The Denver Nuggets: Without Carmelo Anthony (inflammation in his right knee) and the Birdman (fractured bone in his lower back), the Nuggets quickly found themselves down 19 points to the Celtics in Boston. Some hot second quarter shooting by reserves Ty Lawson (team-high 24 points) and J.R. Smith (16 points) got Denver back into the game. But defense -- as in the complete and total absence of anything resembling it -- was their Walton's Foot: The Celts shot 68 percent in the first quarter, 64 percent during the first half, and 56 percent for the game.
Although, to be fair, when Ray Allen is heating up, all you can do is pray.
This was what I call a "fly swatter" game. That is, Boston put a casual smackdown on the Nuggets. To put things into perspective, Semih Erden played the entire fourth quarter. That pretty much says it all.
Random stat: On the season, Denver is 1-6 when scoring under 100 points. All six losses were on the road.
The Cleveland Cavaliers: Allow me to quote myself from By The Horns:
It almost happened. The Bulls were this close to falling into the trap.
The Cavaliers entered last night's game having lost five in a row by an average of 22.2 points per defeat. In each of those five losses, the Cavs had given up more than 100 points.
Finally, Cleveland coach Byron Scott pulled out the defibrillator and tried to shock his team’s pride back to life. He did that by calling his team out to the press.
Said Scott: "Everybody has to do some soul-searching. It's not an Xs and Os thing. We have to take pride in what we are doing. People drive right down the middle of the defense, and no one gets upset about it. Guys have to take more of an onus on guarding their man."
Cavs forward Antawn Jamison replied: "Are we going to fight or make excuses? We have to leave it on the line. These next few games are going to define the rest of the season."
Sure enough, Cleveland came out and played defense like it matters. Which it does. They blocked five shots, forced 16 turnovers and harrassed the Bulls into 44.9 percent shooting while holding them to 12 points below their season average. The Cavaliers entered the fourth quarter with a 68-60 lead.
So what saved the Bulls?
They say bad teams find ways to lose games. Well, Cleveland is ranked 29th in Offensive Rating for a reason, folks. Throughout the final 12 minutes, the Cavs chucked up some of the worst shots known to man. Their go-to shot of the fourth quarter was the contested three-pointer with plenty of time left on the clock.
In fact, Boobie Gibson's shot selection was so bad down the stretch that Bulls broadcaster Stacey King half-jokingly suggested naming Gibson Chicago's player of the game. The only clutch-time three the Cavs managed to convert was one that Mo Williams unintentionally banked in.
Seriously, Tom Thibodeau should send the Cavaliers a thank you note.
For fun, here's a recap of Cleveland's fourth quarter "offense" against the Bulls:
Boobie Gibson missed running 4-footer; Gibson turnover; Manny Harris missed three-pointer, Jawad Williams missed 17-footer; J. Williams missed three-pointer; Anthony Parker offensive rebound and put back; Ryan Hollins turnover (offensive foul); Parker made three-pointer; Antawn Jamison missed jumper; Jamison made shot and one; Mo Williams missed jumper; Gibson missed three-pointer; Gibson missed three-pointer; Jamison missed hook shot; Mo Williams made three-pointer (unintentionally banked in); Williams missed three-pointer; Jamison 1-for-2 at the line; Jamison missed three-pointer; Anderson Varejao turnover; M. Williams turnover; Gibson missed three-pointer; Varejao made layup; Varejao 1-for-2 at the line; M. Williams missed 16-footer; Gibson missed 15-footer; Jamison turnover; Gibson missed 33-footer.
Boobie Gibson, Worst Player of the Night: The numbers -- 4-for-16 from the field and 2-for-7 from downtown -- don't do his game the injustice it deserves. Note the two bold-faced threes from my recap of Cleveland's fourth quarter of doom. Boobie jacked up back-to-back triples with so little conscious that I think local police need to search his back yard for bodies.
And here was the worst part. With eight seconds left, Gibson managed to nab Mo Williams' missed shot and had a chance to tie the game with an open jumper. Only he rushed an off-balance shot while kicking out his legs to try and initiate some contact that might result in a foul call.
Had Gibson just taken a normal shot, he might have knotted the score. As it was, Noah rebounded Gibson's miss and Anderson Varejao was forced to foul him. Jo drilled both freebies (clutch!) to give the Bulls a four-point lead. As if the game wasn't already iced, Jamison threw a bad pass that was intercepted by Ronnie Brewer.
Gibson played hard. No doubt about it. But he played stupid too.
The Detroit Pistons: Sigh. Sad face. Sad trombone. Sad everything. It's official: The Pistons have become The Clippers East.
Last night, Detroit scored only 74 points on 37 percent shooting and fell behind by as many as 25 points before losing by 19. They managed to score 20 points in only one of the three quarters. And it's kind of ironic, too, since their top players are of the "offense only" variety.
Said Detroit coach John "It's just about time to start looking for a new job" Kuester: "We couldn't score. Our guys were trying hard. When the ball is not going in the hole, it puts you in a bind and you have to put so much pressure on your defense."
Yeah. Especially when your defense sucks.
Tracy McGrady watch: The line: 1-for-4, 0-for-2 on threes, 2 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, a turnover and a foul. And the Pistons were outscored by 15 points during his 19 minutes of playing time.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: Despite playing at home, building a 40-22 first quarter lead, and getting another Animal-Style double-double from Kevin Love (22 points, 21 rebounds), the Timberwolves couldn't do anything to stop Kevin Durant (30 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists), Russell Westbrook (25 points, 8 assists) or the Thunder (52 percent shooting, 50 points in the paint, 21 fast break points).
Oklahoma City outscored Minny by 26 points over the final three quarters as the Timberwolves went colder and colder. But what can a team do when their top two scorers combine to go 18-for-49 -- including 3-for-18 in the fourth quarter -- and couldn't find the guys they're supposed to be guarding even if they were locked in a closet with them?
I should point out that the forest puppies were missing Darko Milicic and Anthony Tolliver. That, uhm, might've meant something. I guess.
Minnesota is now 1-8 in games decided by eight points or less.
Said Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis: "We really still don't have a leader on the team, a go-to guy, that calming force that takes control of a situation. We don't have that yet. That's Durant for them. He calms it down."
The Washington Wizards Generals: Believe it or not, the Kings -- and not the Clippers -- began Wednesday with the worst record in the league. Eight-game losing streaks will do that to a team. Fortunately for the Purple Paupers, John Wall sat out of the game with a sore foot despite being announced as a starter during the pre-game intros.
Still, even that doesn't quite explain why the Generals lost so badly. I mean, the Kings jacked their asses up big time. The Sactowners shot 54 percent from the field, won the rebounding battle 48-36, and built a 32-point lead before cruising in for a 116-91 victory.
Pimp-slapped by the NBA's worst team? For shame, Generals. For shame.
Washington has now lost three straight and seven of their last eight overall. And they're now 0-12 on the road. And here's a little lemon juice in the wound...
Update! JaVale McGee An anonymous commenter demanded I include this:
Said Gilbert Arenas: It's frustrating that we are two different teams -- a great team at home and a terrible team on the road. We just have to find a happy medium."
The Phoenix Suns: Ugh. Here's what the AP recap had to say:
Zach Randolph just loves playing the Phoenix Suns.
Randolph scored a season-high 34 points, Rudy Gay had 22 and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied to beat Phoenix 104-98 in overtime Wednesday night.
Randolph made 15 of 19 shots from the field and also had 17 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 burly forward is averaging 23 points and 17 rebounds in three games against Phoenix this year, and 22.3 points and 14.4 boards in his last seven games against the Suns overall.
I'm gonna try not to think about their 10 missed free throws or how they went 7-for-30 from downtown or how they wasted a furious fourth quarter comeback. All I can think is: You have to be able to stop Zach Randolph.
The Phoenix defense is really like a Christmas ornament: Empty inside.
Rudy Gay, quote machine: "Zach was vintage Zach tonight."
Really? I thought this was vintage Zach:
The Golden State Warriors: The surprising Spurs ran their record to 18-3, setting a new franchise record for the best start in a season through 21 games, and they did it against the Gol_en State Warriors. San Antonio has now won 25 straight home games against the Warriors.
In all fairness to the Warriors, they did lose Stephen Curry in the second quarter due to a sprained right ankle. But while that probably affected their offense (94 points on 45 percent shooting), I doubt it had much of an effect on their defense (111 points on 51 percent shooting).
Said Gol_en State coach Keith Smart: Any time you lose a talent, you drop down three or four levels. Not having him on the floor was definitely difficult because I had to move a lot of players around to positions to bring some of the younger guys off the bench to play. You have very little room for error against a team like this."
And if the Warriors need anything, it's plenty of room for error.
Bonus stat: According to the AP game notes, the Spurs' 25 straight home wins against the Warriors is the longest active streak of its kind for any NBA team against a single opponent.
The Utah Jazz: Thanks, Jazz. You totally blew everybody's "The Heat can't beat good teams" theory all to hell. Thanks for that.
LeBron (33 points, 12-for-20) and D-Wade (28 points, 9-for-14) went off, obviously, but the real key was Zydrunas Ilgauskas drilling jumpers en route to a 7-for-10 shooting night. I'm pretty sure nobody saw that coming.
But the secret key to this game -- other than Utah going 1-for-7 from downtown -- was the Heat outrebounding the Jazz 42-28 and being, simply put, the tougher team.
Said Jerry Sloan: "I thought Miami was more physical than we were. It looked at times like we were intimidated [by James] and Wade. I wish we would have got up and after [James] like they were getting after us."
Oh, if only Kyrylo Fesenko hadn't missed the game with a sprained ankle!
The Toronto Craptors: This game was like a 25-letter alphabet: No D.
Andrea Bargnani scored a career-high 41 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Raymond Felton scored 20 of his 28 points in the first half and added 11 assists. Amar''''''e Stoudemire grabbed 14 rebounds (including 7 offensive boards) and exploded for 18 of his team-high 34 points in the fourth quarter. In the end, Felton decided the game with a crap shot that proved, if nothing else, the Craptors are who we thought they were:
And you know what that means...
Mike D'Antoni, quote machine: "I challenge anybody to guard Amare. And Bargnani's 7-feet, puts it on the floor and he shoots ... what are you going to do? Comes down to maybe missing one shot out of five and that's what happened. Amare just didn't miss. Just awesome." On that subject...
Update! Jose Calderon, defensive demon:Drake sent in this link:
Drake went on to say:
Granted, he's suddenly matched up with Amar'''''e. But after getting, err, okay defensive position despite the matchup, he goes on to play the rest of the defensive possession with his eyes closed. It's as if he were begging Amar'''''e to just get it all over with.
Bonus: this video was really meant to capture Ronny Turiaf's reaction to Amar'''''e's dunk. He dances like a white man/woman raving to guitar music, according to Dave Chappelle.
Andrea Bargnani, quote machine: On Felton's game-winner: "It was good defense by Calderon and what can you say about that shot? There is nothing to say about that shot."
The Indiana Pacers: Apparently, despite recent evidence to the contrary, they are who we thought they were:
The Los Angeles Clippers: And of course the Clippers are who we thought they were. Always. They were a mere three seconds worth of defense away from upsetting the Lakers when, well, you know...
Update! Ron Artest, quote machine: From Basketbawful reader Solieyu:
Artest is just lulz central this season. Donating half his salary next year to charity, talking about playing pro football after retiring, and now his comments on Blake Griffin:
"I haven't had a chance to study his game, but his highlights are sick," Artest said, spitting out the last word with a grin that made it clear he was just warming up to the subject.
"I wish he dunks on me, puts his shoulders on my face," Artest continued. "Crazy. His highlights are stupid."
If it happened, would Artest buy that poster?
"I'll buy it and tell him to sign it," Artest said.
Dude is comedy gold. But Griffin is a beast. That slam/foul all over Odom's back was ridiculous.
In related news, Lamar Odom will be cleaning Griffin's junk sweat off the back of his head for the next couple days...
Chris's lacktion report:
Bulls-Cavs: Ryan Hollins had himself a board in 10:35, but also had a foul and giveaway for a 2:1 Voskuhl.
Raptors-Knicks: Ronny Turiaf turned the ball over once and fouled four times, despite two boards and a free throw in 8:23, to earn a 5:3 Voskuhl. Fellow Knickerbocker Shawne Williams bricked once and fouled once in 11:17 for a +2 suck differential.
Pacers-Bucks: Indiana's Jeff Foster presided over three boards in 10:40, and also looked after a trio of fouls and a turnover for a 4:3 Voskuhl.
For the deer, Brian Skinner instinctively gathered 1.4 trillion (1:25) in banknotes!
Thunder-Wolves: Kosta Koufos crunched some numbers and found himself earning exactly 2.7 trillion (2:42)!
Warriors-Spurs: Dan Gadzuric managed one assist and one steal in 5:32, but fouled once for a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl. Fellow Warrior Jeff Adrien sold some valuable Bay Area real estate worth 1.9 trillion (1:53).
Heat-Jazz: Joel Anthony celebrated the first time the Heat have beaten a good team this year by going on a 13-second Duck Hunt, ending up with a Mario.
For Utah, Francisco Elson feigned productivity with a board in 10:49, only to brick twice, foul twice, and lose the rock once for a 3:1 Voskuhl. Ronnie Price purchased some lacktivity in on a 4:26 appearance by the procurement of a brick from the ZCMI store and two fouls for a +3.
Generals-Kings: GASP! PURPLE PAUPERS WIN!? Celebrating tonight was Carl Landry, who did go 100% from the field (on one shot attempt) but had 1/3rd as many points as fellow pauper Darnell "Lacktion" Jackson in nearly the same amount of playing time (14:30). Four fouls and two turnovers led Landry into the land of Voskuhl ratios, in this case a 6:3!