Nuggets 115, Blazers 111
A fantastic, well-played game. Denver looked like it would blow the Blazers out like it did to the Warriors on Sunday, but Portland never quit and eventually benefited from classic George Karl late-game play-calling to force overtime. In the end, though, Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala were too good, attacking the hoop, hitting big shots and setting up teammates like Wilson Chandler for momentum-shifting plays.
J.J. Hickson had a big statistical game with 19 points and 13 rebounds, but he still makes a lot of bone-headed decisions that cost his team. The Nuggets got 11 offensive rebounds in this game, and six of those came because Hickson failed to box out or got beaten by his man. And then, there's this defense on a critical JaVale McGee alleyoop in overtime:
Yes, McGee did initially go out to set a screen, but Hickson stayed in this position for at least a full second after McGee stopped and turned back to the basket. So, uh, nice defense, J.J.
As for the Nuggets, the feeling here is that they still top out as a sixth seed. They don't have enough half-court execution to win a playoff series, and they're going to struggle once teams take advantage of Kenneth Faried's lack of size and McGee's lack of defensive intelligence.
Still, at least they look like the Nuggets again after struggling so much in December. Lawson is playing aggressively, Danilo Gallinari has found his game, Chandler has fit back in a lot more seamlessly as I expected and Iguodala is figuring out how to fit in. This is progress.
This game was not as close as the score indicated. The Clippers broke this one open with a series of fast-break points in the third quarter, turning a two-point lead into an 18-point advantage in the blink of an eye. It was funny watching this happen because the Rockets have experienced so much success this season by simply beating teams up the floor in transition. The Clippers gave them a taste of their own medicine in this one.
The Rockets need to now go back to the drawing board. They've now lost four games in a row, all to slow-paced teams that dig in defensively and work especially hard to control tempo. The Rockets succeeded for so long with a wide-open attack that spread teams out and didn't rely on any set plays, but good defensive teams have started to figure them out. It might be time for Kevin McHale to throw in a few offensive wrinkles.
As for the Clippers ... let's just say Eric Bledsoe passed his first starting test over these past few games.
This was a nice win for the Lakers, but my god the Bucks played poorly in this one. Here's a possession that pretty much sums up Milwaukee's effort.
The Bucks played like five guys who just came together to fill out a team during open gym. They play like this a lot, too. What a strange, strange club.
Brandon Jennings shot 4-of-14 in this one, and afterwards, he said Kobe Bryant guarded him better than anyone he's ever played against. Seemed to me like Brandon Jennings' Shot Selection guarded Brandon Jennings better than anyone he's ever played against, not Kobe.
Larry Sanders was taken out at the 2:13 mark of the third quarter with the Bucks down three. He didn't come back in until the 4:15 mark of the fourth quarter with the Bucks down 18. In that stretch, Dwight Howard had eight of his 31 points and six of his 16 rebounds. Sanders only had three fouls, so ... yeah, not sure what that was about, Jim Boylan.
This was a nice win for a Hornets team that has played much better since Eric Gordon came back, even if Gordon himself still is struggling. It's interesting to see how they have slowly brought Anthony Davis along. A month ago, he had zero plays run for him. In this game, he victimized the 76ers with some nice free throw line pick and rolls, which put him one step from the hoop and allowed him to glide to the rim. Credit to Monty Williams for finally starting to open things up a bit for his No. 1 draft pick.
The 76ers, meanwhile, are a mess. Jrue Holiday put up big numbers, but I really didn't like the way he ran the offense. A lot of his points came either on plays he called for himself or plays he broke to get his own shots. Then again, it's understandable that Holiday would go for it on his own when no other perimeter players, save for Nick Young for a spell in the fourth quarter, stepped up. Thaddeus Young took 18 shots in this game, which is way too many and a sign that nobody else who should have carried the load actually did.
One of the nice things that P.J. Carlesimo has done since taking over for Avery Johnson is that he's extended his bench. Mirza Teletovic is a limited player, but if used the right way, he has value. Johnson never could (or never tried) to figure out how Teletovic could help, and he languished on the bench. In this game, though, Carlesimo used him to space the floor and open up his team's offense, and Teletovic responded with three three-pointers to carry Brooklyn back from an early deficit.
It's Toronto, and it's a game the Nets should win, but to pile up the Ws, sometimes you have to use guys you didn't think to use earlier. Carlesimo has kept an open mind with Teletovic and MarShon Brooks, and those two have been big in their roles over the last 10 games.
The Pacers are good. The Bobcats are not. That is all.