The Los Angeles Lakers: Teams as good as this year's Lakers squad typically don't lose the big-time challenge or statement games. When they actually do lose, they always seem to drop the ones they're expected to win easily. It comes down to a temporary loss of focus. And yeah, I'd say that's what happened in Indiana last night. The Forum Blue and Golders used a 17-0 run at the end of the third quarter to build a 15-point lead only to let the Pacers -- losers of five of their last six games, including that last two at home in overtime -- come charging back.
Kobe Bryant got outscored (32-28), out-assisted (5-2) and out-three-point shot (0-for-5 versus 4-for-10) by Danny Granger. The Lakers starting frontcourt of Andrew Bynum (17 points, 9 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (20 points, 9 boards, 3 assists) was actually outplayed by their Pacers counterparts of Rasho Nesterovic (16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) and Troy Murphy (16 points, 17 rebounds, 2 steals). And L.A. couldn't protect the glass against an Indiana team that crashed the boards for 19 offensive rebounds...including Murphy's game-winning tip-in at the buzzer. Mind you, the Pacers had to overcome a case of homecourt disadvantage to get the win: The Lakers enjoyed a healthy 45-21 edge in free throw attempts. Anyway, here's my memo to the Lakers: "Being able to block out Troy Murphy in end-of-game situations" is pretty much a prerequisite for any team with championship aspirations. That is all.
Greg Oden: Basketbawful reader Ishlifyhead sent me an email with a subject line of "Greg Oden Update! (The second coming of... Ostertag or KB54?)"...proving that followers of this site sure know how to get my attention. Said Ishlifyhead: "You gotta love this item from the AP game recap of the Blazers-Knicks game:
The Blazers shook off a dismal offensive night from rookie Greg Oden, who botched two dunks in the first five minutes and finished with two points, matching Kwame Brown for the lowest-scoring effort by a No. 1 overall pick in his Madison Square Garden debut in 40 years. 'Kind of stopped shooting after that one, because I usually don't miss dunks,' Oden said. Oden played only 19 minutes because [Joel] Przybilla was dominant in the paint, finishing with 14 rebounds, eight points and two blocked shots.
"Perhaps the GO initial and first name of Greg aren't the only similarities between Oden and Ostertag. At least Ostertag wasn't a number one overall pick." Wow. Drawing comparisons to both Kwame Brown AND Greg Ostertag in one night...that's harsh. Even for this site. And he was benched in favor of the Vanilla Godzilla. That's a pretty epic ego-ectomy. I feel like sending Greg a sympathy card or something.
Mike D'Antoni: Yeah the Knicks are 8-9, which is a near miracle, and he's making Chris Duhon (season-high 23 points, 5 rebounds, 13 assists, only 1 turnover) look more and more like Steve Nash every day, which IS a miracle, but...he's also employing his patented six or seven-man rotation, wherein most of the starters go for almost 40 minutes per game. That can tire guys out. And other teams know it. Said Blazers coach Nate McMillan: "We had a group to come in and they got aggressive and we were able to gain control of the game. And you know, when you're playing nine, 10 guys, if we play the way we condition ourselves to, we should be able to wear down some teams. I thought tonight, Duhon, in the third quarter he played well, but he looked like he wore down a little bit." Added Brandon Roy: "Yeah, we seen it. Coach said they're wearing down, they've got heavy legs, so let's keep trying to push it at them. Duhon played great tonight. They've got a number of guys that play hard, but in that fourth quarter you could see that our depth kind of outlasted them."
Now, the AP said D'Antoni's has been "playing basically seven players because of trades, injuries and the Stephon Marbury situation." Which only proves they don't know Mike D'Anonti. The man always grinds his starters into the ground. And Duhon -- who, again just like Nash, is laboring with a bad back -- Duhon played 44 minutes and missed all three shots in a scoreless fourth quarter. After the game, Duhon admitted he was a little gassed. "Once the game is on, the adrenaline and you are competing, I don't really think much about it. But at the aftermath, I definitely feel it afterwards. But I've been through this before, it's nothing that's going to slow me down or prohibit me from playing." Uh...you've been through this before, Chris? I'm sorry, but I highly doubt he's ever played 40+ minutes as a team's featured player since middle school. Maybe.
The New Jersey Nets: The Wizards are a bad shooting team -- 44 percent on the season -- but hit 52 percent of their field goals (and 54 percent of their threes) against the Nets. And since poop flows downhill, the defensive lethargy eventually splattered over onto the offensive end of the floor, which culminated in a truly craptastic third quarter in which the Nets scored a season-low 12 points while giving up a season-high 35. The result: A 108-88 blowout. Said Nets coach Lawrence Frank: "We never got stops and then [DeShawn] Stevenson got going. We kind of lost our rhythm offensively and didn't make it happen on the other end. It's disappointing that we got thoroughly outplayed. We were devoid of all energy. That's just the NBA schedule for you." Yup. You're team didn't fail, Larry. It was just that wacky NBA schedule biting you in the butt.
Update! Trenton Hassell: I can't believe I missed this, but Dr. Hank Pym didn't -- Hassell had a rather epic nine trillion last night. Brutal. However, that is NOT the standing trillion record, which is still held by Damon Jones for his 12 trillion in Game 1 of the 2007 NBA Finals. Oh yes he did.
Devin Harris, Captain Obvious: "When we struggle to make shots, we're going to have a tough time winning games." In other news, failing to breath will cause you to suffocate.
DeShawn Stevenson, quote machine: Regarding the season-high 21 points he scored against the Nets: "It felt good, because I've been in kind of a slump. I just figured I'd come in and shoot it. If I missed, who cares?" And that, my friends, is exactly the kind of attitude I'd expect from a key player on a 3-12 team.
The Chicago Bulls: The good: They held their opponent to 39 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers. The bad: They shot only 40 percent themselves, gave up 18 offensive rebounds and committed 24 turnovers that were converted into 26 points by the Sixers...leading to a 103-95 loss in their first home game after the dreaded circus trip. Ugh.
And Andre Miller -- who was owned and embarrassed by Derrick Rose just a few days ago -- got his revenge, scoring 28 points and getting the rookie in foul trouble with his veteran tricks, which included one possession in which he pump-faked Rose into the air and then jumped into him to draw the foul. Miller was 10-for-11 from the charity stripe. After the game, a despondent Rose (24 points, 2 assists, 6 turnovers, 5 fouls) said: "[Miller] is a good point guard and he tried to get me in foul trouble. He made plays. Everybody on his team made plays. We just had so many opportunities and we just missed them."
Meanwhile, Basketbawful reader Junokasm has a few words of advice for Tyrus Thomas: "Thomas should never be allowed to take a jump shot, ever. No wide-open jumpers, no shooting drills in practice, no jump shots! Just catch the ball and dunk; jump really high and rebound. He can even drive with his neck high dribble and run over Andre Miller. Just no jump shots."
Drew Gooden: He not only got owned by Elton Brand (22 points, 14 rebounds), he also submitted the following 'bawful line: 0-for-5 and more turnovers (6) than rebounds (5). That's what I call a powerless forward.
The San Antonio Spurs: Well...Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are both back, so things are supposed to be on the upswing in San Antonio, right? Wrong. The Spurs dropped their second straight game after getting the gang back together. As a team, they shot 39 percent and committed 17 turnovers. And they had a complete meltdown in the fourth quarter, during which they were outscored 28-14: During that final stanza, Tim Duncan scored 1 point while the team shot 5-of-15 from the floor and committed 6 TOs that were transmogrified into 10 points for the Pistons. Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: "The most disturbing thing is that we were very soft. I think Detroit intimidated us. It was really sad to watch in that respect. I thought we totally folded to their aggressive play."
The Spurs didn't get a lot of help from their bench. Roger Mason didn't just cool off, he froze over, finishing with 6 points (2-for-6) and 5 turnovers. The Fabulous Oberto -- who lost his starting job to Matt Bonner, by the way -- had 2 points and 2 rebounds in 14 minutes. And Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka combined for 1 assist and zero-for-everything else in 10 total minutes (and Udoka had a four trillion).
Is it bad that they looked better BEFORE Parker came back?
Rasheed Wallace, quote machine: 'Sheed did his usual post-technical foul destruction dance against the Spurs, knocking down a trio of threes in the fourth quarter and scoring 17 points in the final 15 minutes after getting T'd up. According to Wallace, he was jawboning the refs because he felt the Spurs were getting a little too much benefit of the doubt. "I knew what it was going to be out there, and I didn't want our team to fall into that. We knew how it was going to be, especially going against the league darlings."
The Los Angeles Clippers: Let me recap this for you: After building a 15-point lead, the Clippers were outscored 32-17 in the fourth quarter -- and 18-4 in the final four minutes -- before letting Jose Barea hit the go-ahead three-bomb with less than a minute left in a demoralizing 100-98 non-win. Oh, and the AP rubbed a little salt in the wound with the following words: "Barea, who is 11th on his team in scoring and plays a little more than 12 minutes per game, capped Dallas' closing 18-4 run with a long-range jumper with 50.2 seconds left that gave Dallas its only lead of the game." So, you know, the Clips got beaten by a loser. They are who we thought they were. Said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy: "A really disappointing loss for us. We played so well throughout the game. But in the fourth quarter we did a terrible job defensively." Seriously. How is this guy still employed? I'm going to assume that several gallons of goat blood and many dark rites are involved.
Erick Dampier: Tom from Clutch City Hoops had this to say: "Looks like if the Clips had boxed out better, Erick Dampier would have been the first starter ever to record a trillion. (I'm guessing there, but there can't be more than a few that have). However, Dampier grabbed one offensive rebound -- his only stat. THIS close to a three-trillion. Thought you'd want to know." Thanks, Tom. I always want to know when somebody fails, especially overpaid stiffs like Dampier. However, I must admit I'm mad-curious as to why Damp only played three minutes. Was he hurt? Did Rick Carlisle snap and shiv him? Does anybody know?
As for the record: You know what? I have no idea whether an NBA starter has ever notched a trillion that wasn't related to an injury or ejection. I'm gonna have to look into this...
The Toronto Raptors: What's that putrid stench...? Oh. It's the Raptors. Jermaine "The Drain" O'Neal was back in action -- if you can call it that -- but his return didn't exactly inspire the troops. Unless it motivated them to play their absolute worst. The toothless dinos bricked 59 shots en route to a 36 percent shooting night. And, believe it or not, things were even worse on the defensive end, where they allowed the Nuggets to shoot 60 percent from the field and 54 percent from downtown. HAND. IN. THE. FACE. Said Jose Calderon: "It was a bad day. Everything was bad for us." Man, you can say that again.
After the game, the Drain -- how wasn't exactly tearing things up this season, even before he was injured -- got all persnickety: "We're going to address it as a team tomorrow. It's embarrassing not only for us but for those who support the Toronto Raptors, the organization, the city and the country. That should never happen. This is a business. We get paid a heck of a lot of money to play a certain way and if we think we can turn it on and off like that then we are fooling ourselves." How's that for a little Leadership 101.
Speaking of leaders, this is what Raptors coach Sam "Please just don't fire me on Christmas eve" Mitchell had this to say about the debacle: "For me now it's not a time to be screaming and yelling. It's a time to be trying to teach and reassure people." Awh. That's so cute. Make sure your players have their stuffed animal of choice when you tuck them in to their beds, Sam. That would be awfully reassuring.
Allen Iverson: The Nuggets are now 12-3 since trading AI to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups, and even Carmelo Anthony -- the one guy who seemed legitimately bummed when Iverson was shipped out -- can see why Denver is suddenly, you know, pretty good. "I think we're heading into a good direction right now. I say all the time, [Billups is] bringing that leadership to this team, helping everybody out, making everybody better. You look at the scoreboard, you see five, six guys in double digits, whereas before we really didn't have that." And 'Melo's not talking about practice. He's talking about games. I'm just sayin'.
The Sacramento Kings: Despite leading for most of the game, the Sactowners still lost their seventh consecutive game and the 10th of their last 11 overall. The Kings have also dropped their last seven games at Arco Arena...which is the first time that's happened since the 1993-94 season. And if they lose their next game at Arco, it'll set a new franchise record for consecutive games lost at home. Said Bobby Jackson: "It's frustrating, it's like having something on your back and you can't get it off." Yes. Much like blood stains, suck is exceedingly difficult to remove. I suggest starting with hydrochloric acid. If that doesn't work, move on to explosives.
The Utah Jazz and their no-stick fingers: If the Jazz had lost this game -- and it took some serious clutchness from Deron Williams to avoid it -- it would have been because of the Teflon-like material they had bonded to their hands before tipoff. Utah committed 25 turnovers -- 11 in the first quarter -- which pretty much kept the Kings in the game. Said Kyle Korver: "Most times when you have 18 turnovers at the half you aren't going to win." Thanks for the newsflash, Kyle. And congratulations on your promotion from Captain Obvious to four-star General Obvious.
Update! Kobe Bryant: He's making his wife write and send out all the Christmas cards. And the stamps he bought? They aren't self-adhesive.