HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Too bad the Trail Blazers didn’t continue the St. Patrick’s Day theme by sporting green uniforms. That would have meant all three winning teams from last night rocked the green.
The green worked well for the Bulls and Knicks, but the Blazers didn’t really need to make a fashion statement to dispatch the lowly Cavaliers. The Bulls continue their domination of the competition this month, winning their eighth straight game and reclaiming their half-game lead over the Celtics for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
And to think some of you disagreed with our take last week about Derrick Rose being the frontrunner for MVP honors. He’s getting from all sides these days, including at opposing arenas, per our main man K.C. Johnson the Chicago Tribune:
The “MVP” chants occur in every arena now, including Thursday night in Prudential Center as the Bulls beat the Nets 84-73. If they eventually become reality, Derrick Rose will supplant Wes Unseld as the youngest most valuable player in NBA history.
Rose, 22, also will become the first player to win the award in his third season since Moses Malone in 1978-79. Michael Jordan won his first after his fourth season in 1987-88.
All along, Rose has downplayed talk of the award, even shrugging off Jordan’s endorsement. Rose said he’s focused on winning and growing as a leader.
“I feel more comfortable,” Rose said. “I’m able to talk to my guys no matter what it’s about. If it’s on the court, they know if I yell at them it’s nothing serious. We’re just trying to win. People are going to yell at you in basketball. I’m fortunate to have this bunch of guys who don’t complain about anything. They just want to hoop.”
Rose outplayed Nets All-Star Deron Williams (who was 1-for-12 against the Bulls) for the second time this season, despite his own rough shooting (8-for-23) night. And the Bulls ended the Nets’ five-game winning streak in the process.
DOUGLAS, KNICKS GO DEEP TO KNOCK OFF GRIZZLIES
Toney Douglas tied a Knicks record with nine 3-pointers, helping the Knicks bury the Hang Time Grizzlies under a franchise-best 20 makes from beyond the 3-point line.
All those 3-pointers helped the Knicks end their three-game slide. And according to Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Knicks, especially for Mike D’Antoni:
Only Latrell Sprewell (twice) and John Starks had ever made nine 3-pointers in a game for the Knicks before, and Douglas’ performance removed some of the tension from a building — and a metropolitan area — that was feeling lots of it as the evening began with the three-game losing streak and the Knicks’ recent defensive struggles hanging over their collective heads.
“You know what the problem is?” D’Antoni continued. “We’ve shown some really good stuff and we’ve shown some good defense [by winning in Atlanta and Miami]. Then we’ve shown some nights when we couldn’t stop anybody. Sometimes it’s the level of intensity that we have, and sometimes when guys come into a new city it’s the little things: They’re not settled, they don’t have their house ready. You go on the road and you come back and you’re not in a routine, and it catches up with you energy-wise and focus-wise. We had Chauncey [Billups] in, then out, then in, and we had to adjust to that. So these guys have been through a lot.
“But the biggest thing, and I’ll just keep repeating, is we’re not going to get caught up in the hysteria. We’re going to play as well as we can, get it together and hang in as a group, try and make the playoffs and try to do as good as we can.”
It was about as close to a rant as D’Antoni has come all season, and the word “hysteria” was immediately thrown back at him.
“Well, I exaggerate like you guys,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know. Just a little unease.”
Whether “unease” was a better word or not is immaterial.
BLAZERS JUST KEEP ON ROLLING
Beating up on the Cavs these days is really more like bullying than anything else. The Blazers did exactly what you expect a quality team to do to them this time of year.
But Mike Tokito of the Oregonian dug deeper and came up with an interesting take on super-efficient night LaMarcus Aldridge had:
There were a bunch of numbers to digest after the Trail Blazers’ 111-70 thrashing of Cleveland on Thursday, but here’s a personal favorite:
That’s the number of jump shots Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge took at the Rose Garden while accumulating 20 points to go with 11 rebounds.
Aldridge took only 10 shots from the field, and while that might have led to problems in other games, it did not Thursday as he made nine in a super-efficient performance. Only one of the shots was a jumper, a 14-footer that he made.
The other makes all were from six feet and in, with a five-foot turnaround, three of his hooks in the lane, two putbacks on offensive rebounds and two dunks. His lone miss also was inside, a six-foot hook.
It was the logical performance given Cleveland coach Byron Scott’s report before the game in which he seemed to fear Aldridge’s jumper more than his inside game.
“There’s really no defense for him when he’s 15 feet out,” Scott said. “He has that shot so high and he gets it over anybody who guards him. In the post, we just have to do a good job of trying to guard him and get him to be what he is, which is an unselfish basketball player, and hope he throws it out and hope we can rotate to those guys, get them to shoot contested jumpers.”