Pictured: The 2005-2008 Phoenix Suns The 2010-11 San Antonio Spurs.
The San Antonio Spurs: The defining quality of the Tim Duncan Era Spurs has been their defense. Except for this season. The Spurs have been channeling their inner Phoenix Suns, beating people with offense while just kinda getting by on defense. It has certainly made for more watchable basketball in San Antonio. More importantly, the Spurs entered last night's game with an NBA-best record of 29-4...which has them on pace for 70 wins.
And yet what the Spurs taught us during the 2000s was that simply trying to outscore the other guys can backfire. It certainly backfired last night, as the Spurs finished with 115 points on 54 percent shooting and lost.
In Tim Duncan's 1,011-game NBA career, neither he nor his San Antonio Spurs teammates had seen anything quite like what the New York Knicks did to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.
The Knicks scored more points against the Spurs than any team had managed in a non-overtime game against them, in a 128-115 win.
There were all sorts of good statistical notes and nuggets from this game, many of them provided by our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau. Among them:
The Spurs, who entered with a 29-4 record, are the fifth-best team, record-wise, that the Knicks have ever beaten. The last time the Knicks beat a team with that good a winning percentage this late into the season was in 1996-97, when they beat the Chicago Bulls, 97-93, on March 9, 1997. Those Bulls were 53-7 and would win 69 games. It was actually the second straight year a Knicks team beat a Bulls team that good. They beat the 54-6 Bulls (a team that would finish 72-10), 104-72, on March 10, 1996.
The Knicks entered the game shooting 48 percent with now-injured Danilo Gallinari on the court, 43 percent with him off the court. In this game, they shot 54.9 percent from the field, and were 42-for-64 (65.6 percent) on their two-point shot attempts. Every Knicks starter shot 50 percent or better from the field.
The last time the Spurs allowed this many points in a non-overtime game came in March 1993, when they gave up 132 to the Celtics in Boston.
How long ago was that?
That Spurs team featured David Robinson, Vinny Del Negro, Avery Johnson, and no Duncan, and was coached by John Lucas.
The 62 points in the paint were the most by a team against the Spurs since the Sacramento Kings scored 62 against them in December 2009.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili was a minus-14, a team-worst for the game, and his worst for any game this season.
Said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich: "They were more aggressive. They were more physical. They were hungrier than we were. If we score 115 points, I expect to win. Our defense was pathetic. It was our worst defense of the year. They went after the game and they got it. Nothing else tricky about it."
Pops was so disgusted he benched Duncan, Ginobili and Parker with about three minutes left and his team down only 11 points.
Said Popovich: "I asked them if they wouldn't mind maybe playing a little bit better tomorrow. They said they'd think about it. We'll see what happens."
Added Duncan: "They made us play their game instead of us making them play ours. They got up and down, made shots, had it rolling in every direction. We couldn't find a way to stop them."
The 2005-2008 Phoenix Suns are rolling over in their graves.
The Milwaukee Bucks: Give the Bucks credit: They made the Heat work for this win. But in the end, they were doomed by bad offense, finishing with 89 points on 39 percent shooting. And, yeah, the Miami defense has been doing that to a lot of teams. But those are pretty standard numbers for the Bucks this season. After all, they rank 30th in PPG, 30th in Offensive Rating, 30th in FGP and 30th in eFG%.
In all fairness to the Bucks and their disappointing 13-19 record, they've had a lot of injuries and they're currently leading the league in Strength of Schedule. So, you know, mitigating circumstances and all that.
Scott Skiles: Near the close of the third quarter, there was a bizarre sequence of events involving Skiles that may have cost the Bucks the game. Personally, I don't think so, but it did swing the momentum in Miami's favor.
There were some plays the Bucks will regret -- fouling Wade twice on 3-point tries in the fourth, most notably -- but the game seemed to change on a strange series late in the third.
Skiles got his second technical while trying to get a referee's attention to argue what he thought was a shot-clock violation on Miami and appeared to accidentally collide with Heat guard Carlos Arroyo. Because it was not considered unsportsmanlike, Skiles was not ejected. But the damage was done: James Jones made a 3-pointer 10 seconds after the call, the first salvo in Miami's closing burst.
"A rule is a rule," Bogut said. "But there was a lot of 50-50 plays like that that didn't go our way. ... It was a huge call, a huge momentum swing in the game."
Skiles said he thought referees made the correct call.
"I would expect that call in return," Skiles said.
Andrew Bogut: I'm still trying to track down video of this, but Bogut hit nothing but air on a free throw midway through the fourth quarter, and I'm telling you, it would have made Shaq cringe away in fear and disgust.
But since I don't have video of the airball...
The Toronto Craptors: Okay, let's get this party started.
DERRPPPP A HERRPPPPUHDERRPPPPUH LERRRP!
Andrea Bargnani returned and scored 23 points. But scoring really hasn't been a problem for the Craptosaurs this season. Stopping other teams from scoring has been the problem. As in: They haven't done it yet. And maybe they never will.
To wit: The Bulls -- who have been kinda-sorta struggling on offense lately -- finished with 111 points on 53 percent shooting. They scored 20 points on the fast break and had 58 points in the paint. They swept the Four Factors and had an Offensive Rating of 118. Taj Gibson broke out of his post-concussion slump with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Omer Asik scored a career-high 13 points and blocked 4 shots. The Chicago bench finished with a triple-double of 52 points, 26 rebounds and 11 assists.
There was a conga line to the hoop and the Craptors were playing the drums.
Said Bargnani: "We were playing decent defense, but we stopped playing with four minutes to go in the second quarter."
That "decent defense" Bargs is talking about "held" the Bulls to 29 points in the first quarter. Chicago scored 30 in the second.
In related news, Toronto has lost 12 of the last 15 games.
The Portland Frail Blazers: The Frail Blazers can feel the Mavericks' pain. Literally. Injuries to Dirk Nowitzki (out for a while) and Caron Butler (out for the season) forced Dallas coach Rick Carlisle to start DeShawn Stevenson and squeeze 21 minutes out of Brian Cardinal. And you know what? Cardinal may have been the difference. He finished with a game-high plus-minus score of +8 and the Mavs eked out an ugly 84-81 win.
Your daily dose of Brian Cardinal!
Jason Terry fooled the Blazers by going 3-for-11 through the first three quarters. Terry then went 5-for-8 in the fourth, including 2-for-2 from downtown.
Said Portland coach Nate McMillan: "[The Mavericks] made big shots, we missed big shots. They got big boards, we gave up big boards. When it's winning time, you have to make those plays."
Speaking of sad faces...
The Sacramento Kings: Those most Purple of Paupers gave up 28 fast break points and fell behind by 22 points. Jamal Crawford scored a season-high 31 points and Joe Johnson -- who had been shooting 38 percent over his last nine games -- had 29 on 12-for-18 shooting. Sacramento was outrebounded 47-39 as Mike Bibby of all people pulled down 10 rebounds. That was one board away from tying his career-high.
Still, the Kings got to within four points (106-102) with eight seconds left. Too little, too late. Sacramento's league-worst record fell to 7-25.
Said Kings coach Paul Westphal: "I hate to lose that game, but that's a good team. They have some tough matchups for us with size and experience. And their backcourt was terrific tonight. We really couldn't keep Crawford and Johnson under control."
Added DeMarcus Cousins: "Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are a two-headed monster. I mean, Joe might be one of the best players at his size. They both are incredible players and have a lot of talent."
Don't you love how when a team loses, their opponents suddenly become the most awesomest players and/or teams in the league?
The Detroit Pistons: The Lakers had lost their last three home games -- all double-digit blowouts -- and two of those losses were to sub-.500 teams.
Well, never fear, Lakers fans! Your team didn't let it happen again. Last night's crap opponent -- the Detroit Pistons -- got their asses handed to them. L.A. wasn't exactly overpowering, shooting 47 percent and winning the rebounding battle by 4 boards, but the Pistons got careless with the ball (giving up 25 points off 19 turnovers) and couldn't protect the rim (the Lakers scored 60 points in the paint).
Kobe went 0-for-9 in the first quarter. And Detroit lost by 25.
Said Ben Wallace: "I'm baffled. They made plays and they made shots, and we didn't. We turned the ball over, and they got on the break. And when they get on the break, they start feeling good about themselves and their shots go in. ... [Starting 0-for-9] didn't mean a whole lot. Kobe's going to keep coming, he's going to keep shooting and eventually he's going to get some points. He didn't move up to 10th all-time by not being able to score the basketball."
Speaking of which, Mamba scored 17 points on 18 shots but still leapfrogged Dominique Wilkins to move into 10th place on the NBA's career scoring list with 26,671 points.
I just love honest expressions of emotion.
The Pistons -- playing their second game in as many nights -- are now 0-for-8 in the second game of back-to-backs.
Ron Artest, quote machine: About that confrontation...
"I've been working so hard over the last couple years on my whole Ron Artest image," Artest said, sitting in front of his locker before the game. "I worked real hard to try to keep everything positive, so it's really hard to comment on anything right now at this point and time until I would speak to Coach."
Artest was not happy with the report, saying, "I don't like stories like that."
"That hurts," Artest said. "That hurts because I just don't want to be a part of any controversy. I don't want to be a part of any conflict. I don't want to be a part of anything like that. That's why for something like that to be said is kind of weird. I won't really say anything on that.
"I've just come too far; I've worked too hard pushing ego aside to have something like that come out. ... My image is very, very important to me -- whatever I have of it left. Whatever I have left, I work pretty hard on maintaining it."
Phil Jackson, quote machine: And more...
"It was not a loud confrontation; it was a man-to-man confrontation. And it was obviously out of character for both that to happen at practice and for Ron. And it wasn't about embarrassing him publicly; it was about some of the issues that had been brought up that have focused about him."
"It's nothing more than what could normally happen at a practice," Jackson said. "Obviously there's either a spy or a camera or a leak or something that went on in our practice, but those are things that happen in practice, and it's not the first time, and it's not going to be the last."
Jackson said the issue was put to rest.
"Ron came in and apologized not only to me, but in front of the team for what he said was a distraction at practice," Jackson said. "That was his own desire to do that; I didn't solicit it from him."
"In Ron's defense, I've been trying to motivate him through a variety of activities, starting at the very beginning, talking about his activity level and about his -- sometimes his bizarre behavior," Jackson said. "He wants it to be in private, and I just said don't act it out in public and we can keep it private."
"I had Dennis Rodman," Jackson said. "What can you say? Dennis would go on a bender for two days and come back and play a great game because he knew how to get ready for a ballgame, even though he needed to blow off steam or whatever he did. I don't know what he was doing [laughing]."
The Oklahoma City Thunder: Eh. This game bored me. I'll just say that Tony Allen burned 'em with a season-high 19 points as the Care Bears scored 110 points on 51 percent shooting. They also won the rebounding battle 42-31 (including 12-3 on the offensive glass) and outscored the Thunder 54-46 in the paint.
Marc Gasol: With 25 seconds left and his team clinging to a 106-103 lead, Gasol stepped up to the foul line and bricked two freebies in a row. Clutch.
Tony Allen, quote machine: "I'm just going to play my role, and stay within the realm of things."
It's always important to stay within the realm of things.
Chris's Lacktion Report:
Bucks-Heat: Juwan Howard jacked up a pair of bricks in 10:28 for a +2 suck differential.
Spurs-Knicks: Ime Udoka chucked two pieces of masonry from the charity stripe for a +2 in 3:13.
Craptors-Bulls: Solomon Alabi decreed a foul in 2:35 for a +1 and a Madsen-level 1:0 Voskuhl for the rollerskating mesoliths, while James Johnson powdered his bank account nicely with 2.6 trillion (2:35) worth of gold flakes.
Frail Blazers-Mavs: Sean Marks mauled a Piranha Plant in just 15 seconds for a Mario, while fellow follower of fragility, Joel Przybilla, lost the rock once and missed a shot in 2:50 for a +2 and a Madsen-level 1:0 Voskuhl.
Hawks-Purple Paupers: Jeff Teague (at 28 seconds) and Darnell "Lacktion" Jackson (at 59 seconds) served as opposing-team Mario Brothers, with Jackson living up to his Bawful-assigned moniker by also fouling once for a +1!