Tag:Oklahoma City THunder
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:39 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 1:48 am
 

Report Card: Sanity reigns


The Heat&nbsp''s defense swarmed the Knicks on Thursday in a win. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore 

Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was.

Notable Games: 
Miami 102 New York 88
Oklahoma City 100 Lakers 85

Heat's Defense Miami trapped on the pick and roll, attacked Jeremy Lin at halfcourt on his dribble, contested at the rim with Joel Athony, and made Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire disappear. Individually they are impressive. Collectively they are dominant.
LeBron James His 7-16 shooting percentage is the only thing keeping him from an A. Because James sets the bar just that high. 20 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks. That's pretty absurd. His defensive work and ability to run the break and control the pace of the game was complete. Another MVP performance.
Joel Anthony How do you only get six boards as a starting center, score no points and get an A? Five blocks, and constantly limit every single baseline and wing penetration. Anthony was outmatched in terms of talent, as he usually is, and played brilliantly, as he has for most of this season.
Chris Bosh The only member of the Big 3 for Miami with a good shooting night, Bosh just kept plugging filling in baseline jumpers and at one point, shook Tyson Chandler something fierce with a step back jumper. Bosh continues a great season he gets no credit for.
Jeremy Lin Yes, he was tired. Yes, it was one of the best defenses in the league. And yes, everyone gets an off nigh. But Lin must cut down on his turnovers. This is not a usage issue. Four turnovers, five turnovers, sure. Lin had six in the first half, eight total, and that just kills everything New York does well with him. Lin did his best, but the bar has been raised for Lin and he couldn't reach it against the best competition he's had.
Amar'e Stoudemire If anyone sees Amar'e Stoudemire, please let us know. He hasn't been seen since the first half against Miami.
Carmelo Anthony Anthony looked good in the first half, moving the ball and moving without it. Then in the second half he faded, going more and more to isolation, and draining the Knicks offense. He had very little choice as the Knicks offense was drowning itself in a pool of its own vomit. But there's still not a measure of total comfort for Melo.
Miami's point guards Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers took it right to Lin and converted turnovers into points, managed the offense, and hit shots. Cole's aggressiveness continues to impress.
Kobe Bryant Twenty four points on twenty four shots. Kobe System. You're welcome.
James Harden It's not every night you get to beat up Kobe Bryant's shooting percentage, talk trash to him, steal from him and then outrun him in transition, and get the win. Harden was brilliant defensively, which isn't commonplace, Thursday night. Staring down Bryant and not backing down gets bonus points.
Kevin Durant 33 points on 22 shots, 6 assist, 3 steals and just 2 turnovers. The model of efficiency and tough shot after tough shot. You know, same ol' same ol' for KD.
Kendrick Perkins Perkins has not been great at times the past two seasons, but Andrew Bynum brings out the best in him. Perkins made some big plays and played the kind of tough defense he's known for. His follow dunk in the fourth quarter Thursday was a statement late that the game was over.
Pau Gasoly Another game, another disappearing act for the most controversial Laker of this era.
Russell Westbrook Westbrook didn't shoot well. He wasn't creating tons of assists, but he made a lot of plays like the one in the fourth quarter where he beat two Lakers to the ball, corralled it with one hand, kicked the break off blowing past two more Lakers, then dished a perfect laser pass to a cutting Harden for the dunk. Westbrook remains, as always, underrated.


E FOR EFFORT
DeJuan Blair (28 points, 12 rebounds, 0 turnovers)
Andre Miller (20 points on 10 shots, 7 assists, 2 turnovers)
Jannero Pargo (15 points in less than 20 minutes)
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 1:05 pm
 

Eye on Basketball Midseason Awards

LeBron James is having one of the best seasons of his career and is the midseason NBA MVP. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore
 

The 2012 NBA All-Star break begins this week as this season continues to fly by on a shortened lockout schedule. Already we've seen an incredible year, even in the midst of some ugly, ugly, ugly basketball. The Heat look better than ever, the Bulls are still dominant through injury, the Sixers are impressively complete. The Dwight Howard saga drags on. The Lakers and Celtics are struggling to find their dominant gear. The Thunder are blistering offensively, the Timberwolves surprising and of course, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin all the time. 

With that, here are the 2012 NBA Midseason Awards, based on where we stand on February 20th, 2012. 

Eastern Conference Most Valuable Player: LeBron James


When CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel wrote that LeBron was different this year, he was spot-on. James has talked about how he spent the summer re-discovering his love of basketball, getting away from all the criticism, and getting back to the person he wants to be. He and the Heat have admitted that the resounding backlash to "The Decision" played a large part in their mental approach to last season. In short, James is not comfortable being bitter, angry, resentful. He's at his best when driven by a simple love of the game. That's the dichotomy with James. He is inarguably the single most arrogant and out-of-touch player in the Association, and yet he does possess a genuine love of basketball. It's always playing at his home. It's something he lights up when he gets to talk about instead of storylines. Basketball came easily to James athletically, but it's also something he works obsessively at. History teaches that you have to hate your opponent, have to be driven by anger and resentment. James is simply not built that way. In reality, he may be too goofy, too fun-loving to ever reach the kind of iconic play that is necessary to be considered one of the best, to have the killer instinct that so many criticize him for lacking, which he himself has admitted he may lack.

None of this changes the fact that there are only three things which can stop James from earning his third MVP this season, should he continue to play as he has for the first half of the year. The first is largely the same reason he failed to win it last season: vengeance. Voters showed their disapproval of James by not truly considering him for the award. Whether it was a distaste for the arrogance of James' approach to leaving Cleveland on national television, a disgust at the preseason championship comments at the presser with the smoke and fireworks, or disappointment with James seeking to team up with two great players instead of winning on his own (an element neither Carmelo Anthony nor Chris Paul have received criticism for), James was shut out, when by most measures, he simply played better than Derrick Rose. Rose was a phenomenal player last season and a wonderful story, well-worthy of the award. However, James was better. Those sentiments have cooled this season, but if voters decide to maintain their teeth-grinding disapproval of James, that could cost him. The second is simple injury. James has only missed a small handful of games, but that can always derail a player's path. And the third is the most likely impediment: minutes.

The Heat did not take the tactic of prioritizing homecourt last season. It wouldn't have mattered, the Bulls were simply better in every way during the course of the regular season. But the Heat were clearly more focused on being healthy for the playoffs than capturing homecourt. And it's likely to be the same this year. The Heat have managed to handle the compact schedule well, outside of some Dwyane Wade bumps and bruises as to be expected. But when March rolls around, this team will start looking for rest, and that means James could sit out several games. The Heat will happily trade in April wins, provided they have a top four seed, for rest. James could lose momentum in that case as he watches from the sideline and another worthy candidate pushes his way to the finish line.

What makes James worthy of the award this year? Pick one. The Heat are the best team in the East, and you may claim that Dwyane Wade is still the focal point of the offense, metrics be damned, and that's fine, but James' overall work on both ends of the floor still takes the notch. Without resorting to statistics, you see James take over games as if he's a one-man army. He's seemingly everywhere, interrupting passes, working in the post, snatching rebounds, blocking shots, lobbing to Wade, dishing to Chalmers, attacking the rim over and over again. It's awe-inspiring basketball. You don't need metrics to see he's the best player in the game this season. This is all factoring in the fact he's taken a step back defensively. He's turned it on the past five or six games, but this hasn't been a season of his usual defensive dominance... and he's still been this good overall.

But if you want them, they bear it out as well. James is enjoying a career high (tied) in points per 36 minutes, rebounds per game and 36 minutes, field goal percentage, True Shooting percentage (factoring 3-point shooting and free throws), and of course PER. The confusion with PER most often is that it somehow measures value, that it establishes how good a player is. Instead, it's just what it's defined as. Player Efficiency Rating. It establishes who produces the most per minute, considering how many possessions they use in doing so. And right now, James is doing the most of any player in history in that department.



So that's fun.

James may not win MVP this year, for a variety of reasons. But there is absolutely no question at this season's halfway mark, that he's the best player in the league, and most valuable.

Western Conference Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant

If you prefer the classic mold of the MVP, AKA a scoring machine, Kevin Durant fits pretty well. He's a jump-shooter shooting 52 percent from the field. Think about that. The league average is 36 percent. Durant is hitting 15 more shots for every 100 attempts from the hardest place on the floor to knock them down. That's ridiculous. That's just absurd. He is the best pure-scoring machine in the league. Kobe Bryant may topple him for the scoring crown, but he'll need five to six more attempts to do so. The cherry on Durant's Sunday has to be his 51-point explosion Sunday night. He managed 51 points on 28 shots.

And really quietly, Durant's become an elite defender. He's allowing just 26 percent from the field in ISO situations according to Synergy Sports. Defense was a huge weakness in Durant's game over the past few seasons and he's really hit his stride this season. The Thunder aren't even that great defensively, Durant has just been individually incredible.

For him to catch James, he would need for the Thunder to continue their impressive winning percentage. He would need to top the league in scoring, and for his impressive uptick in rebounding rates to continue. It's a tall order, but there's no question he's within range. Durant has become the most impressive offensive force in the league.

He is 23 years of age.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving

Ricky Rubio is dazzling. He's a phenom. He changes the course of games and wows you with the eyes. No rookie has impressed more than Rubio, who has silenced all his critics, of which I was very much one, regarding his ability translate his game to the NBA level. Rubio is honestly poetry in motion, and the feel he has for the game is joy-inspiring more than awe-inspiring. It is such a fluid and spectacular range of abilities, it makes the Timberwolves so much fun to watch.

And Kyre Irving is a better player.

It's not really close.

Get past the fact that Irving has been shooting at historic levels, that his overall production is in line with some of the all-time greats in this league in their first years. Irving has a mastery of the game that Rubio does not, even after so many more years of playing professionally. Irving can run an offense more completely and calmly, and is a superb crunch time scorer (Rubio is brilliant in that area in his own right). But if you want numbers, it's simple. Rubio's a 38 percent shooter. Irving is a 48 percent shooter. You can talk about how you would prefer your point guard pass than score, but Irving's numbers are truncated by a lack of talent on the Cavaliers, while Rubio has Kevin Love, Michael Beasley (a scorer for all his faults), an emerging Nikolai Pekovic and Derrick Williams.

Rubio would be a fine choice. He's the most exciting rookie. Maybe even the most impactful rookie.

Kyrie Irving is the Rookie of the Year, halfway through. This one will be tight to the finish.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Iguodala

I know. It's always Dwight Howard! It has to be Dwight Howard! But here's the thing. Howard's effort hasn't been as consistent this season. Whether it's the trade talk, the lockout schedule effect, coaching, whatever, it hasn't been there. His rebound rate is there, it's the highest of his career. He actually is allowing fewer points per possession than he did last year, but if we consider the lockout effects on all shooting percentages, Howard has slipped from the 96th percentile to the 77th percentile in rank on points per possession. Howard is maybe the most impactful defensive player in the league. But his performance hasn't been worthy of the award this year.

Iguodala, on the other hand, is the star defender on the league's best defense (Philly is tops in defensive efficiency, points per 100 possessions), and is most often given the toughest assignment night in and night out in this league. He is tasked with stopping the best perimeter threat on offense each game, and in doing so, has limited opponents to 35 percent shooting. He is able to body up larger opponents, stick with smaller ones, switch, shift, deter, block, steal, cajole, harass and otherwise make his opponent's life miserable and has done so for the majority of the season.

A close second on this list is Luol Deng, who actually has better marks via Synergy. But a combination of Deng's missed time due to injury, and the Bulls' reliance on help defense under Tom Thibodeau's system barely, and I mean barely, gives Iguodala the edge here. Dwight Howard will wind up winning this award, but ask yourself, is it more difficult to shut down perimeter elite scorers in this league or to stop the awful, horrible batch of big men currently roaming the lanes?

6th Man of the Year: James Harden

Harden should be starting. By any and all accounts, he is a much better player than Thabo Seofolosha, or Daequan Cook, or whoever you want to start at two-guard for the best offense in the land. Harden should be the starter, he plays starters minutes, he finishes like a starter, he's close with the starters, he's a star in his own right. And yet, he's much better off the bench. He provides the Thunder with not only a scorer off the pine, but an offensive creator, maybe his best asset. Harden can run the offense, he facilitates, and can make a play go even off-ball. He's a capable if not excellent defender, and his decision making and effort is often times the difference in close wins and losses for OKC.

This award has been wrapped up for a good long time.

Coach of the Year: Doug Collins

The Philadelphia 76ers have the third seed in the East as of this writing, with signature wins over the Lakers, Bulls, Magic, and just about everyone not from South Beach. Doug Collins has managed to turn a team without a central star, without an Isolation scoring threat, without a dominant big man or an all-world point guard (no offense to the brilliant Jrue Holiday) into a powerhouse that overwhelms teams with defense, savvy, bench scoring, team play, and fortitude.

The players genuinely love to play for Collins and he's gotten through to them to a man. Spencer Hawes is playing well, for crying out loud. Elton Brand is producing. Iguodala is having the best overall season of his career by the eye test. They have the best defense, the best bench, the best record in a tough division. Collins has done an incredible job and is every bit deserving of this award as much for his process as the results it has garnered.

Most Improved Player: Jeremy Lin

What were you expecting? Usually second-year players are exempt in my eyes. They're supposed to develop and improve in their second season. But Lin is a special case. Lost in the Linsanity and all the great storylines surround him is the fact he has talked a lot about what the D-League did for him. This league too often doesn't allow players to develop, simply shreds them through and only the strong survive. Lin is a testament to the idea that players can develop, can improve, can learn this game and get better to the point of success. He's improved the most simply by making himself relevant, let alone raising New York from the dead for 15 percent of the season.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 1:58 am
 

Report Card 2.20.12: Durant goes OFF

Kevin Durant scored 51 in the Thunder's win over Denver Sunday. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore 

Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was.

Kevin Durant These are numbers, but they are important numbers. 51 points on 28 shots, 19-28 from the field, 5-6 from three, 9-10 from the stripe. Eight rebounds, three assists, 4 steals and a huge win over the Nuggets in overtime. Denver was without two starters but dug deep and forced the Thunder to the edge. But Durant put on a performance for the ages, the shine on his MVP candidacy and lifted OKC to a win. It was the kind of performance you tell your friends about, your kids about, the kind you start the water cooler conversation about. He was unstoppable from the elbow, unstoppable from the perimeter, unstoppable at the rim. It was a transcendent performance, and this is alongside Russell Westbrook with 40 points and nine assists and Serge Ibaka's triple double in points, rebounds, and blocks. This Thunder team may not be good enough defensively to win a title, but they may wind up as one to remember for a long, long time.
LeBron James The surges are becoming more pronounced, the dropoffs less so. James is solving defensive adjustments used against him. He's finding open shooters in the corner who are actually knocking them down this year, he's battling more inside, he's still a freak of nature in transition, and on Sunday, he guarded Dwight Howard on a handful of possessions. James buried the Magic by doing all the things he does, and true to form, did them in less than 40 minutes of time. 25-11-8, a full-court lob to Wade, just one miss from the stripe, just five misses from the field. There are games where James feels like a one-man horde, storming the opponent's gates. Sunday was such a game and the Magic had no defense.
Jeremy Lin Defending champs? No problem. Shawn Marion who helped shut down Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James last year? No problem. Increased expectations, a Sunday afternoon double-header on national television, and the grind of interviews and a compact schedule? No problem. Jeremy Lin did his thing again, the Knicks won again, and Linsanity rages on. Lin managed the offense as well as he has. Were the turnovers great? No, clearly not. But a 2:1 turnover ratio is acceptable given his usage, and turning Steve Novak into a scoring machine deserves a reward all its own.
Denver Nuggets They were short-handed, and still the Nuggets managed to push the Thunder to the brink before a furious comeback landed them in overtime and a few good shots (a good roll for Westbrook on a three) and some Durant brilliance downed them. The Nuggets were without Nene and Danilo Gallinari, but they were stil stranded without a closer. Denver had such a good approach in the first half, attacking a weak Thunder interior (those Ibaka blocks all come on the weakside, not man-up) and killing them on the glass. They abandoned it in the second half and it cost them as the Lakers topped off a 2-0 run.
The Old Guard Boston loses to Detroit for the second time in a month. The Lakers get whacked by the Suns in a game that wasn't competitive after the first quarter. Neither side has any real idea of where they're going or if they can perform as needed to compete for a title. There's constant trade talk surrounding both teams. They look slow, they look old, they struggle to score and they struggle to defend. These teams were the two Finals squads two years ago. Time marches on.
Charlotte Bobcats After three quarters against the Pacers, the Bobcats, a professional basketball team by strict definition (only), were down 88-48. For-ty-poi-nts. That's embarrassing. That's disgusting. That's... not totally surprising. There is no hope in Charlotte right now. Not even with the rookies. It's all bad, all the time. This performance was worthy of inventing a new letter beneath F just to give it to them.


E FOR EFFORT
Jeremy Lin (28 points, 14 assists, general linsanity, magical powers)
Ersan Ilyasova (29 points, 25 rebounds in a win over New Jersey)
Kyle Lowry (32 points, 9 assists in a win over Utah)
LeBron James (25 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists)
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:50 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 12:51 am
 

OKC uses its closers to finish off Denver

Posted by Royce Young

Westbrook and Durant did something that two guys haven't done since two guys named Jordan and Pippen. (Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There's a very, very fine line that separates the Thunder and the Nuggets. And you can basically draw it in between No. 35 and No. 0.

Oklahoma City has 'em. Denver does not.

Just like Game 5 in last season's opening round playoff series when Denver seemed to have things locked up, or Game 1 that the Thunder stole late, or Game 3 where the Thunder finished Denver in the last five minutes, the Nuggets watched Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook break their hearts. Durant, a career-high 51. Westbrook, 40. Thirty-nine of OKC's final 46. And all 13 in overtime. Oklahoma City 124, Denver 118.

"The game of basketball can be really mean to you," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "To have a great player take a game from you like that is heart-wrenching. It's just the bounce of the ball."

The Nuggets had it too. I mean really had it. They led by nine in the fourth quarter and seven with 5:39 left. The Thunder’s play-by-play from that point on: Durant made 3, Westbrook made layup, Durant made 3, Durant made layup, Ibaka made putback, Westbrook made jumper, Westbrook made jumper, Durant made 3, Durant made dunk. Where did the Nuggets turn? Chris Anderson took two 15-foot jumpers, for crying out loud. 

People like to talk about “closers” in basketball, but it’s been pretty obvious as this theme has recurred in these games that the Thunder have not one, but two of them and the Nuggets don't have any. Granted, Denver played this game without Nene or Danilo Gallinari. But neither of those guys were able to step up in those moments last postseason either. The Nuggets tried to turn to Andre Miller, who was having a fantastic game. James Harden — who had a miserable offensive night — twice played him splendidly, staying down on Miller’s pump fakes and ended up forcing him into back-to-back traveling violations in overtime. Ty Lawson hit a big-time 3 to put Denver up three with 54 seconds left, but failed to his a pretty clean look at the end of regulation.

The Thunder, though, finished. Durant powered in a dunk with seven seconds left to send it to overtime. Westbrook drilled a free throw line jumper with 26 seconds left to ice it.

Said Durant, “A lot of people might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime.”

Take it to those extra five minutes. Durant was completely gassed, so Westbrook stepped up, hitting a 3 to kick things off and then a couple jumpers to keep the Thunder in front. Then Durant found his legs again finishing a fast break layup and hitting all four of his free throws. Those two scored all 13 of OKC's overtime points. Denver got their seven on two baskets from Arron Afflalo and one from Kosta Koufos. The Nuggets just didn’t know where to go for points. It wasn't very hard for OKC to figure it out.

Here's how wild this game was: Serge Ibaka has a triple-double -- 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks -- and it almost feels like a footnote. That's Ibaka's third double-digit block game of this season, in fact. (OKC is the first team EVER in NBA history to have a guy score 50, a guy score 40 and a guy finish with a triple-double.)

"He's been phenomenal man," Durant said. "It's just been fun to watch. You might not believe me but at the end coach said to press up on Afflalo and let him go to the rim. That sounds kind of weird, right?"

But that's an afterthought when you consider Westbrook and Durant did something nobody has done since Pippen and Jordan (two teammates scoring 40 or more). Westbrook and Durant actually had more points than seven teams tonight. The Heat, who were fantastic in a win over Orlando, we beat by Westbrook and Durant 91-90. Are you following me here?

Karl said after the game that in a lot of ways the Nuggets won the game. And they did. They played better than Oklahoma City. They executed better, worked the ball better and defended better. But they didn't have Batman and Batman. (There's no Robin here.) They had a group of sidekicks all trying to combine to finish out the superheroes. Just didn't have enough. Just couldn't close those guys from OKC.

Like Karl said, the game of basketball can be really mean to you.

Nah, just Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 9:19 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 10:22 am
 

Thunder's Sefolosha (foot) out another month

Posted by Royce Young

Prior to Friday’s game against the Warriors, Thabo Sefolosha sat at his locker with a hard cast on his right foot. The Thunder swingman has been suffering from a lingering tendon injury that's already kept him out of the lineup for 11 straight games.

Recent reports indicated Sefolosha would get a walking boot for the foot, so the hard cast is definitely a bad sign.

The Swiss-born Sefolosha told reporters Friday he’ll miss another month because of the injury. He will wear the hard cast for a week, switch to a walking boot and then rehab for two weeks.

Sefolosha last played on Jan. 27 against the Warriors. Daequan Cook, who has been starting in his place, will continue in that role.

Via NewsOK

Posted on: February 17, 2012 8:50 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 8:52 pm
 

Durant parting ways with agent Aaron Goodwin

Posted by Royce Young

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant is parting ways with longtime agent Aaron Goodwin, he confirmed before Friday's game against the Warriors.

“There's some truth to that,” Durant said when asked about it. “It's some stuff I've got to take care of first. But all I'm worried about is playing, man. I can't let that affect me on the court.”

Durant has been part of Goodwin Sports Management for five years. That was the agency he signed with after he left Texas following his freshman year.

“I really appreciate what the Goodwins did for me, but it was time for me to move on,” Durant said.

Durant said he hasn't decided on a new agency, but FoxSports.com reported there are "rumblings" Durant might be headed toward CAA, which represents LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, among others. Goodwin's agency has lost LeBron and Dwight Howard in recent years as well.

The move comes a bit out of left field as Durant had just signed a sponsorship deal with Sprint and had a few other deals pending. Goodwin was a big part in securing a movie role for Durant as well, which finished filming recently. Goodwin was with Durant in Houston on Tuesday and at that time, everything was fine.

Durant signed a five-year maximum extension last summer and according to Forbes, earned some $9 million off the court last year. Durant has sponsorship deals with Panini America, Nike, Gatorade and Skullcandy, among a few others.

Durant said for now, his brother Tony will be handling his business affairs.
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:46 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 2:41 am
 

Report Card: 'Linsanity' pulls Knicks to .500

Posted by Ben Golliver 

Everything came easy against the Sacramento Kings for Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks . (Getty Images)

Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was.

Jeremy Lin No late-game heroics from the Knicks guard this time around, but he did dish out a career-high 13 assists, getting into the lane at will against Sacramento's perimeter defense. New York cruised to a 100-85 victory in front of the home crowd, and Lin's ball distribution helped New York land seven players in double figures. All five Knicks starters finished +18 or better. Dominant. Seven straight wins for the Knicks, who pulled back to .500 for the first time in a month.
Kevin Love The Timberwolves are flirting with .500, so they should handle a team as bad as the Bobcats at home with ease. But this is still the first season on the upswing for Minnesota and a good solid thumping can't always be assumed. Kevin Love put up an absurd 30 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal night on 11-21 shooting. That's how you pound a poor team into submission. Don't look now, but Charlotte has now lost 16 straight; the next longest streak in the league is 7.
Portland Trail Blazers Portland might have needed a win as badly as any team in the league, given its recent poor play and the loss of forward LaMarcus Aldridge to injury. Winning in the Bay Area and winning close games have both been bugaboos for the Blazers, but they pulled out a late win over the Warriors thanks to solid team rebounding and a late 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford. Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby were key energy providers and the Crawford three helped make up for Portland's top-3 guards combining to shoot 13-for-40 on the night.
Nate Robinson Nate Robinson gives and Nate Robinson taketh away. With star guard Monta Ellis pinned to the bench late in the game, apparently due to illness, Warriors coach Mark Jackson effectively turned the game over to Robinson, who finished with 21 points in 21 minutes. Unfortunately, 4 turnovers and some poor shot selection on key possessions down the stretch contributed to the Warriors scoring just 37 second-half points, and Robinson bumbled the ball on the game's final possession. Endless excitement but ultimately unfulfilling. Story of his NBA career.
Washington Wizards One night after torching Portland from absolutely everywhere, shooting an unconscious 60 percent for the game as a team, the Wizards fell back to Earth against the Clippers, shooting just 5-for-22 from deep while getting killed on the glass. All five L.A. starters hit double figures, as did Mo Williams, and this one ended in an 18-point rout.
Oklahoma City Thunder The West's top team can't be happy with the slowest of slow starts, as they scored just 13 points in the first quarter at Houston, digging themselves a 16-point hole in the first frame. The Thunder charged back hard and probably should have won this one, but neither Kevin Durant (33 points) or Russell Westbrook (26 points) really found their strokes from deep. Unusual late-game shortcomings from both All-Stars added salt to the wound.



E FOR EFFORT
Tony Parker (34 points, 14 assists, 11-for-23 shooting, 12-for-12 free throws, 1 steal in a road win over the Toronto Raptors)
Gerald Wallace (24 points, 6-for-13 shooting, 4-4 from 3s, 8-8 free throws, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block in a road win over the Golden State Warriors)
Greg Monroe (22 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block in a road win over the Boston Celtics)
Ryan Anderson (27 points, 2 rebounds, 9-for-12 shooting, 7-for-10 from deep in a home win over the Philadelphia 76ers, plus a selection for the 3-point shooting contest)
Posted on: February 14, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 4:06 pm
 

NBA Power Rankings: Breakdown, Takedown Vol. 9

Posted by Royce Young and Ben Golliver

The Spurs have plenty to smile about as they ride a 7-game winning streak. (Getty Images)

The 2011-2012 NBA season continues. Here's the ninth weekly installment of CBSSports.com's NBA Power Rankings by Eye On Basketball's Matt Moore.

What did he get right? What did he get wrong? We're here to break it down and take it down.

1. Too High: Los Angeles Clippers at No. 4. You might be thinking, "Didn't I already read this before?" The Clippers were too high last week and the Spurs too low. And wouldn't you know it, they both moved up this week. The Clippers are a fine team in the West, but fourth best in the league? Even after losing Chauncey Billups for the year? I mean, Kenyon Martin was a nice pickup but not THAT nice. It just doesn't make sense to me to place the Clippers above the Spurs, or really even the Mavericks for that matter, especially after losing a top starter. -- RY

2. Too Low: San Antonio Spurs at No. 5. The Spurs have won seven straight, risen to second in the West and are getting maybe their best player back. It's not that they're too low, it's that they should be in the conversation for the top three right now. Putting them at No. 5 is fine, I suppose, but having them behind the Clippers is criminal. I wouldn't even argue with you if you wanted to bump them ahead of Oklahoma City right now. -- RY

3. Most Overrated: Milwaukee Bucks at No. 19. It's not easy to be considered overrated when you're ranked No. 19 out of 30 but that's the case when you're the ninth best team in an Eastern Conference which goes -- maybe -- five teams deep. The Brandon Jennings distraction, the Stephen Jackson distraction, the Andrew Bogut injury, it's all bad. The Bucks are just outside the playoff picture, but would be the third worst team in the Western Conference right now, better only than the New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings. By season's end, the Kings would probably pass them. 2-5 for their last seven, Milwaukee's recent wins have come against the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers. The March schedule will kill this team. -- BG

4. Most Overlooked: Dallas Mavericks at No. 9. A 4-game winning streak over Western Conference foes -- highlighted by a late Dirk Nowitzki winner against the Portland Trail Blazers in double overtime -- was all the reminder anyone needed that this team will be a major factor come playoff time. Expect them to keep getting overlooked. They might just have the toughest lead-up to the All-Star break of anyone in the league coming up -- with games against the Nuggets, 76ers, Knicks, Celtics and Lakers over the next eight days -- so there's a good chance they don't separate from the West pack until March or April. Even if the breakout never comes, this will be a feared first round match-up and the early-season questions will be a thing of the distant past. -- BG

5. Sure Thing: Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 3. How do you know that you're a really good team? You spend your week on a ridiculous road-trip that includes four games in five nights in some of the toughest buildings the NBA has to offer. You emerge 3-1 -- with wins over Portland, Golden State and Utah -- and yet all anyone wants to talk about is the loss, a close one to Sacramento on national television, with the fanbase fighting to keep its franchise in town. Watching those four Western Conference teams get up for the Thunder made it clear that OKC's reputation as the team to beat in the West is firmly established and agreed upon. Watching OKC match energy with energy on the road only underscored the point. -- BG  

6. Wild Card: New York Knicks at No. 15. So, about that whole Linsanity thing. The funny thing about it is, the Knicks have now won five straight and are back in the Eastern playoff picture. And that's with Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony returning. Which is what makes them so intriguing. Are they going to lose their mojo? Will Lin get marginalized? Or will it all be a perfect marriage? The Knicks could be rocketing up to the top 10, or the bottom could fall out any second. -- RY
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com