Tag:Game Changer
Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:53 pm

Game Changer: Super Sundays for Miami, Boston

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 same old problems, the ones that the trade was supposed to remedy, are rearing their heads for the Magic again. Dwight Howard did his part scoring 28 points against the Celtics, but against a superior defensive squad, Orlando just didn't have scoring options in the second half.

Howard had 20 of his 28 in the first half and after the Celtics adjusted to double him in the post, the Magic's role players didn't step up. Some games they certainly do. But in this one, Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson combined for just 14 points. Arenas was 0-7 from the field in 15 minutes, Turkoglu 1-10 and Richardson 4-11. The pieces that were expected to get the team over the edge just didn't show up for them.

But I think that's more of a credit to the Celtics than anything else. I mean, wow, does that team guard. Nothing is ever easy. The help and rotations are always on point, but more than that, they understand the simple principles of contesting everything and just defending the man in front of you.

And what the Magic lack in extra, reliable options to step up, the Celtics have plenty of. Paul Pierce struggled a bit going 4-11 from the field and Ray Allen had just 11 points, but Sunday it was Rajon Rondo with 26 points on 9-15 shooting. Kevin Garnett added 16 on 5-8 from the field, but it just showed how dangerous and difficult the Celtics are. They have weapons all over the floor. And they're reliable. When one of their stars slips a bit, there's three others waiting to elevate his game. It's quite a luxury.

In the three meetings between the teams, we've seen a lot of the same things. After the Magic took the first meeting, the Celtics have come back with two straight, albeit both being in Boston. But in terms of a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup, it certainly looks like the Celtics have a distinct edge right now. And I don't see that changing unless there's some big stepping up in Orlando.


LeBron James had only 12 points on 6-15 shooting against the Clippers Sunday. And the Heat beat Los Angeles 18 anyway.

That right there just showcases how much of a different world it is for LeBron this season. That happens last year and the Cavaliers are most definitely losing. That happens with LeBron's current team and the Heat are waltzing to an easy 18-point victory.

Amazing what having Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on your team can do.

On top of that though, it's amazing what having one of the best defensive units in basketball can do. The Clippers labored to 79 poinys, shot 32.5 percent from the field and turned it over 19 times. Miami can get away with poor games from its stars offensively because they are so darn excellent on the other end.

Other than Blake Griffin though, the Clippers were just overwhelmed by the veteran playmaking and talent of the Heat. Griffin had 21 points and 16, but the rest of the team combined to make only 18 baskets. Again, that's a credit to the Miami defense, but also shows how the young Clippers have a few steps yet in truly getting over the top.


Amar'e Stoudemire: 41 points for the Knicks forward on 17-21 shooting in New York's win over Philadelphia. Wow.

Dwyane Wade:
28 points, eight assists and six rebounds in Miami's win over the Clippers.

Rajon Rondo:
26 points on 9-15 shooting plus seven assists.

Blake Griffin:
21 points and 16 rebounds against Miami.


Blake Griffin did his thing once again against the Heat, busting out a big windmill on the break.


Eddie House was hit with a flagrant-2 foul when he rammed Blake Griffin and during an extended review in which it was reduced to a flagrant-1, LeBron said to the officials, "I got a Super Bowl party to go to man, c'mon."
Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:57 am
Edited on: February 4, 2011 3:02 am

The Game Changer: Magic don't have enough magic

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.  


With six minutes left, Magic fans started filing out. The Heat led 90-70 and appeared to be on cruise control headed toward an easy but big divisional win over the Magic.

Orlando, being a good team, wasn't completely finished. Jason Richardson hit a shot. Ryan Anderson hit a 3. Gilbert Arenas hit a 3. Then Anderson another one. The Magic hit six long-balls in the last six minutes, finally cutting the Miami lead down to three.

And after the Heat failed to get the ball in with nine seconds left, the Magic somehow had an opportunity to tie the game. Anderson got another look from deep by was just long on it.

What's interesting about the set though was how open J.J. Redick was coming off a Dwight Howard screen. Have a look:

Hedo Turkoglu instead went out top to Anderson which wasn't a bad play, seeing how Anderson was open. The difference is that the ball had a long way to travel to get to Anderson, meaning the Heat defense had a chance to recover. If the ball goes to Redick, it's catch and shoot. Easy to pick nits now knowing it didn't work, but at the time, everyone saw Redick flash open.

It's easy to look at how the game almost blew up in Miami's face, but in the end, the Heat won a game against a good Magic squad. They did it with incredible defense for 42 minutes, crisp offensive execution and oh yeah, LeBron James is still freaking incredible.

He started the game 11-11 which tied a career best and finished the game with an NBA season-high 51 points on 17-25 shooting. Just for fun, he added in 11 rebounds and eight assists. He owned this game. Just completely dominated it in every way he could.

And he did it from the start. LeBron scored 29 in the first half and after Dwyane Wade left for a while following a hard fall, LeBron just continued to kill the Magic. It's nights like this where you truly fear the Heat. I mean, how do you stop that?


It was obvious how important this game was to the Lakers from the tip. They've been answering a lot questions, their general manager is talking about making trades and Kobe Bryant is a little extra chippy. And they had the league's best team in town and played like they had something to prove.

Problem is, they had the San Antonio Spurs in town and they don't exactly go down easily.

The Lakers thought they had it won three different times. With Los Angeles up 88-87 with 22 seconds left, the Spurs ran a great set but Manu Ginobili missed an open 3. Rebound Spurs. Tony Parker had the ball at the top of the key, made a move left and rimmed out a tear drop runner. Again, the Lakers didn't secure the rebound and the ball went out, off yellow.

And the third time indeed was a charm for San Antonio. Tim Duncan caught the ball, didn't get the hand off to Parker and had to force up a falling jumper over the extended hand of Pau Gasol. The shot was long, catching back-iron except for a fourth time, the Lakers didn't get on the glass. Antonio McDyess beat Lamar Odom and tipped in the game-winner as time expired. 89-88, Spurs.

The game had every feel of a playoff classic with both teams fighting tooth and nail for 48 minutes. Every possession was a complete grind. Both teams shot under 43 percent. The Lakers were playing like the game meant something more. And of course the Spurs brought it.

Read the rest of how the Spurs topped the Lakers at the buzzer here.


LeBron James had an NBA season-high 51 points on 17-25 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds and had eight assists.

Dwight Howard had 17 points and 16 rebounds.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 15 points and 19 rebounds against Golden State.

Ersan Ilyasova
finished with 23 and 13.


Antonio McDyess's big tip at the horn is getting all the love, but how about Gary Neal's buzzer-beater at the half? You know, without it, McDyess's play might not have meant as much. Think about that one.


Don't overlook Golden State's 100-94 win over the Bucks. Two things this showed: 1) The Bucks truly are a horrible offensive team, only mustering 94 points against the Warriors and 2) Golden State is just good enough to stay interesting for the rest of this season.

With Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee, the Warriors have the players to be in every game, but obviously aren't totally ready to be a playoff contender. It feels like they aren't really that far off though.
Posted on: February 3, 2011 12:15 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 5:57 pm

Game Changer: Rose, Bulls ascending

The Chicago Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Blake Griffin threw down two amazing dunks, the Denver Nuggets topped the Portland Trail Blazers and 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 Bulls easily handled the Clippers, 106-88, on Wednesday night, and this was of the classic "well-oiled team defeating one-man show" variety that we've seen for decades in the NBA.

As the Clippers' broadcasting crew kept repeating (apparently to remind or reassure themselves): the Bulls are really good. Even without Joakim Noah, the Bulls remain an excellently constructed team, with Derrick Rose leading a cavalry charge that includes talent both inside and out. Last night, Chicago got big contributions from both, with Luol Deng going off for 26 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson combined for 25 points and 22 rebounds, effectively neutralizing Blake Griffin's explosion for 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

While Griffin went huge, Rose was clearly the best player on the court, delivering on the MVP hype he's generated recently and controlling the flow and pace of play with relative ease. His jumper (4-of-8 from distance) was dropping, which makes it impossible to guard him, and he finished with 32 points (on just 18 shots) and 11 assists. 

The Bulls hit shots, rebounded (41 to 30 overall) and moved the ball (27 assists on 40 baskets). Throw Noah into this mix and Chicago is the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.


Joe Johnson 37 points, two rebounds, eight assists on 15-of-21 shooting in 39 minutes in an Atlanta Hawks home win over the Toronto Raptors.

Jrue Holiday:  11 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists in 36 minutes in a Philadelphia 76ers road win over the New Jersey Nets.

Stephen Jackson:   39 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal on 14-of-26 shooting in 43 minutes in a Charlotte Bobcats road win over the Detroit Pistons.

Kevin Durant:   43 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block on 14of-19 shooting in 41 minutes in an Oklahoma City Thunder home win over the New Orleans Hornets.

Derrick Rose:   32 points, three rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, one block on 11-of-18 shooting in 38 minutes in a Chicago Bulls road win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Blake Griffin:   32 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, one block on 14-of-26 shooting in 41 minutes in a Los Angeles Clippers home loss to the Chicago Bulls.



Those in the "The Nuggets are really good, why does Melo want to leave?" camp got a signature win last night, as Denver took care of Portland 109-90 at the Pepsi Center. After dealing with various rehabs and injuries, the Nuggets are as healthy as they are going to get right now, and their eight-man core rotation was clicking on all cylinders, even though Carmelo Anthony wasn't having an explosive offensive night. 

Denver's top 8 all finished with positive +/- and they destroyed Portland on the boards, even though the Blazers are one of the league's better rebounding teams. Portland, of course, is playing without starting center Marcus Camby, and the Nuggets were able to capitalize on this fact (unlike the San Antonio Spurs, who played the Blazers on Tuesday night) by bullying and pounding Portland's big men in the paint. The results: 42 points in the paint, 51.9 percent shooting, 19 assists on 40 made baskets, excellent scoring balance and a big night (22 points and 10 boards) from the chronically overlooked Nene.

For Nuggets fans, all of this adds an extra element of frustration should Anthony be moved prior to the trade deadline. It's clear now that this veteran group does indeed have at least one final, strong playoff left in the tank, and with teams appearing to falter all around them -- including the Lakers and the Jazz -- there's got to be a "Why not us?" sentiment developing in the Mile High City.

The question, of course: Does Anthony feel that too, or is his mind somewhere else entirely?


Who else but Blake Griffin? He did it again (twice) on Wednesday night in a 106-88 loss the Bulls.
First up is another long distance alley-oop, this time from guard Randy Foye. Griffin catches the pass on the move and flies over Bulls forward Kyle Korver to throw down a two-handed dunk. The crowd goes absolutely nuts.

Later in the game, Griffin takes Bulls forward Kurt Thomas to the rack, deciding to go up and under the rim to get off a shot attempt. The only problem? Bulls forward Taj Gibson drops down to provide weakside defense. Griffin's solution? Dunk over the top of both of them, of course. Stick around until the end of the video for the slow-motion replay. Incredible.


Via 30 FPS , here's a funny screen cap from the Staples Center crowd after Griffin's first dunk. ESPN personality and Clippers season ticket holder Bill Simmons can be celebrating the dunk with child-like glee, thrusting his fist into the air like the Clippers just won a playoff game. 



My most-desired playoff series -- aside from Boston sweeping the Miami Heat -- is a potential Boston vs. Chicago matchup: student vs. teacher, Derrick Rose vs. Rajon Rondo, smart, tough team vs. smart, tough team. If Rose is as good as he appears this year, the Celtics would take on the Bad Boy Pistons role in this narrative. 

A final, final thought: starting to get itchy for the playoffs. It's that time of year. 
Posted on: February 2, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: February 2, 2011 11:29 am

Game Changer: LMA drops 40

The Rockets keep bugging the Lakers, DMC gets into it with KG, and LaMarcus Aldridge has the game of his life, all in today's Game Changer. 
Posted by Matt Moore


LaMarcus Aldridge has become a complete player this season, and has gone from good player to star. No further proof is needed beyond the performance Aldridge gave Tuesday night in the Blazers' 99-86 win over the Western-Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs. Aldridge dropped 40 on the Spurs, with a barrage of inside layups, dunks, and perimeter mid-range jumpers. See for yourself, in the shot chart from our GameTracker: 

7-13 on jumpers? That'll do, LMA. That'll do. Aldridge made a strong case for All-Star reserve in front of the coach for the Western team, not only with his shooting display to go along with 11 rebounds.  Aldridge has become the focal point of the Blazers, and he's the reason they're hanging onto the 8th spot in the West. That Aldridge has become the focal point after so often being passed over by Blazers management and fans is equally notable. First it was Brandon Roy, then Greg Oden, then Andre Miller, and most recently sophomore Wesley Matthews. But with Roy and Oden on the shelf, Miller marginalized by age, and Matthews still learning consistency, it's fallen upon Aldridge to shoulder the team. And he's risen to that challenge. 

Patty Mills at one point lobbed a dangerous, ill-advised pass into traffic for Aldridge. Mills knew it was a poor pass, but trusted in Aldridge to make a play. Aldridge nabbed the pass and nearly threw it down, drawing a foul. That's trust in your star, and the Blazers have it. That Aldridge has had to wait so long to reach this level must make it all the more worth it. Always the consolation prize, with the Blazers hopes for a title run with their young core vanished into a mist of lost opportunities, Aldridge is now the Blazers' best hope moving forward. He's a legitimate star to build around. 

For the Spurs, this game serves as a warning. The Spurs had no one to extend their perimeter defense against Aldridge with.  DeJuan Blair is not mobile enough and Duncan is unable to cover the distance and recover. As a result, Aldridge dropped the array of mid-range top-of-the-key shots you see above.  It's his sweet spot, just as Dirk's is the corner elbow, and David West's is the 16-foot baseline. All give the Spurs problems. Stretch fours are a problem for the Spurs, and they're going to be seeing a lot of them in the playoffs. Meanwhile, their offense sputtered and their defense wasn't able to hit the gear they're going to need in the playoffs.

Not the way they wanted to start the rodeo road trip. 


Aldridge, obviously.


Kobe Bryant: 32 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists

Luis Scola: 24 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists


The Celtics and Kings engaged in a pretty brutal standoff with the officials Tuesday night. The Celtics played their usual brand of brutal, physical, abrasive style, swiping, clubbing, shouldering, and creating so much contact the officials couldn't call everything. And when they did call something, the Celtics reacted with their usual outpouring of incredulity. What the Celtics weren't expecting was for the Kings to attempt the same approach. The Kings sped the pace up, which the Celtics hate, and then got aggressive down low, repeatedly blocking Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis. That helped the Kings to a three-possession lead, which of course the Kings blew down the stretch when their entire offense came unglued as the Celtics buckled down. 

The most interesting part of the game was the interaction between DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Garnett. Garnett did his usual "Look at me, I'm so crazy" act, hitting himself and mumbling obscenities. Cousins, for the most part, seemed off-put by Garnett's defense of him in the post, which involved a lot of slapping at the ball, missing, and hitting Cousins, then predictably getting the call because it's Kevin Garnett versus a rookie.  Cousins did mouth off to Garnett once, prompting Rajon Rondo to try and ease him back with his hand, which caused Cousins to slap the hand away, ending in Rondo shoving him and drawing a technical. It was a weird mirror image to Garnett's own behavior, if obviously less mature. 

Cousins was brilliant on offense, hitting everything from tap-backs and fadeaways to three-pointers.  But on defense, he too often lazed around getting back, didn't commit off-ball, and wound up in poor position. Imagine if the kid had a work ethic. 


The Lakers needed a win, and an injured, short-handed, small, poor defensively Rockets team was the perfect cure for what ails them.  Of course, for 48 minutes, the Lakers refused to take their medicine, and the Rockets used crack perimeter shooting and savvy ball movement to outwit the Lakers on their way to overtime. The Lakers would make a run by being tall and very good at basketball, the Rockets would call timeout, and then the Lakers would completely go away from everything that worked previously. Sure, the Lakers were missing Andrew Bynum. But the Rockets were missing Yao Ming, obviously, so it's not like they were full strength.

Meanwhile Pau Gasol drifted and drifted until overtime. Kobe Bryant dished seven assists before he scored 7 points in the first quarter, then started to take over offensively again.  Guess when the Rockets came back?  Meanwhile, he went back to distributing and finding Lamar Odom late, which allowed the Lakers to close the deficit and force overtime. In the extra period, it was simple physics.  The Lakers are tall and long, the Rockets are short.  The end. 

It wasn't a great win for the Lakers, but it's a win, and it's a start for their way back.
Posted on: February 1, 2011 10:51 am
Edited on: February 1, 2011 10:51 am

Game Changer 2.1.11: Sweet Emotion

Blake Griffin has help low to topple the Bucks, Jerryd Bayless hates the rim, and the Grizzlies out-work the Magic in today's Game Changer. 
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.  


Lost in the fact that Blake Griffin is a horrifyingly talented individual who's dunks are like emotional artillery pounding the opponent into oblivion is a very quiet development that has contributed mightily to the Clippers' recent surge, and it was in full display in the Clips' win over the Bucks. Against a tough, physical, defensive team with a wealth of size down low, the Clippers over-ran the Bucks with a frontcourt that poured in 48 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots. Griffin of course carried the load with 32-11, but the progression of DeAndre Jordan is significant on multiple levels. 

Jordan has developed from a raw, athletic, skinny rail of a kid in his rookie season to a hulking beast of a man at 6-11, 265 lbs. But more importantly, he's improved in the areas so many of those high-upside athletic big men never do, in basketball IQ. His positioning is better. He screens better. He runs the pick and roll better. He's more fluid, and he plays off his teammates and his effort is there. Those kinds of improvements can't be measured in the boxscore, but we're starting to see it from him night in and night out. Put that beside Blake Griffin and you have a combination that just overwhelms an opponent with size and explosiveness. Like Jon Brockman found out last night. 

Welcome to the jungle, Brockman, we've got DeAndre. 

Jordan was 7-8 from the line, his only miss coming on a tip that rolled in and out. The very model of efficiency, helping hold Andrew Bogut to 14 points. With Randy Foye stepping up, Eric Bledsoe contributing, and Blake Griffin being Blake Griffin, the Clippers look more like a complete team than they have since the 2006 playoff season.  And this without Eric Gordon!  After a terrible start to the year, Vinny Del Negro is figuring some things out in Clipperland. The Clippers have now won nine straight at home. 


Blake Griffin: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists


Dwyane Wade: 34 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists


The Orlando Magic hit their first 12 of 14 shots against the Memphis Grizzlies. After that dazzling display, they apparently thought it would be that easy the whole game. Just hoist up shots from wherever, whenever, get buckets, go home. Unfortunately, their shooting returned to Earth orbit while their defense headed for the bar.  The Grizzlies, on the other hand, continuously worked for a quality shot.  The Grizz have not been a team with coherent, smooth ball movement this season, but they were rotating the ball expertly against the Magic, and wound up with open looks and inside layups off blown Magic coverage. Mike Conley was brilliant with a 26 point, 11 assist performance, and clinched the game with a strip of Ryan Anderson off an offensive rebound, just minutes after missing a free throw to open the door to a Magic tying three. 

The Magic simply did not want to work past the first quarter.  What's stunning from this one is that the Magic had every advantage for most of the game, even in the 2nd and 3rd quarters when they were outscored by nearly 20 points. Zach Randolph was flustered by the Magic's swarming help defense, most notably from Dwight Howard, and shot just 4-11. When Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay combine for just 23 points on 9-26 shooting, and O.J. Mayo is suspended? You have to win that game. Instead, the Magic surrendered wide open mid-range shots to Darrel Arthur, having not gotten the book that says Arthur has developed an increasingly reliable mid-range game, and when he's hot, he's 5-8 hot.  The Magic did not want to effort to exploit advantages. 

An example: Dwight Howard was guarded by Hasheem Thabeet for much of the game. Hasheem Thabeet! And yet instead the Magic chose to make perimeter swing pass after perimeter swing pass to try and bust the Grizzlies' zone. It was like turning down a sledgehammer to instead try and bust a rock with a scalpel. 

Stan Van Gundy was apoplectic after the game, both about his team's defense, and a late game technical for Dwight Howard that helped extend the Grizzlies' lead to 3. Howard may not have done much to earn that tech, but he had been furious with the officials since Thabeet drew a charge on him late on an obvious call.  Once again, Howard lost his cool, the system lost its way, and Orlando lost another game.  Big win for the Grizzlies, who are now one game over .500 and within striking distance of the 8th seed in the West. 



Josh McRoberts: "Whoa, bro."

Final Thoughts:

  • The Jazz needing a late surge to hold off the Bobcats who shot 35% from the field is almost as good as a loss. Even in a win the Jazz are still completely in shambles. 
  • The Cavaliers actually competed really well against the Heat, putting some pressure on them at times and continually coming at them. It would have been very easy to lay down and die, but the Cavs at least competed as professionals. I mean, it didn't matter, since it's the Cavaliers versus the Heat, but still. 
  • John Wall is starting to regain some of his preseason form. 17 and 10 last night for Wall in a loss to the Mavericks, because they were on the road and they couldn't beat a drum on the road. 
  • If I'm Bryan Colangelo, I'm looking for anyone to take Andrea Bargnani off my hands. It's not just his non-existent interior play, it's that he's the kind of player that fans have an easy time blaming in seasons like the Raps are having. Better to make him the scape goat and cash in on whatever you can for him. Easier said than done with big years and big money left on his contract. 
Posted on: January 30, 2011 8:54 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 6:42 am

The Game Changer: Celtics roll Lakers in L.A.

The Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in LA while the Miami Heat ruffled Kevin Durant's feathers, pulling out the road win in Oklahoma City. Also, Eddie House did a ridiculous dance, Kevin Garnett was bleeding profusely from the head and the best of an amazing night from Blake Griffin. Posted by Ben Golliver.

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.  


All the numbers leading up to Sunday's showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics said it should be a nail biter, but the Celtics managed a fairly commanding road win. Simply put, they looked like the more focused, cohesive team on both ends of the floor and their defense turned it up another notch in the second half, after allowing a mini-explosion from Lakers star Kobe Bryant in the second quarter.

To say that Boston is the better team right now is not a stretch at all. Neither is saying they wanted this game more. That starts with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, of course, who has Boston's all-time record against the Lakers stitched into his shoes, as we noted earlier this week , and who, according to Yahoo! Sports , refused a Lakers' ballboy's autograph request, saying, "You got a better chance of catching Bin Laden."

It's been a chippy road trip for the Celtics, who jawed with the Blazers on Thursday night before nearly fighting with the Suns on Friday. Garnett had his head bloodied in the first half by a Pau Gasol elbow (see picture below), but it didn't matter, as Boston's balanced attack and focused and disciplined team defense was more than enough to overcome the Kobe Bryant show. 

Boston's four All-Stars all showed up (Paul Pierce had 32, Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Ray Allen had 21 points on just 12 shots and Rajon Rondo scored 10 points and dished out 16 assists) and so did the Celtics bench, outscoring the Lakers', 28-24. That Boston was able to slam the door in crunch time so effectively is what will please coach Doc Rivers the most, as he's still without a fully healthy Kendrick Perkins. As a playoff preview and mid-season litmus test, this is everything Rivers and Celtics fans could have asked for.

How concerned should Los Angeles be? There's reason for consternation, as we've all been to this movie before. Bryant -- who finished with 41 points but zero assists -- doing it all and then attempting to do it all when he doesn't feel like he's getting the support he needs. It's a problem LA has overcome before so it's certainly not insurmountable, but LA's overall intensity, especially in the second half, wasn't fit for the task.

Of course, it's January, but it's hard to keep perspective when there is so much pride on the line. 


Kobe Bryant: 41 points, three rebounds, zero assists on 16-29 shooting in 38 minutes in a Los Angeles Lakers home loss to the Boston Celtics.

Paul Pierce: 32 points, five rebounds, three assists, one block, one steal in 41 minutes in a Boston Celtics road win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kevin Durant:  33 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, four steals on 7-20 shooting in 40 minutes in an Oklahoma City Thunder home loss to the Miami Heat.

LeBron James:  23 points, four rebounds, 13 assists, four steals, three blocks on 7-14 shooting in 40 minutes in a Miami Heat road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Dwight Howard:  20 points, 20 rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks on 9-13 shooting in 26 minutes in an Orlando Magic home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.



There was a very interesting sequence near the end of Sunday's game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. Trailing by one point with roughly 40 seconds to play, Miami Heat guard missed a jumper, but the Heat corralled the offensive rebound. With the game on the line, Heat forward LeBron James considered taking a potential game-winning attempt, but instead passed to Heat guard Eddie House, who was wide open near the right corner. 

House buried the three -- saving James a whole bunch of second-guessing -- and then decided to do a somewhat inappropriate dance meant to reflect the size of his genitalia to celebrate his accomplishment. Have a look at the tape.  


During the first half of Sunday's game between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett took an elbow to the head from Lakers big man Pau Gasol, and the blood was streaming all over his face. Pretty intense, even by KG's standards.



Here's the best of Blake Griffin from the weekend. Both plays come from Saturday's game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Charlotte Bobcats, which Griffin's Clippers won, 103-88.

First up is a 50-foot alley-oop from guard Randy Foye to Blake Griffin. Enough said.

Next up: an insanely pretty reverse spin move that led to a lay-up plus one. Not sure how many players in the NBA can pull this off, but it's a very, very short list that doesn't include any other big men. My goodness.


The only thing standing in between the Boston Celtics and the NBA Finals right now is complacency. They are, by far, the team that people least want to face in a seven-game series right now, and they're not even fully healthy. 
Posted on: January 28, 2011 1:12 am

Game Changer: Big problems late for the Heat

Posted by Royce Young


Erik Spoelstra said last week that Chris Bosh, not LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, was the Miami Heat's most important player. We all scoffed at such a thing.

But after Miami's Thursday night 93-88 loss to the Knicks, maybe he has a point.

The Heat struggled to find points against a poor defensive team as the Knicks moved the ball well, found good shots and made them. Miami on the other hand was entirely stagnant. The ball didn't move and the Heat didn't have options other than an iso play for Wade or LeBron. They missed that extra option of a kick to Bosh for a 15-footer.

That's where Bosh has a lot of value. He just gives the team a bail out option. In those possessions where Wade holds the ball for 16 seconds and tries to create, normally he has an open Bosh to kick to. Lately, the Heat have dearly missed that.

The last eight minutes, the Heat didn't run a single successful offensive set. Everything they got was either a putback or in transition. The Miami offense was so bad that after a contested LeBron brick that was in a possession without a single pass, TNT commentator Steve Kerr said, "You're kidding me," while the ball was in flight.

The game had a playoff feel to it and that could be bad news for the Heat. Consider this wild stat: The Heat are now 1-8 in games decided by five points or less. That almost seems unimaginable for a squad that has closers like Wade and LeBron, but what it shows is that the team doesn't understand offense.

They get by because of superior talent and explosiveness in the open floor unlike anyone else, but when it comes to grinding out halfcourt sets in a tight game, they don't know what they're doing. The ball doesn't move, players don't cut. The ball is either in Wade or LeBron's hands and they dribble out the 24 and try and make a play themself. They just don't know what to do. It's horrific offense.

But credit the Knicks. They started the game 6-29 from 3 but hit their final four attempts. Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields each drilled a pair. Unlike the Heat, the Knicks got those looks because of good inside-out action, nice off the ball movement and crisp cuts and dribble penetration. It was actual offense.

The Knicks won a big game over rival Miami despite shooting 36 percent. It's a big win for New York because it proved to itself that it can play with the big bad boys from Miami. This game felt like an opening round playoff game and it's possible that it was a preview. And if this game told us anything, it's that the Heat need Chris Bosh back and they also have got to figure out what in the heck to do in crunch time. 


Tyson Chandler showing up big for Dallas, scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.

Landry Fields was huge for New York, scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Dwyane Wade scored 34 points on 14-22 shooting. However, he started 14-17 so that means he missed his final eight shots. Plus, he went just 6-14 from the line.

LaMarcus Aldridge struggled a bit getting looks against Boston, but finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds.


LeBron had a tough night shooting the ball, going just 7-24 against the Knicks. But he did reject Ronny Turiaf in fairly spectacular fashion.


If you only look at the final score, you'd probably assume the Celtics-Blazers game was an ugly, unwatchable affair Thursday night. The Celtics won 88-78, the Blazers shot 37 percent and Boston turned it over 20 times.

But really, watching the Celtics defend can sometimes be as much a joy as watching an offensive explosion.

The Celtics completely locked down the overmatched Blazers, suffocating the Portland ballhandlers while forcing long, contested jumpers. Kevin Garnett was completely brilliant on LaMarcus Aldridge, who really was Portland's only offensive weapon. Only four Blazers finished in double-figures and with Nicolas Batum leaving early because of a sore knee, the Celtics basically turned into a pack of hungry wolves hovering over some red meat.

Boston didn't score the ball all the well, but they didn't have to. They got just enough from Paul Pierce (17 points), Ray Allen (18) and Kendrick Perkins (10). It was really kind of a routine Celtic win. Hard, intense defense from the tip and crisp offensive execution in key stretches. It's hard to imagine someone beating a healthy Celtics in a seven-game series when they play like this.


The Mavericks finally appear to be coming out of their funk as they slid past the Rockets 111-106. And while it looks to be getting better for Dallas, they aren't winning the way they were before.

Against Houston, Dirk Nowitzki only scored 18 points on 16 shots. Jason Terry only had 15 on 12 shots. The way Dallas got by was from a collaborative effort from everyone. J.J. Barea put in 19 off the bench on 8-10 shooting. Tyson Chandler had 21 points on 5-8 from the field. Sasha Pavlovic had 11 big points including 3-4 from 3. The Mavs got a little something from just about everybody and they had to have it.

The Mavs have Peja Stojakovic coming and it's possible they'll make a deal before the deadline, but if this is the Mavs team we're going to see down the stretch, they're going to have to win like this. Obviously they can rely on Dirk heavily, but if he's not hitting, the role players will have to elevate themselves. Barea will need to create, Pavlovic will need to shoot and Chandler will have to play big inside.

Dallas still has a good team, despite the injuries. This is win No. 30 for them. They may have fallen off the radar a bit because of a tough few weeks but this team isn't going anywhere.
Posted on: January 27, 2011 1:30 am

Game Changer: Where the Spurs silenced the Jazz

Posted by Royce Young


That big red button is getting bigger by the night. I'm not typically one to punch a panic button in January, but boy, things are not going well in Utah right now.

But pull your finger away for now. Yes, the Jazz dropped a sixth straight. And yes, they trailed by as many as 19. But Utah showed some mettle at home, fighting back behind 39 points from Deron Williams and had the game within reach with under a minute yet.

Something about this game just said that the Jazz are going to figure things out. The Spurs are the league's best team and they aren't easy to beat anywhere. So the fact that the Jazz almost beat them means something. I think.

Though I'm sure Jerry Sloan doesn't want to hear anything remotely close to a moral victory.

On the other side, the Spurs moved to 39-7, which is just terrific. I loved the way they won this game. The execution late was just flawless. The way Manu Ginobili just makes winning play after winning play is astounding.

People want to say San Antonio is boring, but if beautiful basketball is boring, then sign me up for another borefest. Because watching the Spurs in the halfcourt move the ball, reverse it, set a pindown screen and find an open shooter is just basketball poetry. I could watch it all day.


You were probably too busy watching Jimmer Fredette, but holy cow I hope you at least caught a little of the Thunder and Timberwolves.

There were 19 total lead changes and eight in the final three minutes of regulation. The game went to overtime where Oklahoma City eventually edged Minnesota 118-117 because of a silky Kevin Durant jumper with 28 seconds left and a big free throw miss from Corey Brewer with six seconds left.

(Watch Durant's step-back jumper in the highlights though. It's just stupid good. Like how could anyone ever dream of stopping that?)

Don't get me wrong, the game was fun and terrific and all of that, but the two Kevins are really what stole the show. Kevin Durant tied his career-high with 47 points, 36 of which came after halftime. He also added a career-high 18 rebounds to go with it.

Kevin Love dropped another 30-20 game, this time going for 31 points and 21 rebounds, giving him 32 straight double-doubles and three 30-20 games on the season (nobody else even has one). Love had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation but his 12-foot jump hook just rimmed out.

That's the Thunder's eighth straight win over the Timberwolves, but this isn't one that just goes in the books and we forget about. It was really a great game that featured two incredible performances from two of the league's very, very best.


Kevin Durant dropped one of the season's best lines with 47 points on 15-28 shooting while grabbing a career-high 18 rebounds.

Kevin Love had another huge night scoring 31 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in a loss to OKC.

Dwight Howard had an otherwise nice games scoring 19 points and pulling in 16 rebounds. If it weren't for Kevin Love, Howard's line would've looked a bit better.

Deron Williams set a new season-high with 39 points and he also dished out nine assists.

Chris Paul had 18 points and 17 assists in the Hornets 10th straight win.


How freaking impressive are the Hornets right now? They won their 10th straight and while someone finally topped 100 points against them, it was the pace happy Warriors that did it and it came in garbage time.

During the 10-game streak, only two teams other than the Warriors have topped 100 and those games went into overtime. Against Golden State, New Orleans clamped down from the beginning, but also used some crisp, decisive offense to get off to a nice start, build a cushion and play with a lead the entire night.

All five Hornet starters notched double-figures with Chris Paul scoring 18 points and dishing out 17 assists. David West did his normal David West thing dropping 22 points on only 12 shots. And Trevor Ariza chipped in 19 on 7-11 shooting.

When the Hornets are scoring the ball, they're just about as good as anyone out there. Their defense is almost always there every night, but they find themselves in stretches trying to find baskets. Granted, it helped to be playing the Warriors, but when NOLA is scoring the ball and moving it like they did Wednesday (32 assists on 46 field goals), they match up with anybody.

Nobody was saying that a couple weeks ago when everyone was dying to write this team off. But here they come again. And look out.


Kevin Durant, just an hour removed from dropping 47 points on the Timberwolves tweeted last night about the game of the night, BYU's big win over undefeated San Diego State in which Cougar sensation Jimmer Fredette dropped 43 points.

A classic Durant move, giving props to someone else instead of playing up his own big night. It's why we love him.


The 76ers quietly won again, moving to 20-25 on the season. But the way they won was the impressive part. The team scored 107 points, which is good. But the starters only put in 49 points. That means the Sixer bench poured in 58 points! Marresse Speights had 23, Lou Williams 15, Thaddeus Young 10 and Evan Turner 10.

The Sixers are figuring things out a bit lately and if that sort of depth is for real, they may be a lock for the playoffs in the East.
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