This was a fantastic game between two evenly-matched teams that is really tough to analyze. So, I won't try too much. Let's just say these are the two best non-Spurs/Thunder/Clippers teams in the West by far.
That Memphis won despite shooting 2-17 from three-point range is a testament to their defense and to the way they are able to mask their spacing issues just enough to get by offensively. The Grizzlies also have to be encouraged by the fact that several key members of their bench were instrumental in building a double-digit second-quarter lead that ultimately made the difference. Memphis' bench has been really hit-or-miss this season. On this night, they hit.
This wasn't David Lee's best night, though to be fair, a lot of it wasn't his fault. The Grizzlies did a fantastic job of not letting him get loose on pick and rolls, preferring instead to let Golden State's guards bomb away from deep. I think Lee's 6-14, 14-point performance is more a credit to Memphis' defensive scheme than anything Lee did wrong.
I've watched Rudy Gay for years now, and I finally came to a realization last night: everyone's over-thinking this. He's not doing anything especially draining on his team. He's not really taking away as many possessions as you'd think from Memphis' post guys. He's not a net-negative on defense, really. He's just ... there. He's not good enough as a pure shooter to be a floor-spacer, but he's also not quite good enough as an isolation player to justify most of the team's touches. If he made $8 million, this isn't a problem, but of course he doesn't. I think I'd be trying to trade him, too.
Spurs 108, Lakers 105
Really, it's the same ol', same ol' for the Lakers. They don't consistently defend well enough to win games, and their offense without Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol bogs down into shooting a ton of threes. They go stretches where they defend, like the final few minutes in their unsuccessful comeback attempt, but it doesn't happen consistently enough. Some of these breakdowns are just awful and they make you wonder how much they actually practice at that end of the floor.
Then again, this was an improvement, and that's something. But once you consider that, consider this quote:
Lol at quotes from Lakers-Spurs. Pop said game was "tough to watch", D'Antoni said he's "really proud" of Lakers. Can u tell who won?— J.A. Adande (@jadande) January 10, 2013
Gregg Popovich has every reason to be upset at how his team closed the game, even in victory. Mike D'Antoni has at least some reason to be happy at the way his team battled late, even in defeat. This is not how things were supposed to go.
"The Lakers are back within ten!" - The Lakers' 2012-13 season in a nutshell— netw3rk (@netw3rk) January 10, 2013
Clippers 99, Mavericks 93
Amazing, really, that the Clippers and Mavericks have reached a point where the superior team toys with the inferior one for three quarters before using their superior talent and depth to pull away in the fourth quarter. Just two years ago, the roles were reversed here.
19 points and 16 assists for Chris Paul in this one. He's incredible.
Thunder 106, Timberwolves 84
A nice bounce-back win for Oklahoma City after a horrible loss to the Wizards on Monday. Minnesota has so many guards, and yet, they struggle so often at getting into their sets. What's up with that?
I've given up trying to understand this Bucks team. It's one thing to beat the Bulls; it's another to win while imposing your game on them when it matters most. Chicago is normally so good at cutting off the three-point line, but they were powerless to do it in the second half, allowing Milwaukee to rally to take the game. Go figure.
Yes, Brandon Jennings was having one of those nights, but there were other breakdowns, too. Mike Dunleavy got loose for four three-pointers, and one of those was a critical transition three that pushed Milwaukee's lead to five with 2:41 remaining. It was one of his patented "pull up on the wing" shots, and you have to wonder why the Bulls let it happen. They usually read the scouting reports, right?
How U, huh? Roger Mason emerged with 15 fourth-quarter points and the Hornets' reserves used a 22-2 run to take control in the fourth quarter for a win. I know Houston was tired from playing the Lakers the previous night, but I'm not sure what happened to them. Regardless, the win is huge for a Hornets team that just now has all their pieces back from injury. Watch out for these guys in the second half of the season.
Orlando fans should keep their heads up. Their team is battling, even with this 10-game losing streak. A few bounces here, and they win some of these games. That'll pay off later in the year.
I'm really happy that Clutch Ty Lawson didn't make an appearance tonight. Instead, it was Lawson himself that hit a critical late three to hold Orlando off.
19 points and 19 rebounds for Kenneth Faried, and only a few of those were actually off his own misses.
Someone please get Kyrie Irving a real team. Irving had 33 points on 15 shots, including 18 in the fourth quarter, as the Cavaliers pulled away from a very good Hawks team. I understand Cleveland's desire to take this rebuild slow, but at some point, they have to put some real talent around their star player before everyone forgets about him. Hopefully, that'll start to happen this summer.
The much-maligned Celtics' supporting cast was huge in this victory. Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger -- the "Jumpin Js," if you will -- had a combined 39 points and were on the court as the Celtics took control early in the fourth quarter. It's just the Suns, but the Celtics have to be thrilled because those guys have not played as well as expected this year. If they can start to pick it up, maybe Boston will finally have the team it envisioned this summer.
Yes, the Raptors have played a home-heavy schedule, but it appears that they've started to turn it around after a dreadful start. Five players scored in double figures in this one. None of those five were Kyle Lowry.
This one looks a lot closer than it actually was. The Jazz took a 20-point lead in the first half and spent the rest of the game holding Charlotte at arm's length.