Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut never took off their warmups in the second half of the Bucks' 94-84 loss to the Bobcats. The team's second- and third-leading scorers were benched after combining to shoot 1-for-10 and play little defense in a one-sided matchup of teams that figure to contend for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.
"What do I need to say? We were 4-13 in our last 17 games, now 4-14 in our last 18," Skiles said. "Everybody has got to look at themselves right now."
Shocking? Yeah, I guess you could say that. Brandon Jennings could hardly believe it: "I was real surprised. I thought once we got it down a little bit, we were going to bring them back in, you know Bogut and Redd and them."
It's a classic Skiles move. He doesn't accept bullshit. He expects all-out effort every night...or else. As he should. But NBA players aren't machines, and with the money they make and the associated sense of entitlement they feel, they begin to resent being driven like horses all the time. Their effort starts to slip a little, especially on defense. And the harder Skiles tries to retake control, the worse his team will play. I saw it happen when he was in Phoenix. I saw it up close when he was coaching the Bulls. When these things start to happen, it's usually the foreplay to him getting effed over by his players...and fired by his bosses.
Said Skiles: "It's not so much producing. It's body language and the way we look out there. The bottom line: this is the NBA. You have to produce. It's what pro sports is. And we need more consistent production out of our key players."
I so totally agree with those sentiments. I do. And I'd probably be the same kind of coach. But, at least in the NBA, that kind of hard line attitude can and will cost you your job. Only Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Larry Brown could get away with being a ball buster to that extent. And even those guys are usually wise enough to pick their battles.
The New Jersey Nyets: Another night, another double-digit home loss for the New Jersey Nyets. Even Ji Jianlian's career-high 29 points could not save them. The Nyets actually kept things respectable until the fourth quarter, when they scored only 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting. Most of the Nyets' shots were long jumpers, and they got to the line only once in the final 12 minutes. The Thunder's defense got a lot of fluffing after this game, but come on, people. This is New Jersey we're talking about. They're 2-29 and have now lost 10 in a row for the second time this season. Shutting them down is a case of "dog bites man." Zzzzzzz...
Said New Jersey coach Kiki Vandeweghe: "I don't know if we ran out of gas or did they turn it up?" If by "if we ran out of gas" you mean "we suck," well, I guess that's your answer.
Wizards Generals: Losing to the Grizzlies doesn't earn an automatic bid for Worst of the Night anymore. They're actually...decent. (After they reach .500 or get over it, I'll dub them "halfway decent.") But Memphis was without Rudy Gay, their leading scorer (20.6 PPG). That should have evened things up, right? It sort of did. Washington forced the game into overtime. But we all them the Generals around here for a reason. You know why it went to overtime? Washington was actually up 102-100 with five seconds left. The Griz ran a helter skelter play in which the ball ended up in Zach Randolph ended up with the ball outside of the three-point line.
Now, Z-Bo is a great many things, but one thing he isn't is a three-point shooter. He's hit 28 percent of his treys over his career. And while I don't expect the Generals to know the exact percentage, I do think they should realize what shots you want Randolph to take. No, really. But instead, the defender crowded Randolph, which allowed him to slip past the defense for a drive on which he got fouled by Brendan Haywood with less than a second left. Z-Bo nailed 'em both, and it was onto overtime and another defining loss for the Generals.
Said Gilbert Areneas: "We just couldn't get a break." Indeed.
Speaking of Z-Bo, check out this factoid from today's Daily Dime: "Zach Randolph had 23 points and 13 rebounds on Monday and over his last five games he's scored 141 points and collected 91 rebounds. The last NBA player with as many points and rebounds in a five-game span was Shaquille O'Neal in February 1993, his rookie season."
Seriously....Zach Randolph for MVP?!
The Los Angeles Lakers: Earlier this season, I told Wild Yams in the comments section of a post that, when rested (i.e., not on the second night of back-to-backs), the Suns can play with anybody, and that they'll win at least one home game against the Lakers this season. Well, my thanks go out to the Phoenix players for making it happen in style. The Suns put a good old fashioned hurtin' on the Lakers, who are starting to look like the Fakers of old. It was 2006 all over again, as Phoenix outran, outshot and outhustled a bigger and more physical Lakers team.
But, really, that shouldn't have happened. Kwame Brown is long gone after all.
Derek Fisher went 1-for-7 against the vise-like defense of Steve Nash, Channing Frye (14 points, 11 rebounds) negated Andrew Bynum (14 points, 9 boards), and Amar''''''e Stoudemire (26 points, 11-for-17, 6 rebounds) outplayed Pau Gasol (13 points, 5-for-10, 5 boards), and Ron Artest was still out with a laceration to his head. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant took 16 more shots than either of L.A.'s big men on his way to scoring a game-high 34 points before sitting out most of the final quarter. Do you think the Suns would rather have Kobe shooting jumpers from all over the floor or get pounded inside by the Lakers' frontcourt? Let me put it this way: that strategy hasn't changed since 2006.
Phil Jackson gets it...even if he was powerless to stop it. "I wasn't comfortable with my starters or my bench. I didn't like either group. Guys didn't play right. We had the inside game going for us, yet we just didn't attack."
Added Kobe Bryant: "They played much better than we did, in a nutshell. That's all it was. They executed very well in transition, we didn't get back and it gave them a lot of easy opportunities, and that broke the game open." Uh, according to the numbers, the Suns scored only 11 of their 103 points on the fast break. I'm just sayin'.
The Lakers are now 6-6 on the season against teams that are .500 or better.
The Boston Celtics: You think the Lakers are in trouble? At least they're losing to good teams. The Celtics now have back-to-back losses to the (gak) Clippers and the (erk) Warriors. Losses in which they basically hit the snooze button on defense. I mean, the Clips shot better than 50 percent against them, and the Warriors came back from an 18-point first half deficit to beat Boston behind Monta Ellis' 37 points (15-for-26 from the field, 6-for-8 from the line).
Let's face it. We all know how well the Celtics can defend when motivated. Having an 18-point lead against Gol_en State should have been more than enough. The absence of Paul Pierce doesn't not explain that kind of defensive collapse. Early in the season, Doc Rivers complained that his squad had developed a tendency to relax against lesser teams, which is something they hadn't done in the previous two seasons. Is that the Rasheed Wallace Effect? Because, seriously, that's what 'Sheed's Detroit teams always used to do. Think about it.
The Portland Ail Blazers: I pumped these guys up in my Worst of Christmas Weekend post, and then they lay an egg at home against the Sixers? Well, the injuries were bound to catch up to them. You think the Blazers expected to be giving significant minutes to frontcourt players like Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph? And by "significant" I mean "any."
As if by coincidence, Elton Brand exploded off the bench for a season-high 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds. Oh, and in case you care, Allen Iverson played and shot a surprising 7-for-11. Maybe he's finally becoming an efficient player...
The Denver Nuggets: Yes, the Nuggets were still Chauncey Billups-less, but the Kings were Tyreke Evans-less, which should have more than evened things up...right? And maybe it would have, if the _enver _efenders had remembered to put a hand in the face of one Andres Nocioni. Noc went 6-for-7 from the field, including 4-for-5 from downtown. He finished with a team-high 21 points, including 7 in the decisive fourth quarter.
The Nuggets have now lost six consecutive road games, where they score 14 fewer points per contest than they do at home. Since it seems doubtful they're going to have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, that could be a problem. Said Aaron Afflalo: "At the end of the day we're going to have to get a win on the road. We need some more practice time to regain our focus on whatever it may be at the end of the day we have to do to get a win."
Seriously? More practice is the answer?
Lacktion report: As usual, Chris is on the case - not even the newest of Association members can hide from the ledger!!!
Bucks-Bobcats: Charlie Bell rang up four bricks (twice from Discovery Place) in 7:31 for a +4 suck differential! Meanwhile, Larry Brown and Michael Jordan had Acie Law wager one rejection and brick each for a +2 in 1:50.
Thunder-Nyets: Oklahoma City's Byron Mullens (who's taking a cue from Tim Duncan and denying his own status as big man) got off the Greyhound from Tulsa and made his Association debut tonight by mopping up some Goombas in a 40 second Mario!!!!
Generals-Grizzlies: DeShawn Stevenson fouled once for a +1 in 1:16.
Lakers-Suns: Earl Clark crunched out a brick, rejection, and giveaway to give Phoenix a celebratory +3 in 1:55.
Sixers-Blazers: Jrue Holiday vacationed in the land of lacktion tonight by bricking and losing the rock twice each, adding a foul and rejection to the itinerary for a +6 in 11:05. Fellow Philadelphian Jason Smith took a foul and giveaway himself to earn a +2 in 4:17 that also counts as a 2:0 Voskuhl.
Celtics-Warriors: As Gol_en State somehow played enough D to halt the C's, Don Nelson ended up in the rare position of bringing out a human victory cigar at the Oracle, lighting up Chris Hunter for a foul and turnover in 2:06 that scored a +2 as well as a 2:0 Voskuhl. Earlier, Doc Rivers attempted to stem the tide by having Brian Scalabrine foul once in 6:22 for a +1 that doubled as a Madsen-level 1:0 Voskuhl - his second straight game within the realm of bawful big men!!!