The New Jersey Nets: Another night, another loss at home for the Nets, who are now 9-13 at the Izod Center. And the seldom-used Jerryd Bayless -- who's collected 20 DNP-CDs so far this season -- put them into the basketball-equivalent of the testicular claw by dropping in a career-high 23 points. A 30 percent shooter, Bayless went 6-for-9 from the floor and 11-for-11 fromt he line. Prior to last night, he had never scored more than 8 points in a game.
The Nets were actually in pretty good position to win the game until they got outscored 37-28 in the fourth quarter. Yeah. Defense: It's still pretty important. The loss was particularly bitter, coming as it did following a 32-point loss in Boston. Said Devin Harris: "It's frustrating. This is one we could have won and we let ourselves down in the end. It's tough defensively when we don't get stops and they get a high percentage of their shots to go in."
LeBrick James: His line -- 28 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists -- looks pretty good...until you look a little more closely. King Crab also bricked 20 shots, clanked five free throws, and committed 8 turnovers. And let's talk about that 8-for-28 shooting. He missed four layups (three of which were blocked) and hit only three of his 16 jump shots. He also bricked his final 12 field goal attempts in regulation, including a 21-foot bailout shot that would have won it at the buzzer. (Thanks to Stephanie G. for the following graphic.)
On the subject of his shooting, broadcasters absolutely freak out when 'Bron nails an outside shot, but according to 82games.com, he's hitting only 41 percent of his outside shots compared to 74 percent of his inside attempts. So instead of crowding him, as the Bulls did for most of the game last night, wouldn't teams be better served to just back way off and let him fire away at will from the outside? Not only would that deny him the high-percentage chances he thrives off of, but it would help reduce the need for defenses to double-team and/or collapse him off of drives, which is how LeBron gets most of his assists (and how his teammates get most of their wide-open shots). I'm just sayin'...that's how I'd do it. And if he gets on a roll from outside, well, kudos to him. But the King and his Craboliers are much less dangerous when LeBron is jacking 'em up from distance.
Oh, and I guess you can kill all the Michael Jordan comparisons for a moment or too, since LeBron blamed his poor performance on his stuffy head and runny nose: "I absolutely had no lift tonight. Every time that happens, when I get sick, I miss layups -- layup after layup, things I usually make." So we finally know what can stop LeBron: The common cold. Just like those aliens in War of the Worlds! Wait...could James be part of the upcoming alien invasion?! Klaatu barada nikto, LeBron!
The Chicago Bulls: Big, huge, enormous win over the Cavs. No question about it. BUT...they needed a complete meltdown by LeBron and a couple "where did THOSE come from?!" threes from Luol Deng -- including one that bounced up five feet at least before dropping straight back down into the hoop -- to pull out an overtime win at home. (On the subject of Deng's two triples: He was only 4-for-13 from downtown this season coming into last night's game.) And the Cavs were without Zydrunas Ilgauskas (fractured left ankle), Ben Wallace (flu-like symptoms!) and Delonte West, who broke his right wrist in a collision with Derrick Rose in the first quarter. So give them credit for some scrappy play, but take note of the unusual circumstances.
Derrick Rose: I don't want to crack on the rookie too hard, since he had two huge three-point plays -- one with 4:50 left in regulation and another 52 seconds into overtime that gave the Bulls the lead for good. However, he also shot 6-for-20 and, even worse, he botched a chance to tie the game at 87 with 1:32 left...but bricked two free throws. And those misses could have cost his team the game.
The NBA Cares program: During last night's game, NBA Cares decided to highlight Larry Hughes' charitible work in the Chicago community, leaving the broadcast team in the uncomfortable position of having to explain why Big Shot Larry was rooted firmly to the Bulls bench. Thanks for everything you've done for Chicagoland, Larry. I hope you're as giving in the city you'll soon be traded to!
Reggie Miller, quote machine: I got the following email from Jeff R.: "Hey man, not sure if you caught the Cavs/Bulls last night, but Reggie Miller continued to baffle with his inability to speak English. Late in the game after LeBron beat Deng on a jump ball, he slipped retrieving the ball. They showed the replay and zoomed in on a two-foot long black skid mark Bron's shoe left on the floor. To which Reggie said: 'You can see the skid mark from his shoe calling the time out.' Now the Bulls did call a time out after LeBron fell and lost the ball, but it certainly wasn't LeBron's shoe or skid mark calling it." What can I say? I love Reggie Miller.
Chauncey Billups: Mr. Big Shot scored five of his game-high 26 points in overtime to lead the 'Melo-less Nuggets to a win over the Shaq-less Suns. And he did it, apparently, despite a flu bug he's been fighting since...the end of December?! Said Billups: "Just trying to get through it. Once the game starts you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do." Uh, Chauncey, last time I checked, it's not normal for the flu to last more than two weeks. (But, according to one source, the "malaise" from the flu can "persist for more than two weeks.") I guess it just seems like Billups is being a little dramatic about being sick at a time of the year when pretty much everybody is suffering from flu-like symptoms. I'm sorry about the malaise, though, Chauncey.
Shaq: The Big Coffee Break had what Suns coach Terry Porter referred to as a "routine night off" and Robin Lopez (4 points, 2-for-5, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls in 22 minutes) didn't exactly fill his pretty pink tutu. His absence opened up the paint for Nene, who critically wounded the Suns with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The Phoenix defense: In addition to Chauncey Billups' plague-ridden mastery and Nene's dominance in the paint, the Suns' D revived Linas Kleiza, who was 1-for-12 in his previous two games. Kleiza nailed his first five shots -- four of which were dunks -- and finished with 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting off the bench.
Terry Porter: I already mentioned Robin Lopez's 'bawful game. What I didn't mention was that Louis Amundson logged eight fewer minutes than Lopez but played much better: 6 points (2-for-3), 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He even went 2-for-2 from the line! Which begs the following question: Why didn't Amundson start, and why didn't he get more PT than Lopez? At this point, Big Lou is the better player. How can Porter not see that?
Leandro Barbosa: This guy never fails to confound me. Some nights he's brilliant, some nights he plays like a special needs child. Last night was one of the latter occurences, as Leandro went 1-for-11.
Home cookin': It's reached the point where crying foul for the Suns earns people the "creepy leper" treatment. But really: Grant Hill was fouled on the final play of regulation and didn't get the call, putting a dirty cigarette butt into the skunky beer of a night in which the Nuggets enjoyed a 43-31 advantage at the line. Said Grant Hill: "Dahntay stuck his leg out and tripped me and I lost my balance. I ran into Nene at the same time. It was pretty obvious there was something there, but I guess the officials were scared to make that call. It's really disheartening for a team to go out and play hard as we did and it comes down to a play like that where an official has the right angle. He kind of swallowed his whistle."
The standard argument in these situations is that game-deciding calls aren't made in game-deciding moments. But it sure happened with Roger Mason the other night. Point is, a fouls is a foul is a foul. And they should be called equally at all times, not selectively based on the situation. And leastways, if anybody deserves some justice, it's Grant Hill. Hasn't the poor guy been through enough over the years?
Lacktion report: Looks like Chris got off easy last night...but a couple unfortunate players did not.
Blazers-Nets: Chris Douglas-Roberts is starting to become a rather predictable face in the lacktion report, throwing one brick for +1 in 3:40 of unproductivity for New Jersey.
Cavs-Bulls: Even in an overtime game, there's still room for fire flowers, fungi, and gold coins, as evidenced by the Crabaliers' Tarence Kinsey and his 19-second Mario.
Mark Cuban: This is a few days late, but, still...what a douche.
Kobe Bryant: Damn him for making me laugh against my will. (Thanks to Reef for the link.)