And that's all BEFORE bringing up Tim Donaghy and 2002!
I haven't been a Sacramento-area resident as long as I had been a Bay Area resident, but in the Kings I see a team much more tied to local identity than their counterpart down the road in East Oakland. This is what has put the state capital on the map, a presence in the Association that the River City embraced much more than any of the traveling mid-market circus's previous stops.
Sadly, Friday night served as a great way to sum up the life of a mid-market fan.
Sure, there's the built-in excuse of both K-Mart and Tyreke the Freak being in the infirmary. There's also the present reality that since the 35-point comeback at the United Center, the paupers have gone 1-4 and have lost four winnable games in that span, as well as Mr. Evans's services for a temporary period.
Tom Ziller's recap at SactownRoyalty does a pretty good job of covering the minutiae, and I'll also mention that the purple paupers led 64-49 at the half, and at one point earlier led by TWENTY points. Hawes exploded for 30 points and Casspi backed that up with 23 markers of his own.
But after taking a second here to mention Shannon Brown drawing a foulout on Jason Thompson (he of the 8:6 Voskuhl, bricking six times) by stepping on Thompson's sneakers, let me quote myself from Bawful After Dark comments as to that excruciating final 15 seconds of the game:
- Westphal blows the inbound with a timeout when he had a man [Spencer Hawes!] breaking open.
- Udoka misses the two foul shots with four ticks left on the clock.
- THE KINGS LET FREAKING KOBE BRYANT GO UNGUARDED FROM DOWNTOWN, AND HE EASILY MAKES THE THREE TO THE DELIGHT OF THE STAPLES CENTER FANS.
I mean. Seriously. You could not come up with a more painful way to lose the game than what just happened, not when you led by 15 at halftime and 20 at various points, not when you had a chance to ice it with free throws with 4 seconds to go.
The Association: Where Choking Happens. :(
Yeah, go look at the shot and tell me how much space you see. What's that, 20-30 feet between Kobe and anyone in purple? Even Don Nelson would be shocked at the lack of defensive presence all the way from the arc through the key. Mamba was so wide open, if Frank Selvy were in that spot, he would have made that shot too!!!
Somehow I don't think Paul Westphal was pleased with the zero-teaming his squad chose to employ on the reigning Finals MVP. (Especially when just a week ago, they witnessed the Crabs successfully triple-team Tyreke Evans out of any chance at a game-winner in Natomas!) His post-game presser contained his usual amiable, glib manner (as he tried to sidestep the potential officiating discussion that has been inevitable, what with a possible Kobe push-off and all) but hey, at what point do these losses "we can take positives from" suddenly become merely losses?
(Westphal at least appears to be the master of subtle digs - the coach's post-game statement, "We've seen it for years now...the Lakers have their late-game magic, and I hope we can have that someday" has to rank as much more incisive than yet another of Grant "Peaches" Napear's rants against officiating.)
Mike D'Antoni: The Bricks eked out an overtime win over the Hawks in Atlanta, mostly because Nate Robinson scored 41 points off the bench, including 11 of New York's 13 points in the OT session. In fact, he scored 19 of the Bricks' final 21 points overall. And yes, that's the same Nate Robinson that D'Antoni benched for 14 straight games, even when his team was struggling mightily to score. Mind you, Krypto-Nate has the third-most 30-point games off the bench (10) since 2005-06, behind only Ben Gordon (12) and Manu Ginobili (13).
Atlanta's Jamal Crawford, who grew up near Robinson in Seattle, said: "I've seen it since high school. When he's scoring, he's as good as the best of them. ... He did whatever he wants." Added Bricks teammate David Lee: "Against a great team, Nate single-handedly carried us. It was unreal to watch him play tonight."
Again: 14 straight DNP-CDs.
Said D'Antoni: "We've just been trying to get him focused on winning, and he obviously was focused on that tonight."
As Basketbawful reader Davros said: "Mike D'Antoni just made Nate Robinson."
LeBron James: So...his new shoes are Knicks-colored and say "I Heart New York." That sound you just heard was a tidal wave of vomit spilling out of the greater Cleveland area. Update! Apparently, this was a hoax. Consider my face covered in egg.
Friday lacktion report: Through his red haze of pain, Chris still managed to report the night's lacktion:
Magic-Wolves: Brandon Bass laid an expensive, celebratory note tonight by garnering a 1.85 trillion (1:51) for Stan Van Gundy.
Kings-Lakers: With six bricks, starter Jason Thompson earned himself an 8:6 Voskuhl by fouling out and accruing two turnovers against six boards in 24:36, while Josh Powell saw his 4.35 trillion (4:21) turn into a harbinger for victory after Kobe Bryant was given a free three with a second left by the purple paupers' efense.
The Miami Heat: Just when it looked like the Heat were, er, heating up, Miami hit the skids once again. After losing by 30 points in San Antonio on New Year's Eve, the Heat returned home only to lose 107-97 to the Charlotte Bobcats. Miami's defense disappeared in crunch time, as the 'Cats shot 85 percent (11-for-13) in the final eight and a half minutes, including 6-for-7 from downtown.
Uhm...hand in the face anybody?
Mind you, the Bobcats were 0-14 this season in road games where they had trailed.
As for the Heat, things could get worse before they get better. They host Atlanta and Boston before playing 20 of their next 27 games on the road.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: This letter just arrived c/o the T-Wolves:
To everyone involved in the Timberwolves organization,
Thanks for letting us snap that damn eight-game losing streak. It means a lot. Really.
Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers
T.J. Ford: Pacers coach Jim O'Brien benched Ford and replaced him with a combination of Earl Watson and A.J. Price...and just like that the Pacers won for the first time in weeks. I'm just sayin'.
The Toronto Craptors: Losing to the Boston Celtics? No shame there. Losing to the "Boston Celtics," who were missing Kevin Garnett (knee), Paul Pierce (knee) and Rajon Rondo (hamstring)? Mucho shamo. I mean, Ray Allen started at point guard and Lester freaking Hudson got significant PT in the fourth quarter and the Celtics STILL shot nearly 52 percent from the field. Toronto: still one of the worst defensive teams of all time.
Orlando's "Big Three": Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter combined to score only 24 points on 8-for-31 shooting against the Chicago Bulls. That's only one point more than Matt Barnes scored for the Magic by himself. Matt Barnes! Not surprisingly, Orlando lost. Sure, Vinsanity left early with a sprained ankle, but he was 3-for-15 at the time, so it's not like he was lighting it up before he hobbled away.
An extra-wet raspberry goes to "Superman," who finished with only 9 points on 3-for-7 shooting against the All-Star defense of...Brad Miller. Yup. Once Joakim Noah got into foul trouble, Vinny Del Negro sicced Miller on Howard in single coverage and it totally worked. That's right. Brad Miller shut down Dwight Howard, basically by putting a big body on him and forcing him to score using a little thing called skill. Only Dwight doesn't really have a whole lot of that going for him. It has become painfully, even shamefully apparent that Howard's offense can be negated by big centers who play him physically (Miller, Kendrick Perkins, etc.).
If Dwight really wants to be the best center in the league, he can't afford to get shut down by guys like Brad Miller. I mean seriously.
The Phoenix Suns: Okay, so after back-to-back wins over the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, the Suns get blown the hell out at home by...the Memphis Grizzlies? And the Griz reached .500 (16-16) in the process? Wait, what?! Memphis shot 53 percent both from the field and beyond the arc, outscored Phoenix 58-42 in the paint and 25-18 on the break, outrebounded them 48-38 and won by a whopping 128-103.
Whoa. [/Keanu Reeves voice] I know the Suns are a joke defensively and all that, but man oh man...are these the same Grizzlies that started the year 1-8? Actually, it's funny that I pretended you asked...because, in fact, they are not.
Memphis' resurgence started after they disposed of Allen Iverson on Nov. 17. Since then, they are 14-8, including a team-record 9-4 in December. During that month, they beat three division leaders -- Dallas, Cleveland and Denver.
"It's hasn't been easy," Gasol said of the Grizzlies' comeback from the depths of the NBA to a respectable record. "We never gave up. We continue to improve. When we were 1-8, we wanted to play good basketball and be winners. It hasn't been good for us the last few years. Now, we want more. This is just the beginning."
Coach Lionel Hollins credits his team's resurgence to camaraderie.
"We've come together as a team," he said. "We believe in each other. We've developed great chemistry. This was an awesome game ... from wire to wire. We took control right from the start. I preached yesterday [Friday] and today at practice that we can't give up easy layups to this team -- and we didn't give up many. That gives you a chance to win.
"Nobody would have thought we could come back from 1-8."
The Utah Jazz: They lost at home...by 10 points...to the Nuggets...who were without Chauncey Billups (groin strain) and Carmelo Anthony (right knee contusion).
No wonder the home crown booed them. Those boos were richly deserved. And, frankly, they should have been accompanied by flaming bags of poo.
The Sacramento Kings: (Cue up Lacktion Chris with another tale of fail...)
So, Tyreke the Freak is back, and they're at the old barn in Natomas again. Good signs there.
They were facing Dirk and the Mavs. Not so good.
Since the 35-point comeback in Chicago, the Kings have gone 1-5 (including a loss to the Sixers), while Notorious VDN has hypnotized his heifers into a 4 game winning streak.
Saturday Lacktion Report: More 8-bit lacktion from Chris:
Crabs-Nyets: While Darnell "Lacktion" Jackson went to the poorhouse by turning a 1.1 trillion into nothing with a board, Jawad Williams heaved a brick for a +1 suck differential in the same 1:08!!
Bobcats-Heat: Stephen Graham cracked The Lost Levels by throwing one piece of masonry at his Game Genie cartridge for a 51 second Mario and a +1!
Spurs-Bullets: Malik Hairston used the NES Light Gun to fire off a 26 second Mario, while Washington's Dominic McGuire ran into a Piranha Plant and fouled once in a dueling 55 second Mario of his own that earned a +1 too. Fellow projectile DeShawn Stevenson however settled for an Association-leading 6.9 trillion (6:54) payday!!!!!
Raptors-Celtics: Rasho Nesterovic fouled once in 1:56 for a +1 and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl, while fellow dinosaur Antoine Wright penciled in two fouls and a giveaway for a +3 in 4:38. Brian Scalabrine continues to rack up the Voskuhls with a 2:0 in 14:42 after negating two assists with fouls and two bricks - his fourth Voskuhl since December 27th!!!
Rockets-Hornets: Darren Collison crashed into the ledger tonight with a wreck of a scoreline: two fouls and three bricks for +5 in 9:50!
Thunder-Bucks: Milwaukee's Jodie Meeks tiptoed his way Goomba-style into a brick for a 10 second Mario and a +1!
Grizzlies-Suns: Hamed Haddadi took a rejection and dropped a bit of masonry in 2:42 for a +2.
Nuggets-Jazz: Kyrylo Fesenko hummed Korobeniki in just 15 seconds for a Mario!
Mavs-Kings: Kris Humphries lost the rock once to give Dallas a +1 in 2:27. In addition to being the 121st suck differentialist so far this season, Humphries represents the 150th different baller in the Association to lack it up in 2009-2010!!!!!!!
Warriors-Blazers: Shavlik Randolph missed one field goal attempt for the Frail Blazers in 1:46 to end up with a +1.
The Cleveland Cavaliers: Just when the Crabs were starting to look unstoppable -- what with 11 straight wins at home and seven consecutive victories overall -- they lose at home to...the Charlotte Bobcats? Yes, the same Bobcats who started the season 1-14 on the road (second worst in the NBA to the Nets) before winning back-to-back road games on back-to-back days. Dogs and cats living together, right? If you want to find a culprit, look no further than the Crabs' bench, who as a group scored only 12 points on a 4-for-23 shooting.
The Dallas Mavericks: Just when it was starting to look like the Lakers' Walton's foot was good teams, they beat the ever loving shit out of the Dallas Mavericks. I mean, L.A. beat the Mavs so badly I think it took seven years off Dirk Nowitzki's life. The Lakers set season highs in points scored (131), field goal percentage (63), three-point percentage (81) and margin of victory (35). What's more, it was the biggest margin of victory in the series between the two teams, surpassing the Lakers' 33-point win on December 1, 1993. Of course, the 1993-94 Mavs won a league-worst 13 games...whereas the 2009-10 Mavs fancy themselves championship contenders.
Said Nowitzki: "Some nights you don't have it offensively, but you at least have to get some stops to stay in the game. They had whatever they wanted. Bynum was on the inside, Kobe was making shots everywhere. On offense, we just couldn't do anything right." Yep. About the only positive the Mavs could take away from this was is that they didn't slip on a banana peel and fall face first into a cream pie.
The Indiana Pacers: Just when you thought maybe T.J. Ford had been the problem all along, the Pacers fell to the Bricks in near-record-setting fashion, losing by 43 points. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the last time the Knicks won by 43 points or more was April 15, 1996 against the Raptors, which was the Raptors first year as a franchise. New York led by 48 with 3:15 remaining, which (according to STATS LLC) was the largest lead in the NBA this season, surpassing the 45-point bulge Golden State had over Minnesota on November 9.
Al Harrington had a one-word description of this game: "Domination." He wasn't wrong.
The San Antonio Spurs: Just when it was starting to look like the Spurs were getting their swerve back, they drop a 91-86 decision to the Craptors in Toronto. Although the location was sort of meaningless. I would expect the Spurs to beat the Craptors if they played on Uranus. (I said "Your Anus." Heh.)
What made this particular loss especially bizarre was the presence of Tim Duncan...sixth man?! From the AP recap:
Duncan, San Antonio's leading scorer, came off the bench for just the second time in his career and the first time since 2004. He scored 23 points in 36 minutes in Saturday's win at Washington.
"He's played a lot of minutes," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He played more than we wanted last night so we just wanted to have him in the fourth quarter rather than the first. Not too much happens in the first quarter of NBA games."
Duncan acknowledged not starting was "tough to swallow," but didn't argue with the plan, even though he shot just 8 for 22.
"Pop asked me about it and it sounded like a decent idea, just to make sure I had my legs down the stretch," Duncan said. "It worked, I felt good in the fourth quarter, I just couldn't get anything to go in the hole."
Regarding Pop's "not too much happens in the first quarter of NBA games" theory, Toronto outscored his team 27-19 and went on to win by six points. The way things started maybe might have kinda-sorta made a difference in the end result.
The Denver Nuggets: Just when it looked like...okay, the Nuggets haven't looked good for a while. In fact, they've lost six of their last eight games after starting 19-7. Yes, Mr. Big Shot and 'Melo missed were both out, but home losses to bad teams don't get stricken from the record just because you're missing your two best players.
Eddie Jordan, quote machine: Regarding his team's win in Denver, the Sixers coach said: "My heart is still beating like a rabbit running across a field. We are just beginning to go uptown. You never know what this can take us. We hope it gets us going."
Sunday Lacktion Report: Sunday lacked in lacktion, but what it did not lack, Chris did not lack for in reporting. Wait, did that make any sense?
Spurs-Raptors: Theo Ratliff made one assist as starting big man in 8:28 for San Antonio (a night in which Duncan DID NOT start as "not a center" for only the SECOND time ever), but could not avoid a Voskuhl of 2:0 after expiring from complete productivity with a brick, rejection, giveaway and foul!