Thanks to Sturla for providing today's top picture.
Elton Brand: His addition to the Philadelphia 76ers was supposed to transform them from plucky overachievers/up-and-comers to Eastern Powerhouse and potentially The Team to challenge Boston for conference supremacy. Yeah. That didn't work out so well. And the day after his injury, this is what I had to say: "Now, here's a little theory I have. Let's assume Brand misses, say, a month. You just watch. Philly will start fast breaking again -- which was their bread and butter last season -- and go on a little mini-streak in Brand's absence. Seriously."
Then they struggled through that 1-5 road trip and I felt like an idiot. Well, turns out it just took the team some time to adjust. But now they're running again and knocking down their threes -- including a season-high 11 of them against the Blazers -- and, wouldn't you know, they're on a season-best five-game non-losing streak. And the streak has included three victories against winning teams (Houston, Atlanta and Portland). So the evidence is right there in front of us: The Sixers play better and with more confidence minus Brand. Seriously, there were some grumpy mugs on that team up until they sped things up and Brand's shots got redistributed. Now, everybody's so darn happy again. Just ask Andre Iguodala: "Guys are just playing with a lot of confidence right now. We feel like we can make any shot. We're shooting with a rhythm, we're shooting with confidence, and more than likely, it's going to go in." Translation: "We don't have to walk it up the court and force-feed Brand anymore...and he's not really a 20-10 guy anymore anyway. Running and shooting is brought us success last year. Not a clunky halfcourt game." It'll be interesting to see how they'll work Elton back into the mix, and whether he'll be able to accept a lesser role in an offense that's running more and operating in the half court less.
The Portland Trail Blazers: They were down 16 after one quarter, 22 at halftime, and despite a 10-0 third-quarter run, they ended up losing by 21. That cost them the chance to move 10 games above .500 for the first time since 2002-03. Hopefully Darius Miles will play his 10th game soon so they can put that distraction behind them. [drips sarcasm]
The Detroit Pistons: One night after failing to close out a game against the Bobcats (15-24), th Pistons failed to close out a game against the Pacers (14-25). Okay, hold on. I have to throw up in my mouth a little because Charlotte has a better record than Indy. BLOARGH! Okay. I'm done. Anyway, just add "back-to-back losses to teams that are hovering around 10 games below .500" to the list of Reasons Why The Allen Iverson Trade Destroyed The Pistons. (And I only mean that the trade killed their chances to contend for the Eastern Conference crown. They're still 22-15. Just not a scary 22-15.) Rodney Stuckey, who had a game-high 30 points on 12-for-20 shooting, said: "We've got to finish game. That's pretty much it. We're kicking ourselves in the butt. We keep losing games like this, it's going to hurt us at the end of the season. Hopefully, we can figure it out and get it turned around."
Danny Granger: The Pacers might have put the Pistons away a little earlier had it not been for Danny's 6-for-20 shooting. In fact, I was positively cringing Granger was setting up the shot that sent the game to overtime. It was definitely one of those "NO, NO, NO...YES!" shots for me. Which was a good feeling, since the Pacers have typically had "NO, NO, NO...NO!" fourth quarters this season.
The Toronto Raptors: In the titanic showdown slapfest between two 16-teams, only one squad can reach win number 17. And normally, I'd pick the home team, particularly since the away team only had four road wins on the season. But, once again, the Craptors proved me way wrongo. Toronto fell victim to a 17-point fourt-quarter supernova from Derrick Rose. The Great Poohdini finished with 25 points (12-for-20) and 10 assists. But then, he HAD to step up his game in the absence of...
Big Shot Larry: Look who earned himself a DNP-CD last night. So, in the wake of his complaints about PT, Hughes has played seven minutes and zero minutes in back-to-back games. And here's what Bulls coach Vinny D had to say when asked about the situation after the game: "We'll figure it out as we go. Kirk will be out there. He takes pressure off Derrick [Rose] and puts defensive pressure on the ball. And we always get leadership." Notice the conspicuous lack of the words "Larry" and "Hughes" in Vinny's response? Yeah, me too.
Chris Bosh: He had a chance to tie the game with under 10 seconds left but, instead, all he got was an outpatient ego-ectomy from Dr. Joakim Noah. Yeah. Start watching at the 1:50 mark.
The Washington Wizards Generals: The Generals' freefall to nowhere continued last night as they shot nearly 60 percent from the field and scored 122 points. And lost. Mike James said: "It was almost like pickup basketball. We were talking at halftime. Some people said they've seen more defense on video games. You joke about that, but it's not a laughing matter." Unless you read Basketbawful, in which case it is very much a laughing matter. But I find that comment pretty interesting, coming, as it did, from a man known as "The Amityville Scorer." James, in case you're interested, has a career defensive rating of 109. That's points allowed per 100 possessions. This season, his defensive rating is 114.1 For some perspective, the worst defensive rating in the league (123.2) belongs to Golden State's Jermareo Davidson. And James is six spots ahead (which means behind) defensive stalwart Ricky Davis (113.1). I'm just sayin'.
In other news, Nick Young scored 33 points for Washington, setting a new career high for the third time in four games. Why, exactly, aren't they starting this guy? Do they just enjoy losing that much? And one last epithet: The Wizzers are now tied with the Thunder in wins with 7. But more on that below...
The New Jersey Nets: They shot 38 percent, committed 19 turnovers and got blown out in Boston by 32 points. Said Nets coach Lawrence Frank: "They kicked us real good." That's not strong enough an analogy. Better to say, I think, that: "They kidnapped us, tortured us, and kept us locked up in a hole like the Gimp in Pulp Fiction." Okay. Fixed.
Paul Pierce, justification machine: Regarding Boston's "resurgence" against the Raptors and Nets after their 2-7 slump: "I thought we had a really big bump in the road these last couple of weeks with consistency, something we didn't have a year ago. Maybe it's something we needed to give us a gut check. When you go through something like that, you really find out what kind of team you are." You mean, like, not as talented or as deep as last season and suddenly a few steps behind the Cavaliers, Lakers and Magic in the race for this year's league title? That kind of team?
The Utah Jazz: This is the kind of travesty that the phrase "I'll be cow-kicked and hornswoggled" was invented for. As well as several other foul four-letter words I won't type out right now. A 21-point loss to the Klahma City Thunder?! I wouldn't be surprised to hear John Stockton dropped dead after he heard about his most shameful of losses. Heck, even Felton Spencer was probably embarrassed. And so was Deron Williams: "They outhustled us, they outrebounded us. We just didn't play tough at all." Think the Jazz missed Paul Milsap, who was out (again) with a bruised right knee? Put it this way: Nenad Krstic had 14 points and 11 boards. I guess Mehmet Okur isn't much of a frontcourt stopper. Speaking of which...
Mehmet Okur: After he scored his career-high 43 points against the defenseless Pacers, BadDave emailed me to say: "Okur blew his wad...for his career." His words seem pretty prophetic after Mehmet's follow-up against the Thunder: 9 points on 3-for-12 shooting.
The Klahma City Thunder: How can I tag them with WotN honors after they clobbered the Jazz? Because of something Dan L. wrote in to say: "The team that used to be the Sonics actually beat the Jazz last night, but the ESPN headline about that game read: 'Three reach 20's as lousy Thunder thump Jazz.' They are so bad that even when they win by 21 they're still called lousy." Yup. Ouch.
Dwyane Wade: The Heat won, yes, but I could hardly overlook his 17 points on 5-for-20 shooting, could I? But there's a reason! Just ask Pookie. He'll tell you. "Every shot I shot they hit me on my arm. That's why my shots were short." Awh. That gives me sad face, Dwyane. On the bright side, Wade had only 4 turnovers, so that's something. He continues to lead the league in that category, by the way.
Mario Chalmers: Did he accidentally drop his game in the toilet or something? The kid is falling off the map and out of Erik Spoelstra's rotation. He's 1-for-13 in his last three games and has scored zero, 4 and zero points. And he played less than 10 minutes in the two zero-point outings.
The Dallas Mavericks: Oh, hey, look. They lost at home to a better team. That's a surprise. And Jason Kidd's 7/7/7 line looked pretty feeble next to Chris Paul's triple-double (33 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists...plus 7 steals!!). According to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle: "We just didn't play as good as a game that we needed to play." That's some pretty succinct insight, coach. Thanks.
DeSagana Diop: I haven't beaten this dead horse in a while, but some days you wake up cranky and just want to beat a dead horse. So here goes. I noticed that Diop earned himself a DNP-CD last night. It was his third in the last five games. On the season, Diop has scored 56 points and committed 55 personal fouls. He's averaging 3.5 rebounds and has accumulated only 25 blocks. Think Mark Cuban regrets signing DeSagana to that five-year, $32 million contract over the summer? Don't worry. It's just one of the many regrets he should have regarding his mismanagement of the Mavs over the last several years.
David Guthrie, Michael Smith, Sean Corbin: Much as it pains me to defend the Lakers, they got hosed by the officials twice in the final 12 seconds of the fourth quarter last night...which kind of sucks because it really detracted from a very exciting and well-played game. First, Roger Mason drew foul on Derek Fisher on what I like to call the Jump Flop, that move (invented by World B. Free and perfected by Reggie Miller) where a jump shooter kicks out his legs and flails during the shot. Fisher clearly tried to evade contact but got tagged with the foul anyway. Mason dropped the free throw to give the Spurs a one-point lead. Then, on the Lakers' final possession, Trevor Ariza got called for a travel after taking only two steps. Plus, it sure looked like he got tripped up a little. Go ahead and take a gander at both plays.
Now, the Ariza play might not have mattered all that much since he missed the shot and the clock would have expired during the ensuing battle for the rebound. But Mason's three-point play turned out to be the game-winner. If the ref hadn't fallen for his Jump Flop, then AT WORST (for the Lakers)the game goes to overtime. Big win for the Spurs, but it doesn't exactly convince me that I'm wrong to say they aren't a true contender anymore. I mean, L.A. was playing the second of back-to-back games with a bench shortened by injuries. I'm just sayin'.
The Los Angeles Clippers: Hey, look, the Clippers lost by 17 at home. We all know who they are.
The Golden State Warriors: They dropped a triple-overtime decision to a Kings team that, coming into the game, was stuck on nine wins. Home court fail.
Yahoo! box scores: According to the box score from the Kings-Warriors game, Jamal Crawford had a Super Mario. All I can say is: Wow...35 points in six seconds? Without doing any research whatsoever, I have to say that's the most efficient performance in NBA history. Thanks to Panki for sending in this graphic:
Lacktion report: Via Chris, who I think has become the official Basketbawful intern:
Blazers-Sixers: Ike Diogu earned a solid two trillion jackpot for Portland, while Philadelphia's Kareem Rush was a +1 (brick) in 2:38.
Bulls-Raptors: Jake Voskuhl is once again the Craptors' repeat offender for the lacktion report, turning the ball over once and taking a foul for +2 in a 2:42 nonperformance.
Wizards-Knicks: One foul and a missed three turned a potential Mario for Washington's Oleksiy Petrov into a 38 second session of suck at +2.
Heat-Bucks: Yakhouba Diawara continues to log lacktion for the Heat, taking a foul and throwing three bricks from downtown for +4 in 7:21. With 30 seconds to go in the game - in a game Miami was only leading by TWO POINTS, mind you - he entered the game again to relieve Chris Quinn, presumably to increase his total duration of on-court catatonia. And in a bizarre exchange of bench jockeys, Diawara went back to the pine with 16.4 remaining for Quinn to return, only for the two to switch off again with 14.7 ticks on the clock left (in the middle of two D-Wade free throws). That wasn't the end of it though, as Diawara went back to the bench with 9.8 seconds remaining, after a timeout. Oh, and Yakhouba's teammate Mario Chalmers put in a surprisingly unimpressive near-lacktion sequence as a starting guard: one rebound barely provided a positive effect on the scoreboard, with a brick, foul, and three giveaways littering a nine and a half minute run of fail.
Jazz-Thunder: In a shocker, the Klahoma (one O!) City Thunder thwacked the Jazz around, 114-93. Morris Almond and Jarron Collins played the role of sucky siblings for the night, each giving Utah a +1 in 2:07 of concurrent pointlessness (Almond via a missed shot, and Collins via turnover).
Hornets-Mavs: Hilton Armstrong turned the ball over once and fouled twice for New Orleans, a +3 SD in 4:16.
Lakers-Spurs: The world of lacktion does not revolve around Sun Yue, and in 1:21 of floor time, he showed why by breaking up a potential trillion with one annoyingly positive contribution (a steal). However, in one of the bigger names to show up in the lacktion report so far, Bruce Bowen missed from downtown and fouled twice for +3 in 6:04!
Kobe Bryant: After the game, Kobe turned to Luke Walton and said, "Hey kid, sorry I've been so hard on you lately. Wanna go out, maybe get a beer, just kinda get to know each other better?" Luke, taken aback, said: "Really?" To which Mamba replied with a sneer, "Hell no, not really. How could you have possibly thought I was being serious? Jesus." Then Kobe walked away shaking his head. The he came back a few minutes later, looked Luke right in the eyes and said, "You really thought I was serious?" Then he walked away again, looking even more disgusted.