Today's man love photo classic was sent in by Charles Y.
The Atlanta Hawks: I guess the Hawks were worn out by kicking the stuffing out of the Bucks the night before, because -- after pulling to within three points with just over 10 minutes left -- the Dirty Birds were outscored 30-18 the rest of the way. During that fateful fourth quarter of doom, the new-look Nuggets drilled four triples and went 12-for-18 from the field.
Atlanta ended up losing 102-87. At home. As LotharBot put it:
Joe "the $124 million dollar man" Johnson followed up his 36 point outing against the Bucks by dropping 12 points on 13 shots, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a +/- of -22 against the Nuggets.
Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia came to play. Horford got 5 shots, and Pachulia got 9, but 4 were from offensive rebounds and only 5 were from his teammates passing him the ball. The rest of the team was apparently content to shoot 23-68 (under 34%) on mostly bad jumpers.
All of this happened in a game where the Nuggets shot 50% from 3 and 53% overall (and would've shot better were it not for some iffy non-calls in the paint.) So on a day when the offense wasn't working, at least the Hawks could count on their defense to do the same, much like the famous John McKay rant: "we didn't block, but we made up for it by not tackling."
But the story here isn't the continuing just-better-than-mediocrity of the Hawks. It's the surprising excellence of the new-look Nuggets...who are now 9-2 since granting Carmelo Anthony's wish by shipping him to New York. The Knicks, by contrast, are 6-6 with 'Melo and have lost twice each to the Cadavers and Pacers.
And check out the subtle "Fuck you, Carmelo" comments:
George Karl: "The other team can't know what we're going to do because we don't know what we're going to do. I just enjoy coaching them and they enjoy playing right now. Everybody had their moment. It's kind of a fun team. I don't know who's going to finish most nights."
Kenyon Martin: "It's fun to play basketball the right way. It always has been, always will be. When everybody's out there sharing the ball, everybody's involved, it just makes everyone want to play that much harder on the defensive end."
Even Al Horford got into the act: "They really spread you out. They have six or seven weapons. They're a great team."
Kenyon Martin, quote machine: Nominated by P.B.Rundle: "We got Zaza Pachulia being their leading scorer. You know what I'm saying? We'll take that."
The Indiana Pacers: After blowing their offensive load on the collective face of the Knicks the night before, the Pacers...did what they do against teams that actually put a hand in their face. Indy finished with only 80 points on 37.5 percent shooting and trailed by as many as 18 before losing 92-80.
Tyler Hansbrough -- who followed up his career-high 30-point effort by scoring 10 on 4-for-14 shooting against the Celtics -- said: "It's tough [playing on consecutive nights], especially when you go against one of the better teams in the league. They've got some tough guys to play against. It's tough, especially the way they play defense."
Don't you mean "especially since they actually play defense," Tyler?
The Toronto Craptors: Detroit's four oldest players -- Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Tracy McGrady -- were in the starting lineup for the first time this season. The result? A season-high 38 points in the first quarter. Rodney Stuckey had a career-high 14 assists as the Pistons led by as many as 20 points and snapped their three-game losing streak with a 107-93 win over the Craptors. And...
Said Ed Davis: "We had a lack of focus and a lack of energy, and it showed up in the first quarter. We have to come ready to play."
Jay Triano, coach of the year candidate: "Their energy was better than ours from the beginning of the game. You can't dig a hole like we did tonight. For the remainder of the game, I thought we outplayed them, but you can't afford to get down to this team."
This team? You mean this Pistons team that's 20 games below .500? Really, Jay?
The Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash returned from his pelvic injury -- no more doing the Time Warp, Steve! -- but the Suns still fell behind by as many as 19 points before rallying for a less-embarrassing 100-95 loss. Phoenix is now three games behind Memphis for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. Fucking Zach Randolph is going to reach the postseason while Captain Canada is watching from home.
There is no justice in this world.
The Miami cHeat: Okay, maybe there's a little justice. Following their five-game losing streak, the cHeat won three in a row over the Lakers, Grizzlies and Spurs, and collective media pretty much peed themselves.
The Heat were BACK! And SURGING!
Until they lost at home last night to the Thunder.
Oklahoma City shot only 39.8 percent, but they held Miami to 38.5 percent from the field and a miserable 3-for-17 from downtown. The Thunder outrebounded the cHeat 51-40 (including 17-9 on the offensive glass) while running out for 18 fast break points. Meanwhile, after a super-strong first half (38 points on 17-for-35 shooting), the Nazgul were chucking with blinders on in the second (23 points on 4-for-24 shooting).
Miami is now 18-20 against teams that are .500 or better.
Said LeBron: "Tonight is not one of those games where you feel awful about how you played."
Oh really, LeBron?
LeBron James: I'm not putting James here for the 8-for-21 shooting (including 0-for-3 on threes), or the season-low 3 assists, or even the fact that he couldn't convert a field goal in the second half.
Kevin Durant scored 29 points, earning his first victory in seven tries against LeBron James.
Based off of video tracking, Durant did much of his damage against James. Durant had struggled when guarded by James previously, shooting only 36.4 percent from the floor against him in his career entering the night.
However Wednesday was a different story as Durant was 10-of-15 from the field when guarded by James, scoring 21 of his points against him.
This was one of those rare games though, where it wasn't just Durant's scoring that led the Thunder to victory, but rather his overall playmaking abilities.
Durant tied a season-high with six assists, and the Thunder improved to 8-1 this season when he collects at least five.
In their six previous meetings, Durant averaged only 1.5 assists per game compared to 7.3 for James.
James tied a season-low with just three assists. Miami is now just 6-5 this season when he dishes out four or fewer assists.
By the way, as a Bulls blogger for By The Horns, I'm constantly besieged by LeBron-a-philes who want to trumpet his MVP candidacy while panning Derrick Rose as unworthy. The main argument -- the only argument actually -- centers on advanced metrics. Basically PER and Plus-Minus stats.
Well, here's a stat for you: The cHeat have the league's sixth-best record. Forget the fact that King Crab is playing with another MVP-caliber player (if you support the PER-as-proof argument) and another All-Star. History has shown us that the sixth-best record is not good enough to win the MVP.
So, as I've been saying all season, let's wait until all the games have been played before we start naming an MVP.
Update! Kendrick Perkins: My oversight was pointed out by kazam92:
The Milwaukee Bucks: Should we give them credit for coming back from a 14-point deficit and forcing overtime before losing to a superior opponent? Or should we blast them for a terrble first half stretch in which they missed 14 straight shots and committed three turnovers in less than eight minutes? Or for scoring only 79 points in regulation? Or for not capitalizing on 15 missed free throws by the Magic? Or for just sucking this season when there were people picking them to win 50 games and a division title?
These Bucks are dead last in FGP, eFG%, PPG and Offensive Rating. They, quite literally, could not score in an empty gym. It's just bawful.
Said Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles: "It's not that we haven't moved the ball, it's that we're not getting anything from it. We've got to be really sharp with our execution and make good decisions. There has been too much tape where we have guys open and we're just not seeing them."
Jameer Nelson: Boy oh boy. With his team up three, he fouled Brandon Jennings on a three-point attempt with 4.9 seconds left. Jennings knocked down all three freebies to force an extra session. Orlando won...but damn.
Said Stan Van Gundy: "It was close. We wanted to foul him only if he put it on the floor right on the dribble. He was a little late, so I thought it was close."
Dwight Howard: Know how I mentioned the Magic bricked 15 free throws? Well, Pumaman account for 11 of those misses.
Said Howard: "I know for myself, everything was in and out or it looked good, it just didn't go in. Every time I step to the line, it felt good. But sometimes, the results are not the way we want them."
I love how guys with a chronic case of Shaqnopsis always say stuff like "the free throws felt good" or "I felt good" or "they were in and out" or "they just missed." Look, either you hit 'em or you miss 'em. The only good free throw is a made free throw. Period. Stop justifying and making excuses, Dwight.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. Miles scored a career-high 40 points on 14-for-18 from the field and 6-for-7 from beyond the arc. 'Nuff said.
The Charlotte Bobcraps: Now that Gerald Wallace is playing in Portland, the Bobcraps are trying their hardest to overtake Milwaukee for the title of "The League's Most Inept Offensive Team." They haven't scored 100 points in 10 games and have had outtings of 69 and now 78 points.
From the AP recap:
The Bobcats went cold after shooting 53 percent in the first quarter. They finished 29 for 78 (37 percent) from the field, as leading scorer Stephen Jackson went 2 for 14.
Jackson went 0 for 5 from 3-point range and took full blame for his bad night.
"My body felt fine," he said. "It was just one of those nights. I had wide-open looks, but the shots didn't fall. It wasn't anything they did with their defense."
Augustin scored nine points in the second quarter to keep Charlotte close, but the Bobcats needed more production from Jackson to have any chance to win.
"Any time your best player has an off night, it's tough," coach Paul Silas said. "He got the shots he normally makes, but he didn't make them."
Charlotte missed its first 10 shots after halftime, before Jackson scored inside with 7:23 left in the quarter, his first field goal in 11 attempts.
Michael Jordan owns this team by the way. That feels relevant somehow.
The Sacramento Kings: Oh dear lord. This team may want to stay in Sacramento, but they sure aren't playing like it. A come-from-ahead home loss to the Cleveland Cadavers? The Kings shot 38 percent while allowing the Cads to convert better than 51 percent of their field goals. The Sactowners got outscored by five points in the fourth quarter and lost by four points. Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? Er, keyboard?
Said Kings coach Paul Westfail: "I feel like we let that one get away. We should have won the game. We went 23 of 51 in the paint. You have to finish shots in the paint. They made some plays [at the end] and we missed some layups. It shouldn't have come down to that."
According to one shot chart, Sacramento missed 18 of their 35 layup attempts and two of their four dunk attempts. This is killing poor chris:
The Purple Paupers Who Are Somehow Still In Sacramento (I'm sure if the Maloofs could, they would've moved them midseason)...
...choked a 4th quarter lead for the 22nd time tonight.
Is that an Association record?
I should be reveling in Yet Another Heat Fail but...if the team that gave me a reason to care about this league in the first place is going to be gone next year, I don't know what to feel but numbness over it all.
Epic sad face.
The Gol_en State Warriors: Sometimes an 18-point lead at home just isn't enough. Especially when you haven't jammed a hand in somebody's mug since the late 1980s. Or...have they?
Because I'm a nerd, I actually went over to Basketball-Reference and checked Gol_en States _efensive Rating for the past 20 years: They finished 20th or worse 14 out of those 20 years. They also have a 19th place finish (2006-07), a 17th-place finish (2005-06), a 16th-place finish (2004-05) a 14th-place finish (2003-04), a shocking-as-hell 10th-place finish (during the dreaded 1998-99 lockout season) and a "Where did that come from?" 13th-place finish in the middle of the first Don Nelson Era (1993-94).
Keith Smart, coach of the year candidate: "I think it was just a combination of not getting what we wanted at the time that we wanted it."
The Los Angeles Clippers: Elton Brand (19 points, 12 rebounds) got his revenge game over the team he (wisely) stabbed in the back a few years ago. My favorite part? Check out this snippet from the AP recap:
The Philadelphia 76ers didn't treat Blake Griffin too kindly on his 22nd birthday, forcing him to miss his first six shots and holding him to 14 points on 3-for-12 shooting before he fouled out for the third time this season.
One of the players making it tough on the All-Star rookie was Elton Brand, who had no idea Griffin had a chance to tie his 2001-02 single-season record of 55 double-doubles in a Clippers uniform.
"I was not aware of that, but I'm glad I stopped him," Brand said with a huge grin Wednesday night following a 104-94 victory that enabled the Sixers to tie the idle New York Knicks for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
"He's so athletic. He gets to the rim with ease and he can finish over anybody, so we just tried to keep him out of that paint. I'm sure he'll get one the next game and tie it, then break it -- but not on my watch."
Not on my watch? How cute that Brand finally decided to play some defense. All it took was the dreaded menace of the Los Angeles Clippers. Speaking of which...
Nuggets-Hawks: Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos each went 33 seconds romping through the Mushroom Kingdom as celebratory Mario Brothers! (Koufos went non-lacktive with a board.)
Pacers-Celtics: Indiana's Lance Stephenson bricked once in 2:16 for a +1, while Sasha Pavlovic collected 2.3 trillion (2:16).
Thunder-El (Oh El) Heat: Erick Dampier downplayed a field goal in 13:42 as starting big man with two fouls, a turnover, and brick for a 3:1 Voskuhl. James Jones put on his Game and Watch in 34 seconds for a Mario.
Magic-Bucks: Quentin Richardson cued up 9 seconds of highlights from WiiPlay for a SUPER MARIO, while Milwaukee's Larry Sanders showed that two field goals and two steals in 17:56 could be negated by fouling out as starting big man, earning a 6:4 Voskuhl.
Bobcats-Rockets: Garrett Temple gave Charlotte a brick from Enron Center South and a rejection in 2:09 for a +2.
For Houston, Demarre Carroll clutched one assist, but had to blow on his Bad Dudes cartridge in 42 seconds for a non-lacktive Mario.
Wolves-Jazz: Nikola Pekovic managed one rebound in 5:16, only to brick thricely, foul thricely, take a rejection, and lose the rock once for a 4:1 Voskuhl.
Utah's Kyrylo Fesenko turned over the ball once in 6:12 for a +1 and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl.
Sad Cadavers-The Purple Paupers Who Choked For The 22nd Time This Year That The Greedy, Incompetent Maloofs Plan To Move To SoCal To Become The Anaheim Royals Of Anywhere Except Sacramento: Luther Head ran into a Goomba and fouled once in 17 seconds for a Mario.
Mavs-Warriors: Dallas had three folks make the ledger tonight: Corey Brewer bricked once in 5:41 starting up front for a +1, Ian Mahnimi bricked and fouled once each in 3:12 for a +2 and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl, and Brian Cardinal lost the rock twice and fouled once in exactly 7 minutes for a +3.
Sixers-Clippers: Andres Nocioni notched two fouls and one turnover in 6:35 for a +3.