Update! Robert Swift: Black finger nails, Rob? Really? In addition to the pic shown above, here's another view. Did you know Swift went straight from high school to the pros? I can hardly believe it myself.
The Klahma City Thunder: They followed up their elusive fifth win of the season (at home against the Knicks) with a 42-point road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ye-owch. The Thunder were only able to hold the Wolves below 30 points in one quarter, the third, when Minny scored 26. Other than that, it was 42, 30 and 31 points surrendered in the first, second and fourth quarters, respectively. All told, the Timberpups scored 129 points on 52 percent shooting while chokeslamming the Thunder on the boards 57-38. Oh, and the Klahma's scored only 87 points on 39 percent shooting themselves, thanks in part to the fact that Neil Paine stat cursed Kevin Durant into a miserable 3-for-13 shooting night in which he finished with a season-low 9 points. For the record, it was the first time this season that he's been held under 12 points. Said Durant: "Its tough. We played so hard (Tuesday) night and in games before. To come out and not even show up is tough."
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves are continuing their fascinating little pas de deux with the Celtics. While the C's have lost six of their last eight games -- more on that below -- the W's have WON six out of eight, including the last four in a row. And just as Boston's slump came after an historic 27-2 start, Minnesota's upswing follows a near-franchise-record 13-game skid (the Wolves had two other 16-game losing streaks in 1992 and 1994). You know how that has to make Kevin McHale feel right now?
But before McHale or anybody else gets to excited, it's probably worth noting that those six wins came against the Knicks, Grizzlies, Warriors, Bulls, Grizzlies (again) and the Thunder...teams that have a combined record of 54-123. So, you know, I'm just sayin'.
The Charlotte Bobcats: They followed up that ultra-impressive home win over the Celtics with a 30-point road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Anybody else noticing a pattern here? Speaking of patterns, in his book about the 1985-86 Celtics, The Last Banner, which I guess should be renamed to The Next To Last Banner now, Peter May had this to say about the Dallas Mavericks following up a win against the Celtics with a loss to the Sacaramento Kings:
"On any other night, a Mavericks loss to the Kings, then 29-36, would have been a mild upset. But beating the Celtics took a lot out of a team. Those fortunate enough to win generally got to enjoy it for one game; on only four occasions out of a possible 15 did the team that beat the 1985-86 Celtics go on to win its next game. The 76ers, one of just two teams to beat Boston twice (the Nets were the other) won both of their post-Celtics-victory games. Denver and the Knicks were the two others."
That passage got me thinking about what's happened this season to the eight teams who have beaten the Celtics. Here are the results:
1. The Indiana Pacers: Lost 113-103 at home to the Phoenix Suns.
2. The Denver Nuggets: Won 90-84 at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
3. The Los angeles Lakers: Won 130-113 at home against the Golden State Warriors.
4. The Golden State Warriors: Lost 130-113 on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers.
5. The Portland Trail Blazers: Lost 92-77 at home against the New Orleans Hornets.
6. The New York Knicks: Lost 107-99 on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
7. The Charlotte Bobcats: Lost 111-81 on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
8. The Houston Rockets: Haven't played another game yet.
So out of a possible seven games (so far), teams that have beaten the Celtics are 2-5 and those five losses were by a combined 100 points (10, 17, 15, 8 and 30 points, respectively). And the two wins have mitigating circumstances, since the Lakers and Warriors played each other immediately after beating the Celtics (and one of those teams HAD to win), and the Nuggets barely won at home against an awful Timberwolves team that was at the tail end of an eight-game losing streak (and Denver was in the midst of a streak that saw them win 12 out of 15).
The point is this: It would seem that teams are getting really, really up to beat the Celtics and then coming back down to earth in the very next game. So it's kind of like Doc Rivers said: His team has to play 82 Game 7s this year. Speaking of which...
The Boston Celtics: The Leprechauns lost for the sixth time in their last eight games. So, uhm, yeah. I guess they won't be winning 70 games this season, huh? I talked at length about this team's problems yesterday, and frankly I'm not sure what I have to add. You can tell just by watching that the journey just isn't any fun anymore for the Celtics. And it's evident by the looks on their faces, which have been vacillating between boredom and frustration. After the game, Rivers said: "In our last timeout, you could see it in our guys' eyes. Like, 'Shoot, we're going to lose this home game. It bothered them. You could see that. And I was thinking 'That's a good thing." I've heard of taking lemons and trying to make lemonade, but it seems like Doc's trying to make Dom Pérignon out of toilet water.
Wild Yams had this to say in a comment: "With the way the Rockets have been slumping, for them to go to Boston and win w/o T-Mac and with Artest fouling out with 4 minutes to go shows the depths to which the Celtics have sunk (especially since two Houston starters, Scola and Alston, combined for only two points!). What in god's name is going on with them?! Did that loss to the Lakers on Xmas Day really shake them up something fierce or what? I guess what I'm asking is this: Are the Celtics' problems mental, or are they really just not that great after all?" The problems are both mental -- this season's pressure-filled journey is nothing like last year's quest for rebirth and redemption -- and the fact that, minus James Posey and P.J. Brown, their bench has gone from Charles Atlas to the 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face on the beach. But the good news is the Celtics won't be paying James Posey $6 million for that extra season a couple years from now! Great move, Danny.
Paul Pierce and Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck: Ron Artest fouled out of the game with just over three minutes remaning. The fans, obviously, got a hoot out of that, which is typical. What was less typical is this: Paul Pierce kindly pointed him to the sideline as Grousbeck, standing in front of his courtside throne, waved goodbye. That's more than "kind of" classless, guys. Next time, please leave the taunting and mockery to the fans. (Thanks to Georgi for the following picture.)
Hey, Paul. Maybe you should point that finger inward...
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen: The Celtics scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. They shot 22 percent in that final period and got outscored 15-6 in the final eight minutes. For the heck of it, here's a rundown of Boston's fourth quarter possessions: Eddie House missed 3-pt. Jump Shot; Leon Powe missed Jump Shot (Blocked by Carl Landry); Gabe Pruitt made 3-pt. Jump Shot (Assist Ray Allen); Eddie House missed Jump Shot; Gabe Pruitt made Jump Shot; Lost ball turnover on Gabe Pruitt (Stolen by Ron Artest); Eddie House missed 3-pt. Jump Shot; Leon Powe missed Hook Shot, Paul Pierce missed Jump Shot, Paul Pierce missed 3-pt. Jump Shot; Ray Allen missed Jump Shot; Kevin Garnett missed Turnaround Jump Shot; Ray Allen made two Free Throws; Kevin Garnett missed Jump Shot; Paul Pierce missed Layup; Paul Pierce made Jump Shot; Kevin Garnett missed Jump Shot; Rajon Rondo made Layup (Assist Kevin Garnett); Offensive foul on Paul Pierce; Paul Pierce missed Jump Shot; Ray Allen missed Layup.
So, to recap, the Celtics' three go-to guys combined for 4 points on 1-for-9 shooting (including two missed layups), two assists and a turnover in the decisive fourth quarter of a critical home game. Now, to me, this is a Big Fail for the Big Three, but based on the comments I received for drawing attention to Kobe's fourth quarter fail against the Hornets, I guess I have to reassess my way thinking, right?
Okay, it's time for a mini-rant here. The Mamba Apologists were out in force yesterday, and their defense of Kobe's 2-point, 1-for-6 disappearance during the Lakers' fourth-quarter come-from-ahead home loss to the Hornets boiled down to two basic points: The defense was keying on Kobe and his teammates missed shots. So, then, the expectation is that Kobe, the league's MVP and widely-acclaimed "greatest player" can be neutralized and that Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Ariza should come through in the clutch. Okay, fine. But then, what's the point in having a fourth quarter closer? And furthermore, is this really a new thing? Not just this year or in the Finals, but over Kobe's whole career? Or, for that matter, in the career of every great player in NBA history?
Look, every NBA defense tightens up in the fourth quarter. Every superstar receives the bulk of the defensive attention. It's called clutch time. That's when one (or more) of three things has to happen: The player must find a way to score, create shots for his teammates, or force his way to the basket to draw fouls. Yes, Kobe passed to teammates for open shots they didn't hit, but he himself was blanked, scoring only two points. And as for driving to the rim, he attempted one layup (which he hit) and five jumpers (which he missed). Frankly, since he and his teammates weren't hitting from the outside, he should have gone hard to the hole and forced the refs to make a call. That's what Jordan used to do, and, more often than not, it's what Dwyane Wade does now.
See, here's the thing: Great players, MVPs, they have to step it up when their teammates cannot. When go-to guys can't be gone to, that's a problem. And those of you who want to accuse me of being unfair to Kobe and "drinking Haterade" really need to review my body of work. I've written hundreds of WotN posts, and I have consistently criticized great players who fall short in the end game, including guys by the name of Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Shaq, Steve Nash, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, so on and so forth. I've always done it and I will always do it, because it is my steadfast belief that money time is the province of money players. It would be great if Eddie House or Sasha Vujacic or whoever could hit a few shots. But scoring 2 points on 1-for-6 without getting to the line (as Kobe did) or combining to shoot 1-for-9 while getting to the line only once (as the Big Three did) is, in my mind, a failure.
In the final analysis, you can always find reasons for why a player or players didn't perform well or hit shots. I'm sure you could justify the performance of each Laker and each Celtic in every loss each team suffers. But the great players across every sport always bear the burden of responsibility for how a team executes down the stretch. This isn't a new thing, is it? And, in the interest of the "intellectual honesty" that some commenters like to espouse, how is it that my critiques of other players' fourth-quarter breakdowns aren't similarly dissected? I mean, I've tagged players for having a single turnover or missed shot at a critical juncture in a tight loss. And take the case of Shaq. Several people have correctly noticed this season that Shaq tends to perform well early and then quiet down significantly in the later stages of a game. True enough. But it is also true that teams begin aggressively double-teaming him in the fourth quarter, which forces him to pass the ball back out and become a spectator as the Suns look elsewhere for offense. Is this Shaq's fault? Because, like Kobe, he's only doing what he's supposed to do: Pass away from swarming defenses. Likewise Kevin Garnett has taken a beating FOR YEARS for doing the exact same thing. Yet Kobe should be exempt?. No. No, I don't think so.
I want to make clear that I still want everybody to speak their minds. But next time, before you try to call me out for "infairly" criticizing Kobe, ask yourself why the rules that you have probably applied to the Shaqs and Dirks and the KGs and T-Macs of the world do not apply to Kobe.
Update! Von Wafer: Ugh. I was so disheartened by the Celtics' loss that I forgot about Wafer's at-the-rim rejection. But Ace didn't: "How can you not include this gem of Von Wafer getting stuffed by the rim? To add insult to injury, the NBA named it the block of the night." Indeed they did:
So does the rim get credit for the stuff? Or does it count as a team block?
The Washington Wizards: They lost at home to a Raptors team that had only nine players available -- Jermaine O'Neal (right knee), Jose Calderon (right hamstring), Jamario Moon (wife gave birth to a baby) and Hassan Adams (traded to the Clippers and then immediately released) were all gone buy-bye -- to maintain their stranglehold on the worst record in the Eastern Conference (7-27). And that makes them, by the way, only two wins up on the Thunder. Yeah. It's that bad. It's a good thing they fired Eddie Jordan though! Speaking of coaches, Wizards placeholder Ed Tapscott said: "We met the opposition, and it was us. We took a step back, defensively and offensively tonight. Compared to the last few games that we've played, clearly I'm not happy." Awh. I hate it when he's not happy. Speaking of unhappy, here's what Antawn Jamison, who had a season-high 32 points, had to say: "It's a step back, not because of who wasn't on the court for them, but just the way we played. We didn't play good basketball at all. We didn't get effort. We got outrebounded by one of the worst teams in the NBA. We thought the outcome should have been different." I'm not sure somebody on a 7-win team has the right to call a 15-squad "one of the worst teams in the NBA." You know?
Mike Bibby: Whoops. Bibs bonked a breakaway layup that would have cut the Magic's lead to only 2 points with just under a buck and a half left in the game. Check it out, starting around the 1:56 mark:
Hey, it's like my buddy Mr. P says, the layup is the hardest shot in the game. But still. Like Basketbawful reader Dan B. said: "You know you have failed miserably when even John Hollinger calls you out (and NOT to rag on your crappy PER!)." Hollinger correctly states that Bibby blew it by not using the backboard. Mike, for his part, was disinclined to take blame for the miss, or the loss: "I missed an easy layup, but it happens. We need to start from the first quarter and play the whole game." Translation: Hey, not my fault.
The New Orleans Hornets: Remember what I was saying about what happens to teams after they beat the Celtics? Yeah, that probably goes for teams that defeat the Lakers, too. It sure did last night, when a clearly gassed-out Hornets squad got leg-dropped 116-90 by the Jazz. As Jerry Sloan put it: "Obviously it's a long trip for them to have to come up here, but that's the way it works out." That's life in the NBA. There really is a story behind every win and every loss.
Carlos Boozer: So...Paul Millsap extended his NBA-leading streak of double-doubles to 19 games with 27 points and 14 rebounds last night against the Hornets. And the still-injured Boozer is probably going to opt out and ask the Jazz to pay him close to $100 million in a long-term, guaranteed contract this summer? Yeah. Good luck with that, Carlos.
The Phoenix Suns: Somebody asked me recently whom I root for when two of my favorite teams face off. My answer: Whichever team has the better chance to make and/or progress through the playoffs. After all, every game can be crucial when deciding playoff positioning come springtime. So, naturally, I was forced to root against my Pacers last night in favor of the Suns. And...that didn't work out too well for me (or the Suns). Phoenix once again fell victim to a near-career-high scoring night by an opponent, as Danny Granger blew up for 37 points, three of which came on a buzzer-beater to win the game.
I would like to point out that there were only 0.9 seconds left on the clock when Mike Dunleavy inbounded the ball to Granger. That means Phoenix only had to defend for less than a second to force overtime. And they couldn't do it. Good thing Terry Porter has been stressing defense this season.
Steve Nash: According to the Yahoo! box score, Captain Canada was the Suns' best player last night with 16 points and 12 assists. But watch the video. It was Nash who got dotted by Granger on that game-winning buzzer beater. Congrats on making it into yet another player's poster/highlight film, Steve. Maybe you shouldn't be swimming with those sharks after all. Oh, you also lose points for that fruity chest-bumb with Leandro Barbosa.
"Wonder Douch Powers, activate!
Form of...a leaping dork!"
The Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade scored 31 points and Shawn Marion added 25, but the Heat still lost by double-digits to the Carmelo Anthony-less Nuggets in Denver. That makes them 1-3 in their last four games.
Dwyane Wade, unintentional dis machine: Regarding the lack of 'Melo in Denver's lineup: "You could see they didn't need him. The guys off the bench stepped up. They have plenty of players that can score." They didn't need their All-Star Olympian, huh? Does that say something about Anthony, something about the Heat, or something about both?
The Detroit Pistons: They shot the ball well (50 percent), they won the rebounding battle (40-28) and they had a lead with under 10 seconds to go. Then they lost when Travis Outlaw hit a crazy fadeaway J over a double-team with 8.9 seconds left. That hurts. Watch it for yourself (starting at 1:53).
Allen Iverson (6-for-19), who blew a layup with 22.9 seconds left and missed a jumper with 3.9 ticks that could have won the game, said: "The things that we needed to go right at the end of the game went all wrong." Yeah, that's one way to put it.
The Golden State Warriors: They suffered one of those bitterly painful come-from-ahead home losses when the Lakers outscored them 37-26 in the fourth quarter. And their interior defense was an insult to any and all human words that could be used to describe it. Pau Gasol scored 33 points and had a career-high 18 rebounds...14 and 8 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. Memo to Don Nelson: It takes more than hope and happy thoughts looks from you and your players to keep opponents out of the paint. Thanks.
Kobe Bryant: He forced his teammates to listen to several annoying knock-knock jokes on the plane ride back to L.A., including: "Knock Knock. Who's there? Smell Mop. Smell Mop Who...?"
Meaningless trades: The Raptors traded Hassan Adams to the Clippers for a conditional second-round draft pick and cash considerations. The Clippers then waived Adams. Heat traded Shaun Livingston to Memphis for a conditional second-round draft pick in 2012. The Grizzlies then waived Livingston.
Lactivity report: The mighty Chris continues his mission:
Bobcats-Cavs: Juwan Howard gave Charlotte a +2 SD in 3:38 (via one turnover and one foul), while the Cavs' Lorenzen Wright eschewed a potential 4 trillion treasure through one rebound.
Rockets-Celtics: Luis Scola avoided giving Houston a +9 via two rebounds, but Brian Scalabrine, for the second night in a row, has become the go-to guy for representing the essence of the Boston bench (inept and unimpressive) in this slump, getting +1 (foul) in 3:07.
Grizzlies-Nets: Chris Douglas-Roberts went 7:22 of floor time with a missed shot for a +1.
Hornets-Jazz: Utah's Jarron Collins racked up a 3.7 trillion!
Pistons-Blazers: One brick gave Channing Frye of Portland a +1 in 3:58.
Richard Batista: This doctor from Garden City, New York, donated a kidney to his wife in 2001. Now, however, they're getting a divorce, and Batista wants the kidney -- or it's equivalent value -- back in the settlement. I am not making this up. Oddly enough, this is what he recently had to say about the donation: "There is no greater feeling on this planet. As God is my witness, I felt as if I could put my arm around Jesus Christ. It was an unbelievable; I was walking on a cloud. To this day I would still do it again." But he wants the kidney back. Jesus does NOT approve, Richard.