Nets 110, Thunder 93
Before we make too much out of this surprising Nets victory, it's important to note that they hit a lot of shots they had been missing earlier in the season. Joe Johnson, in particular, was red-hot, and expecting him to maintain that level of shooting over the long haul while taking the kinds of shots he took on Wednesday is expecting too much. Sometimes, you have great shooting nights without really doing that much differently offensively. This was, for the most part, one of those nights for Brooklyn.
That said, I did really like what I saw from Deron Williams in this one. I have been critical of Williams' decision-making before, and I have honestly been more disappointed by this element of his struggles than his poor shooting. Too often, Williams has tried to do too much. In this game, though, he navigated Oklahoma City's pick-and-roll traps beautifully and didn't try to beat them himself.
For example, look at how he elected to back up to open up the bounce pass to Brook Lopez on this play, rather than trying to attack the trap on his own.
That was on a critical play late, and that alone is a huge development because Williams has not made great decisions in big moments this year. But we also saw it on a couple plays early when the Thunder's traps were softer. Here's one on one of the first possessions of the game.
Rather than try to beat the big man helping on the pick and roll himself, Williams made the simple bounce pass to an open Lopez. Here's another example where Williams set up Gerald Wallace for a wide-open three.
Now, you might say, "That's bad defense! Anyone could have made those plays." And yes, I agree that Oklahoma City's second rotations were off all night. But the plays look wide open only because Williams made simple, easy decisions instead of trying to do too much. Considering that he's tried to do too much all year, this is a positive development for Nets fans.
This game offered further proof that the Warriors' defensive improvement is for real. The key to being a great defensive team is making "multiple-effort plays," as ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy likes to say. The Warriors did that on Wednesday night in one particularly subtle area: contesting three-pointers. The Clippers can punish you from deep if you aren't attentive, but they were just 8-29 on this night. Re-watching the tape, this is no accident. Almost every one of these shots features a Warriors player running out and contesting it, even on shots that initially appeared far more wide open than before.
Here are a couple that jumped out at me:
This is the instant that Chris Paul spots Willie Green and makes the pass. Harrison Barnes is currently right next to Andris Biedrins, with both feet in the paint. Look at how quickly he closes out on Green.
That may still look like an open shot, but the distance Barnes covered makes a difference. It's those small differences that ultimately add up. Here's another example involving Jarrett Jack.
Jack is correctly helping down in the lane but, in the process, leaves Jamal Crawford open. But again, look at how Jack closes on him.
That's a textbook closeout, and Crawford misses. These little things add up. It's no accident that the Clippers, one of the league's best spot-up shooting teams, missed so many threes in this game.
A really fun game that featured an exciting finish to regulation before the Heat finally stepped up and put the pesky Mavericks away. Here's that ending, in case you missed it.
Despite the loss, I think there's a lot of good for the Mavericks to take out of this. This was the first time that O.J. Mayo and Dirk Nowitzki played well at the same time, and the more positive chemistry they can develop, the better.
The only remaining issue is getting the most out of Darren Collison's speed while not sacrificing half-court execution. That's been a difficult issue for both of Collison's previous teams.
Paul Flannery wrote a lot about the Celtics' problems here, and I suggest you read it. There are many spacing issues with this offense, and the second unit, particularly Courtney Lee and Jeff Green, continues to play without a purpose.
The Magic made a valiant effort at the end, but the hole they dug was just too deep. Orlando is now 0-7 without Glen Davis. Sometimes, inefficient shot-creation is valuable.
This was the most lopsided seven-point game you'll ever see. The Bucks made a bunch of runs in the second half after falling way behind in the first half, but they never got that close to winning.
The Rockets truly become scary when they use their shooting ability to help them get to the basket. The three-point shots weren't falling, but the threat of those shots allowed James Harden and many others to have the space needed to get to the hoop off the dribble. Houston scored 60 points in the paint in this one, and that allowed them to survive a 5-24 performance from beyond the arc.
I wouldn't blame Rick Adelman if he wanted to burn this game tape.
The 76ers beat the Lakers, but lost to the Suns. Ergo, the Suns are better than the Lakers. Happy, Suns fans?
Trying to figure out which member of the Kings will play well is an exercise in futility, but as long as guys keep stepping up, I don't think Keith Smart will mind. On this night, it was Jason Thompson and Aaron Brooks that saved the day.
This was a hilarious DeMarcus Cousins assist.
The least surprising result of the night, in more ways than one. As expected, the Pacers didn't make it pretty. As expected, the Wizards fought back from an early deficit, only to never get over the hump because their starting point guard is Garrett Temple. As expected, Paul George's emergence continues.
Raptors 102, Blazers 79
This looked like a tired Blazers team that expended all their energy to win in New York the previous night. Terrence Ross had 26 points, continuing his mini-breakout.