Raptors, 76ers, Celtics, Knicks, Nets All Struggle
Toronto-Charlotte: Bargnani posted 25 and Lowry added 21, but it was not enough to lift the Raptors over the Bobcats. Charlotte put together one of their best games of the season as seven guys were able to get into double figures. Kemba Walker is having a heck of a sophomore season, making us wonder why Paul Silas failed to utilize his talents last year when the Bobcats became the laughing stock of the league.
The decision to draft Walker itself was questionable while D.J. Augustin was among the better players for Charlotte just two years ago. But this season he has been given the freedom to take control of the offense and play ball much like he did under Jim Calhoun at UCONN. Kemba is taking advantage of his opportunities this year and is proving that he was worthy of being taken ninth overall in 2011.
This season he has averaged 18.8 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.5 steals in nearly 37 minutes a game. Despite the Raptors’ superior shooting performance from the field, the Bobcats hung on to win by getting to the foul line 28 times and connecting on 82% of those attempts. The Bobcats improve to 6-5 after defeating the raptors 98-97. Meanwhile the Raptors now find themselves 3-8.
Philadelphia-Cleveland: No Kyrie, no problem. Jeremy Pargo spoiled the Sixers three game win streak by dropping 28 points against Philly on Wednesday night in a 92-83 win over the Cavs. That's right, Jeremy Pargo. Last time he put up that kind of performance he was running the show at Gonzaga. The Sixers put together a well-rounded game but the gap in the middle was their Achilles heel. Anderson Varejao had 10 points, but his 19 rebounds contributed to a plus 16 margin on the boards. With Andrew Bynum out of the lineup the Sixers have trouble controlling the paint and getting easy scores inside. Teams facing Philadelphia must attack the middle and make them prove they can defend the interior.
Boston-San Antonio: Rajon Rondo continues his brilliance as he put together a 22 points and 15 assists night in a 112-100 loss against the Spurs. The Celtic starters put together another nice night offensively, but were out rebounded once again in a big way as the Spurs dominated the glass 41-25. This is something you would expect from a Gregg Popovich team as they always seem to do all of the little things right. They play extremely well as a team and they give up very little ground in almost every area.
The Spurs stick to an old-school style of basketball where basics such as rebounding are emphasized every night. Duncan led the way for the Spurs as he notched 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Parker finished with 26 points and six assists, but the real difference came from bench scoring. Tiago Splitter had 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting, providing the bulk of the spurs bench scoring which doubled that of Boston (34-17). Splitter and Duncan’s offense only reiterated the deficiencies of the Celtics interior in what was a tough loss for the C’s.
New York-Dallas: Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd faced their former team the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night in what resulted in only the second loss of the year for the Knicks by a narrow three points. This was one of the best games of the year so far between two teams with high hopes for the season. O.J. Mayo continues to have the hot hand as he was the game’s leading scorer with 27 points and Vince Carter added 25 points by hitting five threes off the bench.
These two teams put together virtually identical games. Both teams shot around 50% from the floor including a number of threes, both went for about 80% from the foul line, and each team had 14 turnovers. Carmelo missed a tough jumper with three seconds left as the Knicks were down one. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in. This was a good test for both teams that are missing their top power forwards. If this game tells us anything, it is that the Mavericks are starting to figure out how to play with each other at a high level. When Nowitzki gets back, this team will be interesting to watch in the west.
Brooklyn-Golden State: The Nets suffered a tough loss on Wednesday night as the Warriors ran away with a 102-93 victory. With Gerald Wallace out for precautionary reasons due to his ankle injury, the Nets must really play well to beat a solid team. When they made their way to Oakland they ran into a team that was ready to shoot the ball, finishing 53% from the field. The Warriors’ big three tonight came from Steph Curry who had 25, Thompson added 23, and David Lee had a big double-double with 20 and 13 rebounds. This was simply too much for the shorthanded Nets that struggled to get both Deron Williams and Joe Johnson going as the two starting guards combined for only 22 points. With these two guys having off nights, Brooklyn will be hard pressed to win games.