The Philadelphia 76ers: Going into last night's game, the Cavaliers had been outscored 226-164 in the third quarter. Or, as the Cavs were coming to know it, The Third Quarter of Doom. Coach Byron Scott called the third quarter "our nemesis."
Melodramatic? Yes. True? Also yes.
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, the Andre Iguodala-less Sixers came to town and caused a serious paradigm shift, allowing Cleveland to win the third quarter 26-16, which pretty much ended up being the story of Philly's 101-93 loss.
Make it 2-9 on the year. 1-6 on the road. 0-2 against the Cavaliers.
Doug Collins, coach of the year candidate: "We had a miserable third quarter. We gave them 61 points in the second and third."
The Indiana Pacers: The Hawks managed to shoot 50 percent as a team despite Joe Johnson's 4-for-12 night. And while you might be tempted to think defense was Indy's biggest problem, I say it's the fact that -- due to Darren Collison's sprained left ankle -- Pacers coach Jim O'Brien was forced to start T.J. Ford at the point. Ford logged 37 minutes, went 3-for-10, dished out 5 assists and Indy was outscored by five points with him on the floor.
Was it the most terrible performance ever? No. But it was a reminder of why Toronto was a little too willing to lock up Jose Calderon to a long-term deal. I'm just sayin'.
Danny Granger: The kid scored 22 points (7-for-14) to go along with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal, and he supposedly held Joe Johnson in check. And yet the Pacers were outscored by 15 points when he was in the game. Huh.
Jim O'Brien, quote robot of the year candidate: "We lost to a very good basketball team. They have a lot of weapons. They played together and they're well-coached."
After that auto-quote, I was ready half-expecting O'Brien to suddenly go: "ZRRRRKT!! MUST!! KILL!! ALL!! HUMANS!! ZRRRRKT!"
The Toronto Raptors: When the Associated Press describes you as "reeling," you know things are going downhill faster than a fatty speeding downhill on skis made of pure butter.
The Craptors came out, shot 40 percent from the field, let the Wizards shoot 56 percent, gave up 21 fast break points and 52 points in the paint. Ho hum. Blah, blah, blah. Hey, the Toronto players didn't care about playing last night, so why should I care about writing this entry? I mean, the Wizards Generals built a 26-point lead before finally beating them 109-94...and John Wall didn't even play.
Jay Triano, coach of the year candidate: "It was surprising to me having our team come out so flat."
Gilbert Arenas, quote machine: Regarding the applause he received when he was introduced with the starting lineup: "It surprised me, especially when I had a rough summer. All the stuff I'm reading, I thought the fans were just going to murder me -- 'cause I was here with Kwame Brown. I was expecting the same thing. They tricked me a little bit,"
Kwame Brown: Note how, when Gil talked about how he thought the crowd was going to hate on him, Brown sprang immediately to mind. Career fail.
The Milwaukee Bucks: Over the summer, shortly before they decided to shore up their shooting guard position with Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans, I was practically begging the Bulls to sign Shannon Brown. Sure, he was raw and needed to improve his shooting, but I thought the kid had a lot more upside than Brewer or Bogans.
So you can imagine how I felt last night when Brown went berzerk on the Bucks, scoring 16 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and shooting 7-for-7 from the field (including 4-for-5 from downtown and 3-for-3 from the line). Meanwhile, Brewer was trying to cost the Bulls a win (see below).
Anyway, Milwaukee's game plan seemed to be "outscore the Lakers." As game plans go, that's right up there with "contract herpes to ensure abstinence." After all, the Lakers came in as the league's highest-scoring team at 112+ PPG. Of course, L.A. also entered the game ranked trailing such defense-minded teams as the Pacers, Warriors and Knicks in Defensive Rating. So the "outscore 'em" strategy kinda-sorta worked for three out of the four quarters. Unfortunately for the Bucks, they couldn't keep pace during the third period, when they were outscored 33-22.
Said Andrew Bogut: "They're the No. 1 offensive team in the league. We're the No. 1 defensively. They won that battle, but I think we just have to do a better job defensively. We gave them a lot of easy baskets."
Speaking of Andy...
Andrew Bogut: The 18 rebounds and 4 blocked shots were impressive. The 2-for-10 performance at the line was depressive.
Drew Gooden, captain obvious: "Shannon was so efficient out there for them. Seven of nine from the field, 21 points, 21 minutes, zero turnovers coming off the bench; that's an efficient game coming off the bench."
The New York Knicks: Classic Bricks game: Score 118 points, give up 120. Freaking Gary Forbes scored 19 points off the bench on 8-for-13 shooting for the Nuggets. Guh. Make it 3-8 on the year for the New Yorkers.
Amar''''''e Stoudemire: 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting. That's pretty good. But he was out-rebounded 17-6 by his team's starting shooting guard, rookie Landry Fields. And he went 3-for-8 from the foul line in a 2-point loss. I'm just sayin'.
Amar''''''e Stoudemire, quote machine: "We did a solid job on Carmelo. Pretty much me and him played chess and canceled each other out."
Carmelo Anthony drama: This game became more about 'Melo's future than NBA basketball. To wit, from the AP recap:
Stoudemire would love to be Anthony's sidekick soon and not his opponent, and he's been lobbying for a union with the New York native who grew up idolizing former Knicks small forward Bernard King.
Anthony swore it never crossed his mind on this night that he could be playing alongside Stoudemire soon.
"I never thought about that tonight. Never. Not once. Never," Anthony insisted. "That wasn't even on my mind throughout the game."
And he said none of the Knicks lobbied him in their postgame hugs and handshakes for him to join them either via trade this season or next summer, when he'd be the headliner of the 2011 free agent class.
"No, not at all. They're trying to win, we're trying to win," Anthony said. "They competed hard tonight. They fought back. But nobody, no, there wasn't none of that going on out there. Of course not."
Nuggets coach George Karl was asked before the game how his team has handled the trade talk swirling around its superstar that many expect will end up in the Big Apple, where he and TV personality LaLa Vazquez were married over the summer.
"Melo has been very professional, the most professional I've ever seen him, more serious than I've seen him and he's playing at an All-Star level. We kind of read off of him and he seems to be into the team and wants to win," Karl said.
"If we didn't have the commentary that's going on throughout all types of media outlets, I don't think we would be thinking anything's going on. That's a compliment to Melo for the way he's handled it."
Karl said his job, meanwhile, is to convince Anthony that Denver is the best place for him and persuade him to sign the extension that's been on the table awaiting his signature since the summer.
How's that working out?
"I don't know that answer," Karl said. "I can't answer that question. My only feeling is the window of that happening is still there. I don't know how wide the window is; only Melo can answer that. My gut feeling is the window is open, it's not shut yet. If we keep losing games like we did last night it'll close."
So, what would it take for Anthony, who has put his Colorado mansion on the market, to sign the deal and stay in Denver?
"What would it take?" Anthony repeated. "Me and Masai are talking. We got great conversations going back and forth. He understands my options are open."
[Al] Harrington said he couldn't sleep at night if there were a $65 million extension awaiting his signature.
Anthony said he has no trouble at all.
"I'm good. I sleep good at night. I'm with my family. I sleep good at night," he said. "It ain't about the money."
It's about family, he said.
"That's a big decision. I want to make my family happy," Anthony said. "I want them to be comfortable, whether it's here, whether it's somewhere else. If your household ain't right, then ain't nothing right."
To me, that last part says it all. And when 'Melo finally leaves Denver, I promise you that he's going to play the Family Card. And he should. After all, if your household ain't right, then ain't nothing right.
Bulls-Rockets: It was a hard-fought, scrappy game in Houston. Oh, did I say scrappy? I meant sloppy, as the teams combined to give up 54 points off 43 turnovers. Chicago outscored Houston 30-15 in the second quarter, then the Rockets outscored the Bulls 30-14 in the third after Derrick Rose got into foul trouble.
Speaking of Rose, he won the game with his interballistic missles -- 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, including three straight in Chicago's fourth quarter comeback -- despite entering the game as a career 25 percent shooter from long range.
Taj Gibson: He's been shooting so insanely well this season that you almost had to expect this 1-for-9 game coming.
Joakim Noah: You can't tell it from his raw stats -- 12 points (4-for-7 from the field, 4-for-5 from the line) and 9 rebounds -- but Noah played like ass last night. He never got into the flow and finished the night with a team-worst plus-minus score of -18. Honestly, the Bulls looked better when he was sitting down.
Ronnie Brewer: Oh man, Brewer had a personal meltdown in crunch time, missing two free throws (three, actually, but the Rockets were called for a lane violation), bricking (and I mean badly bricking) a wide open jumper and committing three turnovers all in the final 3:13 of the game.
Overall, Brewer may have had his best game of the season (11 points, 5-for-7, 3 steals) and the Bulls were +16 when he was on the floor. But man, I thought he’d changed sides in the last few minutes.
Luol Deng: He went 6-for-21 from the field and Shane Battier got so far into Deng's head that he hung drapes and made an appointment to have some carpet installed next week. Seriously, I heard ABC was planning a remake of Herman's Head starring Deng with Battier as all the voices in his brain.
Chicago's free throw shooting: 13 bricks. Guh. Have I mentioned "Thank Zeus for Derrick Rose"?
Houston's bench: While the Bulls were getting a huge lift from Brewer (+16), Omer Asik (6 points, 5 boards, +16) and especially Kyle Korver (10 points, 3-for-4, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, +23), the Rockets were getting 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting and a combined plus-minus score of -41 from their reserves.
The Memphis Grizzlies: The Portland Frail Blazers arrived in Memphis Brandon Roy-less and seemingly prepped for an ass-kicking by the home team. Only...the Care Bears apparently forgot that Wesley Matthew is, in fact, and NBA player and should probably be given hand-in-the-face treatment like anybody else. As it was, Matthews went nova on the Griz, scoring a career-high 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 5-for-10 from downtown. It was just enough, as the Blazers held on for a 100-99 win.
Bonus stats: Memphis committed 19 turnovers and gave up 21 fast break points.
Zach Randolph, credit-giving machine: "You got to give them credit. They've got a star player out, and they played good."
Allen Iverson: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Thanks to Basketbawful reader Oliver K. for the pic.
Raptors-Generals: Hamady N'Diaye drew an exact 2.2 trillion (2:12) out of the federal reserve!
Frail Blazers-Grizzlies: Xavier Henry took one rejection in 5:40 and tacked on a piece of masonry for a +2.
Knicks-Nuggets: Timofey Mozgov made the most of his 11:46 as New York's starting big man by blotting out two boards with two bricks, one giveaway, and four fouls for a 5:1 Voskuhl. For Denver, JR Smith lost the rock once in 1:05 for a +1.