The Indiana Pacers: Indy entered last night's game with a 7-13 record, which didn't seem too bad considering that their previous five games were against the Magic, Celtics, Lakers, Cavaliers and Celtics again. That's a pretty tough five-game stretch, no? But things didn't improve with them finally facing a non-division leader. They shot 34 percent as a team, thanks in part to Danny Granger's 9-for-25 performance, which included a ridiculous 3-for-11 from three-point range. (For comparisons sake, the Raptors attempted 16 threes as a team.) T.J. Ford (4 points, 2-for-8) and Rasho Nesterovic (zero points, 0-for-4) seemed to be suffering from a case of formerteamitis. And things didn't go much better on the defensive end, where the Pacers gave up season-highs to Jason Kapono (25 points, 11-for-16) and Jamario Moon (17 points, 7-for-12). But other than that, they played great.
Animal Stylin': Props to Troy Murphy, who had a double-double Animal Style with 20 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists. Okay, so I haven't come to the final decision as to the exact requirements for Animal Stylin'...but you've gotta admit that Murphy had a MAN-type game. In fact, Troy's having a MAN-type season: He's currently averaging a double-double while ranking fifth in rebounds per game (11.1) and second in defensive rebounds per game (9.3). So I guess Larry knew what he was doing in that trade after all...or something.
T.J. Ford, delusions of grandeur machine: Regarding Toronto's win, which broke their five-game losing streak: "They were determined not to let me come in here and get a win." Sure, T.J. Sam Mitchell got fired and their record coming into the game (8-12) was "good" for 10th in the East, and there was that whole losing streak thing, but I'm totally sure the Raptors' primary motivation was preventing you from getting a win against them. Whatever you say.
Andrea Bargnani: It was a game of fours for Bargs: 4 boards, 4 missed shots and 4 personal fouls. If only he could have lost the ball once more, he would have had 4 turnovers too. If only he would have ripped his jersey in half, Darko-style. But I'm not sure he's that MAN-type of a player.
Hassan Adams: Hassan, who through his first five games was averaging a one trillion, had a 47-second Mario against the Pacers. Glad to see he's back on track.
Suck differentialization: From Massiv: "Just noticed some superb play from the Pacers' Stephen 'Who?' Graham and Josh 'Duke stinks at every level' McRoberts, with some suck differentials of -2 for McRoberts and an impressive -7 for Graham. Bravo boys, bravo. Psst, by the way, that was Jason freakin' Kapono you just let light you up for 25 pts and 8 boards." The sad thing is, these guys would destroy me if they showed up to my pickup league. Life: It isn't fair.
The New Jersey Nets: On Tuesday, Devin Harris was busting a happy about NJ's improvement as a team this season. Said Harris: "We knew we were going to be a playoff team. We knew we were going to be competitive. And we knew we could be a good team on the road. And we're all that right now." Maybe that was a stat curse or something, because last night the Nets failed to compete, and that failure happened on their home court, as they lost 121-109 to the Knicks...who played only seven men and lost David Lee for the final quarter due to a bruised lower back. Al Harrington had a season-high 39 points (to go with 3 rebounds) and Tim Thomas also finished with a season-high 26 (on 8-for-12 shooting). Said Nets coach Lawrence Frank: "Defensively, giving up 121 points in your building, it's tough to overcome." He then added, "Harrington, obviously, killed us." That's some serious coaching acumen you've got there, Captain Obvious.
By the way, the Nets are now 7-3 on the road but only 4-6 at home. Weird.
Tim Thomas' mom: She refused her son's request to come to the came and therefore missed his best game of the season. That's pretty cold. And it's Christmas time. You're a mean one, Mrs. Grinch.
D.J. Augustin, delusions of grandeur machine: Augustin, who played at Brother Martin High School in New Orleans before playing for Texas in college, got some big cheers and played a great game (career-high 28 points, 7 assists). But he went a little overboard with his postgame self-praise: "Everybody from New Orleans came to see me play and support me."
Byron Scott, quote machine: Regarding his team's last three wins against powder puff squads (Phoenix minus Steve Nash and Shaq, Memphis, and Charlotte minus Jason Richardson): "I don't care if five out of the seven teams were from the Louisiana high school district. It's still a win." That's true and all, but would he really not care if he was playing against high school teams? That doesn't seem very kosher.
Emeka Okafor: I'm thinking about replacing our lost "Yao Watch" with an "Okafor Watch." He played poorly (5 points, 2-for-6 from the field, 1-for-3 from the line, 4 turnovers) and once again failed to register an assist. His current numbers are: 740 minutes, 178 FGAs, 93 FTAs, 47 TOs, 7 ASTs and an Assist Percentage of 1.8.
Julian Wright: Scrubs like Wright have to pray for blowouts so they can show their stuff in garbage time. Well, he got the blowout and the garbage time. As for showing his stuff? Well, let's just say sometimes two out of three IS bad. Jules played five minutes and finished with zero points (0-for-3) and 1 foul, for a suck differential of +4. And that, my friend, is why you don't get any PT.
Peja Stojakovic: Nice face, Peja. This was sent in by both Sturla and Ricky, who said "The NBA: where having to play the Bobcats happens."
Sorry, Peja. But everybody has to play the 'Cats.
The Klahma City Thunder: When your sitting on -- or maybe I should say "sprawled semi-conscious on" -- two wins, you've got to take advantage of situations wherein a bad team comes into your house, especially when Antoine Walker is sitting on their bench. Last night, the Thunder did not, losing 108-102 to the Memphis Grizzlies. It was the first time this season the Griz managed back-to-back wins. And Nick Collison is starting to get pretty depressed. "It's the most miserable season I've ever been a part of: 2-21. It's tough. Hopefully we start winning and things will go a lot better."
Note: The Thunder have actually been playing better offensively lately, and last night, in addition to the points, they shot 51 percent from the floor and 57 from downtown. Even Kevin Durant (9-for-18) got into the act...even though he had more turnovers (6) than rebounds (5). They keep playing like that, and I might just give them their O's back. But only after they win one.
The Philadelphia 76ers: There's no shame in losing to the Cavaliers -- they're playing in God mode right now -- but, counting last night's loss, the Sixers have now dropped five straight games at home. At 5-7 in Philly, the Sixers are now one of only four Eastern Conference teams (along with the Bobcats and Wizards) who are below .500 at home so far this season. No wonder the Philadelphia crowd has been booing them and chanting "M-V-P!" for opposing players.
Donyell Marshall: From Basketbawful reader Sturla: "I accidentally stumbled upon Donyell Marshall's statistics for this season -- lets face it, after his major suckness during the last couple of years not even his closest family members would look at it on purpose -- and I noticed that in the five games he had played, he was averaging 7.6 points in only 10 minutes of action. That’s a whopping 30.4 points (along with 8.8 reb and 4.0 assists) per 40 mins. I wondered out loud "Why isn't this guy playing more minutes?!" He promptly answered my question with his 'performance' versus the Cavs: 3:35 minutes, 2 bricks and zero-in-everything-else. Still, I got the feeling he outplayed Elton Brand." Hey! Brand is, like, hurt and stuff.
Referee Pat Fraher: I'm not trying to make excuses for the Hawks. After all, when a team gets creamed 52-27 on the boards -- assuming they all still have two working arms -- they deserve to lose. However, Fraher dished up a little home cooking to facilitate things for the Spurs. With less than four minutes to play and San Antonio clinging to a precarious three-point lead, Fraher T'd up Mike Bibby and Al Horford for "arguing" a foul call on Horford. Said Bibby: "I didn't really say anything. If saying 'Come on, man,' deserves a tech, then I deserved the tech. I've heard a lot worse get told to people and (they've) not got a tech." Added Horford: "I said 'What happened?' to Mike because I didn't know what was going on. You've got a tight game going on -- a great game -- and you're going to blow it up doing that?" Bad form, Pat. Way to suck the fun out of playing basketball. (Mind you, Bibby didn't help his team's cause by shooting 3-for-11. I'm just sayin'.)
Tony Parker: Wow. TP shot 3-for-13 and had as many points (6) as he did blocks against (6). And for that matter, his assist total (3) also matched his turnover total (3). We already knew Eva took his manhood. Did she take away his game, too?
Bruce Bowen: At this point, he's almost a complete non-factor. It's like he retired after last season only nobody heard about it.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: Bad teams always seem to be followed by bad luck. The T-Wolves led by 12 at halftime before falling victim to a 33-point third quarter explosion by a gimpy Carmelo Anthony. Minny got outscored 40-22 in the quarter, and even though they made a run at Denver in the fourth, that 12-minute span cost them the game. Said Wolves coach Kevin McHale: "He got rolling. He put a show on in that third quarter." Amazingly, McHale managed to resist telling any old Celtic anecdotes.
By the way, 'Melo matched the one-quarter record set by George Gervin (then with the Spurs) against New Orleans on April 9, 1978. Anthony also broke the franchise record of 32 set by David Thompson against Detroit, also on April 9, 1978. Dismissed...as coincidence.
Chauncey Billups, forgetful machine: Regarding 'Melo's record-tying quarter, Mr. Big Shot said: "I've played against some great ones and played with some great ones. That's the best I've ever seen in a 12-minute span. He was awesome. He got us back in the game, got us a nice lead. Single-handedly put us on his back tonight and did what a lot of great players do." Huh. I guess he must have forgotten about this...
A little more impressive than spanking the Timberpups during the regular season, I think.
The Milwaukee Bucks: Not that the Bucks are, like, any good or anything, but losing by 20+ points to a team that just recently ended a league-best -- and by "best" I mean "worst" -- nine-game losing streak? This is how Michael Redd justified it: "They made their 3s and they played well, getting to the basket for easy layups. These were back-to-back games for us on the road, (and) for them, there's something about home cooking that energizes you. We'll stay positive and we'll stay focused. We had a good summer, and this is definitely not the way we wanted to go at the start. We need to turn that around." Yeah. Sure. Speaking of guys who had good summers, Andy Bogut (10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls and a scoreless fourth quarter) got outplayed by Andris Biedrins (18 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) only one night after getting man-dangled by Shaq (who had his first 30-point game in two seasons against Bogut's "defense"). Way to earn that big money, Andrew.
Anyway, the epitaph of the game came from Bucks coach Scott Skiles, who said: "We don't yet get how hard you have to play and how focused you have to be for a period of time to win an NBA game." HOW CAN THEY NOT KNOW THIS??! That's a pretty damning statement for everybody involved with the team, isn't it?
Steve Kerr: Congratulations, Steve. You have officially sucked the very last of the joy out of Steve Nash. I wasn't sure that was even possible. I'm a little torn on the Richardson trade. I mean, J-Rich can, unlike most of the Suns, create his own shot and he's shooting almost 46 percent in threes on the season. But he's also a guy who requires a lot of touches (and isolations) to score. Now he's gonna be the third or maybe even fourth banana on a team that's slowing it down. Oh, and all that slashing he likes to do? It's gonna be tough, what with Shaq and Sun Tzu hogging the paint. But whatever.
The real problem is that the cog that runs the Suns' big wheel is freaking depressed. After last night's game against the Lakers -- during which he shot 2-for-12 and looked like he was wading through Jell-O -- Nash admitted that: "I was pretty flat emotionally (in Wednesday's game). I had a tough one...I struggled. I was emotionally drained and just couldn't give the guys what they needed tonight to get the win." Of his dearly departed 'mates, he said: "It's tough. "While I'll welcome my new teammates with open arms, it's tough when you lose your best friend. It's tough when you lose two of your best buddies. It's tough and it hurts. It's tough." Of the Suns' now suddenly unknown future he said: "I hope this isn't a situation where they're just trying to blow us up. I think we have a chance to still be a really good team."
And they do, but Kerr and coach Terry Porter obviously want to start semi-fresh, which required dumping Bell and Boris Diaw, who were malcontents bordering on locker room cancers. They were longing for the old days, and Porter just wants to move on and, uh, establish whatever it is he's trying to establish.
And how knows? Maybe it's going to end up being the right move. But it sure doesn't seem like Kerr asked for, or cared to get, any input from his team's leader. And make no mistake, Nash -- not Amare, not Shaq -- makes this team run. That's bad ju-ju. Now, onto NBA "action"...
Suns versus Lakers: Since I'm pretty depressed about the now-complete end of the :07 Seconds or Less era (again), I'm gonna let Wild Yams handle this one: "Tomorrow the Suns and Lakers both deserve WOTNs. The Suns deserve it for figuring the best way to appease Amare's 'I need to be The Man' desires is to trade a couple role players for a guy (Jason Richardson) who's going to want to dominate the ball. Shaq and his predictions about what happens when you feed him the ball may have to take a backseat now that Phoenix has added another offensive option. The Lakers deserve a WOTN mention for barely beating a Suns team that was missing almost everyone. I don't think that's the game ESPN signed up for when they targeted that one for their TV schedule." Indeed.
Just in from work. Al McCoy harped on the free-throw differential all night long; final count was Lakers 35 attempts, Suns 18, but it was worse at the half, something like 22-8. But seriously, in a non-backhanded way as is possible, this was the most impressive loss of the season, although it seemed like Phil Jackson started Luke Walton in a gesture of good sportsmanship towards the shorthanded Suns. UCLA burning a timeout early to compensate for USC losing one by rule because they wore their home reds on the road this past Saturday seems to have spread all over LA.
But it was a good game. The Suns scuffled and stayed close throughout, although the Lakers, for whatever reason, couldn't throw it in the ocean except for The Spanish Marshmallow, who went 11-14 from the field while yanking down 5 huge boards. *cough*
I don't know how well J-Rich was getting along in Bobcatville, but the Suns just unloaded a player who was becoming a huge locker-room cancer (Raja) and a player who has been one of the biggest underperformers since he signed his big contract (Diaw). The most intriguing part of the trade is that although the Suns gave up Sean Singletary in the deal, who looked like a better backup option than Goran Tragic (who, as usual, played 12 minutes and had one bucket for 2 points, although he did hand out 5 dimes), since they were already at the league minimum of 13 players and shipped out three while receiving two, they have one week to sign another player to get back to the league minimum. Unless Steve Kerr suddenly develops a glue-sniffing habit, it HAS to be a point guard. Who's out there and looking to prove they can do better than the Slovenly Slovenian?
Note: Kerr might be headed towards that glue habit already. From J-Dud's ESPN player profile: "I'm high on Dudley," general manager Steve Kerr said. "He's versatile and can guard multiple positions and play like a small four (power forward) or a big three (small forward)." So, he's already high on Dudley, which I guess is what the kids are calling it nowadays. Glue can't be far behind.
Amare Stoudemire: Seems like me and Andrew B. noticed the same thing: "Now I know Derek Fisher looks pretty buff, but did you see Amare flop to get the technical foul called in the third quarter? It's between the 7 and 6 minute mark. Derek Fisher slightly pushes off and Amare (who is 6'10"/249lbs) hits the floor like he got hit by a tree. Definitely Floptastic." Seriously. I'm not sure if Amare is married or has a girlfriend, but I hope that, if he does, she was embarrassed by that and offered to let her man wear a pair of her pinkest panties during the Suns' next game.
Vladimir Radmanovic: Wow. Not only did he go from starter to DNP-CD, he was replaced in the starting lineup by The Son of Walton...who himself was coming off a DNP-CD. Phil Jackson said he made the move to improve ball movement (which it did). And the move, ahem, kinda surprised Jackson's favorite space cadet. Said Vlad: "It's a big shock. Nobody said anything to me...I expected at least some explanation." Don't worry, Vlad. Yeah, it's hurtful and embarrassing, but you know, I'm sure you can still make meaningful contributions from the bench. After all, everyone's a hero...in their own way.
NBA.com's research department: Remember that torn Darko jersey I'm asking for? Basketbawful reader Baguete noticed something from the official auction site that's pretty funny: "'The winning bidder of this truly one-of-a-kind item will receive a personalized autograph from Milicic. Darko is in his second season with the Grizzlies after spending the previous four years splitting time between Orlando and Atlanta.' That's why the Grizzlies signed Darko! They must have confused him with someone else!"
Update! Kobe Bryant: Mamba is commish of a fantasy football league in which his team missed out on the playoffs on the final week of the regular season. He then used his power as commissioner to make a point adjustment that got him into the postseason. The team the got knocked out belonged to, of course, Luke Walton.