That's right. Chris Kaman is sandwiched between four Frail
Blazers...and not one of them is playing any damn defense.
The Atlanta Hawks: After last night's loss to the Heat in Miami, Atlanta's Mike Bibby said: "If we would've put a little more effort in, it would have been a different story."
A "little more effort," Mike? Really? Because this latest defeat -- the Hawks' fourth in a row -- looked kind of blowout-y to me. After all, your team lost by 17 points and while being held to season lows in points (75) and field-goal percentage (35.2). Joe Johnson (11 points, 4-for-15) was your only starter to score in double figures. That group -- which included you, Mr. Bibby -- shot 16-for-46 and had almost as many turnovers (6) as assists (8). And Mr. Bibby, despite being Atlanta's starting PG, you were out-assisted 0-1 by Miami's backup center Jamaal Magloire. Oh, and you guys got crushed on the boards too (52-30).
It's safe to say your coach doesn't quite share your optimistic appraisal. Said Mike Woodson: "Unacceptable, how we played tonight."
Newsflash: the Hawks are 2-6 since December 19. And this is the team's first four-game skid since, well, January of last season. Dismissed as coincidence.
Said Al Horford: "It happens. That's the way the season is. There are highs and lows. Right now, this is our low."
He's not wrong.
The Utah Jazz: What a Jekyll and Hyde team. The Jazz had beaten the Hornets six straight times in Utah -- all double-digit wins, by the way -- before last night's 91-87 loss. It looked like that trend might continue when the Musicians outscored the Buzzers 32-24 in the first quarter. However, the tide turned in the third when New Orleans outscored Utah 25-11, and the Jazz had their fourth-quarter rally stolen (literally) by Chris Paul, who pilfered a pass and drove in for the game-clinching layup with 27 seconds left.
That's three straight losses for the Jazz, who have lost five of six overall. Conversely, it was just the third road win for the Hornets this season and their first in Utah in almost four years (not to mention CP3's third win over Deron Williams in 14 career head-to-head matchups).
Devin Brown -- who laced his shoes for the Jazz back in 2005-06 -- had a classic revenge game by scoring a career-high 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting (including 5-for-8 from downtown).
Deron Williams: Remember that CP3 steal that led to his game-clinching layup? Go up three paragraphs if you don't. Anyway, that play came courtesy of a sloppy pass (intended for Andre Kirilenko) from Williams. Said Deron: ""He made a great anticipation. I should have thrown it up to Andrei high. He's a lot taller than Chris. It was a bad pass by me."
Indeed it was. And it killed what should have been a great night for Williams. Not only did he outscore (17 to 12), outshoot (6-for-11 to 5-for-15) and out-assist (11 to 9) Chris Paul, he passed the 3,000-assist mark for his career. (Only about 12,800 assists behind John Stockton!)
The Portland Trail Blazers: You think the Frail Blazers are looking a little thin in the frontcourt? They were dominated by the killer combo of Chris Kaman (20 points, 9-for-13, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and Marcus Camby (9 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocked shots) as the Clippers outscored them 44-32 in the painted rectangle. It was such an overpowering performance -- yes, I'm still talking about the Clippers -- that The Other L.A. Team won by 10 despite giving up 20 points off 20 turnovers.
The Clips also put the clamps on Brandon Roy (6 points, 3-for-12). Mind you, Roy had scored 20+ points for 15 straight games before running into the steel trap of the Clippers' defense.
Actually, defense was a problem for the Blazers...only it was their defense, and not the Clippers, that brought about their doom. The Other L.A. Team shot a ball-busting 58 percent from the field and over 61 percent from beyond the arc (8-for-13). Seriously, guys, can we get some hands for these faces or what? I know they're the Clippers and everything, but you still have to defend them.
Said Portland coach Nate McMillan: "We made it an offensive game, and we didn't establish that we could stop that team. So they got what they wanted and controlled the majority of the game." Later, McMillan added: "I think the whole league feels that if that team is healthy and together, they are a serious threat in the West."
Technically speaking, that's true. Only nobody in the league is all that worried about your team getting healthy, Nate.
Update! Chris Kaman: Yes, he put a hurtin' on the Blazers...but he also had a starring role in the 36-year-old Juwan Howard's first poster in, what, 10 years? Thanks to Drew for the link.
The Chicago Bulls: Vinny Del Negro "earned" a little short-term job security by "coaching" his team to a four-game winning streak. Too bad for Vinny that streak ended last night, as the Oklahoma City Thunder owned the second half against his Bullies, outscoring them 51-33 in the final 24 minutes. And let me tell you, it was a real defensive bitch-slapping. Here's part of what I said about it at By The Horns:
What many people may not yet realize about this young Thunder squad is that they have become a top-notch defensive unit. Seriously. They rank 9th in Forced Turnovers Per Game (15.3), 8th in Defensive Efficiency (101.3 Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions), and 4th in Blocked Shots Per Game (6.0). Moreover, their opponents convert only 59 percent of their shots at the rim. That’s the 9th best mark in the league, which is especially impressive since their opponents attempt the fourth-most shots at the rim per game (29.4).
I bring all this up because the Thunder won last night by shutting the Bulls down in the second half, holding them to only 33 points in the final 24 minutes. The key was the third quarter, when Oklahoma City outscored Chicago 32-14. And they did that by protecting the rim. Like, with a vengeance. The Bulls were getting into the paint at will, but they could not convert. Chicago missed an astonishing 13 layups and tip shots in that third quarter alone, five of which were blocked.
Of course, it might have helped if Chicago's bench had contributed, well, anything at all. Instead, they shot 5-for-27 from the field. For those of you who enjoy simple math, that's 18 percent accuracy (or, if you prefer, 82 percent inaccuracy). Speaking of the Bulls' bench...
Tyrus Thomas: T-Time had been playing great in the four games since he'd returned from forearm surgery...but that ended last night as Tyrus "Jump Shot" Thomas made his not-so-triumphant return. He went 3-for-12 from the field while earning only one lonely free throw attempt. Nine of his 12 shots were jumpers, seven of which came from 16-23 feet out. He had two layups stuffed in Oklahoma City's third-quarter run, and on one rare foray to the basket, he attempted an awkward stutter dribble and got picked clean by Nick Collison.
I hope you were man enough to hide your face in shame. Oh, good.
Calderon, by all accounts, had been horrid on defense. He hurt his hip two games after the Atlanta disaster and has played only seven minutes over the past 13 games, a stretch that coincides with the Raptors' best defensive effort of the season ... As bad as Toronto has been on defense this year, it has been orders of magnitude worse with Calderon playing. The Raptors are 11.2 points per 100 possessions worse with Calderon on the floor than when he's off it -- roughly the difference between Golden State and the Celtics on defense. Subjective evaluation backs up the numbers -- he's been beaten off the dribble as easily as any other point guard I've seen this season, and that's been the case ever since he tore his hamstring early in the 2008-09 campaign. Of course, Calderon's supporters will argue that part of the reason his on-court versus off-court numbers are so bad is that he has been out of the lineup when his teammates have finally started defending with some zeal. And it might be a fair point: As bad as he's looked, it's extremely unlikely that a single player could have an impact as profound as Calderon's on-court versus off-court numbers imply. We should get a better answer soon. Calderon is scheduled to return to the lineup Wednesday for the Raptors' game against Orlando.
Lacktion report: Chris completes our nightly recap with the lacktion report:
Hawks-Heat: In the rematch of the Least Interesting Seven-Game Series Ever, Joe Smith blandly batted down an assist with two fouls for a 2:0 Voskuhl in 5:19, while fellow dirty bird Jason Collins blinged it up with a 3 trillion (3:01)! In the same time period that Collins struck it rich, Jeff Teague bricked once from the Jewelry District for a +1 suck differential.
Hornets-Jazz: Ronnie Price collected a +6 in 10:06 by giving Utah a rejection, a foul, a giveaway AND three bricks!
Blazers-Clippers: The solidly sucky Steve Novak provided some celebration for Mike Dunleavy's squad with a two-brick +2 in 1:52.
As I have said before, I had kept the four unloaded handguns in my house in Virginia, but then moved them over to my locker at the Verizon Center to keep them away from my young kids. I brought them without any ammunition into the District of Columbia, mistakenly believing that the recent change in the DC gun laws allowed a person to store unloaded guns in the District.
On Monday, December 21st, I took the unloaded guns out in a misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate. Contrary to some press accounts, I never threatened or assaulted anyone with the guns and never pointed them at anyone.
Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong. I should not have brought the guns to DC in the first place, and I now realize that there’s no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns -- even if unloaded.
Awh, it's okay, Gil. I'm sure I speak for everybody everywhere when I say we've all pulled unloaded guns on co-workers as a joke before! Am I right? Hey, speaking of irresponsible gun use...