Michael Buffer assured that the Bobcats were ready to rumble with the Knicks, and rumble they did. Win, however, they did not. With Carmelo Anthony having left the game due to a laceration on his left hand (which he incurred as he dove into the first row in an effort to secure a loose ball), Mike Woodson and company were forced to look in JR Smith’s direction in the final seconds of a tied game. Smith had been shooting poorly (6-16), but that’s never stopped him in the past. Despite the length of rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was draped all over him, Smith utilized his signature step-back and delivered with the game on the line…
As gorgeous as it was, JR’s difficult jump shot was just one of two baskets scored in the final 2:30 of this game. Ray Felton had the other, which means the Bobcats didn’t score at all… mostly because they only got two shots off (one was blocked by Smith). That was largely the fault of Ben Gordon, who’d been hot early but completely crumbled under pressure. In a span of just 30 crucial seconds Gordon managed to travel and a commit a five-second violation. Still, the Bobcats should’ve been the ones taking the last shot, but Kemba Walker made a critical mistake of his own. With 15 seconds to go Walker advanced the ball to the rookie Kidd-Gilchrist, who was open from about 20 feet. Kidd-Gilchrist had no lane to the basket, though, and his offensive skills haven’t developed to the point where he can be trusted to handle the ball 20 feet from the basket with the game on the line. Predictably, he threw the ball away trying to make a cross-court pass. The turnover led to a 2-on-1 break for the Knicks. With only Kemba Walker back on defense, JR Smith mysteriously receded to the three-point line and Raymond Felton elected to pass the ball rather than attack 1-on-1. Everything ended up working out for the Knicks, obviously… but what happened prior to Mike Woodson’s final timeout was yet another mysterious sequence in what was essentially a two-minute series of mistakes.
Rajon Rondo returned from his Mexican vacation to score 17 points and dish 11 assists, but it was Kevin Garnett who set the tone for the Celtics. Against his former team, Garnett scored eight quick points right out of the gate. Utilizing his quickness, KG put some vintage fakes on Nikola Pekovic, who was simply unable to mirror the nimble big man. Both Pekovic and Garnett took 13 shots in the game, with Garnett making eight (18 points) to Pek’s six (14 points). KG also out-rebounded Pekovic 10-9 despite playing five fewer minutes, helping the Celtics — the worst rebounding team in the league — to establish a four-board advantage. With the help of Paul Pierce (18 points), Jason Terry (17 points), and Brandon Bass (12 points), KG and the Celtics took a 104-94 victory. The T-Wolves left 16 points at the foul line, with good shooters like Kevin Love and Alexey Shved missing nearly enough free throws (9) to make up the difference in the game.
The Cavs lost to the Bulls 85-95, blah blah, whatever. Anderson Varejao: one of his streaks came to an end and the other continued. Andy V failed to score 15 points, meaning that his string of consecutive 15/15s has been cut off at five. He did manage to grab 15 rebounds, keeping that remarkable streak alive at a healthy 10 games. Varejao will have his work cut out for him this Friday as the Cavaliers hit the road to face the Timberwolves, but I figure he’ll step his game up and grab another 15-20 in Minnesota.
Dallas rolled into LA… and got rolled over. The final score, 112-90, doesn’t even begin to tell the story. The Clippers absolutely embarrassed the Mavericks, treating Derek Fisher and company as if they were a group of local talent established for the purpose of losing to a traveling basketball exhibition. Exactly how many dunks the Clipps threw down, I’m not sure… but it was a lot. And they saved the best for last…
Well, actually, I guess that’s debatable. Jamal Crawford, who converted the 34th four-point play of his career as he led the way with 20 points, had another lob to DeAndre Jordan that was pretty goddamn spectacular, so much so that it literally had the 74-year-old Ralph Lawler saying “OH BABY!” like Duke Tango. Then there was Vince Carter, who had the lone highlight for Dallas. Did you all realize that VC is averaging 13 PPG on 42% from downtown? Not bad.
Did anyone else catch the end of Nuggets/Hawks? What the f@ck was going on in Atlanta? Phillip’s Arena was absolutely dead, even on its own pathetic standard. This was a tight game between two probable playoff teams, yet you could’ve heard a pin drop with a minute to go in the fourth quarter. It was strange. Even more disappointingly, the players didn’t appear to have any energy either. Even in the final minute guys were able to walk the ball up the floor free of pressure, and jump shots were taken virtually uncontested. Players on both benches remained seated and no one argued with the officials. Appropriately, the game ended when Ty Lawson dribbled off his own foot, leading to a Josh Smith jam. Smith did get marginally excited about his crucial score, but it felt like he’d just won a pickup game, not a nationally-televised contest. To put it all in a nutshell, this was the NBA as a fan of college basketball would describe it. It appears that Ty Lawson was pretty awesome with 32 points, but most of them must’ve come early. Either that or he was scoring so easily that I can’t even remember his buckets.
When Kobe broke 30,000 with a driving score over the outstretched arm of Robin Lopez it appeared as though the Lakers might be on their way to yet another loss. To drop a third game in a row, one which held historical significance for Kobe Bryant… it would’ve been ugly, but the Lakers were able to overcome a halftime deficit by outscoring the Pelicans 30-16 in the third quarter. Bryant inspired some interesting Robert Sacre celebrations by dunking multiple times as he finished with 29 against the team that traded him on draft day ’96. New Orleans briefly resorted to hack-a-Howard in the second half, but Dwight made both and Monty Williams decided to give up (a decision I wasn’t a fan of… if you’re gonna do it, do it!).
Box Score Observations: Paul George dropped 22 to lead the Pacers past the Blazers. Damian Lillard led Portland with 23 and 6. Golden State improved to 11-7 with a 104-97 victory at The Palace, where an Andre Drummond sighting took place (15/12). San Antonio became the second team to reach 15 wins by beating Milwaukee 110-99. Ersan Ilyasova had 17 points in a losing effort. Al Jefferson put his poor play against the Clippers behind him by serving up 31 and 15 and force-feeding it the Magic. Utah ended Orlando’s two-game win streak as they took it by a final score of 87-81. A whole bunch of people had interesting lines in Sacramento’s 107-100 victory over Toronto. Observe the box score.
Highlight Recap: Aaron Brooks threads a behind-the-back pass to Jason Thompson. Air France takes off in Sacramento. Kenneth Faried finishes the fast break. Andre Drummond puts a little hot sauce on this dish. It’s a Gee thang. Paul George isn’t known for his passing, but fundamentalists will appreciate this one. Al Jefferson drops the hammer. Dwight Howard spins and slams.