Kobe Bryant’s argument for the All-Defense berth he will inevitably receive can now be made on the basis of one game. As the Lakers held the Bucks to just 35.8% shooting and 15 fourth-quarter points in a 104-88 victory, Bryant took the responsibility of checking Brandon Jennings, the Eastern Conference’s reigning Player of the Week. It’s been no secret that the Lakers have struggled to contain speedy perimeter players like Jennings, so Mike D’Antoni resorted to some interesting cross matches to hide Steve Nash, the team’s weakest defensive link. Basically, he was able to get away with putting Nash on Luc Richard Mbah A Moute because the Bucks needed their prince on the floor to pester Kobe Bryant (though it didn’t really make a difference; Bryant dropped 31). After being held to 12 points on 14 shots, here’s what Jennings had to say about Kobe’s D (via the Twitter feed of Kevin Ding)…
“Probably the best defense anybody’s played on me since I’ve been in the league… For the whole game, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guard put that much pressure on a point guard full-court.”
So… yeah. When Kobe beats out a deserving candidate for his trillionth consecutive All-Defense nod you can probably expect to see this quote again. No, the fact that Kobe’s defense was nothing short of laughable through the season’s first 37 games will not matter. He locked up Brandon Jennings for 29 minutes and 23 seconds, and that’s more than he had to do.
Dwight Howard posted some Orlando numbers in the Lakers’ second consecutive victory — 31 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks, to be specific. Dwight had little trouble scoring against the defensive-minded Larry Sanders, and he had even less trouble with string bean John Henson. Howard and his comrades did get beaten up on the boards, however, allowing the Bucks 21 offensive rebounds and countless second shot opportunities. While the Bucks shot so incredibly poorly that it was inevitable that they’d establish an advantage on the offensive glass, the Lakers definitely could’ve done a better job on the boards overall; they lost the battle 54-46, though they won the war and I suppose that’s all that matters.
How there were only 19 total turnovers in this game… I have no freaking idea. This was one of the sloppiest games I’ve seen all season. Passes were constantly getting deflected, good dribblers couldn’t dribble, layups were missed… it was ugly at times, particularly for Milwaukee. The final score doesn’t exactly indicate the course of the game, however, as the Lakers failed to pull away until the fourth quarter. Despite the not-so-good play of the Bucks, this was basically a close contest for 36 minutes (79-73 through three). It’s a two-game win streak for the Lakers, but I remain underwhelmed.
From this point forward my “Games To Watch” posts will simply consist of the Trail Blazers’ schedule. For the fourth time in five games Portland became involved in a barn burner, this time winding up in OT on the road against the Nuggets. Ty Lawson (24/12) had a brilliant fourth quarter for Denver… he drove to the basket fearlessly and scored the Nuggets’ last eight points in a row, but it was none other than Wes Matthews (he who recently sent Heatles fans to cry in their beer) who extended the contest by five minutes. I realize that the Nuggets were doubling LaMarcus Aldridge, who dominated the painted area with 28 points, but how did they lose track of Wes Matthews up three with 32 seconds to go? That’s just… unwise.
In the overtime period it’d be the Nuggets who exploited the three-point line. First, it was Andre Iguodala beating the shot clock from the left wing. Next, it was Danilo Gallinari beating the shot clock off the bounce from the top of the key. Finally, with just 14 seconds to go, it was Wilson Chandler with the tie-breaking dagger from the far corner. Throw in a go-ahead, backhanded alley-oop dunk by JaVale McGee and I think it’s fair to conclude that the Nuggets had won the favor of the basketball gods this Tuesday. Just look at the expression on Ty Lawson’s face after the McGee alley-oop. He knew that **** never should’ve worked.
Iggies gonna Iggy: Andre Iguodala happened to hit a huge three-pointer in overtime, but his shot selection at the end of regulation is part of the reason why Portland was able to force OT in the first place. Denver had a nine-point lead with 3:30 to go in the fourth, but three of the Nuggets’ final six possessions yielded Iggy jumpers. Surprisingly, he didn’t airball any of them… but none went through the hoop. Iguodala’s shot selection has always been questionable (I’m being kind), and he has a penchant for settling in crucial situations. He finished with 9 points on 4-16.
Kenneth Faried and JJ Hickson.
They did not disappoint. Faried and Hickson both recorded double-doubles of 21/11 and 19/13 respectively. Add those numbers up and you’ll find that their battle was something of a wash; their combined point/rebound totals both equal 32. I’ve come to find that many favor Faried over Hickson, but their season averages are almost identical (12/10, basically) and JJ is just 14 months older. At this point they’re virtually the same player. Hickson should probably grow dreads, though. Faried’s hair definitely makes it look like he’s trying harder.
No Chris Paul? Still no problem. Even without their MVP candidate, the toe nail Clippers gave the Rockets a pedicure in H-Town, riding a 27-8 third-quarter wave all the way to the beach in an easy 117-109 victory. The Rockets actually led by one (59-58) at halftime, but they began to look a bit lost when Matt Barnes got up in James Harden’s jockstrap and the threes stopped falling. If I’m not mistaken, Harden scored 14 of his 23 in the first quarter and the Rockets made 8 of their 13 threes in the first half.
Jamal Crawford provided all the extra offense the Clippers needed off the bench. Crawford made five shots in a row and scored 12 points in less than two minutes to start the fourth quarter. Of those five shots, three came in isolations against Jeremy Lin. What made Kevin McHale think Lin would be able to even dream of hanging with Crawford one-on-one… I’m not really sure. Maybe the assignment was some sort of cruel and unusual punishment.
Crawford ended up finishing with a season-high 30 points in 29 minutes on 11-20 and 5-7 from downtown. To put that in perspective, a third of the leagues benches don’t average 30 points per game, and only New York’s averages five made threes. Solid game, Jamal.
Coming off of a DNPCD on Saturday, Nick Young was briefly released from Doug Collins’ dog house. Collins probably should’ve let him out sooner (like maybe when he had cornrows, you douchebag; I kind of wanted to see if they turned him into prime Allen Iverson). With the Sixers trailing 86-68, Swaggy checked in at the start of the fourth quarter and immediately begun making up for lost time. It only took him one minute to get his first shot up, and less than six and a half minutes later he had 14 points. He helped Philly get as close as eight, but Ryan Anderson and Greivis Vasquez sunk crucial three-pointers to stop the run in its tracks. Vasquez led the Hornets with 23 for the game, continuing his incredible month of January (17.5 PPG, 10.4 APG, 50% FG, 50% 3FG).
Box Score Observations: George Hill, Roy Hibbert, David West, and Paul George all scored 15+ as the Pacers kicked the crap out of the Bobkittens 103-76. Twenty-six players saw action in the game, all of them scoring with the predictable exceptions of DeSagana Diop, Tyrus Thomas, and Dominic McGuire. Thomas has not attempted a shot from inside the painted area in his last three appearances, which is probably why he played three minutes. In Brooklyn, the Raptors started Aaron Gray. They lost, but they really won because they started Aaron Gray.
Highlight Recap, Blake Griffin Edition: Who collects a loose ball at the three-point line and tomahawk dunks off two feet without dribbling? Blake Griffin, because it’s a totally practical way for him to score two points.
Highlight Recap, Everyone Else Edition: Larry Sanders stuffs Kobe Bryant like a Thanksgiving turkey (don’t ask me about the soundtrack, I didn’t upload the video). Eric Bledsoe steals the ball, knows what to do with it. DeAndre Jordan sets the defensive tone. Willie Green SMASH (note the Chris Paul imitation ball-spin fake thing). James Harden with a lethal jab step. Only JaVale could catch this pass. Lance Stephenson locates Paul George.