Friday, November 16, 2012
First Cup: Friday
By Nick Borges
- Nate Taylor of The New York Times: Coach Mike Woodson screamed at his players as they came to the bench. Tyson Chandler screamed back. Then Carmelo Anthony was able to get everyone’s attention by shouting the same word over and over again: “Relax.” In the final seven minutes, the Knicks proved they are legitimate in erasing a 12-point deficit with a 27-11 run to hand the Spurs their first home loss of the season, 104-100, on Thursday night. The Knicks (6-0), who won here for the first time since 2003, will try to match their best start in franchise history Friday when they play the Grizzlies in Memphis. What made the Knicks’ comeback remarkable was how Carmelo Anthony played in the final minutes. Anthony had a poor shooting night (3 of 12) and did not attempt a shot in the pivotal fourth quarter. “There was a point in the game where I went to huddle everybody up and said “use me a decoy,’ ” Anthony said. “It worked.” Anthony’s ability to trust his teammates resulted in him passing the ball to Raymond Felton (25 points), J. R. Smith (17) and Jason Kidd (14), who all provided crucial baskets.
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: There are certain portions of every NBA box score that lie. Or at least, that tell only half truths. For instance, when Tim Duncan checked the final line Thursday and found the Spurs had held the NBA’s leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting? “You assume you win that game,” Duncan said. Instead, it was Anthony’s New York Knicks — behind 25 points from Raymond Felton and three backbreaking fourth-quarter 3-pointers from the ageless Jason Kidd — who escaped the AT&T Center with a 104-100 victory. The Knicks rallied from 12 points down in the final 7:14 to remain the league’s only remaining undefeated team (6-0) and send the Spurs to their first regular-season home loss since April 11 of last season. In doing so, they reminded Spurs coach Gregg Popovich of the only honest stat in an NBA box score. “That score at the end of the game is huge,” Popovich said. “I don’t think it’s ever been wrong. It’s proven to be the most consistent stat.”
- Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News: The Nets are now 5-2, while reminding nobody of Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed, Charles Oakley or even Kenyon Martin. New Yorkers have always worshipped the fine art of stubborn resistance, from shot-blocking to sacrificing the body in the lane. We may have to make some new allowances for these Nets, who are doing things differently. Three weeks into the season, the Nets have their heads above water for once, making the key plays when required. The schedule has been kind to them. When the Celts came to Barclays Center, they were playing their second game in two nights and were without their turbine engine, Rajon Rondo. Still, the Celtics are a bunch of tough veterans and represented a litmus test of sorts for the Nets. A test they passed. “It’s just so fun,” Johnson said of the atmosphere, of the victory. “There were times (Boston) would have 75-80% of our fans, so it’s great to see our fan base shouting, ‘Brooklyn,’ and giving our team the support. Now we have our fans. Hearing them hollering in the fourth quarter it’s really fun.” … Good night for the Nets. Good home stand. Wish them good luck on the road. Just a little defense in the first three quarters probably wouldn’t hurt.
- Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: The Celtics’ vulnerability on the defensive boards has been exposed this week. The Jazz had 18 offensive rebounds on Wednesday (a 98-93 Celtic win) and the Nets grabbed 18 (15 in the first half) on Thursday in taking a 102-97 victory. “I see that as improvement,” coach Doc Rivers said of the Celtics’ second-half rebounding. … Courtney Lee scored 13 points and led the Celtics with nine rebounds. … Said Paul Pierce: “The last two nights, it’s been very alarming. It’s all about our effort, our grit, how bad we want the ball when it goes up. We have to do a better job in our effort. I think we have enough players to get the job done. Rebounds, we have to do a better job at that, can’t wait to turn it on when we get down.”
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: LeBron? Sublime. But you already know that. His seventh assist might have been his best, a back-pass for a Mike Miller three. His last one, though, to Norris Cole (Norris Cole?) was the biggest. As for Miller, that's Mike Miller as in the player who had to start in place of sidelined Dwyane Wade. In a game Mario Chalmers was lost seven minutes in with a strained right triceps muscle. Just an odd way for the Heat to end a 10-game losing streak in Denver. Of course, Wade still has never won here. But now Udonis Haslem has. With Wade out, Udonis Haslem tied Wade for Heat all-time lead in regular-season games played at 604. Losing Chalmers early with his triceps injury is just another reason to be carrying a third point guard. … Face it, if Heat were going to play Terrel Harris in meaningful minutes, with Wade and Chalmers out, this would have been the game. So a wasted roster spot? And if Chalmers can't go Saturday in Phoenix and Wade remains out, might it be time for Garrett Temple on speed dial?
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: So LBJ had a nice fantasy night for sure – 27 points, seven boards, 12 assists and three blocks. But according to statistical service Synergy Sports, Denver’s Andre Iguodala held LeBron James to just six points on 9 possessions when directly defending him. Danilo Gallinari? Four points on six possessions. Most of the damage was done on breakaways (and isolations when LBJ got a mismatch on players such as Andre Miller, Jordan Hamilton or even once against center JaVale McGee). Even then, the Nuggets held him to 27 points on 23 shots (11-for-13, 5-for-6 from the line). Still, as my buddy @tomhaberstroh of ESPN pointed out on Twitter: LeBron with 27 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in the win. Only reached those numbers 3 times in his career.
- David Barron of the Houston Chronicle: Kelvin Sampson shrugged off the impact of a young Rockets team playing Sunday night at Staples Center against a Lakers team that will make perhaps its first start under new coach Mike D’Antoni. In particular, Sampson thought center Omer Asik won’t be star-struck by the moment. “Omer doesn’t know if he’s on foot or horseback half the time, so I’m not sure he knows what the Staples Center is,” Sampson said. “I don’t think that will bother our guys.”
- Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: Derrick Williams was given considerable physical gifts, and he is squandering them. He is being given the precious gift of NBA playing time, and he is wasting it. As the Timberwolves begin to resemble the cast of the "The Walking Dead," Williams is sleepwalking through one of the most important periods of his young career. The Wolves need him, and he is fading away from responsibility the way he fades away from the basket when confronted by a defender. … Williams doesn't seem to get it. He is playing in an offensive system that should allow him to thrive, and he is shrinking when the Wolves need him to prove his worth. It's too early to give up on Williams. It's not too early to stick him at the end of the bench and make him watch pros like Kirilenko and Cunningham play with a sense of purpose. It's too early to call Williams another Timberwolves draft bust, but he's got one foot in Wes Johnson territory.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Thunder has changed and its bench must now evolve. Scott Brooks is in the process of plotting that transformation, and he has a plan that could work. It’s an adjustment that has the potential to bring more balance to the bench unit while establishing additional harmony in the star-studded first string. The idea is to sub out Kevin Durant earlier. It’s a strategy Brooks told me following practice today that the coaching staff began kicking around earlier in the day. By sitting Durant earlier, the Thunder can accomplish three things: most importantly a more sensible rotation that relies less on only Eric Maynor and Kevin Martin to create, secondly, an opportunity for Westbrook to run as wild as his heart desires for longer stretches and, lastly, more rest for Durant.
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Rudy Gay woke up one day and had a heart-to-heart with himself. He decided it was time to make a change. Gay thought he could give a lot more of himself and become a better teammate. And the soul-searching led Gay to ask his longtime girlfriend, Ecko Wray, for her hand in marriage. "It's time for me to take control of my life," Gay said. "It's not just about basketball. It's about me personally, too." So while the basketball universe looks at the Grizzlies' 6-8 small forward and sees a player ready to soar to new heights, Gay couldn't be more grounded. To say the 26-year-old is settled might be an understatement. There is no date yet for the nuptials with the woman he's dated since 2004, but Gay passionately states that he is "ready." He's also clearly geared up to make his seventh NBA season his best. The Griz are off to a franchise-best 6-1 start with Gay one of the main catalysts. Entering Friday night's game against the New York Knicks, Gay leads the Griz with 20.7 points per game.
- Eric Koreen of the National Post: There have not been many moments in his eight years in Toronto that have been worth remembering. But Calderon deserves to be remembered. Calderon’s contract expires after this year, and it seems unlikely that his future will be in Toronto following this season, given the presence of Kyle Lowry. It is possible, maybe even probable, that the Raptors will trade him before the February deadline. … If Calderon is not traded or significantly injured before the season ends, he will finish the year as the all-time franchise leader in games played — he is currently 19 games behind Chris Bosh and 54 games behind Morris Peterson. He has nearly twice the number of assists (3,492) as second-place Alvin Williams and is fifth in both scoring and three-pointers made. … The US$45-million contract he received was likely a bit too much for what he has provided. His flaws have been the Raptors’ flaws. But Calderon should be remembered for a number of positives.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic used to take almost record-setting numbers of 3-pointers But not anymore. The firing of coach Stan Van Gundy, the trade of Dwight Howard and the accompanying radical roster restructuring have altered the way the Magic play offense — especially the shots they attempt. Last season, the Magic attempted just over 27 3-pointers per game. This season, they're trying a bit more than 13 per game. "I haven't said one time to the guys we want to shoot a certain amount of 3s or we don't want to shoot a certain amount of 3s," Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. "We want to shoot good, open shots." The Magic will hope to take better shots and end their five-game losing streak when they face the Detroit Pistons on Friday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Magic have failed to reach 90 points in each of their past four games.
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: As the worst defensive team in the league -- ranked 30th in opponent points and field-goal percentage -- that has been the focus of Scott's practices the last couple of days. The team has three days between games. "It's definitely beneficial," Kyrie Irving said. "We get to address a lot of issues, especially on the defensive end and just become more offensively sound. These couple of days have been really good for us. We've done a lot of running, I can tell you that and there's a lot of focus on defense. … Just realizing that defense takes multiple efforts. In order to be a good defensive team, it takes five solid guys out there together. It starts with our communication and multiple efforts . . . everything that has to do with defense. We have to fix everything."
- Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: These are not the best of times for Ersan Ilyasova. After signing a lucrative five-year contract over the summer that could pay him $40 million, Ilyasova is struggling mightily. He is averaging a mere 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a game compared to 13 points and 8.8 last season. Worse, Ilyasova is shooting a dismal 28 percent from the field, 28 percent from 3-point range and a horrific 43 percent from the free throw line. Last the season, he shot 49 percent from the field, 46 percent from beyond arc and 78 percent from the line. Ilyasova, who worked diligently during the offseason to get bigger and stronger, admitted he has felt the pressure of living up to his big contract. “I have had trouble sleeping lately,” Ilyasova said. “I just got to keep working and find my rhythm.”
- Tom Mahon the of the Philadelphia Daily News: PSSST, hey buddy, wanna buy Sixers tickets for 10 cents each? Don't laugh. According to Yahoo! Sports, you could have purchased a pair of tickets to Wednesday's Sixers-Pistons game at the Wells Fargo Center for a dime apiece on StubHub. If you wanted to spend a little more, 17 other tickets to the game were priced at 40 cents each. That's a bargain even with service charges. If you didn't get in on Wednesday's deal, don't fret. There are still scads of tickets for Sunday's Sixers-Cavaliers matchup priced from $1.72 on up. And Philly isn't the only NBA city where tix are being offered at bargain-basement prices. For example, tickets to Monday night's Magic-Hawks game in Atlanta can be had for a buck. There are similar prices for games involving the Kings, Bobcats, Hornets and Grizzlies.