HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The hump day schedule in the NBA is usually a robust 12 or 13 games deep, but we went with the diet plate (just 10 games) this week.
Lucky for us all, there was no skimping on the action.
Between John Wall‘s triple double, the Bucks’ beatdown of the Hawks, Michael Beasley‘s 42 points in a Minnesota win, David Lee‘s triumphant return to Madison Square Garden and a second straight epic comeback for the Utah Jazz in Florida, our table is loaded with plenty for you to chew on.
So all we have to figure out now is Did You See What We Saw?
The Prime Minister kicks things off with this special report on that Jazz-Magic thriller:
UTAH 104, ORLANDO 94
Looking good: Another night with Jerry Sloan‘s comeback kids! The Jazz rode the back of Deron Williams in the third quarter and Al Jefferson down the stretch to rally from an 18-point hole and sweep their annual trip to Florida. In their last five quarters (four regulation, one overtime), Utah outscored its opponents (Miami and Orlando) 153-112. And, as our man Dick Scanlon points out, the Jazz have rallied from 16-, 19- and 10-point halftime deficits in the last four days. Safe to say, the Jazz have this whole comeback-wins thing down.
Sound the Alarm: For Stan Van Gundy‘s bottle of Pepto Bismol, which is surely taking a pounding right now. Unlike when the Jazz beat the Heat two nights ago, Orlando’s lack of killer instinct wasn’t an aberration. Van Gundy was not pleased that after nearly blowing an 18-point lead against the Bobcats two games ago, the Magic didn’t learn from their mistake and totally blew their big lead against Utah. A jingle of the bell, too, for starter Ryan Anderson, whom Van Gundy cited for a lack of effort in his postgame comments.
HT’s Take: Big props for Sloan, who in back-to-back nights made crucial in-game adjustments. One night after the Jefferson-for-Kyrylo Fesenko center swap down the stretch in Miami, he switched to a zone defense in the second half against Orlando. That move flustered Orlando’s shooters and kept Dwight Howard a little more under control, allowing the Jazz to get some stops and sway momentum their way. Jefferson’s little rest in Miami worked out well last night, too, as he nailed a bunch of clutch shots in the post to seal the win.
MILWAUKEE 108, ATLANTA 91
Looking good: An early 13-point deficit for the Bucks disappeared when the reserves hit the floor. Corey Maggette and Ersan Ilyasova entered the game and promptly turned things upside down. By the time the Bucks’ reserves had finished their first half work they were up 54-40 and the rout was on. The Bucks are finally looking like the team many of us thought they’d be with a healthy Andrew Bogut back in the mix.
Sound the Alarm: The Hawks did that for us. Did you hear what they had to say about their power outage on their home floor? “I don’t understand what happened,” Al Horford said. “When adversity hit us in the face we went our separate ways,” Josh Smith said. Not exactly the sorts of things coach Larry Drew wants to hear from a team that was undefeated as recently as Sunday morning .
HT’s Take: The Bucks weren’t just good last night, they were fantastic once they got going. Like Bucks coach Scott Skiles said, if you get up 30 on the Hawks in their building, you’re doing work. If the Bucks can keep this up, they might look back on this early stretch of the season as the turning point. It certainly helps that Brandon Jennings (19 points and 4-for-5 from deep in the win over the Hawks) is heating up right now, too.
CHARLOTTE 101, TORONTO 96
Looking good: Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas lifted the struggling Bobcats up on a night when they had to have it. Even Bobcats coach Larry Brown praised them for their work after halftime. “The best way to overcome adversity is to play like (Jackson) and Tyrus (Thomas) did in the second half,” Brown said. “They gave us a chance to win.” Jackson scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and stole a ball from Andrea Bargnani in the final seconds and then nailed two free throws to seal the win. Thomas scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished with five of the Bobcats’ 13 blocks.
Sound the Alarm: Bargnani’s performance was a microcosm of his short stint as the franchise player for the Raptors. He was 6-for-8 from the floor early but couldn’t buy a bucket when the game was on the line, going 2-for-11 after halftime. Toss in that game-winning theft for Jackson and it’s clear that Barganani is still working his way through the process of being “the man.”
HT’s Take: Neither of these teams looks like it’ll be much of a factor in the Eastern Conference postseason chase anytime soon. That’s a bit surprising for a Bobcats team coming off of a playoff appearance. We expected them to be better than this. It’s pretty much what we expected from the Raptors, who as Cousin Doug points out here, have a gaping hole in the catalyst department. Whose team is this anyway?
WIZARDS 98, ROCKETS 91 (PMSR)
Looking good: When you see Magic Johnson sitting courtside with owner Ted Leonsis, you know there might be something special that happens that night. It did. This one was all about Wall and his first career triple-double. When the Wizards’ rookie point guard wasn’t ripping up the Rockets’ defense with some make-you-blink drives to the hoop, he was showing small signs of progress as a floor general. He had 13 assists and just one turnover; compare that to his last three games, in which he had at least six turnovers in all of them. Even more amazing? Wall was four steals from a quadruple-double.
Sound the Alarm: For poor Yao Ming, coach Rick Adelman and the poor Rockets’ fan base. It’s bad they all had to deal with this 24-minute, off-on-back-to-backs gameplan put in place for their franchise center. After Yao strained a tendon in his left leg in the first quarter, Houston and its faithful now have to wonder when (or if) Yao will return this season. We’ll ring the bell again for Brad Miller, Chuck Hayes and Jordan Hill, too. That’s the crew that’ll replace Yao’s minutes if he’s out for a while. And they didn’t do so hot. Combined, they played 47 minutes, scored 13 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and allowed Washington’s frontcourt to run wild.
HT’s Take: Collectively, the Wizards were solid and got great performances from Al Thornton (20 points), Andray Blatche (20 points, 11 rebounds) and got some highlight-type dunks and blocks from JaVale McGee. Heck, even Yi Jianlian (13 points, seven rebounds, four blocks) got into things — though we think the game being broadcast back to 400 million folks in China might have helped. Don’t look now, Houston, but you’re only a half game ahead of the Clippers for worst record in the West.
NEW JERSEY 95, CLEVELAND 87
Looking good: When your starting backcourt combines for 52 points, 11 assists and six rebounds you ought to have a chance to win the game. With both Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow getting loose on the Cavaliers, the rest of the Nets needed only to worry about the little things . Kris Humphries did a masterful job of just that with 13 points and 18 rebounds. Snapping a five-game losing streak on the road is always a good look.
Sound the Alarm: What’s up with the Cavaliers’ lackluster third-quarter efforts at home? They had control of this game at halftime but were outplayed after the intermission yet again at Quicken Loans Arena, a disturbing trend for a team that doesn’t have an established go-to-player to rely on these days. The Cavs are just 1-3 at home this season, foreign territory for folks in Northeast Ohio used to the Q rocking in recent years.
HT’s Take: We’re still trying to wrap our heads around this idea of J.J. Hickson, a young player we absolutely love, being the Cavaliers’ centerpiece. His numbers (16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds) suggest he’s more role player than starring role. But the Cavs seems married to the idea of Hickson being their backbone right now. They had to go somewhere after LeBron James bolted. We’re just not sure Hickson is the answer right now.
GOLDEN STATE 122, NEW YORK 117
Looking good: Sooner or later we’re all going to have to buy in on these Warriors. This 6-2 start is not fool’s gold. Keith Smart has this thing working. Six starters in double figures. A potent offensive attack inside and out. All-Star talent in the starting lineup always helps. and Monta Ellis, Steph Curry and David Lee could all garner some All-Star talk before February. Lee stomped all over his former team with team highs in points (28) and rebounds (10), battling the man who replaced him, Amar’e Stoudemire (33 and 10) to what is essentially a statistical stalemate.
Sound the Alarm: The Knicks should have handed out gift receipts with all the turnovers they piled up. The Warriors converted their 21 turnovers into 30 points, which is far more than any good team will need to knock off the Knicks this season. Raymond Felton was supposed to help cure these ills at point guard but it hasn’t happened. Another troubling sign: Opposing guards are having their way with the Knicks, too. Ellis and Curry made Felton, [Landry] Fields and [Toney] Douglas look like a Manhattan law firm instead of the potent guard rotation that’s going to help dig the Knicks out of their 3-5 rut.
HT’s Take: Mike D’Antoni tinkered with his starting lineup and got what he needed from Wilson Chandler, who gave it everything he head (including half a tooth). But as Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News points out, Stoudemire’s going to have to hold it all together until the Knicks make a move for some serious help (Carmelo Anthony chatter kicks up again now).
DALLAS 106, MEMPHIS 91
Looking good: The conversation about the deepest team in the league should start and stop with Mark Cuban‘s crew. Caron Butler was nursing back spasms and Shawn Marion stepped into the starting lineup and promptly delivered a season-high 20 points. Jason Terry led the Mavericks with 25, off the bench. Dirk Nowitzki rolls an ankle in the first quarter but still managed a double double. Deepest team in the league!
Sound the Alarm: Games like this one are why we still worry about the Hang Time Grizzlies. They were outscored 31-19 in the third quarter, always an indicator of how a team responds to what’s been said to them at halftime. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins admitted that he was searching for a spark of any sort and couldn’t locate one. This is what frustrates so many people about this team. They’ll win back-to-back games and then follow it up with a nose-pincher like this one.
HT’s Take: Did anyone see O.J. Mayo last night? We’re going to keep asking until someone answers. He played 29 minutes and missed all but one of his eight field goals, grabbed three rebounds and dished out three assists. Hollins benched him for Tony Allen in the third quarter. That can’t happen if this crew is serious about being a playoff team.
OKLAHOMA CITY 109, PHILADELPHIA 103
Looking good: Go ahead and rank the best 1-2 punches in the league and tell us that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook don’t have a legitimate claim to the top spot. They were electric last night, Durant finished with 31 points and seven rebounds while Westbrook went for 31 and 12 assists. The Thunder’s little spell of uncertainty will come to an abrupt end with more performances like this (it certainly helps to play the 76ers, though). This game certainly makes it look like Durant is doing his best to shake off his early season mini-slump.
Sound the Alarm: After questioning the 76ers for drafting Evan Turner ahead of big men Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins, we’re ready to admit that he’s more ready for prime time than we’ve given him credit for being. He started against the Thunder in place of an injured Andre Iguodala and finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds.
HT’s Take: The Thunder’s 3-1 record against Eastern Conference opponents is the only thing keeping them out of hot water. They’re too good to be struggling the way they have. Now comes a three-game stint against the Trail Blazers (Friday), the Spurs (Sunday) and at the Jazz (Monday) that will tell us much more about where this Thunder team is at right now.
SAN ANTONIO 107, LA CLIPPERS 95
Looking good: Talk about aging gracefully. The Spurs have quietly won five straight games, flying under the radar of the Lakers and the surprising Hornets. Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili (22 points each) helped to tote the load for Tim Duncan (who played with flu-like symptoms). Tony Parker‘s 21 points and nine assists came at the expense of Clippers youngsters Eric Bledsoe and Willie Warren, who were simply out of their league against a former NBA Finals MVP.
Sound the Alarm: Wall’s the rookie that’s rolling right now. Blake Griffin is in a rut. He struggled for the second straight night against a deeper and more experienced frontline without Chris Kaman around to help him out (Kaman is expected to be out two weeks with a sprained ankle). Griffin scored just 11 points, he made five of his 18 field goal attempts, a ghastly effort for a guy that should be able to get 10 buckets a night on dunks and putbacks. He had 10 in Tuesday night’s loss to the Hornets (though he did come through with his trademark highlight dunk).
HT’s Take: You knew the Spurs would be good this season, so there’s nothing shocking going on there. But for the Clippers, 1-8 is a far cry from what we envisioned during training camp. Home games against the Pistons (Friday) and Nets (Monday) offer an opportunity for redemption, if they can get some healthy bodies back in the lineup.
MINNESOTA 98, SACRAMENTO 89
Looking good: Michael Beasley‘s career-high 42-point night couldn’t have come at a better time for the Timberwolves, who needed something to go right after winning just once in their first eight games. As good as Beasley was, and he was fantastic against every defensive scheme the Kings tried to throw at him, it was the support he got from a couple of unexpected places that really stood out to us. Sebastian Telfair (16) and rookie Wesley Johnson (12) were solid as well, each of them stepping up in place of teammates that couldn’t get it going.
Sound the Alarm: We need more than an alarm for whatever is going on with Kevin Love. Dr. Phil maybe? The Timberwolves’ leading scorer and rebounder this season, Love appeared to have finally shaken off the funk with a big night against the Lakers with 23 points, a career-high 24 rebounds and five assists. Then he disappeared for the first three quarters against the Kings. He didn’t surface until there was just 7:35 to play in the game, finishing with eight points and nine rebounds. It’s time for an intervention.
HT’s Take: Even after a win the Timberwolves remain on our on critical list. We’re just not getting good vibrations from this crew. Still, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a special shout out to Kings co-owner Joe Maloof for honoring a real hero last night, as our Jimmy Spencer reported: “After an Army lieutenant missed a half-court shot during a contest prior to the fourth quarter, and in honor of Veterans Day, Maloof gave the lieutenant a chance to win a car by making a free throw. Adorned in camouflage and boots, the lieutenant made the shot and won the prize.”
We’d like to give an extra loud HT shout out to all the members of our armed forces, past and present, on Veterans Day!