Friday, January 6, 2012
First Cup: Friday
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: With contributions from young players including Terrel Harris, and with point guard Mario Chalmers stepping up late, the Heat simply outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 116-109 in triple-overtime at Philips Arena. "I think this win represents a lot of different things," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It represents toughness and character. The way it went down was an exercise in absolute endurance. It looked like a heavyweight fight at the end." A 63-minute heavyweight fight. Ultimately, the Hawks' legs were shot, the body no longer willing, outscored 7-0 in the third extra five-minute period, only the 10th time in NBA history a team has not scored in an overtime. "Any time you give a team that plays as hard as Miami plays, you give them any sort of life, they're going to make you pay for it," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. Without Wade and James, the Heat's lone remaining star, Chris Bosh, did his part, closing with 33 points and 14 rebounds, including a 3-pointer that tied it 93-93 with six-tenths of a second left in regulation. "A lucky shot," a drained Bosh said when it was over. Not so fast, Spoelstra said. "Chris works on his 3-point shot enough to make those key ones," Spoelstra said.
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Al Horford summed it up: “This by far has to be my worst defeat here as a Hawk. I didn’t feel like we wanted to win this game.” Possible exceptions include Ivan Johnson, Willie Green and Tracy McGrady. ... This was the kind of loss that people who can’t embrace the Hawks predict as soon as they hear LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are out. And then it happened. “I wish they would have played, to be perfectly honest,” Larry Drew said. “I think if they would have played we would have taken a whole different approach.” ... The good vibes generated by the Hawks after the W in Miami are gone now. And they still have to play two more games in two days. ... "The frustrating part is it’s little things we can control,” Horford said. “It’s free throws, it’s little things on defense that we do sometimes and other times we don’t. Tonight we probably let our guards down with those two guys being out. That’s somewhat of a factor, but that’s still no excuse.”
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: In this topsy-turvy, upside-down NBA season, where the Trail Blazers lead the Western Conference, the Clippers might be the biggest draw in Hollywood and the Miami Heat win despite playing without two of the Big Three, one thing remains the same. The City of Roses is a thorny place for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Blazers defeated the Lakers 107-96 Thursday night in a fast-paced, exciting and well played game that offered yet another painful reminder to the visitors of just how inhospitable the Rose Garden can be. The Blazers have now defeated the Lakers in 11 of the last 13 meetings at the Rose Garden and own a 61-40 all-time series edge in Portland. Since Kobe Bryant arrived in Los Angeles in a draft-day trade in 1996, his Lakers have mustered a measly 6-24 record in the Rose City. The latest Blazers victory came thanks to a rugged, all-around performance from Gerald Wallace (31 points, five rebounds, two steals), another solid night from LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 10 rebounds) and a host of contributions from everyone who played. Wallace, in particular, was a beast. From the opening quarter to the final horn, he harassed Bryant on defense, scored in a variety of ways on offense and electrified the sellout Rose Garden crowd. In the highlight of the night, Wallace gathered a long outlet pass from Marcus Camby on a wide open fast-break attempt and hammered down a windmill dunk.
- Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: It's no longer surprising when the Lakers lose up here. It's now a tradition. The only difference Thursday was the Lakers actually leading at halftime before being buried by the Portland Trail Blazers, 107-96, at the Rose Garden. They are five-time NBA champions since Kobe Bryant started his career but are 6-24 in Portland in the regular season since 1996. Equally appalling to Lakers followers: their team's 2-10 record here since drafting Andrew Bynum in 2005. The "Beat L.A." chant started on the heels of the national anthem, which wasn't surprising, considering how much Portland fans cared about this game. So did Gerald Wallace, who had 31 points on sterling 13-for-19 shooting. And LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 28 points. And Trail Blazers guards Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews, who combined for 33 points. It was quite the welcoming event for Coach Mike Brown, who never experienced the Lakers-Trail Blazers effect. For the rest of the Lakers, it was merely a new chapter in an ever-growing tome. Their long-distance shooting, already a cause for concern, struck a new low in a still-young season. The Lakers missed all 11 of their three-point attempts, the first time they failed to make one since a November 2003 game against Miami.
- Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: Pregame in the Mavericks' locker room Thursday night included the curious sight of Roddy Beaubois picking up marbles with his toes and placing them in a jar. Beaubois explained that he started doing it because Tyson Chandler did it last year, though Beaubois didn't explain what benefit is gained. Toe-strengthening, apparently.
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: A crew of about eight people were inside the Dallas Mavericks' locker room before Wednesday's game in Dallas filming Lamar Odom for an upcoming episode of the Khloe & Lamar reality TV show. The scene looked kind of odd at first glance. But Odom insists nothing was out of the ordinary. "The key is to make everybody comfortable, but you [media] guys are in there,'' Odom said. "Most of the part you wouldn't even know if I didn't tell you, because a camera crew is in there, and you guys are in there and they would blend right in. "And that's kind of the key to it like that -- for them to blend right in." When the Mavs acquired the forward from the Lakers on Dec. 10, owner Mark Cuban knew Odom would continue filming his reality TV show with his wife, Khloe Kardashian. "Of course the boss [Cuban] definitely knows what's going on,'' Odom said. "But this [basketball] is my main focus.''
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Before they arrived at the AT&T Center for their game against the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs had already had a good day. The surgery on Manu Ginobili’s fractured fifth metacarpal on his left hand had gone well, and the timeline for his return was set at “approximately six weeks.” A plate and screws were inserted in the injured hand to stabilize and strengthen the bone. Since Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had initially guessed it might be six to eight weeks before the return of the two-time All-Star, who had averaged 17.4 points in the first five games, that has to be good news, right? “I don’t know,” Popovich said. “It could have been four to six weeks. I don’t pay any attention to it. When he’s ready, he’s ready.” Ginobili posted a positive report on the surgery on his Twitter account, which he also used to announce he was going to take a long nap. Presumably, he woke up in time to see his teammates score a 93-71 victory over the Mavericks.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel It's a recurring theme for the Milwaukee Bucks this season. Another big lead, another bad finish. This one was of the nightmarish variety after the Bucks blew a 21-point halftime margin and 14-point lead after three quarters to fall to the Sacramento Kings, 103-100, on Thursday night at Power Balance Pavilion. The Bucks had a 14-point first half lead on opening night in Charlotte and lost by one point. They held a 20-point lead in the third quarter and had to hold off a Minnesota rally to win the home opener, 98-95. And they led for most of the game before falling, 91-86, in Denver to start this five-game trip. In that game the Bucks missed 12 of their final 14 shots. On Thursday, the Bucks were 7 of 18 in the final quarter and allowed the Kings to shoot 62% in the period as they were outscored, 35-18. Poof. Another lead gone.
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: This was a necessary move, the obvious move, the only move. Paul Westphal was doomed because his team was losing games in an alarming manner, and repeatedly and openly acknowledging their sins, of which there were many. You know the drill. The ball movement was horrific. The body movement was nonexistent. The transition defense was embarrassing. And if anyone wants to dump Westphal's firing at the feet of 6-foot-11, 270-pound DeMarcus Cousins, well, have at it. He is the biggest and easiest target. His mother isn't the only one who wants to wipe the smirk off his face. But you would be wrong. The real issue here? The real coach-killer? A collective lack of effort. The Kings' persistent and perplexing lack of energy was far more damaging to Westphal's job status than their immature center, their poor transition defense, their shooting woes and even their trademark death-by-dribbling offense that sucked the life out of the team (and the crowd) faster than a fatal dose of arsenic.
- Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee Chuck Hayes organized a players-only meeting Thursday morning to watch and critique game film following the Kings' 110-83 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, which dropped them to 2-5 to start the season. At the meeting, said DeMarcus Cousins, players "had our heart-to-hearts, we all discussed what we need to do better, we all held each other accountable. Chuck, he got on the bigs. I got on the bigs. (Francisco Garcia) got on the guards. "It showed tonight," Cousins said. "We went over film and showed our mistakes, just rotations and how in the offense we catch (the ball) and just stop. So we went over a lot and we got a good thing out of it." Garcia said he addressed the team, not just the guards, about the need to play together on the defensive end. Guard Marcus Thornton said the main message players took away from the meeting was that better effort was needed.