Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
Last season, the Toronto Raptors only had 14 games when they allowed less than 100 points per 100 possessions and at the end of the season they were dead last in defensive efficiency. Just nine games into the 2011-12 season, with largely the same personnel, the Raptors have already had four such games. Their latest came in this contest, as they held the Minnesota Timberwolves to 97.8 points per 100 possessions. Minnesota doesn’t have the greatest offense but they do move the ball well and they have a superstar on offense in Kevin Love.
That’s where Toronto’s defense started. Love had his worst game of the season thanks to an inspired effort by Amir Johnson, who spent the majority of the game checking Love. Love was held to three-of-16 shooting on his way to 13 points and three of his shots were blocked. Johnson also did as good as a job as you can on Love when boxing out and even though the Timberwolves power forward had 14 boards, Johnson didn’t concede one.
Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea were the only players that shot well against the Raptors as the small guards created problems on the drive and on the catch. But outside of that? Nothing was easy. Ricky Rubio? Two-of-nine from the floor. Derrick Williams? Four-of-11. Wesley Johnson? Zero-for-five.
After getting the job done on defense, which is a rarity for the Raptors, the scoring came at an efficient rate. Even in a game when their outside shot wasn’t falling (they were three-of-16 from deep), the Raptors were able to hold off a late Minneosta run. Amir Johnson wasn’t just putting in work on the other end, he also put in 19 points on seven-of-nine shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, eight of which were offensive boards. Andrea Bargnani had a bit of a rough time from the field but he made of 11 of his 25 shots and got to the line nine times on his way to a 31 point performance. Bargnani has been very, very good this season and he even picked up nine rebounds in this contest.
Toronto is one of the many teams that was written off before the year began that has started off the season strong. I’ll be getting into why they have gotten out of the gate fast later today but for now, the Raptors are 4-5 (which is better than Minnesota’s 3-6 even though the Timberwolves have gotten more attention). They haven’t had a very tough schedule but it is still impressive to see what this team has done early on this season.
Hit the jump for the rest of the game recaps…
Though the Indiana Pacers were without Danny Granger and George Hill in this game, this was a heck of a win for the 76ers. Terrific rotations, superior hustle, great positioning. It was all there for Doug Collins’ crew in the win. Without Granger running around and getting mid-range looks, the Pacers needed big games from their two big men and only one delivered and without a standout performance from the wing, the 76ers dominated most of this game.
The Pacers fought, though, and it was a single digit game for a good part of the fourth quarter. But the easy looks weren’t there for Indiana and against such a great defensive team, they weren’t able to mount a comeback.
Indiana shot 36% in the loss while the 76ers made half of their shot attempts. Roy Hibbert carried the offense as he continued to look like an emerging beast in the paint. When he gets the ball clean on the block against single coverage, he is a deadly offensive weapon. Seven of his 12 shots went in on the night, but he probably should have gotten more touches against a smaller, albiet tough, Philly frontline. David West added 15 points and 11 rebounds but his six-for-14 shooting was underwhelming.
One thing that West and Hibbert did very well in this game was force fouls. Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand both had five personal fouls in this game and that really should have opened it up for Indiana to get more interior buckets. But that wasn’t the case. Heck of a game from Thaddeus Young, who is proving game-by-game that he deserves his new contract. He made six of his seven shot attempts, finding his way to open spots on the floor when Philly needed a bailout shot. Eight boards, two assists, two steals and a block, too, for Young. Though he plays a completely different game than Brand, he covered the power forward position very well in his 31 minutes.
But what about the center spot? Rookie Nikola Vucevic had the best game of his young career. 11 points on five-of-eight shooting with eight boards and some great defense for the USC product, who even stepped out beyond the arc and hit a three in this game. His play early on this season makes it easy to see why Marreese Speights was an expendable piece when they dealt him to New Orleans last week. Vucevic may not have the ceiling that Speights does but there’s not a great chance to Speights ever finds his way to that roof and Vucevic is already a more willing and capable defensive player, which should Doug Collins smile, if in fact he can smile.
Brilliant play from Andre Iguodala in this one and I continue to love how he fits with this team, even if his contract hurts the cap sheet. His three-point shot may never be pure but 20 points, nine rebounds and five sweet assists (to just one turnover) with some excellent defense was fantastic. Love watching Iguodala play, especially under Collins, as those phantom games have become a rarity games.
The UCLA point guard battle was hard to watch at points, but it was a tough battle. If there had to be a winner it would be Holiday, because his team won the game and because he hit a dagger three to push the lead to ten in the fourth quarter while the Pacers were still hanging around. But still, four-of-12 shooting and seven turnovers (just two assists) for Holiday, who is allowed a game like this every two weeks, I suppose. Collison wasn’t much better, making just two of his 11 shots en route to an eight point outing. Games like this make that George Hill trade look even smarter, as he can effectively take over at point for 30 minutes a night if needed, but he missed this one with a sore back.
I saw some good things from Paul George in the loss, even if this was one of his worst games. Anything inside the arc clanked off the rim in this one from George but the kid is an incredible specimen. At a legit six-foot-10, he’s the tallest shooting guard in the league and his game is fluid. He won’t shoot this poorly very often and he did make three of eight from deep. 13 points, seven boards, five assists, five turnovers and five fouls for George in this one, but watch out for him as the season goes along.
You have to have the feeling that, unless Dwight Howard is in New Jersey by season’s end, Avery Johnson may not have that long of a tenure in New Jersey. But you have to place the blame on the roster rather than the coach, because there aren’t many that could conjure 25 wins out of this bunch.
New Jersey plays hard for Johnson, more times than not, and this was actually a really fun game.
For the first time all season really, all of the Hawks starters played well offensively but their effort didn’t translate on the other end, where New Jersey had their best game of the season. With the defense this team showed against Chicago in both of their meetings this season, this would have been a blowout, but instead, the let New Jersey hang around and it nearly cost them.
But it didn’t, because Joe Johnson can still get his. 22 points on nine-of-15 shooting for Johnson, who found his spots on the floor and made his shots, not overstepping his boundaries. Six dimes for Johnson, too. Fellow guard Jeff Teague had himself a game as well, as he put up 20 points on eight-of-13 shooting with three triples. Teague continues to look like a great fit for this Atlanta squad. He can do what Mike Bibby did and spot-up from deep and if his shot is off, he can breakdown the defense and get into the paint like few other Hawks can. And he can put in an effort on defense, too (Deron Williams had 15 points on 16 shots and six turnovers).
One Hawk that needs to spend more time in the paint is Josh Smith and it showed in this game why that’s the case. Smith had his best game of the young season, even if he didn’t put in much of an effort on the boards. He made 10 of his 14 shots and scored 26 points, and it could have been a 30 point outing if he had hit a few more of his 11 free throws. When Smith gets himself closer to the basket, he makes good things happen nearly every single time, it’s just a matter of him becoming a smarter player. If Smith had the brain of, say, Al Horford, you may have the best player in the league. Instead, Horford is his own man and he had himself a nice little game with 14 points, nine boards and six assists.
As I mentioned above, Deron Williams had an off night putting the ball in the cup but his teammates did put forth quite a performance to make up for it. Of course, he made a lot of that happen himself with his 14 assists.
Anthony Morrow had a great game, notching 20 points with four triples but the star of the show was MarShon Brooks, who has become a fan favorite in New Jersey because of his scoring exploits. Brooks was the lone player in the game to grab 10 rebounds (mostly because nobody missed as Atlanta shot 54% and New Jersey shot 47%) and poured in 19 points. Brooks has already shown the ability to get to the cup and to hit the mid-range shot and in this game he flashed some range with his three triples.
This New Jersey team is 2-8 after this loss, but things will get better when Brook Lopez returns. But unless Lopez departs again shortly after that, this time to Orlando, I’m just not sure this team is good enough to convince Nets management to stick with Avery Johnson as the team heads to Brooklyn.
You get the feeling that, even though the Knicks won this game, that if these two were matched up in a playoff series, Charlotte could win. Because they work harden than the Knicks do, both on defense and in their offensive sets, and they nearly won this game despite a couple of things:
The Cats nearly forced an extra period, too, but D.J. Augustin clanked a wide open three with four seconds left and Anthony sealed the game with one last free throw. The Knicks got the win but there are still problems with this team. They got great efforts from their non-stars in this one as Iman Shumpert put up 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in a spirited effort and Tyson Chandler had 20 points (seven-of-eight “shooting”) and 13 rebounds while playing as good help defense as you can with that cast; but Carmelo and Amare combined to shoot 13-of-43, they got three bench points and their team defense isn’t passable.
A championship caliber performance for the Bulls, who made the Pistons look silly in this one. The Pistons had an offensive efficiency of 82.9 in this game and shot 39%. That speaks loudly to the quality of Chicago’s defense.
A great game for Derrick Rose, as he made half of his 16 shots, scored 22 points and dished out eight assists. He did miss four of his five three-point attempts, so it wouldn’t kill him to keep those attempts to a minimum. That said, if you aren’t going to try to find your rhythm from deep in a blowout, when are you going to do it?
Carlos Boozer delivered an even better performance in this one, arguably his best as a Bull. He scored 23 points on nine-of-13 shooting and he grabbed eight rebounds (four offensive). If Boozer can return to the all-star form he was in as a member of the Utah Jazz, we may have start looking past the guaranteed Eastern Conference Finals match-up of Heat-Bulls and wonder who Chicago will face in the Finals.
Detroit was a mess in this one, but we did get a glimpse at the future of their franchise as Brandon Knight started at point and Greg Monroe played a heck of a game at center. Knight had 13 and five, which isn’t eye-popping but he was going up against the league’s most valuable player and the NBA’s top defense. Even against a tough D, Monroe was awesome. 14 points (five-of-nine), 10 rebounds and six assists for Monroe in the loss, and it was even more impressive than the near triple-double statline indicates.
The Nuggets are a great team, they really are. But their defense does have one major weakness that New Orleans has exposed in their past two meetings over the last couple of days. New Orleans ran pick and roll after pick and roll and they got open looks for their guards and their big men. This was a fun game to watch because it always felt like Denver would put together a run and win it, especially on their home floor, because that’s exactly what they did in New Orleans the other night.
Instead, the Nuggets continued to let the Hornets breakdown their defense and the Hornets held on to capture their third victory of the season, without Eric Gordon. New Orleans continues to play great defense under Monty Williams and they held a Denver team that may have the best offense in the league to 93.1 points per 100 possessions.
The Hornets got a great game from Carl Landry and another from Chris Kaman. Landry had 21 points on eight-of-15 shooting and was a bruiser downlow while Kaman added 20 on 10-of-16 shooting. Marco Belinelli was the beneficiary of a few kick outs and finished with 19 points on eight-of-13 shooting with three threes and Jarret Jack made quite a few of those kickouts and even on an off shooting night, he put up 13 points and nine assists.
Great win for the Hornets, who have proven they will fight in every game this season even if it costs them Anthony Davis.