Knicks 100, Bobcats 98
More to the point: while this was yet another late-game collapse by the Charlotte Bobcats, I don't think their fans should beat themselves up. A couple years ago, Scott Brooks' Oklahoma City Thunder were in D.C. to face the Wizards, and he was asked about how he managed to build up a young team slowly. His answer was that, at least initially, he vigorously stressed the importance of avoiding blowouts. If they played a more experienced team close and lost because of poor execution down the stretch, he could live with that.
I suspect Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap will similarly live with this result. The Bobcats lost this game because of four critical errors late, three of which involved their three youngest key players. Let's take a look.
ERROR 1: Down two and without Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks run a high pick and roll involving Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. The first order of business for the big man defending this play is to contain the ball. Instead, Bismack Biyombo, fearing a pass to the rolling Chandler, sticks with him, ushering Felton's path down the lane for the game-tying layup.
ERROR 2: You have to appreciate Kemba Walker's aggression, but he has to realize that there's no way he can split this pick and roll in this spot.
ERROR 3: Ben Gordon commits a horrible travel after receiving a kick-out pass. It was so ugly that there's no need to show it.
ERROR 4: This is the one that ultimately cost them the game. The Bobcats get a rebound off a Knicks miss with a chance to run the clock all the way down. Out of timeouts, they pitch it ahead to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to see if they can get anything easy. (Sidenote: I wish more teams did this). Kidd-Gilchrist finds nothing and picked up his dribble, which was bad, but understandable.
The problem? Neither guard comes to the ball to help Kidd-Gilchrist. Look at this screenshot.
Walker and Gerald Henderson are circled. Walker sorta tries to get to Kidd-Gilchrist, but Felton denies him the ball and he quit. Henderson, meanwhile, saunters over to the middle of the floor instead of going in a straight line towards Kidd-Gilchrist. It's no wonder that Kidd-Gilchrist has to throw a crosscourt pass that got intercepted.
And that's how Charlotte lost the game down the stretch.
The good news is that three of these four mistakes were made by players with less than 82 full games under their belts. Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Biyombo will learn to make better decisions late in games. Henderson, too, is a young player in just his fourth season. Once they do, the Bobcats will continue their rise from being the worst team in NBA history.
The big story is that Kobe Bryant notched his 30,000th career point. The bigger story: outside of this one possession where Bryant called for the ball and eventually took a horrible contested three, he didn't really kill the Lakers' flow to get his milestone.
Here's the bucket that got Bryant over 30,000. It ... actually came thanks to a normal play.
Ty Lawson in the first 46 and a half minutes was unbelievable. Ty Lawson in the final minute and a half? Not so much.
It's too bad. Watching the Nuggets, you can tell that Lawson is trying to assert himself as more of an offensive threat. He's gobbled up more shots, and while his efficiency is down, the Nuggets need him to do that. In this game, he scored 32 points while helping to hold counterpart Jeff Teague to a 4-16 performance. He just keeps coming up short at the end of games. You'd think that'll eventually change, but for now, it's depressing.
Al Horford had 25 and 12 for Atlanta in the win. He is a monster. Meanwhile, the Nuggets probably would have won if they didn't commit 20 turnovers.
In many ways, this was the best performance of the season for the Celtics. They played a decent team at home that they still should beat, and they got a complete effort from every key player in making it happen. Kevin Garnett led the way with 18 points, 10 rebounds and one huge lie during the postgame interview session.
KG asked if Minnesota still brings anything extra out of him: "Absolutely not." Does anyone believe him? Absolutely not.— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) December 6, 2012
This was a close game for two and a half quarters. Then, the Spurs' bench unit that nearly toppled Miami came in and did their thing. The Bucks have a very good second unit of their own, but on this night, they didn't come through.
This is how bad things have gotten for the Raptors. With the game tied at 95 with two and a half minutes remaining, Tyreke Evans, who came into the game shooting 25 percent from three-point range, nailed a long bomb. On the very next possession, Evans did the exact same thing. Some higher power just doesn't want the Raptors to win any close games.
Pacers 99, Blazers 92
It wasn't pretty, but the Pacers got the job done. How many times have we read that sentence this year?
Paul George followed up his 34-point performance with a 22-8-5 line. This long-rumored emergence? It's happening.
It would have been really impressive if the Magic beat the Lakers, Warriors and Jazz in succession on the road, and thanks to a late rally, it nearly happened. But Al Jefferson and the Jazz were just too much late, and the Magic had to settle for two wins and one more victory.
Warriors 104, Pistons 97
This one got way more interesting than it needed to be in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors will take it. Golden State's starting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson scored 49 points on 16-28 shooting. Detroit's starting backcourt of Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler scored seven points on 2-15 shooting.
Marco Belinelli led all scorers with 23 points. I think that's all we really need to say about this game.