The Generals-Nyets game: In THIS COR-NAH, coming in with AN 0-12 ROAD RECORD: The WASHINGTON...GEN-UH-RALS! And in the OTHER COR-NAH, weighing in with AN EIGHT-GAME LOSING STREAK: The hometown NEW...JERSEY...NYETS!
Okay, okay. It wasn't exactly a heavyweight slugfest. It was more like two eight-year-old girls slap-fighting over a Bratz doll. Actually, no. That would be far more entertaining than what went on in the Prudential Center last night.
New Jersey's basketball incompetence (40 percent shooting -- including 2-for-8 from downtown -- plus 21 turnovers) was narrowly outmatched Washington's spectacular suckitude (39 percent shooting with 21 turnovers).
In the end, this monstrosity was decided at the charity stripe, where the home team had a 47-28 advantage in free throw attempts. And it's a good thing, too, considering they bricked 12 of 'em.
Of course, the Generals were minus John Wall and Andray Blatche. And Devin Harris showed off his mad leadership skillz by calling a team meeting to let his fellow Nyet know that, if they lost this game, they might not win a game this month.
Said Devin Harris: "This was one we had to have. If I'm going to be the guy here, then it's all about being aggressive and making things happen. ... It's not the way we wanted to win. We had to scratch and claw for everything. We have to be able to get it any way we can. This is the way we have to play."
Again: 40 percent shooting and 21 turnovers. And this is the way you guys have to play, Devin?No wonder your team is now 52-129 -- almost a full NBA season below .500 -- since you said "We knew we were going to be a playoff team" back in December of 2008.
Screamed Nyets coach Avery Johnson: "HE HAD A LITTLE TEAM MEETING WITH THE GUYS AND THE GUYS RESPONDED. DEVIN TOOK CHARGE ON BOTH ENDS OF THE FLOOR FOR US. WE NEED DEVIN TO PLAY LIKE THIS. WE NEED DEVIN TO TAKE SHOTS."
Let's see now. Devin finished 7-for-25 from the field, 1-for-5 from downtown and 14-for-17 from the line. Oh, don't worry, Avery. He'll take shots. He'll definitely take shots.
The Atlanta Hawks: As I like to say, NBA teams don't get many breaks, but the Dirty Birds got a poopload of them last night. The Celtics had an entire lineup of dudes sitting this one out -- Rajon Rondo (sprained ankle), Shaq (sore right calf), Jermaine O'Neal (sore left knee), Delonte West (right wrist surgery) -- plus Von Wafer left the game after only two minutes of PT due to a sore back.
Not only that, the Celtics were coming off a last-second win against the Knicks in New York the night before. Injured, using a lineup filled with old guys, and starting Turkish Semih Erden who finished with zero rebounds in 24 minutes. Doc Rivers had to dust off Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody for some first half action. Luke Harangody.
Uhm, that's now how you do it, Luke.
Hell, the Hawks even had a 24-11 advantage in free throw attempts. In Boston.
No matter. The Celts ran away with it in the fourth and won 102-90. It was their 12th straight win. And looking at their next two games -- at home against the Pacers and Sixers -- that streak could make it to 14. And by the way, if you're wondering why Doc Rivers is resting Shaq, look no further than Boston's Christmas day matchup with the Magic in Orlando. I have a feeling The Big Gimpy will play in that one.
Celtics fans: Celebrate!
Atlanta -- who, in all fairness, had to play without Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford -- couldn't hold onto the ball (18 turnovers) or stop the Celtics from scoring. Boston shot 53 percent as a team. Kevin Garnett continued to proove he ain't dead yet by finishing with 17 points (8-for-10) and 14 rebounds. Not bad on the second night of back-to-backs. Paul Pierce dished out 10 assists in his temporary role as point forward. Ray Allen went 7-for-13 for his 18 points. Big Baby had a double-double (18 points and 10 boards). Even little Nate Robinson chipped in with 14 points. On 15 shots. But still.
Said Josh Smith: "I'm not making excuses, but we still had two of our main scorers out also."
Smith -- who kinda-sorta becomes option numero uno with Johnson and Crawford out -- finished with one point on 0-for-8 shooting. Those numbers are a bit off his season averages of 16 points on 48 percent shooting. Speaking of which...
Josh Smith, worst player of the night: See above.
Kevin Garnett, quote machine: "What are you going to do? Quit? Put your clothes on and go home? That's not what we do here."
The Denver Nuggets: Talk about a rough ending for Denver.
I have a feeling the Nuggets were seeing Manu Ginobili in their dreams last night. And in those dreams, he'll still be moving.
Said Carmelo Anthony: "No, obviously what I think and what they called are two different things. I thought I made a great play. I took advantage of how Richard (Jefferson) was guarding, attacked. I don't think I could've got a better look at it than that. It's tough, you know, just going out there playing as hard as we played out there and to lose the game on something like that.”
Nuggets coach George Karl was crestfallen over the call.
"It's a play that I think goes either way a lot," Karl said. "It seemed like the referees, they like to hit us with tough calls. It was a tough call. Good play. Good basketball. Melo made a great play. It's close. I've seen it called both ways."
But at the buzzer?
Told that TV analyst Scott Hastings said he hadn't seen that in his nearly three decades watching NBA basketball, Karl said, "I'd probably agree with Scott."
"Refereeing is hard to understand sometimes," said Karl, who at least said his injury-riddled team could get big man Kenyon Martin back next week from offseason knee surgery and should have big man Chris Andersen return from a back injury. "There are so many things that, it's just strange. Some of the things, it's just strange sometimes. Nene I think is the probably No. 1 guy in this league (that doesn't get respect from the officials, in Karl's view). He got three touch fouls at the beginning of the third quarter. He had three fouls called on him. One that took away a dunk."
The three fouls all were called between the 10:19 and the 9:56 mark of the third quarter.
"If we show them on film, they don't exist," Karl said. "We have films that we send into the league office that (fouls) don't exist. And here's a guy that's close to an All-Star, and he just doesn't get a lot of respect. I think it affects you. We tell them to fight through it, forget it, refereeing will come back and all that stuff. It just sometimes seems that we don't get the whistles sometimes I think we earn by how hard we're playing and how well we're playing."
Look, I understand Karl's frustration. First, NBA superstars usually get the benefit of close calls. Second, officials typically "let the players decide things" at the end of games. So the outcome flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
Haywoode Workman was the official who made the call. Woody is a former NBA player -- a former Pacer thank you very much -- and he was a tough customer back in the day. And as much as I hate to say it, as much as I have (historically speaking) hated Ginobili's flopping ways, I think Workman got it right. Yeah, Manu was still moving a teeny, tiny bit, but he was about as set as most guys are when they take a charge. It was certainly a close call. But probably the right one.
Kenny And Charles: Basketbawful reader JR e-mailed me the following passionate rant:
After Spurs-Nuggets last night, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley went completely off the reservation. Manu Ginobili's latest heroics prompted Barkley to question whether Manu is "the best foreign player ever." Kenny then argued that either Dirk Nowitzki or the late Drazen Petrovic should be ranked above Manu.
Before the two really got started, it took Ernie Johnson to bring up the name Hakeem Olajuwon. And Charles and Kenny completely ignored it and went on debating whether Drazen Petrovic was better than Manu. Two former teammates of the Dream. Kenny Smith has two freaking championship rings BECAUSE OF OLAJUWON and they don't even acknowledge him in their little debate. Ernie might as well have nominated Frederic Weis.
As Charles Barkley himself would have said, Hakeem must be rolling over in his grave.
Brandon Roy:ESPN's Chris Broussard provided the full scoop on Roy's feelings about his too-slow backcourt mate Andre Miller:
It's no secret that playing alongside Andre Miller frustrates Brandon Roy. Miller keeps Roy from handling the ball as much as he wants and doesn’t spread the floor enough for Roy’s liking.
After Monday's loss to Memphis, Roy all but blamed his struggles this season on Miller, saying "I wasn't that slow until you put a guy who is kind of slow next to me. I've always been kind of slow. Not to be controversial at all, but I was slow my rookie year, and now it's ..."
Roy, who's lacked the explosiveness we've seen from him in the past, apologized for his comments two days later, but his frustration remains -- and Wednesday's four-point performance in another L at Dallas certainly didn’t improve his mindset.
But is Roy frustrated enough to leave Portland?
Depends on who you ask.
One plugged-in person with knowledge of Portland's inner workings told me Roy spoke with Blazers management less than two weeks ago about the need for Miller and him to part ways. While Roy did not issue a trade demand or request, I’m told he said something to this effect:
This is not going to work, so you should trade one of us. Whether it's him or whether it's me, somebody needs to be traded because this is not going to work.
And Chris Broussard also points out that Roy is in the first-year of a five-year, $82.3 million contract extension...and sources say his knees are not insured.
Now, Portland general manager Rich Cho and Roy's agent Bob Myers both denied that Roy demanded some kind of move. But they were going to do that no matter what. Regardless, the Frail Blazers are stuck in an ugly situation. Greg Oden has played a total of 82 games since he was drafted back in 2007. They're stuck with Roy's bum knees and increasingly surly attitude.
Chris's Lacktion Report:
Generals-Nyets: Alonzo Gee gathered one foul in 4:49 for a +1 suck differential, while fellow Washingtonian Hamady N'Diaye countered a free throw in 2:49 with two fouls and a giveaway for a 3:1 Voskuhl.
Hawks-Celtics: Jason Collins earned a board and steal in 14:50 as Atlanta's starting center, but fouled twice for a 2:1 Voskuhl.
Meanwhile, Von Wafer has become a regular parade piece for a post-game party, fouling once in 2:06 for a +1.
Spurs-Nuggets: Ime Udoka collected fire flowers and gold coins in just 6 seconds to give Gregg Popovich a link to the 8-bit world with a Super Mario!