Originally posted on NBA 24/7 365  |  Last updated 3/18/12

Kenneth Faried hustled a tired Celtics team to death. Led by Faried’s six boards in the game’s opening six minutes, Denver pounded Boston on the glass all game long and built a sizable lead early.  The Cs found a run in ‘em late, though.  They clawed to within two points at the four-minute mark, and they got a missed three out of Al Harrington.  Unfortunately for them, Faried was right there to collect the offensive board.  He got fouled in the process and stuck his free throws.  He also collected the game’s next two rebounds before hammering a lob pass from Ty Lawson to put Denver up seven.  Still, Boston would get back to within one possession.  After Ray Allen missed a three that would’ve tied the game with under a minute to play, guess who ripped the big rebound?  Yeah.  He canned another pair of free throws to ice it, too (98-91 was the final).  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better clutch performance out of a player who didn’t dribble or shoot (he did get that dunk and make some free throws, but he wasn’t out there sticking Js).  It was absolutely incredible.  He won Denver the game by seemingly being everywhere… it was as if there were five Kenneth Farieds on the floor.  He finished with 18 points (on 5-5 FG, 8-8 FT) and 16 boards–a career game–including 6 points and 4 boards in the final four minutes.  Said George Karl, playing the role of Captain Obvious: “We don’t close this game out without Kenneth.”

Said Doc Rivers: “He had a rebound late in the game that was just an effort rebound where we had inside position and he outran us to the ball.”

If you have League Pass Broadband you really should go back and watch the last four minutes of this game.  My words aren’t doing Faried’s performance justice.  I would’ve recorded it for you, but Boston is my local team… LP blackout FTL.

As incredible as Faried was, Derrick Favors may have been equally as impressive. As Utah, without the services of Al Jefferson, battled through their second overtime game in three nights, Favors stepped into the starting lineup and delivered 23 points and 17 rebounds (both game highs).  Like Faried, Favors stepped up when he was most needed.  With Paul Millsap having a tough night on the offensive end, Utah looked elsewhere for a late-game bucket.  Down three with 30 seconds to play, they ran a pick-and-roll with Favors and Devin Harris.  It was executed to perfection, but Favors did more than plop the ball into the basket.  Check this sh!t out…

The free throw put the game into overtime.  Favors showed up there, too.  On their opening possession, Utah went with the same pick-and-roll on the other side of the floor, but Golden State forced Harris to initiate the play outside of the three-point line this time.  Favors found an open area around the free-throw line and knocked it down with confidence.  That was his last bucket, but the Dubs essentially scored just two points in the OT anyway (Nate Robinson made it five on a meaningless three at the buzzer, 99-92 was the final).  Said Favors: “Most coaches will tell you need to just play your game and don’t try to do anything you can’t do. But when it got down to crunch time, I told myself, ‘I’m going to try and win this game.’”

Gotta love that attitude.  Until last night I’d never come away from a game overly impressed by Favors, but I’ve always held back judgment because he’s never gotten a real oporunity.  Although this is just one game, I bet it’s got Utah’s management pondering the frontcourt logjam at least a little bit.  Can he give us a repeat performance against the Lakers tonight?  If he can hold his own against Bynum, who’s been beasting lately, I’ll be extremely impressed.

Favors was the hero, but don’t sleep on this play by Gordon Hayward. I’m dubbing it the individual end-to-end sequence of the year…

That’s a four-point swing to give Utah the lead with under three minutes to go, and Hayward made it all happen himself.  HUGE f@cking play.  Gordon had 12/6/4 (and a block, of course) off the bench.

There was a third power forward who left me feeling impressed last night: Tiago Splitter. This caught me by surprise, ’cause I’ve never really seen much in the guy.  I guess it’s unfair of me to say that… I hardly ever watch the Spurs.  I probably should’ve figured there was a reason behind his success in the European leagues.  Anyway, I didn’t see a whole lot of San Antonio’s loss to Dallas, but I checked in periodically to see how Stack was doin’ (2-5, 5 points in 17 minutes).  After doing so three or four times, I noticed something–it seemed like Splitter was scoring a basket every time I flipped over to this game.  Turns out he was the only Spur that really showed up… in just 19 minutes he came off the bench and provided 15 points and 6 boards on 7-11 (and posted a +1 while the entire starting lineup ended up with minuses).  He put one post move on either Ian Mahinmi or Brandan Wright (can’t remember) that had me making the Kobe Bryant “not bad” face.  It didn’t make the highlights, but it was similar to this one.  See Splitter over there on the bench taking notes?  Yeah, he knows who to study!

I should’ve known better than to get excited when the Clippers kicked off an afternoon match up against Houston by scoring their first five buckets in the paint.  The fun certainly didn’t last long.  LA’s other team (yup, I’m gonna start calling them that again) did pull out a much-needed victory thanks in large part to Chris Paul… but the fact that they had to come back from down double digits against a Rockets team that was missing Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, and Chandler Parsons renders the effort rather unimpressive.  I mean, Kevin McHale’s go-to guy was Patrick Patterson.  I’m not going to sit here and argue that a win isn’t a win, but this game shows that it’s a damn-fine line sometimes.

Houston signed Courtney Fortson to a 10-day just three hours before tip off.  He ended up playing a minute and four seconds in a jersey without a name on the back, straight MJ-number-12-style.  The #9 jersey he wore had belonged to Jonny Flynn, who just got traded to the Blazers.  I assume Fortson is pleased that he was able to go incognito as he finished the game with no points, no assists, and a pair of turnovers.

Mike Brown plans to start Steve Blake “for the foreseeable future.” While that may leave you thinking WTF?!, I think it’s a good call.  In bringing newly-acquired Ramon Sessions off the bench Brown will be doing his best to kill two birds with one stone.  Sessions, the better of the two players, will still get the bulk of the point guard minutes, and bringing him in with the bench unit could help make guys like Barnes and McBob play a little less bad.  LA’s got some guys in their reserve unit who can get out and run, but they need an engine to push them.  Sessions can be that.  Steve Blake is a good fit next to Kobe anyway… let him play the first few minutes.  Sessions will be in to close the game.

Remember how I said Rajon Rondo’s behind-the-back dish against Golden State is probably the pass of the year?  Yeah, well, forget that.  Ladies and gentlemen, Danilo “Italian Chocolate” Gallinari…

That’s the second mind-blowing ball-handling maneuver Gallo has made this week.  I’m taking his behind-the-back pass over Rondo’s because I think it’s more impressive to deliver a ball into a crowded area than to dish it out of one.  No matter which one you prefer they’re both awesome, obviously.

The Spurs will sign Patty Mills to replace TJ Ford as their backup point guard.  I was extremely impressed with Mills’ performance in the CBA this winter, and I love the move.  San Antonio may be an aging group, but they’re playing well and will improve with Jackson and Mills in the rotation.  I like how they signed Patty on St. Patty’s day.  That’s got to be a good omen.

Box Score Observations: Courtney Lee had 25 points in that Rockets/Clippers game.  Chase Budinger had 19, and Goran Dragic dished 14 assists.  I’m still not convinced that the Clippers didn’t lose.  Jeremy Lin scored 19 points, the Knicks beat the Pacers for the second night in a row, and “Woodsanity” is in full effect.  Good grief.  Jerryd Bayless dropped 29 for the Craptors, who lost to the Bobcats.  Bayless is averaging 22 points since he began starting five games ago.  Jrue Holiday exploded for 30, but he took 27 shots and the Sixers lost to the Rose-less Bulls.

Highlight Recap, Blake Griffin Edition: He still does something interesting from time to time…

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