Basketball Brush-Up – Christmas Contests

26 12 2011

 

New York 106, Boston 104

The Knicks needed every bit of Carmelo Anthony’s 37 points to seal the deal in this Eastern Conference showdown. (Does anybody else think Spike Lee is simply annoying on that sideline?) The Pierce-less Celtics played the Knicks game by running up and down the court with very little defense, and they payed for it. Whatever team can establish their type of play in a match-up usually ends up with the win since they feel more comfortable by the end of the game. However, don’t think this means the Knicks shouldn’t make a New Years Resolution list. Boston bursted out of halftime with a 35 point third quarter. Newcomer Brandon Bass played a huge role in this quarter and ended up finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Rajon Rondo did what he wanted all night with 31 points, 13 assists, and 5 steals. This seemed to be the main problem for the Knicks – inconsistency… again. Even with Chandler attempting to establish some defense for the team with his six blocks, they allowed the Celtics to come back from a 17 point deficit to then have a 10-point lead of their own very quickly. Why did this huge swing happen? The offense could not put the ball in the basket during the third quarter, and with no defense to rely on, the Celtics easily got back in this game. This can’t happen for a team in the NBA if a championship stands as the final goal. Also, even though ‘Melo and Stoudemire create a very isolation-heavy offense, the Knicks 17 assists barely beating Rondo’s 13 assists is pitiful. Toney Douglas led the team with only four assists! The Knicks better be hoping that Baron Davis or Mike Bibby can eventually provide this team with some consistent point guard play or the wins won’t be coming when April rolls around.

 

Dallas 94, Miami 105

Yes, the Mavs might have had a championship hangover. Yes, the Mavs lost 6 guys from last year and have 5 new names this season. Yes, the Heat obviously had more of an incentive in this season opener. I understand all of these possible “asterisks” to place next to this game after the championship banner was slowly raised to the rafters, but there isn’t a conceivable excuse – in my opinion – for the type of shellacking that took place this past Christmas Day. The Heat led in this game wire-to-wire, eventually building a 35-point lead in the third quarter. Because the lead grew so large so early, the entire fourth quarter ended up being trash time, which explains why the score could deceive someone checking how the Mavericks played. Hungry easily described every single one of the Heat players while sluggish epitomized the Mavs. The 2011 NBA Champions didn’t give any extra energy at any point in this game and looked to still be celebrating their championship – just look at Terry’s gold shoelaces. In this shortened NBA season, the teams that are old and have the most change in their personnel will struggle the most, and the Mavericks have both of these qualities. Effort can assuage these struggles, but the Mavericks have none of that currently. Even though many disparities between these teams can be pointed out such as field goal percentage(48.7% compared to 37.8%), three-point percentage (57.1% compared to 32.1%), or fast break points (31 compared to 10), I look to rebounds as the Mavs biggest problem. Miami outrebounded Dallas 51-31… wow. This kind of pounding on the boards will make it a huge fight to pull out any sort of win. I understand Brendan Haywood is not Tyson Chandler and shouldn’t be expected to play Chandler’s old role, but a stat sheet filled with 14 minutes, 3 rebounds, 2 turnover, 4 fouls, and 0 points will only lead to tough times for these Mavericks. Chandler wanted to rebound the ball. Chandler wanted to play defense. If Haywood could at least have this desire, the Mavs might be able to hold their own better than yesterday. I understand the time to panic has not come (yet), but with the shortened season, the Mavs can’t wait too long before they stop drinking the championship kool-aid. In respect to the guys in the red… they looked good. Scary good. Similar to the way the Mavs are currently trying to figure out their offense with all the new pieces, the Heat went through an entire season of that. Even though it is only one game, they looked comfortable, and they looked determined. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had stat lines that would make any fantasy owner giddy. They already have a mid-season form to their play. However, don’t forget that after the Mavs lost to the Heat in 2006 NBA Finals, they came back out in the next season with a 67-15 regular season only to be knocked out in the first round. The Heat will most likely have to wait for their full respect from the media until the playoffs roll around.

*Even though Lamar Odom being unable to control his emotions and getting ejected is unacceptable no matter the situation, I disagree when referees call a foul in these type of instances. It takes away from the flow of the game and shouldn’t be considered a charge.

 

LA Lakers 87, Chicago 88

In the most back-and-forth battle of these five games, the Bulls pulled out this victory because of team effort. Jumping to the end of the game, the Bulls stared at a 85-77 deficit with 1:58 to go in the game. This ballclub had the largest point differential in their favor during the last five minutes of a game last season and they showed that is no fluke. Deng started the Bulls finishing run with two made free throws, and then Boozer had a huge defensive rebound followed by a nice driving layup on the other end of the court. After Kobe made a ridiculous baseline jumper, Deng continued his great night with three points the hard way and then two more made free throws. During this span in the game, Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts each went 0-2 at the stripe. This goes to show how important each free throw can be in a close game. The Lakers had the ball and the lead with under 24 seconds to go. All they had to do is inbound the ball, right? With Noah and Rose providing a solid trap on Kobe at halfcourt, #24 tossed his eighth turnover of the game into Deng’s hands. Now that the rest of the team had done their job, the reigning MVP took control and had a spectacular floater fall in for the last points of the game. His acceleration has to be one of the best in the league. Bryant then attempted to force the ball right, only to be met by three Bulls and blocked by Deng at the buzzer. The Bulls need to look to keep this great balance of allowing Rose to lead the team but have each player still know his role and fulfill it effectively. Hamilton did only have six points in his Bulls debut, but this is why they brought in Hamilton – he will willingly play his role and when they need him to give them points, he will do so. Even though Bryant seemed very frustrated in his post-game interview, the Lakers should have no reason to feel upset or go into panic mode. They lost to a quality Bulls team without Bynum on the floor. I expect both of these teams to remain strong forces in each of their respective conferences.

 

Oklahoma City 97, Orlando 89

Dwight Howard needs to be dealt for the well-being of this Orlando Magic team. This notion clearly showed its colors in this blowout by the Thunder. Other than one powerful dunk by D12, he did not look like himself, shooting 4-12 from the field with 11 points. Otis Smith and the Magic were so caught up in attempting to deal Howard during the offseason that their roster doesn’t have any playmakers. Ryan Anderson led the team in scoring with 25 points but 11 of those came in trash time. Who will step up to the plate and lead this team if Howard isn’t motivated? Jason Richardson? Hedo Turkoglu? Unfortunately, this team has many solid role players, but no one to take command of an offense when the game is on the line. Unless the Magic want to go through the first half of the season like the Nuggets had to with ‘Melo last year, they should find the right deal and ship Howard out of Orlando. Looking at the team that won this game, nothing new can really be brought up; James Harden solidified the bench (19 points), Russell Westbrook did it all (14 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals) and Kevin Durant easily put the ball in the basket (30 points). I have no doubt they will have a very successful season with the returning pieces they already have set in place. The question still remains if Westbrook can cut down on his turnovers (already racking up seven of his own yesterday) and if this young squad can improve their play in the playoffs after last year’s Western Conference Finals run. As long as this group keeps the team mentality they have been feeding off of since this core was established, a championship in the near future seems highly probable.

 

Golden State 86, LA Clippers 105

Even though this score gives the impression a blowout took place, one point separated these teams with 8:07 left in the game. It had been a relatively back-and-forth game up to this point. However, Chris Paul decided to show everybody why he brings this Clippers squad something they didn’t have last year – clutch play. After Brandon Rush’s free throws cut the deficit to seven points with 4:03 to play, CP3 drained three mid-range jumpers in a row to close this game out. His ability to score and pass brings the city of L.A. the best point guard they have seen since Magic Johnson wore the gold and purple. DeAndre Jordan collecting eight blocks played a huge part in the Clippers victory, along with Griffin’s 22 points. Only four players came off the bench for Lob City with Mo Williams being the only player to get substantial minutes. This might work for the first few weeks, but during a season in which there is a back-to-back-to-back and many crammed games, more depth will be needed for consistent success. The league’s highest scoring backcourt from last year – Monte Ellis and Stephen Curry – combined to shoot 8-31 from the field and 0-9 from behind the line. The Clippers are lucky these two couldn’t get in their rhythm. Mark Jackson has a lot of work to do with this young Warriors team that still seems to want to play on only one side of the court. The players from this almost defense-less 2010-2011 team haven’t changed much, so Jackson will be getting his money’s worth this season. Unfortunately, they don’t get a chance to take a breather and reflect on their play before Derrick Rose and the Bulls charge into Oracle Arena tonight.

 

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One response

26 12 2011
Nick

I really enjoy how extensive this review of the 5 NBA games is. I love how you approach the NBA. Keep up the good work!

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