Denver Nuggets defense: The Charlotte Bobcats are 20th in the league in scoring (95.4 PPG), but Denver let them score 119 points. That's the most points the Bobcats have scored since late last season, when they dropped 122 on the Wizards. Memo to the Nuggets: If you want to be legit, you can't let teams like Charlotte score 119 points on you. Still, despite all that, Denver would have won the game if not for...
Carmelo Anthony: With 9.5 seconds left and the Nuggets trailing 117-115, 'Melo went to the line with a chance to tie the game. He made the first free throw, but clunked the second. Still, Anthony did manage to snag a deflected rebound...then shuffled his feet. Tweet! Game over. Said Anthony after the game: ""I probably did travel. I didn't think they would call it, though."
Boston Celtics: Wow. Going into this game, the Celtics had already lost two of three, including a home game against the Bobcats. And after losing to the Wizards in Washington on Saturday, I bet a lot of people were forecasting a little Boston payback last night. Only, oddly enougn, it was the Wizards who got payback for the way they got spanked in the C's home opener. But it's not the fact that the Celtics lost that's alarming -- every team loses winnable games here and there -- it's the way they lost. Boston was leading 77-63 with 6:24 left to play but got outscored 25-6 the rest of the way. The Celtics had their chances in the final minute, but Garnett missed a three-pointer and then clanked a turnaround jumper, and Ray Allen came up way short on a three on what turned out to be the Celtics final meaningful possession. When you have not one, not two, but three superstars on your team, you should really be able to hold onto a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter at home against a lesser team.
One note on Boston's "failure": The Celtics played the first 30 or so games like they were playoff games. That's the kind of intensity and determination that the Garnett, Pierce, and Allen were bringing to each and every game. So, really, it's not surprising that there's been a little bit of a letdown. It's hard to maintain that degree of focus and concentration over the course of an 82-game season. Especially when you consider that these guys had never even played together before (All-Star Games don't count). The team looks a little gassed right now, probably because they've been playing basketball like their lives depended on it for the last three months or so. They'll recover.
Caron Butler: I love his scrappy play, I love the way he's helped rally the Wizards to a 20-16 record without Gilbert Arenas, and I really love his crazy nickname ("Tough Juice"). But I'm not sure what to make of his post-kicking-Boston's-ass comments: "Our eyes are on winning a championship." You know, I expect a certain amount of absurd confidence from professional athletes. And yeah, the Wizards have played way better than anybody thought they could, minus their superstar leader. But, that said, and the back-to-back victories against Boston aside, does anybody think the Wizards have what it takes to win a championship this season? Or even make it to the Eastern Conference Finals? I mean, it's great to dream and all, but come on. Oh well, like Ricky Bobby said, "If yer not first, yer last."
New Jersey Nets: I know the Blazers have been on fire lately, but that doesn't explain why the Nets just laid down and died at home. They only scored 12 points in the first quarter and 73 points in the game. The team shot 33 percent (26-for-77), and effort "led" by the Nets' Big Three of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson, who shot a combined 7-for-33. This team should be so much better than it is.
Gordan Giricek: That's two straight DNP-CDs. Yeah, I know he wasn't happy on the Jazz, but you really have to be careful what you wish for in this league.
Bruce Bowen: He was 1-for-8 last night, and he's 4-for-27 over his last five games (including 2-for-16 from three-point range). Granted, the Spurs don't count on him for scoring, but hitting a shot now and then sure would help their cause.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks shot 57 percent through the first three quarters, then nearly got blanked in the fourth. They ended up shooting 2-for-18 in the fourth quarter, after going the first seven-plus minutes without a field goal. And I know it sort of goes without saying, but they coughed up the lead, and the game, to the Jazz.
Kevin Durant: When he looks back to his team's 2-point overtime loss to the Lakers, I hope he realizes that his 6-for-26 shooting performance is what doomed his team.
Kobe Bryant: Yes, he led his team to victory by scoring 48 points...on 44 shot attempts. With 2 assists. Now that Bynum's out for a couple months, could this be the return of the last season's Kobe? I kinda hope so.
Dallas Mavericks defense: The Mavs were great offensively: 120 points, 57 percent shooting, 28 assists. Too bad they gave up 122 points. To the Kings. Kevin Martin, who hasn't played basketball in six weeks, scored 39 points (14-for-16) in just under 28 minutes. Said Avery Johnson: "We are not going to win many games giving up 122 points." I guess that's why he's the coach.
DeSagana Diop: In a game in which the two teams combined for 242 points on 164 shot attempts, Diop contributed...5 fouls in 5 minutes of "action." He is not making Senegal proud. [Thanks to Bob for the heads up.]