Monday, January 3, 2011

Worst of Sunday Night

sadsack mamba
A "Sad Bench" photo starring Kobe Bryant? My day is officially made.

The Indiana Pacers: Said Danny Granger: "We shouldn't have won. We didn't shoot the ball too well."

I haven't heard that kind of unfiltered truth since a psychic told me I would die alone. Indy went 7-for-24 from downtown (29 percent) and 37-for-99 overall (37 percent). They even bricked eight of their 19 foul shots (58 percent).

And Granger? 9-for-23. He did have 17 rebounds, though. That was nine more than Amar''''''e Stoudemire. You know, for the record.

The Los Angeles Clippers: 37 points in the fourth quarter. As in, those are how many the Clippers gave up to the Hawks last night. But, hey, who plays defense in the final 12 minutes, anyway?

Oh, right. Teams that win basketball games.

Said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro: "In the second half we didn't stop them at all. They scored at will against us and our energy defensively was not good enough. Our bench turned the ball over way too much, and that hurt. We can't give a team like that extra possessions."

Oh, sure, Vinny. Blame the bench. Your reserves committed seven of your team's 19 turnovers. Off of which the Hawks scored 24 points.

If I was The Notorious VDN, I'd also be worried about how slap happy my team was, because the Dirty Birds got 40 foul shots. On the road. Inside sources tell me that's a lot.

Joe Johnson: When can you call going 7-for-20 "breaking out of a slump"? When a guy went 18-for-51 in his previous three games, that's when.

The Cleveland Cavaliers: Dirk Nowitzki was out with his sprained knee and Caron Butler missed the game with what may be a season-ending knee injury. No matter. The Mavericks still had what it took to beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland. These days, "what it takes" to beat the Cavs is "five warm bodies in short pants."

On the bright side, Cleveland shot 50 percent from the field. On the not-so-bright side, they've now lost seven straight and 17 of their last 18. According to their coach, it's because they were without Boobie Gibson and Andy Varejao.

Said Byron Scott: "We didn't have enough guys play well. That's pretty much the bottom line. When you're playing against a good team like Dallas, it can't be just two guys. You have to have four or five guys play well."

When reminded that Brian Cardinal has been playing significant minutes for the Mavericks lately, Scott just stared blankly off into space, possibly thinking about overhauling his wardrobe.

The Toronto Craptors: Offensively speaking, the Celtics have been playing some real crap basketball lately. But few things can turn bad offense around quite like a trip to the Air Canada Centre Roller Rink.

(EDIT by Chris: Yep. With another Craptor loss, it's that time again. Enjoy!)

This season, the Craptosaurs rank 26th in Opponents PPG (104.4) and 27th in Defensive Rating (110.3). And in a turn of events that should shock nobody at all, Boston -- thanks in no small part to the return of Rajon Rondo -- shot 54 percent from the field and had 30 assists on 38 field goals.

Freaking Glen Davis had 8 assists.

Meanwhile, the Craptors -- who went 1-for-14 from beyond the arc -- have lost 11 of their past 14.

Rajon Rondo, quote machine: "I know the plays better than Doc."

The Phoenix Suns: The good news: They harassed Sacramento into 6-for-26 shooting in the first quarter and forced the Kings' backcourt of Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans to go a combined 0-for-9 in the first half. For the game, they held the Kings to 94 points on 40 percent shooting.

The bad news: They held themselves to 89 points on 40 percent shooting. And that was despite a nearly flawless performance by Steve Nash (20 points, 12 assists, 2 steals, 8-for-8 from the field, 2-for-2 from downtown, 2-for-2 from the line).

The worst part is, the Suns were up eight points going into the fourth quarter. But the Kings -- who entered the game with a league-worst six wins -- outscored them 29-16 in the final 12 minutes thanks to DeMarcus Cousins and his 13 fourth quarter points. Cousins finished with career-highs in points (28) and assists (6).

Mind you, DeMarcus picked up his fifth foul with 7:31 remaining. But it's hard for a team to draw a big man's sixth foul when all they're doing is chucking up jumpers.

The Kings -- who outrebounded the Suns by a staggering 60-32 -- closed the game on a 19-2 run. Sacramento. Did that to Phoenix. Seriously.

Said Kings coach Paul Westphal: "It was crazy to be able to that (19-2 run). Our guys just kept playing hard. We were shooting 30 percent for most of the first half, something had to give."

I bet the Phoenix players were thinking the same thing. After all, they've finally started playing some defense. Of course, after making your opponent miss, you have to grab a rebound. Sacramento finished with 18 offensive boards.

Said Nash: "They got some offensive rebounds and some put backs, and some easy ones that really hurt us. Tonight we just missed some shots at the end and some wide open 3s. Our offense had some good looks, we just didn't make them."

In related news, the Suns have lost five of their last six games and nine of 12 overall.

Vince Carter, worst player of the night: I would like to introduce his game-worst plus-minus score of -17 as Exhibit A in the Case of Why I F**king Hate Seeing Vince Carter on the Suns.

effing vinsanity
Welcome to my nightmare.

The Houston Rockets: LaMarcus Aldridge had a double-double (25 points and 11 rebounds). Nicky Batum had a season-high 21 points. Patrick Mills had a career-high 14 points, 5 assists and 5 steals. Marcus Camby had 13 rebounds and season-high eight assists. See where I'm going with this?

The Rockets played like crap. They couldn't have stopped a jug of milk from expiring. Houston was down 10 at halftime, trailed by as many as 23 points, and was finally, mercifully laid to after their 100-85 whuppin'.

Said Rockets coach Rick Adelman: "Just a poor effort. That is as bad as we have played all year. We were a step behind all night."

Those rickety Rockets just can't keep from falling below .500. Probably because they can't win against good teams. In fact, their last victory over a team with a winning record was on December 1 against...

The Los Angeles Lakers: Remember how hot these guys were to start the season? They broke out of the gates 8-0 and were 13-2 after 15 games. During that opening stretch, they scored 100+ points 14 times and had 12 games in which they scored 110+ points. And there were whispers about whether they might be able to win 70+ games.

In the 19 games since then, the Lakers have gone 10-9. They've lost four of their last six games, and those four losses have been by 19, 16, 15 and 19 points. Three of the defeats happened on their homecourt.

L.A. was outrebounded 44-37, got outscored 50-36 in the paint and 28-5 on the fast break, and gave up 18 points off 20 turnovers. They trailed by as many as 26 points and got rightfully booed by the home crowd in the waning minutes of their 104-85 loss.

Huh. I thought Andrew Bynum coming back was supposed to fix everything. Instead, it looks like pretty much everything needs fixing.

Said Kobe Bryant: "We didn't execute well, and defensively we were poor," Bryant said. "We've just got to come out focused and ready to play. It's tough when you have to try to regenerate that energy every single night. It starts individually. You have to look at yourself and try to find things to get you going. Right now we can't beat anybody, but we'll be fine."

Speaking of starting individually, Kobe once again attempted almost as many shots (22) as the rest of L.A.'s starting lineup (25). He scored 17 in the third quarter and finished with a game-high 28 points. But he went 1-for-7 on threes and seemingly brought his team's offense to a screeching halt.

Said Phil Jackson: "Kobe had to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one; it takes the rest of the guys out. And as a consequence that didn't bring us back in."

I didn't exactly need to type "SPOILER ALERT!" before that quote. But it's interesting to finally see P-Jax acknowledge that Kobe going all Black Mamba doesn't really make the Lakers better. That, in fact, it makes them worse.

Of course, at this point, it's hard to tell exactly what would make them better. Or even what exactly is wrong with them.

Said Bryant: "It's being out of sync. That's kind of what happened."

Suggested Bynum: "We're not really playing for each other right now. We're not playing to set the next man up."

Added Gasol: "I don't understand it, I don't like it and I have no explanation."

Observed Jackson: "The big thing about it is we've lost some games at home that are laughers for opponents coming in on our home court. That's a concern."

No kidding. But never fear, Lakers fans. Check out your team's upcoming schedule: Pistons, at Phoenix, Hornets, Knicks, Cavs, at Golden State, Nyets, Clippers. Regardless of their recent struggles, I can't see them finishing this stretch any worse than 6-2. By the way, how is it the Lakers -- currently tied with the Kings for the league's weakest strength of schedule -- have yet another extended stretch of mostly sub-.500 opponents?

Chris's Lacktion Report:

Pacers-Knicks: Solomon Jones decreed that an assist and field goal in 6:09 wasn't enough, by adding 3 turnovers and 2 fouls to the line for a 5:2 Voskuhl.

Celtics-Craptors: Ronald Dupree decided to play Roller Games on his Famicom for 11 seconds to earn a Mario!

Mavs-Cavs: Leon Powe provided a board and field goal for Team Comic Sans in 14:02 as starting big man...but three fouls and a giveaway resulted in a 4:3 Voskuhl.

Rockets-Frail Blazers: Sean Marks measured up to the low standards of the ledger by negating a rebound in 8:03 with three fouls for a 3:1 Voskuhl.

Grizzlies-Lakers: Joe Smith unmightily marred a steal with one foul in 4:36 for a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl, while Derrick Caracter lost the rock once in the same timespan for a +1 and the same Voskuhl ratio.

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