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This game was a bit sloppy for stretches and the defense would fade in and out, but boy was it a fun game to watch. The Wizards led comfortably in the fourth quarter, then the 76ers made their push, even taking the lead at one point, setting up for one of the best closing stretches of the young season.
Clutch baskets from John Wall, three after three and free throw after free throw from Lou Williams, and a game-tying three with milliseconds left on the clock from Cartier Martin forced an extra period. In the overtime session, Wall attacked the rim, set-up his teammates and calmly watched as Andray Blatche posted up on the do-or-die possession with seven seconds left in the game rather than demanding the ball.
Blatche got bailed out a bit on his iso set against Elton Brand. He got by Brand, but he was forced baseline and the only hope for a made field goal was a hook shot on the opposite side of the rim. But Brand grabbed his back and he got himself a pair of free throws. He knocked them both down, giving the Wizards a one point lead with seven seconds left, and then made a potential game saving defensive play on the other end by stopping the hot hand, Luo Williams, from getting off a good look.
Instead, Andre Iguodala was forced into a 12-foot jumper at a bad angle for him and the Wizards, after starting off the season with two underwhelming performances against two of the best teams in their conference (Orlando and Atlanta), picked up their first win of the year.
Wall, their star and leader, finished with a career high (yes, I know he’s a rookie) 29 points on his most efficient shooting night as a pro (nine-of-16 shooting). Wall got eight of his 16 shots at the rim, converting seven of them, got to the line 14 times, and knocked down two of his four mid-range jumpers, one of which he dropped during the overtime period.
Wall also racked up 13 assists, five of which led to baskets at the rim. Wall continues to show so much ability when it comes to setting up teammates, which isn’t something he was noted for coming out of Kentucky. His touch on the move is unparalleled, even with his new NBA counterparts, his feel for the game on the pick and pop has been excellent, and if there’s a capable shooter spotting up in the corner, chances are Wall will find them on the drive and kick.
The eight turnovers are hard to stomach, but on at least three of his miscues can be attributed to his post guys, mainly Blatche, for not fighting hard enough for position when asking for the ball with their backs to the basket. That allowed their defenders to sneak by and pick off the entry pass, which could have been avoided with the proper seal. On the flip side, Wall created nine turnovers for the 76ers, as he ended up with nine steals, one the best, if not the best, marks you’ll see all season long. Wall’s speed allows him to get into passing lanes in the blink of an eye and his ability to read those lanes is advanced for such a young player.
Blatche had a poor shooting night, missing 12 of his 17 shots, but he made up for it by getting to the free throw line 14 times. Nick Young added 20 points on seven-of-11 shooting. He’s not afraid to fire, which is good some nights and bad on most. Tonight, it was good to see him hoist up shots, mostly because the looks he was getting were efficient ones and perfectly set-up by Wall.
Philly got a game high 30 from Lou Williams, who was 0-of-7 in the first half. Williams had three three’s in the second half and overtime and got to the free throw line a remarkable 17 times. Elton Brand had a great game as well before committing his sixth foul late in overtime that led to the game-winning free throws from Blatche. He had 21 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists while shooting nine-of-11 from the field. Andre Iguodala had 12 points on 13 shots and was forced to take that final shot. He did have nine assists. I continue to think that he needs to find himself a new home next to a superstar to play his more natural role as Pippen-lite.The Hawks were down in this game in the second half for a brief possession, which isn’t very good. They responded, though, and held the Cavs to just 98.9 points per 100 possessions thanks to a career evening from Marvin Williams. Williams has always had the talent and athletic ability to become a solid contributor in this league and could still possibly turn into a solid starter. Its also been about a lack of confidence and aggressiveness for him and tonight he bucked that trend. Williams had 22 points on eight-of-12 shooting with a pair of mid-range jumpers and a trio of finishes at the rim.
Joe Johnson had his first inefficient game of the season, shooting six-of-21 from the field for just 15 points, but he racked up nine assists and grabbed six rebounds. Josh Smith had his troubles on both ends of the floor in this one, but he was active and grabbed 11 boards and blocked five shots. Fresh off a contract extension, Al Horford put in 16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
The Cavs were led by youngster J.J. Hickson, who showed a ton of potential in this game despite being up against one of the better defenders in the league. Hickson had 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting, got to the line 11 times and even hit all six of his attempts from 16-23 feet. His rebounding needs to improve but offensively his many talents are shining through. Mo Williams struggled in his season debut, missing eight of his 12 shots.It continues to amaze me how teams can mess up defensively as badly as they do against the Celtics. Rajon Rondo has started off the season on the best assist-binge in the history of the league, which is impressive, but I just don’t see how defenses can continuously leave the players he is making passes to open. Yes, Rondo’s passes are spot-on more often than not, but that doesn’t excuse the defense from not closing out on Kevin Garnett when he’s spotting up from 20-feet. At this point in his career, that’s what Garnett is, a spot-up shooter or a pick and pop player. But even though I know this, you know this, and your cousin’s sisters infant nephew knows this, I watched Jason Maxiell sit and watch as Garnett fired up a mid-range jumper.
Rinse, rather and repeat and throw in the occasional Ray Allen spot-up three and you have a 17 assist game for Rondo, with no turnovers. The Pistons didn’t defend and, as always, offensively, they were a mess, scoring just 96.6 points per 100 possessions. Garnett finished with 22 points on nine-of-12 shooting, and eight of his nine makes were assisted on. Perhaps this amazing stretch for Rondo is a product of their level of competition (Miami in their first game, the Knicks, Pistons and Cavs), but someone needs to closeout on KG. Anyone. Dwyane Wade had 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting. He got to the rim when he wanted to and didn’t have to work at all to get his points. Lebron James started off slow, but finished with 20 points on seven-of-12 shooting and 12 assists. James Jones and Eddie House hit five and four three-pointers respectively.
Kevin Love grabbed just six rebounds for the Timberwolves, who, as a team, scored just 94.2 points per 100 possessions. It was close for a quarter thanks to Luke Ridnour‘s sniping, but it wasn’t as entertaining as it sounds after that.Poor shot selection, point-blank misses, no ball movement and turnovers made the Bucks look like a bottom feeder up against the Blazers, who have looked like one of the best teams in the league so far. Milwaukee shot 38% as a team, making just three of their 15 three-point attempts while turning it over 17 times to just 16 assists. Corey Maggette was four-of-12 from the field, John Salmons was two-of-14, and Brandon Jennings was two-of-seven.
The Blazers controlled the game with a team effort, specifically defensively, where they held the Bucks to just 87.4 points per 100 possessions. LaMarcus Aldridge had to take 14 shots to score 14 points but he had eight rebounds, five blocks and four steals. Wesley Matthews added 18 and the Brandon Roy had 17 for the 4-1 Blazers. They take on Oklahoma City Thursday. Expect a special post regarding Roy then.This battle between the Gasol brothers went to the two-time NBA champion. Pau was simply brilliant yet again, providing a magical and efficient performance for the Lakers for the fourth time on the young season. He finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists compared to Marc’s 11 points (on three-of-eight shooting) and eight rebounds.
Kobe Bryant looked fantastic in this game as well, getting good lift on his jumper and making a mockery of O.J. Mayo in the pinch post with an array of elegant and nimble moves that got him easy looks. Bryant caught fire in the first half and hait a pair of deep, deep three’s. His elevation and his shot were perfect on each attempt. Bryant had 23 points on just 13 shots, making three of his five three’s and both of his 16-23 foot jumpers.
Also continuing their early season hot streak was Lamar Odom, who looks as good as any player in the league right now. He’s locked in, he’s in shape and he’s making his outside shot. When he’s one like that, there’s not much the rest of the NBA can do to stop the Lakers. They have too much size, versatility and experience to be taken down. Odom had 17 points on six-of-seven shooting with eight rebounds and six assists.
Odom didn’t quite get to double-digit rebounds, but that’s because of reserve Matt Barnes, who came in and attacked the glass relentlessly from the first second he touched the floor. He didn’t have the touch around the rim in this game and he lost several tip battles with the backboard, but he pulled down boards and at the worst created an easy putback chance for Pau. Barnes finished with 14 rebounds, a game high, as well as nine offensive boards.
Shannon Brown and Steve Blake also impressed off the bench. Brown converted on all three of his triple attempts and Blake made both of his shots from long range. With sniping like this from their back-up guards, the Lakers can get so much done offensively because of their presence in the post with Gasol and Kobe and all signs point to a breakout season for Brown and 82 games worth of savvy and effective play from Blake. Rookie Devin Ebanks got into this game as well and had a nasty dunk on the receiving end of an alley-oop from Blake in transition.
Memphis’ offense didn’t produce as many open looks for O.J. Mayo as it should have and not enough went through Marc Gasol, likely because of his foul trouble. Instead, Darrell Arthur, who has impressed to this point in the season as a fill-in for Zach Randolph, ended up taking nine jumpers from 16-23 feet, making just one.
The only effective offensive weapon that the Grizzlies had going tonight was Rudy Gay. Gay had 30 points on just 18 shots (making 12 of them, with five of his six misses coming from 16-23 feet) and had the touch all night long. When he decided to get to the rim in the second half, he did, discarding of Ron Artest rather easily at points, which was disheartening given how poorly Ron was on the end as well. Memphis can be a great offensive team when they run their offense through Marc Gasol, who is one of the best passing big men in the league, and get open looks for Mayo and Gay, but that wasn’t the case tonight against the defending champs.