HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The folks at NBC refer to their Sunday night studio show as “Football Night in America.” That’s a healthy play on words for one game.
A Wednesday night around here is much more suited for a slick moniker like that — how does “Basketball Night around the Globe” strike you? — since we have 11 games to watch and countless story lines in each one to focus on.
Since it’s probably not reasonable for you to stay up and watch all 11, the crew here at the Hideout makes sure to take the time to do that for you.
And with the Prime Minister locked down in his bunker and yours truly stationed on the observation deck, we don’t miss a bounce of the ball.
Now, all you have to figure out is Did You See What We Saw?
NEW YORK 113, TORONTO 110
Looking good: Six straight and counting for Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and the crew. We raised the question yesterday about Stoudemire’s MVP candidacy and the legitimacy of these Knicks, who continue to take advantage of some excellent schedule work by the folks at the home office. That’s six straight 30-plus point games for Stoudemire and counting. When your starting five scores 105 of your 113 points, it’s clear that you are getting the absolute best out of your big guns. Maybe the Knicks really are ready for prime time …
Sound the Alarm: We’ve taken of unfair shots at Andrea Bargnani in the past, but we have to give it up to the big fella after his 41-point effort last night. He battled Stoudemire and Felton shot for big shot in the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer with 26 seconds to play tied the game but his air ball at the buzzer needed another foot.
HT’s Take: In addition to playing winning basketball these days, the Knicks are fun to watch and entertaining in ways they never were before Stoudemire and Felton joined the party. And Felton’s arrival doesn’t get the fanfare it deserves. In hindsight, he was one of the better pick ups in the celebrated free agent summer of 2010.
CHICAGO 88, CLEVELAND 83
Looking good: A nasty snowstorm couldn’t delay the inevitable (Derrick Rose) for the Cavaliers. The Bulls’ All-Star point guard was at his very best with the game on the line, scoring five of his game-high 29 points in the final minute to help his team seal the win. Carlos Boozer‘s return certainly helps and the defense-first mantra of coach Tom Thibodeau is more than admirable, but this team remains a D. Rose production until further notice. And when he’s on, like he was against the Cavs, there is no stopping him.
Sound the Alarm: The Cavs are on the HT critical list. Losers of six straight and struggling with their mental game after being undressed before a global audience last week by LeBron James, Byron Scott‘s team is in search of answers. Unfortunately for them, there are none. This was a very winnable game for the Cavs, who had a one point lead with 26 seconds to play but couldn’t hold off Rose. Scott says he can live with a loss so long as his team plays hard. We’ll hold him to that.
HT’s Take: The Bulls might want to hold off on the celebrating. They did need some last-minute heroics from Rose to overcome a hapless Cavs team that scares no one. Thibodeau was not pleased with his team’s performance, and rightfully so. If the Bulls want to stomp with the big dogs in the Eastern Conference and beyond, they need to get started.
MILWAUKEE 97, PACERS 95
Looking good: We may not know everything Scott Skiles does at practice in Milwaukee, but apparently, there’s a lot of time spent on out-of-bounds plays involving a perfect lob to the rim for your center to tip in at the horn. The game-winning tip-in that Andrew Bogut nailed off a picture-perfect dish from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was one that the Bucks had run hundreds of times — so much so that Skiles didn’t even really have to diagram the play as Milwaukee got situated during its final timeout.
Sound the Alarm: Yet another close one this season that didn’t go the Pacers’ way. Of Indiana’s 10 losses, six of them are by eight points or less — a good sign because the Pacers are in games more often than not, but a bad sign because close losses are what can make or break a playoff spot. Point guard Darren Collison was nice all night, but with Indy up two with 1:45 left, he had his layup that would have helped solidify the lead spiked away by Bogut.
HT’s Take: As much as we like Brandon Jennings here at the Hideout, it was Bogut who inspired that whole Fear the Deer thing last season. Is it time to be afraid again? Bogut looked much like the guy we saw post-All-Star break last season and if he keeps this up, Milwaukee might finally start living up to the preseason hype.
OKLAHOMA CITY 111, MINNESOTA 103
Looking good: Do you even need to ask what formula the Thunder used to get this win? Two parts Kevin Durant and two parts Russell Westbrook with assistance from their supporting cast tossed in with that eye of newt and toe of frog usually results in a Thunder win. Durant and Westbrook combined for 55 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists to lead the charge. Jeff Green, Thabo Sefalosha, Serge Ibaka (10 points and eight blocks) and Hang Time Podcast fave Nick Collison (six points, seven rebounds) were all solid in support as the Thunder rallied from an 18-point, first-quarter deficit for the win.
Sound the Alarm: Kevin Love was at it again last night. And you better believe he is going to put up another 30-point, 30-rebounds game this season. He worked the Thunder over for 22 points and 21 rebounds. If Love, Michael Beasley and our main man Luke Ridnour could get some consistent help on the wing, this team might have a chance to take a dip in the relevancy pool.
HT’s Take: Even if our summer forecast for the Thunder was a bit ambitious, we still feel good about where this crew is headed. Look at the work being done by role players like Ibaka and Collison, crucial frontcourt rotation cats that tilt the scales in your team’s favor more than often than not.
BOSTON 105, DENVER 89
Looking good: With no Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets had their work cut out for them before tipoff. Once the game got rolling, it looked like the rest of the Nuggets were taking a break tonight, too. The Celtics were at their peak, with Rajon Rondo dicing up the defense, Kevin Garnett hit all manner of jumpers and alley-oops and Ray Allen draining 3s. Basically, they played like the Boston we’ve come to expect and, aside from a token second-quarter run, Denver had no answer for what was thrown at it.
Sound the Alarm: Anthony spoke with ESPN during the game broadcast and talked about why he hasn’t signed his contract extension yet and whether or not his indecision about the future is weighing on his teammates. ‘Melo basically said he talks with GM Masai Ujiri on a regular basis and they’re on the same page about his future. What page are they on? ‘Melo wouldn’t say. That doesn’t lighten the concerns about his future in the Mile High City.
HT’s Take: Games like this one are a case study in why the Celtics remain the class of the East until someone proves otherwise. If the Nuggets keep playing defense like they have the last two games, you have to wonder about their legitimacy as a contender in the West.
NEW ORLEANS 93, DETROIT 74
Looking good: With all the drama they’ve dealt with the past week with, the Hornets needed to see these hapless Pistons to help them shake out of their funk. David West and Marco Belinelli had huge scoring nights, but it was a classic Chris Paul point guard masterpiece that was the story of this game. Paul struggled shooting (2-for-7) the ball, but finished his night with 14 assists and five steals against just one turnover. He remains one of a handful of players in the league capable of completely dominating a game without his scoring being his primary tool.
Sound the Alarm: Watching the Pistons take beating after beating this season gets tougher by the day. The disconnect between what coach John Kuester wants and what his players are willing to give is obvious to all of us. Their personnel isn’t as bad as their record would indicate. If they keep this up, we’re going to boycott Pistons games the rest of the season, because we all deserve better than what the this team is giving us on a nightly basis.
HT’s Take: Hornets coach Monty Williams and GM Dell Demps thought they had a rough time getting things straightened out for Paul to start this season. Now comes the takeover by the league. At least they’ll have some ownership stability going forward. One of these days it’ll be strictly about basketball fellas. One of these days.
SAN ANTONIO 111, GOLDEN STATE 94
Looking good: Go ahead, raise your hand if you predicted the Spurs would roll like this through the first six weeks of the season … didn’t think so. Their 18-3 start is far and away the best 21-game start in franchise history. And they have their balance and depth (they had 10 players score seven or more points in the win). What’s not to like about the way the Spurs are playing right now? They don’t have to ride any one player to victory every night, allowing them to adjust on the fly depending on the opposition.
Sound the Alarm: Whatever good vibrations the Warriors had going early this season have all but vanished. Steph Curry‘s ankle injury certainly doesn’t help the cause either. Monta Ellis can’t do it alone in the backcourt, although that 31-point outburst off the bench from Reggie Williams was a bit of a revelation. If Curry is out for an extended period of time, the Warriors better home Santa brings them better karma for Christmas.
HT’s Take: No one ever spends much time discussing it, mostly because Gregg Popovich won’t allow it, but this is easily one of his best coaching displays. There’s maybe a handful of coaches that could twist and turn his roster the way Pop has this season and drive them to the top of the Western Conference standings without MVP-caliber play from one of his stars.
HANG TIME GRIZZLIES 104, PHOENIX 98
Looking good: They don’t generate a ton of chatter, but Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph have to rank among the very best scoring frontcourt tandems in basketball. They both came through in crunch time for our Grizzlies last night. Gay’s 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer provided an extra five minutes for Z-Bo to finish what he started, his lefty hook with 8.7 seconds to play in overtime closed the door on the Suns. He had a season-high 34 points and 17 rebounds, Gay added 22 and Mike Conley added a career-high 14 assists for good measure.
Sound the Alarm: The Suns will be sick when then look back at the film from this game and realize that they missed 17 free throws in a game that was there for the taking, including Channing Frye‘s miss at the end of regulation that could have sealed the game. These were plays the Western Conference finalist Suns made a year ago. But not now. “Right now, we’re searching,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “But I’m convinced that if we play with that kind of effort, we’ll be a good team.”
HT’s Take: This could have been a crushing blow for our Grizzlies. Instead, they head into a three-game stretch — at the Clippers Saturday, against Portland Monday and against Charlotte Wednesday — that could be the turning point of the season. The closer they get back to .500, the better chance they have to get back in the playoff chase before Christmas.
MIAMI 111, UTAH 98
Looking good: How about looking great? This was the best game we’ve seen out of the Heat (with the level of competition factored into the equation) all season. LeBron James had it going, Zydrunas Ilgauskas provided a huge lift at center, Chris Bosh did a little dirty work and Dwyane Wade handled his end of the deal and the bench turned in a solid 20-point effort against a Jazz team that stunned them last month in Miami. This is the Heat team the rest of the league was worried sick about all summer.
Sound the Alarm: We’re blowing the horn now for the Warriors, Kings, Hornets, Cavaliers, Knicks and Wizards. They are the speed bumps standing in the Heat’s way en route to showdowns with Mavericks (Dec. 20) and Lakers (Christmas). You’ve all seen what the resurgent Heat is capable of, especially you Cleveland, so be ready or get run over. “We’re finding our comfort spots on the court at the same time,” James said. “We’re just doing our thing. We’re not being too unselfish. If one doesn’t have anything, we swing it to the other side and play good basketball.”
HT’s Take: The Heat could very well be 12-0 by the time they face the Mavericks at home on the 20th. We said last week that the emotional blowout win over the Cavs might be the turning point for this Heat crew. And they are making us look pretty good right now having won six straight by double-digit margins. The real question is what comes first: a Heat loss or a Cavs win?
SACRAMENTO 116, WASHINGTON 91
Looking good: It took the Kings a little over a month to hit double digits in the win column. It also took them that long to snag their fifth win of the season, so there’s no sense in complaining. There’s nothing a bad team needs to see more on Hump Day than another bad team. And the Wizards are as bad as it gets on the road, a dreadful 0-12 and counting. At least we got a chance to see HT fave Pooh Jeter (no relation to the Yankees shortstop) go to work. He went off for career-highs in points (13) and assists (nine), helping the Kings snap an eight-game losing streak.
Sound the Alarm: A nagging foot injury is causing John Wall all sorts of problems. He sat out again. He should have had company on this night. Tyreke Evans is clearly playing in pain (tissue inflammation in his left foot). He is scheduled to have an MRI today and if the news isn’t good, Evans says he’ll sit out. He needs to. He played 27 minutes against the Wizards and was a shell of the star we saw during his rookie season. “Sometimes when I lay the ball up, I don’t want to come down because I feel like I’m going to twist my ankle,” Evans said. “So I’m kind of thinking about it too much. So if the pain keeps getting worse, I’ll sit out.”
HT’s Take: If you let the kids stay up and watch this we’re calling child protective services on you, because this wasn’t suitable for young eyes. The Kings have so many issues to work through to get on track and the Wizards — oh the Wizards … we’re not sure there is a remedy for what ails them that is sold (legally) in the states.
LA LAKERS 87, LA CLIPPERS 86
Looking good: We need to see a copy of the Clippers’ scouting report for this game. Surely, there has to be a line in there somewhere that says “in the event that we are ahead with seconds to play and on the verge of our biggest win of the season, double team both Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and let Ron Artest take that final shot.” Fine, maybe not. (And for the record, they did deny Bryant the ball on the inbounds play.) But you had to know Fisher was going to do something spectacular given the time and circumstance. It’s what he does.
Sound the Alarm: Blake Griffin gave a pretty good account of himself for his first Clippers-Lakers tilt. The 16 points and 11 rebounds constitute his 10th straight double double. But even more impressive is the respect he’s earning from his peers, including the guys at the other end of the Staples Center hallway. Said Artest: “Blake is a human highlight film. I haven’t even had a chance to study his game because I’m too busy looking at his dunks.” And Lamar Odom: “Kid next door. Explosive. Very explosive. The way he gets it, he’s very entertaining. Fun to watch.”
HT’s Take: This wasn’t the Lakers’ finest hour. And this would have been a grand upset for the Clippers. But on a night filled with crazy finishes, it was only fitting that we finished the show in Hollywood with a dramatic ending that fit the stage.