MIAMI - OCTOBER 29: Guard Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat shoots against Rashard Lewis #9 and Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Arena on October 29 2010 in Miami Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
The first weekend of the NBA season was as busy as ever, and we're here to break down a few of the more significant matchups. What did Orlando-Miami teach us for the long term? Are the Clippers and Rockets dead in the water? Is this Hornets team for real? And Rajon Rondo: Is he Jesus?
Welcome back to NBA Scores and More! It's actually just called "NBA Scores and More" but I figure we should add the exclamation point, because that makes things more fun. These aren't just NBA Scores we're giving you... You're getting More!
Anyway, I'm pumped for the season. Mike Prada will be handling these daily recaps from Tuesday to Friday, then every Monday, I'll take over to recap the weekend's action. We're not running down every single game, of course, because you don't want to read about 25 NBA games any more than I want to write about 25 NBA games. So let's narrow the scope to six games that might tell us something broader about the NBA this year. We begin in Miami ...
Well, that was fun, wasn't it? I mean, the brief two-day window where everyone could reasonably question the Heat and act as if there was real doubt about their impending dominance this season.
Not only did Miami blitz their supposed in-state rivals with a 26-point win that wasn't even as close as the final made it look, but they did it with defense. And that's what should really strike fear into the rest of the NBA at this point. When the Miami Heat play defense the way did this weekend (against Orlando and New Jersey), you can't touch 'em. And even in the loss against Boston, Miami held the Celtics to 88 points.
It's the hallmark of just about any team that's historically dominant -- Defense. People remember the 72-win Bulls for Jordan and Pippen, but they forget that those Chicago teams were absolutely suffocating on defense. And I'm not saying Miami's there yet, but Friday night, we got a taste of what it might look like if they do get there.
Now, as for Orlando ... Can someone explain to me why we should take this team seriously as a contender? I'm not even judging them for their performance on Friday. In my NBA Preview I made the same point that Magic inadvertently proved Friday:
Insanity is engaging the in the same behavior over and over again and expecting different results. So... isn't it insane to think that a starting lineup featuring Vince Carter, will somehow not get exposed in the playoffs again?
And even Dwight Howard strikes me as fool's gold as far as contenders go. I was talking to a friend on Friday about the East, and he said, "Who on Miami is guarding Dwight Howard? Joel Anthony? Bosh?!" But then I said, "Couldn't you ask that question every single night for Dwight Howard? When does he NOT have a massive advantage over the opposing big men?" And yet, we still haven't seen him take over...
Maybe we never will. Against Miami, he scored 19 points in the first half, but it completely threw the rest of the Magic out of rhythm, and Howard's real strengths--rebounding and defense--were muted while he focused on dominating on the other end. Don't get me wrong; Orlando's good enough to win 60 games this season. But that's because they're a team of professionals that will show up every night, and win the games they're supposed to.
Against the Miamis of the world? Orlando doesn't have the firepower. They didn't have it last year, and this year, they lost their best perimeter defender (Matt Barnes), and replaced him with ... Quentin Richardson? If you want to bet on Vince Carter and Dwight Howard to suddenly become different players than they've been their entire career, then go for it. We'd all like to see the Orlando-Miami rivalry blossom.
But Friday night, it felt an awful lot like Orlando got a reality check. Dwight Howard's not Shaq, and when he tries to be, it can actually hurt the Magic. And while Howard's not Shaq, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis are still very much Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis. Sad.
On a lighter note, the Heat still take themselves waaaaaaayyyyyy too seriously.
Blog reactions: Our Heat blog basks in the glow of the second half rout, while our Evan Dunlap asks readers at our Magic blog, "What went right?" As he continues: "A series of questions dogged the Magic all summer, coming off their loss to the Celtics. A meaner streak from Howard, a more physically fit Carter, and some additions to the playbook were meant to answer them. Yet after this loss, they still linger."
He had 24, 10, and 10 on the way to a triple double and a Celtics win. Is it time for us to start talking about him as the best point guard in the leag--oh, I'm sorry, I wrote those statistics wrong. He had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 24 ASSISTS. So... Yes, it's time for us to start talking about him as the best point guard in the league.
The Knicks were competitive, though. Amare Stoudemire had 27 points to lead the way, Wilson Chandler chipped in 20 off the bench, and in the end, this game was much closer than it would have been a year ago. And that's where the Knicks are right now. They're not elite, but after years and years of irrelevance, New York has a basketball team that will be competitive on a nightly basis. So that's progress.
Over at Celtics Blog, they marveled at the numbers from Rondo, Garnett, and Pierce. While Posting and Toasting, our Knicks blog, asks, "Is it weird to be proud of a team that lost?"
New Orleans Hornets 99, San Antonio Spurs 90, Saturday Night
Back-to-back wins over playoff teams for the Hornets? Hey, it's really early to start going crazy over any team at this point, let alone a group as incomplete as New Orleans. But Chris Paul looks good. Trevor Ariza looks good. David West... Emeka Okafor... These guys have more talent than you'd think, and Monty Williams appears to be pretty capable as a first-year coach.
Again, it's early. But back-to-back wins over the Nuggets and Spurs are impressive any time of time of year. Keep an eye on New Orleans.
And our Hornets blog, At The Hive, chuckles at the sudden clamor over this team: "It's all vaguely humorous to see. This team is exactly the same as it was last week. Front court questions still abound. The bench still needs smarter shot selection to complement its energy. People jumping aboard the bandwagon on the basis of three strong games will be in for a rude surprise. New Orleans could play well this week and still post an 0-3 record. As quickly as the pendulum of public perception has swung to positivity, it could easily be back at its starting point next Sunday."
(He's totally talking about me, isn't he?)
We talked so much about the Clippers this preseason...
But jeez they sucked last week. They've lost by double digits in each of their first three games, and as Clips Nation points out, their shooting has gotten worse every game. Then again, it's only one week and three games. If anyone can figure this out, it's Vinny Del Negro. Right?
The Jazz were another team with tons of preseason hype, and then the season began, and it all fell flat. And... That last about two games. Against Oklahoma City Sunday, Utah finally hit on all cylinders, and the Thunder sort of rolled over. Paul Millsap had 30 points and 16 rebounds for Utah, while Al Jefferson added 23 and 10. Not bad. Or even better, actually. As SLC Dunk wrote, you couldn't have prescribed a better win for the Jazz:
Road win? Check. Division opponent? Check. Running the offense? Check. Break-out games for key players? Check. Assists? Check. 53% shooting. 7/11 from three. 25-30 from the line. It was all there tonight.
As for the Thunder... Not much to freak out over here. They got beat, and the Jazz used a 40-17 run in the middle of the game to put things away early on. It's not ideal, but that happens some nights.
John Wall had 28 points and 9 assists, rebounding from a so-so showing in his NBA debut a few days earlier. The Wizards ultimately lost, but as far as I'm concerned, if the Wizards can lose 60 games this year and Wall plays the whole year like he did Saturday night, it'd be a roaring success.
Watching that game, two things were obvious: Wall is a superstar-in-the-making, and the rest of the Wizards have a lot of work to do. But "superstar-in-the-making" is more than we had last season ...
As for the Hawks, Joe Johnson took over down the stretch with 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and they got a tough win over a plucky young team--exactly what you'd expect from a veteran team. Atlanta may not have what it takes to advance deep in the postseason, but they deserve credit for showing up every night and giving a damn. The Wizards were up nine after the first quarter, but the Hawks fought back, took the lead, and clung to four and six point leads for nearly the entire second half. It sounds weird to be impressed by a win over a team like the Wizards, but ATL looked very, very solid.
Denver Nuggets 107, Houston Rockets 94, Saturday Night
The Rockets are 0-3, and The Dream Shake has your breakdown of the first three games:
First game, LA, Home opener, ring ceremony - 2pt loss with a chance to win or tie at the buzzer? I can live with it, but we had a lead almost through 3 and the game was there for the taking. Two unlikely Lakers go nuts and bury the Rockets. That might be ominous.
Second Game - Back to Back at Golden State. Another close loss, Rockets get into a horse race with a running team. 4pt loss, after game was mostly tied. Monta Ellis channels Playoff Michael Jordan.
Third Game - Home Opener vs Denver. This game looked okay, but the Rockets again faded down the stretch. I don't know what the point of a 12 man bench is if you won't use it. Maybe Bill Simmons is right. That would be annoying.
So... Make of it what you will, but I think this team misses the playoffs.
I didn't watch this game and neither did you, but hey now! Brandon Jennings with a triple double!