense had to be aware and couldn't completely sell out to double Melo. Same thing with the option to kick to Billups, a good 3-point shooter.

Throughout the game, I wouldn't say Melo and Amar'e worked all that well together because it was a bit of the your-turn-my-turn thing. Melo wasn't shy hoisting 25 shots to Stoudemire's 13, but it seemed like Amar'e was comfortable in what Melo was doing. Stoudemire is a terrific pick-and-roll play, but Billups isn't really a pick-and-roll point guard -- at least not like Felton was.

So there will be some subtle changes to the Knick offense. Maybe Billups settles in to a bit more pick-and-roll with Stoudemire. Melo, who loves to post, only went to the block a handful of times. He mostly cut, drove and waited for kickouts.

There will certainly be a feeling out period with this team, but with talented players like Stoudemire, Melo and Billups, the Knicks can win in spite of those issues.

Opening night at MSG for Melo was definitely electric and while his 27 points are nice and the team winning is good, I wouldn't say anyone felt electrified by the Knicks performance. But it's just game one for a new team and the thing about talented basketball players is, they tend to adjust and improve. So look out.

OKLAHOMA CITY GETS SPURRED

Looking at the numbers, the Thunder did just about everything right. They killed the glass (54-37 edge), had 13 offensive rebounds to the Spurs four, held San Antonio to under 45 percent from the field, didn’t turn the ball over (10), made free throws (24-27) and played their butts off. 

But the Spurs tend to beat people in spite of statistics. It's kind of their thing.

Where OKC lost this game was in one specific area. The same area that took the Thunder down the last San Antonio game, hurt OKC again. The Spurs went 13-21 from 3, hitting 8 of 11 in the first half. Without that, the Thunder wins this game, no doubt. The lesson here is, the Spurs can shoot. Don’t leave them open.

Where I really think the Thunder lost this game though was a stretch with about four minutes left. OKC finally got over the hump taking a 98-96 lead behind James Harden’s spark from 3. And the Thunder did what they had to do: They got three straight stops.

The opportunity was there to bridge out to at least a four-point lead with about three minutes left. But OKC never capitalized. If the Thunder gets points somewhere in there, they might have a nice buffer to keep the Spurs away. But remember, the Spurs are good and you can’t ever let them hang around.

That's now 19 straight at home for San Antonio and they improve to 47-10 on the season and 26-2 at home. Yowza.

UTAH DEFINITELY MISSED D-WILL

It was almost surreal watching the Jazz play without Deron Williams. They've done it before with him missing some games due to a wrist injury, but this time he was gone. It was weird.

Utah hung tough with the superior Mavericks for a time, but there clearly was a talent gap as the Jazz just lacked any kind of firepower to hang tight. Earl Watson, who started for Williams, had just seven points and five assists in 37 minutes. Al Jefferson played a pretty terrific game scoring 30 points on only 14 shots, but the Jazz just didn't have a chance.

Getting Devin Harris and Derrick Favors will help, but this team isn't going anywhere right now. They were competitive largely due to having arguably the best point guard in the league and now that that's missing, they're simply average.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Dwight Howard: 32 points and 17 rebounds for Orlando, but his Magic dropped a horrible game to the Tyreke Evans-less Kings, 111-105.

Derrick Rose: 32 points and 10 assists in a loss.

Jose Calderon:
17 assists for the Raptors in a win over the Bulls.

Greg Monroe: The Pistons rookie piled up 27 points and 12 rebounds in a close loss to Indiana.

Chase Budinger: Off the bench, he scored 30 on 9-18 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds for the Rockets in a win over the Cavs.

PARTING THOUGHT

Joakim Noah made his triumphant return to the Bulls, finally putting them at full strength. So they'd blow past the lowly Raptors, right?

Wrong. Very wrong.

Noah did his part grabbing 16 rebounds, but the Bulls normally stellar defense slipped, the offense failed to execute and in the end, were left on the bad end of a 118-113 loss to Toronto.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 11:14 pm
 

Game Changer: Lakers lose to... Cleveland!?!

Posted by Royce Young

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: CLEVELAND DID WHAT?

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers 104-99. That's not a joke lede. That's real.

Remember the last time these two teams played? The Lakers won by a measly 55 points. Less than a week ago, the Cavs had just lost their 26th straight game, an NBA record.

And in come the Lakers to Quicken Loans Arena as the defending champions to play the lowly, nine-win Cavs. If you say you saw this coming, you're probably also telling me you totally saw Esperanza Spalding beating out Justin Bieber.

How in the world did this happen? Basically, two things: 1) The Lakers were in a coma for the first 47 minutes and 2) the Cavs played with some serious fight.

First, let's look at the Laker situation seeing as people in purple and gold are probably questioning their existence right now. Los Angeles followed up its stinker in Charlotte by dropping a game to the Cavs. That's reason to be upset for sure. Reason to panic? Not really. It was the game before the All-Star break and right in the middle of a big seven-game road trip.

Kobe Bryant went just 8-22 from the field and had seven turnovers. Ron Artest scored a single point. Andrew Bynum was 2-12 for six points. Lamar Odom had only six points. Pau Gasol was solid with 30 points, but other than that the only reason L.A. was even close was because of Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown. Think about that. Shannon Brown and Derek Fisher kept the Lakers in it.

It's been a season of freak outs for the Lakers. They lost three straight. They lost on Christmas. And now they've dropped a game to the lowly Cavaliers. Up and down, the NBA season is.

On the other hand, you've got to give credit to the Cavs, no matter how poorly the Lakers played. Remember, the Lakers beat the Cavs by 55 last time. But from the start, the Cavs were playing with a point to prove. Ramon Sessions was terrific with 32 points and eight assists (how about that, Atlanta?). Antwan Jamison had 19. Anthony Parker, 18.

Seriously, what a moment for the Cavs in a season full of disaster. For one night, they had back that old feeling.

See, who really needs LeBron James when you have Ramon Sessions?

SO WHAT DID LEBRON SAY ABOUT IT?

Of course for some reason we all wanted to know what LeBron would say about the Cavs big win. LeBron, following his team's win over Toronto said, "Good for the Cavs."

BOSH RETURNS

It didn't have near the hype that LeBron's return to Cleveland had, but Chris Bosh returned to Toronto for the first time since leaving in free agency to Miami.

Fitting too, because Bosh went from the focus for the Raptors to the oft-forgotten third wheel for the Heat. Something he's fine with, but definitely a change.

And like LeBron, Bosh heard boos, saw signs and took some hate. But also like LeBron, he showed up big and his team walked to an easy win, beating the lowly Raps 103-95. Bosh had 25 points on 7-16 shooting and while he wasn't terrific like LeBron in Cleveland, he was solid in his role and his team won.

After the game, Bosh blew some kisses to the crowd as he left the floor. The was a splattering of cheers, but mostly boos. Bosh said of the booing, "I hope they do it the next time I come back."

DON'T TALK ABOUT AMAR'E

Referring to Amar'e Stoudemire, Al Horford told reporters before his Hawks took on the Knicks, "Like we're supposed to be scared of him. Ain't nobody scared of him." (via Alan Hahn )

What happened next? Stoudemire led all scorers with 23 points and the Knicks beat Atlanta 102-90. New York has a bit of momentum heading into the break with back-to-back wins, this one over the Hawks who they're chasing in the Eastern standings.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Pau Gasol: 30 points and 20 rebounds, but oh yeah, his team lost to the Cavs.

Andrea Bargnani: 38 points on 15-26 shooting in a loss to the Heat.

Dwight Howard: 32 points and 10 rebounds in a blowout win over the Wizards.

Ramon Sessions: 32 points and eight assists for the Cavs.

Kevin Love: Another ho-hum night with 18 points and 18 rebounds in a loss to the Clippers.

EYENGA OF THE TIGER

Christian Eyenga played a part in the Cavs stunning win over Los Angeles with 10 points. But these two over Pau Gasol were definitely his two best.


PARTING THOUGHT

The Pacers took a setback in Detroit, dropping to the Pistons 115-109 in overtime. That makes Indiana 7-3 under interim coach Frank Vogel and while it's finally a loss to a below average team, all's not lost. The Pacers were down late in the game and fought back to force overtime. And keep in mind, this is a building process for them. There's no denying that they're playing much better and despite a loss, keep an eye on this team.
Posted on: February 15, 2011 2:06 am
Edited on: February 15, 2011 12:18 pm
 

Game Changer: West bound and down

The Western Conference is loaded with coasting teams, plus Nicolas Batum puts it on Darko Milicic. Posted by Ben Golliver and Matt Moore.

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: LETDOWNS ABOUND

The Lakers were in a tough spot. The second-to-last game of the Grammy's Road Trip. The fourth game in five nights. The second night of a back-to-back. Kobe Bryant feeling ill. And a game against Charlotte, who the Lakers struggle with anyway. None of these reasons excuse what twas unquestionably the saddest performance of the year for the defending champs. 

It's not the losing, it's the losing without giving up a fight at all. The Bobcats spent much of the second half dunking and dropping uncontested threes on the Lakers. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers actually trotted out a full-court press, which by its nature demands energy, and still failed to execute it with any urgency. It was the ultimate coasting game. Let me put this way: Gerald Henderson scored 18 points. 

But the Lakers weren't alone tonight. No, no. On top of the Nuggets gettting pummeled in Houston,  New Jersey, Minnesota, Detroit, and the Clippers all took steps backwards. Detroit in particular had been playing a better brand of ball recently, but have now lost three straight and seven of their last ten. It's was a meltdown kind of night all around. You can tell a lot of players are simply ready for the All-Star break. 
 

GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:

Gerald Wallace20 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal on nine of 16 shooting in 32 minutes in a Charlotte Bobcats home win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Josh Smith:  27 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals on 11 of 17 shooting in 41 minutes in an Atlanta Hawks road win over the Detroit Pistons.

Carlos Delfino: 26 points, nine rebounds, two assists, three steals on 9 of 15 shooting in 41 minutes in a Milwaukee Bucks home win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

DON'T MISS:


HIGHLIGHT REEL:


Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum throws down a vicious dunk over Minnesota Timberwolves center Darko Milicic. Stick around for all the replays. The last one is pretty unreal.



WHIMSY:
Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol freaks out the moment before a giant, orange asteroid falls on his head. 
pau-gasol

FINAL THOUGHT:

Portland has now won 5 straight. Marcus Camby and Brandon Roy return soon. If they don't blow it up in a trade gorging, this team is putting together something downright dramatic. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com