HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Before we get to that spectacle of a game in Cleveland tonight, take a walk with us.
The Hang Time crew had eyeballs on every game on the schedule, just as we always do, especially on a Wednesday night.
So the only question left to ask you is, Did You See What We Saw?
Check out our rundown of the all 12 games and let us know if you agree or disagree:
Looking good: Who says the Hawks can’t survive without Joe Johnson, who is out 4 to 6 weeks with an elbow injury that will require a surgical procedure from Dr. James Andrews to fix the problem? They did just fine without him in this win over the Hang Time Grizzlies. The Hawks piled up a season-high 33 assists (on 42 made field goals) without Johnson in the mix. It’s the best Larry Drew‘s movement-based offense has looked this season.
Sound the Alarm: Whatever experiment our Grizzlies are conducting at shooting guard needs to stop. Rookie Xavier Henry got the start against the Hawks and O.J. Mayo finished with 10 points off the bench. But their combined work didn’t come close to matching the 25 points and 10 assists the Hawks got from Mo Evans and Jamal Crawford.
HT’s Take: All that chatter about Jeff Teague snatching Mike Bibby‘s starting job has vanished in just one month of the season. Bibby was clutch in the win over the Grizzlies, nailing four of his five shots from beyond the 3-point line. Without Johnson for the next month or so, the Hawks are going to need more big games from Bibby, Crawford, Evans, Teague and rookie Jordan Crawford.
Looking good: Nets point guard Jordan Farmar will have to wait a while longer to get the shine he deserves, because as good as his 28-point, nine-assist night was, it wasn’t nearly as wicked as the performance Russell Westbrook had. Westbrook scored all 13 of the Thunder’s points in the third overtime and finished his night with 38 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. If Westbrook keeps this up, the Thunder will have to make room for two names (Kevin Durant and Westbrook) on the marquee. And I want to see the Western Conference coach brave enough to leave Westbrook off of the All-Star team.
Sound the Alarm: Despite the fireworks, this wasn’t an instant classic. Neither team played well before halftime and it did take them three overtimes to pile up 223 total points. That’s what happens when both teams are missing their catalysts (both Durant and Nets point guard Devin Harris were in street clothes). The injury concerns for both of those guys will have a serious impact on their respective teams if they persist.
HT’s Take: We hear all the complaints about the Thunder being overhyped and not really ready for prime time, yet they keep finding ways to win games, with and without Durant in uniform. They have the same record as the Los Angeles Lakers, so they can’t be too far off the pace. We predicted the Thunder would be among the top two in the West when it was all said and done and we’re not ready to toss that out just yet. We still believe they have the potential to chase that spot.
BOSTON 99, PORTLAND 95
Looking good: Raise your hand if you thought the Celtics’ Big 3 would still be going strong like this 200 games deep into this experiment. We certainly can’t make that claim. But the Celtics continue to defy all of the rules of age by continually waxing the opposition. It certainly helps when Paul Pierce is dialed in the way he was against the Trail Blazers — he torched them for 28 points (including a 4-for-5 showing from long distance).
Sound the Alarm: We don’t always enjoy being right about teams, but we did make the right call on the Blazers this season. We had no idea Greg Oden‘s season would end the way it did or as early as it did. We just weren’t sold on this group. And we continue to be underwhelmed by a team that struggles to put complete games together. Granted, they were facing as good a team as there is in the league this season. The soul of this Portland team just doesn’t seem to be intact.
HT’s Take: Big Baby Davis personified not only the depth and talent of this Celtics team with his performance last night (16 points on 5-for-7 shooting and seven rebounds in 28 minutes), he is a live-action business card for what has become one of the finest coaching jobs in any sport in recent memory. Doc Rivers needs to take a bow for the wonders he’s working in Boston. He not only coaches his stars, he coaches up every single player on the roster.
MIAMI 97, DETROIT 72
Looking good: It’s not hard to look good against the Pistons, we’ll get to them in a second. Somehow, the Heat managed to make a task out of that, too. Dwyane Wade zombied his way through the first half of yet another game before getting his numbers late. LeBron James certainly used the Pistons as a convenient punching bag before tonight’s “emotional” showdown with his former team in Cleveland.
Sound the Alarm: Could the Pistons have been any less interested in playing this game? Not a single starter scored in double figures in this game. It was an insulting performance for a struggling team to pass up their opportunity to take a bite out of a Heat team that’s proved to be vulnerable against weaker opposition. The Pistons won a few games to silence their critics a couple of weeks ago but WE are back now!
HT’s Take: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did a nice job keeping his crew focused on the Pistons and not thinking too much about the second game of their back-to-back set. But he and his staff will get a real test keeping things together in Cleveland. You know James is going to want to win in the worst way in Cleveland, so the tension will be off the chain.
ORLANDO 107, CHICAGO 78
Looking good: When Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter are going the way they were against the Bulls (combined for 46 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds), they’re going to be a handful for any other backcourt to handle. They sparked the Magic in this rout, with Nelson outplaying Derrick Rose in ways that we didn’t think possible. Nelson’s 24 points came on 8-for-11 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from deep and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy called it his team’s best win of the season.
Sound the Alarm: The Bulls aren’t going to survive those nights when Rose is outplayed the way he was and Joakim Noah plays 25 minutes and doesn’t collect a single rebound. The Bulls set a team record for fewest rebounds in a game with 21. The previous low was 25 set back in 2002. Granted, they didn’t get much help from anyone other than Taj Gibson, the only other player in a Bulls uniform to reach double figures.
HT’s Take: Carlos Boozer‘s debut surely didn’t go off as he had hoped (five points and two rebounds in just over 20 minutes of action). Sticking Boozer into the starting lineup for the first time this season, he practiced all of two days, clearly wasn’t the best move. In addition to being out of position and out of sync with his teammates in the half court sets, Boozer is obviously not in game shape just yet.
TORONTO 127, WASHINGTON 108
Looking good: We had no idea the only thing the Raptors were missing was rookie big man Ed Davis. He shows up and the Raptors go wild, putting seven players in double figures, including Davis (11 and six rebounds in 24 minutes). In all seriousness, the Raptors are at least scrapping every night the way you hope a bad team does. DeMar DeRozan (20 points), Sonny Weems and Andrea Bargnani (18 each) formed a pretty formidable three-man punch for the Raptors, who got plenty of help from the supporting cast.
Sound the Alarm: When your coach explains to you at shootaround that he doesn’t think you’re ready to play and then you go out and prove his every word to be correct, the alarm should be blaring. The Wizards are as close to a lost cause as there is in the Eastern Conference right now. Not even the promise of John Wall is enough to make us believe this team is headed for beyond a cushioned seat at the lottery.
HT’s Take: It pains us to see a talent of Wall’s caliber drown in a dysfunctional situation like the one he’s experiencing right now in Washington. This chatter about a Wizards-Magic trade could certainly shake things up a bit. Whatever it takes to protect the investment (Wall) and the future of the franchise, because right now there is no positive vibe emanating from this team. And that worries us.
NEW ORLEANS 89, CHARLOTTE 73 (Prime Minister Special Report)
Looking good: With Chris Paul focusing on defense and passing instead of looking for his shot, it was the Hornets’ big man tandem of Emeka Okafor and David West that did the damage to the Bobcats. They combined for 38 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks and helped the Hornets get back into their early season defensive mindset that was seemingly gone last week in losses to Utah and the L.A. Clippers. A tip of the hat, too, for Willie Green — he was solid off the bench (10 points on some defense-stretching jumpers) and helped make up for Marco Belinelli‘s off night.
Sound the Alarm: Admittedly, the Bobcats are one of the league’s slowest-paced teams, ranking in the bottom 10 in both points per 100 possessions and offensive pace. But geez, just 11 points in the fourth quarter? Not good, folks. This game was a perfect example of how Charlotte’s offense loses whatever punch it has when Stephen Jackson — who missed the game due to an NBA-imposed suspension for his tiff with a ref on Saturday — isn’t in the lineup.
HT’s Take: Given the absence of Jackson, the Hornets probably should have had this one in the bag a lot sooner than they did. But after losing four of its last five games, New Orleans is surely just glad to be back on the winning track again. Credit is due to the Hornets’ defense in this one; after allowing 24 points to Charlotte in the first quarter, New Orleans didn’t let Charlotte score more than 20 in any quarter the rest of the night.
DALLAS 100, MINNESOTA 86 (PMSR)
Looking good: The Wolves have gotten plenty of (warranted) love lately for the rebounding work of Kevin Love, the rejuvenation of Michael Beasley and the play of Darko Milicic, who is finally starting to look like a solid NBA center. It wasn’t any of their nights to shine on Wednesday, though. Tyson Chandler was simply a beast on the glass, pulling down 18 rebounds, with a club-record 14 rebounds in the third quarter, while nearly out-rebounding the aforementioned Wolves trio.
Sound the Alarm: Shooting guard has been a wild card for the Wolves so far and Wednesday night, the script was no different. Some credit is due to the defensive work of known stoppers Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson, but it was surprising that neither Corey Brewer nor Wesley Johnson nor Wayne Ellington could get anything going against the Mavs.
HT’s Take: The more we see of a healthy, defensive-minded Chandler working the glass and pairing up with Jason Kidd for some easy buckets, the more we think we’re watching the 2007-08 version of Chandler. That’s the Chandler that played in 79 games, averaged a double-double and was one of the better centers in the league for a contender (New Orleans). He and Brendan Haywood had their mojo working on Wednesday and when that happens for the Mavs, the rest of the NBA has to take notice.
Looking good: Forget about Shane Battier‘s clever metrics for a second and focus on the fact that he was a Lakers slayer last night. He scored 11 points in the final three minutes to help the Rockets to this upset. Battier was clutch, scoring 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor. It was the perfect assist for Kevin Martin, who drilled the Lakers for 20 of his 22 points after the halftime break.
Sound the Alarm: A tender hamstring has Pau Gasol looking like a shell of the player that many (us included) observers were discussing as a potential MVP candidate this season. He destroyed the Rockets in the Lakers’ season-opening home win over this same team. A season-low eight points and nine rebounds is simply not going to suffice from a player of Gasol’s caliber.
HT’s Take: The Lakers’ four-game losing streak has brought out some old, ugly habits from Kobe Bryant. He’s in rescue mode on the offensive end and when he tries to do too much, the Lakers are a much more vulnerable team. That said, the Lakers have shown us that they more than capable of overcoming this temporary tailspin. But they’ll have to do it collectively and not with Kobe serving as a human life-preserver. That won’t work.
DENVER 105, MILWAUKEE 94
Looking good: J.R. Smith has responded to George Karl‘s tough love coaching methods with two solid games off the bench. He and Al Harrington combined for 34 points to help power the Nuggets after Carmelo Anthony was ejected with two technical fouls in a 46-second span. The Nuggets might not have the deepest or even the best bench, but few teams have a 1-2 scoring punch off the pine like Smith and Harrington.
Sound the Alarm: Yet another team that we were enthused about in the preseason has humbled us with their lackluster showing to start this season. Andrew Bogut‘s continued absence is at the heart of the Bucks’ problems. That said, this team was supposed to be better equipped to handle that sort of adversity this season and they simply have not shown that type of mettle, so far.
HT’s Take: While the Nuggets continue to plug away without much fanfare (that’s five straight for those of you that hadn’t noticed), the Bucks need to cook up one of these players-only team meetings or something to boost the energy and morale of the Fear The Dear crew. They’re not playing like the team that captivated so many in the playoffs last season or even the nasty bunch we saw for a week last month when they pounded the Knicks, Hawks and Warriors in a three-game stretch.
UTAH 110, INDIANA 88 (PMSR)
Looking good: Solid road wins against the Heat, Lakers and Kings in the last few days had created a nice buzz for the Pacers, but the Jazz weren’t about to be added to Indy’s hit list. Utah jumped all over road-weary Indiana early and had a 20-point lead working in the second quarter. Though they let up a bit throughout the night, Deron Williams showed the leadership the Jazz have counted on from him, putting up 24 points, dishing 16 assists in a turnover-free night.
Sound the Alarm: Where were Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert last night? Though they both scored in double figures (Granger had 14, Hibbert had 15), neither got into a flow scoring-wise and had trouble all night with their defenders (Andrei Kirilenko and Al Jefferson, respectively). Turnovers also reared their head for Indy, something they’ve struggled with on-and-off all season as Darren Collison works out the kinks. Still, 18 turnovers were way too many chances to give Williams and Co.
HT’s Take: Jefferson is generally happy with his back to the basket, dazzling his defender with footwork. But he’s learning to take the open free-throw line jumper in Jerry Sloan‘s offense and hit three big ones in the third quarter to keep the Pacers at bay. He missed plenty of jumpers, too, but he’s making progress game-by-game in learning that not every shot he takes has to be within five feet of the hoop.
LA CLIPPERS 90, SAN ANTONIO 85
Looking good: It’s only fitting that we saved our favorite game and player for last. Watching Blake Griffin work on a nightly basis is worth the sleep deprivation issues that persist with staying up to all hours for those late Western Conference games. “Blakezilla” finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists in yet another above-the-rim affair as the Clippers snapped an 18-game losing streak to the mighty Spurs that dated back to the 2006 season.
Sound the Alarm: Even the best of the best suffer from an off night now and then. Tony Parker‘s off nights have just happened more frequently of late. He scored just two points on 1-for-6 shooting, his third single digit performance in the last four games. His night ended early in the third quarter, courtesy of the mercy of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
HT’s Take: His image has taken a pretty good beating this season already, but it was good to see Baron Davis back on the scene and looking much more like Boom Dizzle than the guy we saw earlier this season with the bad knee and conditioning issues. He had 10 assists, vibed well with Griffin and nailed a couple of clutch free throws down the stretch to keep the Spurs at arm’s length.