Caron Butler: The Wizards came back from a 20-point hole and trailed by 2 in the closing seconds. Interim coach Ed Tapscott put the ball in Caron Butler's hands and gave him the green light to create or take the final shot. Which is what Tough Juice did...after dribbling out most of what was left on the clock. And Tapscott, in his own special passive-aggressive way, admitted that Butler's time management could have been a little better. "We shot it 2 seconds too late. If he squeezes it off 2 seconds earlier, we might still be playing."
Naturally, Butler saw things differently. "Nah, you know, I thought I took it just in time, because -- clean look, and if it went in, game was over. You didn't want it to be one of those situations in which the shot goes in, you've got a second left, and the best closer in basketball is at the other end, you know, asking for the ball. So it was like one of those situations -- you want the time to run out and hit the shot and run to the locker room with your hands up."
Uh, if I was on a 3-14 team I would want any kind of win in any kind of situation. I also need to mention that Butler eschewed driving for a game-tying two-pointer and instead launched a three-ball over Trevor Ariza, who according to most forms of statistical measurement is tall. But whatever. Good teams find ways to win, and bad teams find ways to lose. Speaking of which...
Washington Wizards: When I gave their record, I should have preceded it with "an Eastern Conference worst." Oh, this is the first time the franchise has been 3-14 since the 1966-67 season, when they were the Baltimore Bullets.
Washington fans: Chanting "M-V-P!" for Kobe? Really, Washington fans?
Phil Jackson, the eternal pessimist Part I: The Lakers improved to 16-2 but almost blew a 20-point lead, which left Jackson short on Zen. Regarding the scare put into his team by the 3-14 Wizards, Phil said: "Poor coaching. That's what it was tonight. Putting too much trust and faith in a younger group -- a second unit. They just can't hold it on the road. They can't withstand the fury or the intensity of the fourth quarter. I'm going to have to change it up a little bit."
Luke Walton: Luke's post-stalker decline continues -- he had a four trillion against the Wizards. I never knew having a stalker could rattle him so badly. Did she do things to him we haven't heard about? Dark, unspeakable things?
DeShawn Stevenson: He had 3 points (1-for-4) in 24 minutes. And, in case you haven't noticed, he's been playing poorly all season (8.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.7 APG and 32 percent shooting). Could this be the continuing fallout from his foolish attempts to take on LeBron mano a mano in last season's playoffs? I tend to think so. LeBron must have caused some kind of internal damage to DeShawn, rearranged his insides or something. For all we know, he might have to breath out of his pancreas now.
The Klama City Thunder: "An NBA-worst 2-18" sounds bad. And it is. But Kevin Durant, who had one of his signature 5-for-18 shooting nights, sounds pretty upbeat for somebody stuck on such a 'bawful team. "We see ourselves getting closer." Closer to what, exactly, Kevin?
J.J. Redick, quote machine: Regarding the Magic's win over the Thunder: "This isn't a game we'll look fondly on at the end of the year. [Coach Stan Van Gundy] talked to us about losing our minds. We have to find our minds." Uh...oooookay.
LeBron James and the Cleveland "tough guy" treatment: King James beat Danny Granger on a drive, and Granger grabbed his right arm to keep him from scoring an easy bucket. LeBron responded by pulling one of those pansy "I'm going to shove you with my forearm while I'm facing the other way" moves, then Zydrunas Ilgauskas shambled up to put his egg-shaped mug in Troy Murphy's face and Mo Williams tried to stare down the Pacers before shaking his head to say "We're not backing down from anybody." What a bunch of drama queens. If Bill Laimbeer had been watching this game, I guarantee he would have kicked his television in disgust. Here's the video:
The Indiana Pacers: As a postscript to the that "heated confrontation," the Pacers came 25 points short of becoming the only team to beat the Celtics, Cavs and Lakers this season. But at least they don't have to complain about losing another close game.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: Losing by 29 points always hurts. But even worse is the "We've already kinda given up on the season" vibe I'm getting from this team right now.
Al Harrington and Chris Duhon: The Knicks were down 3 points to the Hawks in Atlanta, but they had the ball and a chance to tie things up in the final seconds. Naturally, they failed in a typically embarrassing (read that: Knick-like) fashion: After a timeout, Harrington eschewed an open shot to drive and kick it out to Duhon, who himself passed up an open shot and shoveled it back to Harrington, who was had forced to rush up a last-second three that wasn't even close. It was a classic case of NBA hot potato, where nobody wanted to take the final shot. Check it (at the 1:57 mark):
Duhon admitted afterward that he should have taken the shot. "I just hesitated. I saw them coming at me real fast. For whatever reason, I just didn't shoot the ball. I should have shot the ball. It was a great play." Harrington also suffered some post-game non-shooter's remorse: "It was designed for me to catch and shoot. It was a great play, because I was open. I don't know, I just, when I turned and looked, I didn't feel comfortable enough so I tried to get it to somebody else." Fail.
The Los Angeles Clippers: The Clips (3-16) drop one to the Griz (5-14). Again I say: Fail. Said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy: "Our turnovers really hurt us tonight; 17 turnovers for 23 points. We just got killed on the boards. Their size really hurt us. We were only able to get three offensive rebounds on the night, and that's not a good number for us." There are no good number for you, Mike. None.
The Portland Trail Blazers: Remember how, prior to Friday night's game, it was reported that Portland was hungry for payback after Boston swept last season's two-game series? And how Channing Frye said, "The Celtics, they irritate everybody"? Well, as noted, players and teams shouldn't go tugging on Superman's cape. The Blazers got spanked, plain and simple, once the Celtics turned up the defensive heat in the second and third quarters. Said Blazers coach Nate McMillan: "We have got to get better. This is the type of basketball that you are going to be facing going down the stretch. Physical play like this, we've got to be able to mentally and physically play it."
Big Baby, the big baby: After Boston's starters had built a big lead, the Boston reserves sort of let Portland back into the game. During a timeout, Kevin Garnett grabbed Glen Davis by the arm and gave him a little ear candy, after which Davis sat on the bench with a towel over his head trying not to cry.
Afterwards, KG was asked about what happened. "I'll probably get real deep with him. Try to understand what he's going through right now, research the problem. But Baby is frustrated a little bit with some of what we are doing. He just has to understand his role and not come outside of it."
This is how Baby explained it: "I'm not embarrassed. I'm not embarrassed at all. I'm emotional about the game. That's one of my best features -- being emotional, playing out there with passion. Sometimes it's not always good passion. Sometimes it's bad, but that's just me being young. You have to learn how to funnel that emotion and keep it inside until you put it out. We had to call a timeout because of the lack of intensity we were bringing on the floor. And I was mad at myself that I had a big part (in that). I feel like I have a big part of funneling the defense and bringing the energy to the time. I held myself high and my teammates held me high and accountable for that. I'm just an emotional player, man. I kind of catch myself wanting to be perfect a lot, and I can't be perfect, so I kind of get upset with myself. I am an emotional guy. It's one of my upsides and my downfalls, you know?"
And this is what Doc Rivers had to say on the subject of crying: "If you took a charge in my career from (Charles) Barkley, you probably cried afterward." Awesome. Too bad Baby didn't take a charge from Sir Charles.
The Detroit Pistons: The struggles continue for the Pistons, who lost at home to the sub-.500 Sixers...mostly 'cause they got drilled by the heretofore comatose Donyell Marshall, who scored 8 fourth-quarter points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 35 seconds left. Said Allen Iverson: "We played three good quarters, but the fourth quarter is winning time and we didn't play well in the fourth. I definitely want to win against that team, because I played with those guys for so long, but the reason this one hurts is because this game should have never come down to the end." Maybe AI just can't help losing when the Sixers are around. Who knows?
The Golden State Warriors: The losing streak reached eight against the Rockets, and Don Nelson got himself ejected...probably because he needed a beer really badly. And you can't really blame him. The Warriors are now 5-14.
The Toronto Raptors: Well, Sam what's-his-name is finally gone and...nothing's changed. In fact, you could argue things got worse, since the Raptors lost by 29 to the still Carlos Boozer-less Jazz. Said new coach Jay Triano: "We have been through a lot in the last couple of days, trying to relearn things. I think until it becomes a natural thing for us to just flow, we are going to look a little lethargic like that. They were trying to do what we asked them to, so I applaud that." Clap, clap, clap...wait a second, Jay. What do you mean "relearn"? You still score by putting the ball in the basket. You're telling me Mitchell took that secret with him out the door? Really?
Kobe Bryant: Mamba ate all the pepperonis off of Luke Walton's giant slice of pizza. When Luke tried to protest, Kobe just said" "Tell you what? I'll give you back one pepperoni for each point you scored toni...oh, sorry!"
The Charlotte Bobcats: After a 20-point home loss to the Cavaliers in which his team shot 36 percent and committed 9 turnovers, Larry Brown was pissed: "Tonight I don't even think we competed a lick. That's difficult for me. I thought almost every shot we took was just something they were hoping would go in the basket." Wow. Them's quittin' words.
The Klama City Thunder: Another night at the office, another winless weekend for the "NBA-worst" 2-19 Thunder. Said Thunder coach Scott Brooks: "Our guys fought and competed. We came up short. Not one guy in there is happy with moral victories. We have enough of those." I'm sorry, Scott, but 2-19 teams don't have any victories, moral or otherwise. In fact, As of right now I'm revoking the two wins you DO have. You're 0-21 to me.
The Philadelphia 76ers: The Elton Brand experiment sure seems more like a Frankenstein type of thing than, uh, an experiment that doesn't creat a monster that destroys its creator. The latest home defeat dropped the 76ers to 9-12, and only 5-6 in Philadelphia. They Deep-Sixers shot 36 percent, and while you can't dump this one on Brand -- who missed his second straight game with a strained right hamstring -- I'm already wondering if they need to blow things up.
Devin Harris, unintentionally dirty quote machine: "I started feeling it late (Friday) night, so I got to (Walsh) this morning. He gave me some good treatment, got some fluids in me early." Mmmm...man-lovey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: Well, well, well. A 23-point loss to the lowly Clippers. Minny shot 39 percent and got reamed on the boards (54-38). That's the kind of loss that gets coaches fired. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED. Kevin McHale is expected to take over as coach. And the Wolves' tragic-comedy continues...
Randy Foye, quote machine: "Randy Wittman is not out there on the court. Kevin McHale is not out there on the court. It's me, Al, Craig (Smith), Ryan (Gomes), and these guys in here. It has to change within us before anything." Apparently your owner disagrees, Randy.
Al Jefferson, quote machine: "[Timberwolves management] could do whatever they wanted to do. But it starts right here in this locker room with us. Jesus Christ himself could come out here and coach us, but if we don't go out there and play hard and play together, it won’t mean nothing."
Mike James: Every single player on the New Orleans roster got into the Hornets' 106-87 blowout of the Grizzlies. Every player except James, that is. Dude can't even get garbage minutes. That's a real shot in the pride sac.
Kevin McHale: Rookie O.J. Mayo scored 18 points against the Hornets, giving him double figures in points in his first 20 NBA games, the longest such streak since Larry Bird hit double-digits in his first 20 games with Boston in 1979-80. I bet McHale sure is glad he traded Mayo for Kevin Love. [\sarcasm]
The Washington Wizards: Wow. A night after failing to come back on the Lakers, the Wizards managed to shoot 54 percent and still lose on the road to the Bulls. It's like they can literally do nothing to win. Said Caron Butler: "It's tough. I've never been in this situation like this before. We're giving a lot of effort and we're giving a lot of energy but we're still falling short." I have no idea what to suggest for these guys at this point. Maybe try to shoot 60 percent next time? Said interim head coach Ed Tapscott: "One of the things you can't succumb to frustration. We have to keep a positive attitude." Good luck with that, Ed.
Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas: Noah earned himself a DNP-CD and Thomas played only 5 minutes, finishing 0-for-1 with 1 assist...and nothing else. Bust and double-bust. But hey, at least they have guaranteed contracts.
The Golden State Warriors: They shot 37 percent, gave up 55 percent marksmanship and lost by 35 points to the Spurs. It was Golden State's ninth straight loss...the longest current streak of futility in the league. It's also the first time the Warriors have lost that many in a row since 2006. Said Corey Maggette: "I was dealing with this with the Clippers, where we had different situations going on. Trust me, it's getting old." I bet Chris Mullin's just pleased as punch he decided to give this guy $50 million last summer. I hope he's paying him in Monopoly money or Rubles.
The Utah Jazz: They totally could have beaten the Suns in Phoenix...if only they'd protected their defensive glass. The Suns grabbed 16 offensive boards, 11 for Amare Stoudemire. They also turned the fourth quarter into a hack-fest, giving up 18 free throws in that final stanza.
Steve Nash, backhanded compliment machine: Can you read between the lines of Nash's post-game comment? "Amare was unbelievable, getting all those offensive rebounds. It was beautiful to see. That's something different for us."
Goran Tragic: Nash's backup played 9 minutes against the Jazz, shooting 0-for-3 and committing 2 turnovers without an assist. Meanwhile Nash, who lost seven pounds this week due to the flu, logged 38 minutes. So much for all the rest Steve Kerr was talking about for Nash before the season.
The Sacramento Kings: Holy "Oh my God! Make it Stop!" Batman. The Kings shot 29.3 percent in a 33-point home loss to the Nuggets. It was the first time the Sactowners have shot under 30 percent since December 1, 1996, against Detroit. Ouchies. Said Kings coach Reggie Theus: "There is no excuse for being physically handled. Every time we play a team that is physical and has went after us we have back off or backed up." Strong words. But not as strong as those from...
Miki Moore, awesome quote machine: Best. Quote. Ever. "Would you let someone go into your house, smack your wife around, make a sandwich and change the channel on your TV? We're disgusted with ourselves." If you need me, I'll be making love to this quote for the rest of the day. Thank you.
The Detroit Pistons: How did Detroit suck on Sunday? Let me count the ways. One, they missed their first seven shots, fell behind 10-0 immediately, trailed 29-12 after one quarter, and eventually "built" a 29-point deficit before they started actually, you know, playing. Said Allen Iverson, who was talking about games: "Regardless of how well you play, one thing you can always do every night is play hard and there's no excuse for that. We get a lot of money to come out here and perform to the highest of our ability and there's no reason why you shouldn't come out and give that effort." Two, speaking of The Answer, he shot only 6-for-18 in his 42 minutes...so much for that whole "I need more minutes to get my rhythm" thing. Three, Rip Hamilton earned two techs and an early trip to the locker room; it was Rip's third ejection at Madison Square Garden in the last four years. (From the AP game notes: "Hamilton was ejected from a March 17, 2006, game for firing the ball to the opposite end of the court after an offensive foul call, hitting the top of the shot clock. He was tossed again last March 7 after getting two techs for arguing a call late in the first half.") Four, Kwame Brown finished with zero points, 2 rebounds, zero assists, zero blocks and 2 fouls in 10 minutes of lack-tion. Five, Rasheed Wallace had only 6 points on 3-for-11 shooting (including 0-for-5 from downtown) despite getting a technical foul (after which he supposedly plays better). Six, even after a brief fourth-quarter rally, the Knicks still beat them by double figures despite playing only seven men. And finally, seven, the Pistons are now 0-5 on Sunday this season.
The Toronto Raptors: The dinos railed to capitalize on a dead coach bounce opportunity and the fact that their opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers, were playing the last game of a five-game Eastern Conference road trip. Toronto gave up 18 offensive rebounds and 50 percent three-point marksmanship, which included Steve Blake's go-ahead three-bomb over Jose Calderon with eight seconds to go. And it made new coach Jay Triano kinda sad. "Overall, I feel bad for our guys that we get a chance to reward them with a victory, we cleaned up an awful lot from what we had been doing. I just feel bad for our guys because they deserved more, they deserved to carry a victory away from the improvements that we made." Well gosh, Jay, I guess you can ask David Stern to put this one in Basketbawful's proposed "Losses That Aren't As Bad As Others" column in the season standings. You know, since your team deserved to win and all. Speaking of "deserving"...
Jermaine O'Neal, excuse machine: The Drain felt a little robbed after the game. "We felt we deserved to win, it's not we felt we got outplayed. We felt like we played pretty good for the most part and just couldn't get that last rebound." Uh, being outscored and losing the game is kinda the textbook definition of "getting outplayed," Drain. I'm just sayin'.
The Boston Celtics defense: The league's top defensive team -- the C's, on average, hold their opponents to 41.5 percent shooting -- let the Pacers shoot slightly better than 50 percent and gave up a season-high 117 points to the Pacers. Not exactly a formula for success...even if they did pull it out to win their 12th straight game, which is their longest win streak since 1986. Doc Rivers correctly stated that Boston stole a victory, but Paul Pierce is cool with that. "That's what good teams try to do. We try to find ways to win. It's not going to be pretty every night, but whenever you can find a way, especially the way things were going tonight, we'll take it."
The Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have developed quite a habit of losing close games this season -- three of their last eight losses have come in overtime -- and this was no exception. They were actually pulled ahead 105-102 with 14.4 seconds left in regulation, but Eddie House rebounded a three-point miss by Ray Allen and got the ball to Pierce, whose three-pointer from the left wing tied the game with 7.5 seconds left. It's sort of ironic, since Indiana beat the Lakers on a last-second offensive rebound/tip-in. And mind you, House stand about three feet tall. After the game, Danny Granger was looking for a little cheese to go with his whine. "We had control down the stretch, we were one rebound away from the win. We could have beat them twice in three times we played them, but we just let it get away." Coulda, woulda, shoulda's don't mean much. But, like the Raptors, I'll let you put this one in the "Losses That Aren't As Bad As Others" column.
The Milwaukee Bucks' starting five: The Bucks had five players in double figures last night. All off the bench. As for their starters? Gak. As Alex D. said in an email: "The numbers for the Milwaukee 'starters' on Sunday versus the Lakers: 8-28 from the field, 8 TO and 18 points total. That's the definition of basketball sucking at its best. Malik Allen having a +2 suck differential and Richard Jefferson having 3 points and 4 fouls in 9 minutes of action did not help the cause. Sun Yue must send a Christmas gift to the Milwaukee starters because they helped him get the first NBA action of his career." And Yue (4 points, 2-for-3) even outscored two Milwaukee starters. However, it's worth noting that Allen left in the first quarter with a rib injury. Basketbawful reader Ace wrote in to add the following: "Please make sure that you mention the Milwaukee Bucks' starters in your Worst of the Weekend. I can understand getting outscored by Kobe, Wade, or LeBron, but when Derek Fisher outscores your whole starting lineup, there is a problem."
There was a problem, all right. The Bucks starters didn't bring it, and Scott Skiles benched 'em. Said Skiles: "We weren't ready," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles, whose entire job consists of getting the Bucks ready to play. "We came out flat and missed a lot of open shots. We still had a game in front of us, but we just rolled over. We came out in the third quarter and seemed disinterested, so I gave other guys an opportunity to see of they could get us back into it." Better be careful, Scott. That's the kind of behavior that could get a coach fired on Christmas eve. Oh, wait...
One last note on the Bucks: As Basketbawful reader Karl observed: "The Milwaukee Bucks, who, according to this ESPN recap "has shot under 50 percent from the field in all 22 games this season." Isn't Scott Skiles an ex-point guard? Shouldn't he know SOMETHING about running and offense?" Well, yeah, I guess. But it's worth pointing out that Skiles spent most of his career passing to guys like Greg Kite, Jerry Reynolds and Terry Catledge. Skiles might be damaged goods after that traumatization.
Phil Jackson, eternal pessimist Part II: The Lakers won by double-digits, improved their record to 17-2 and equaled the best 19-game start in the franchise's 61-year history. But P-Jax wasn't happy. Oh no. "It was an awkward game tonight. Offensively we were very ragged. Our timing was off and we tried to do too much. A lot of guys tried to do things that we shouldn't have been doing and forced the action. We didn't settle in and run our offense. We tried to do too many things off the dribble. They packed it in and caused turnovers, and that was one of the reasons I was unhappy about our offense." Man. Somebody get this guy a sympathy card or something. I wonder how he would have felt if the Lakers had lost.
Kobe Bryant: He refused to high-five Sun Yue after Yue's first bucket of the season...until the camera panned to him. Then he was all like, "Sun rise, baby! Sun rise!"
Mario brothers: Marcus Banks (Heat) had an eight-second Mario against the Thunder.
Suck Differentialists: Jason Collins (Timberwolves) had a +2 against the Nets; Martell Webster (Blazers) +1 against the Raptors; Mike Taylor (Clippers) +2 against the Grizzlies.
Trillionaires: Luke Walton (Lakers) had a four trillion against the Wizards; Adonal Foyle (Magic) had a near two trillion against the Thunder; Brian Cardinal (Timberwolves) had a near three trillion against the Nets; Matt Carroll (Bobcats) had a near three trillion against the Bucks.