Tuesday, November 20, 2012
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: The game ended and the music blared and the streamers fell and ... What? No streamers? No triumphant jog off the court? No fans racing to their cars to relive the highlights on the postgame show? No looking forward to the updated power rankings? No Z-Bo grinning and tossing his headband to some giddy kid in the stands? No Grizzlies victory? Whoa. That's strange. But true. The Grizzlies will not finish the season 81-1. They picked up loss No. 2 Monday, defeated by the Denver Nuggets, 97-92. If it felt surreal, that's understandable. The Grizzlies hadn't lost a regular season game in FedExForum since March 18. They hadn't lost any game at all since the opener to the Clippers, way back in October. They were the toast of the NBA, the talk of the town. Earlier Monday, they made it to the top of ESPN's power rankings for the first time in franchise history. Oh, and they were embarking on a five-game homestand. Win all those and the Grizzlies would be an astonishing 13-1. Or, would have been. But for the Nuggets. And don't even think about bringing up the officiating. Yes, it was lousy.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The little man stared into the belly of the beast. No, literally. There was a dribbling Ty Lawson, his back arced just so, facing the stomach of Memphis' Sasquatch of a center, the hairy and scary Marc Gasol. Lawson, with brilliant body control, averted the big man under the basket and instead curved away, spotting Danilo Gallinari on the right wing. Gal-looooooooo! Yep, Gallo hit the 3, giving the Nuggets a four-point lead Monday night with 12.7 seconds left, a Rocky Balboa-like knockout by Denver's own version of the "Italian Stallion." The visitors thus defeated the hottest team in basketball 97-92, thanks to another clutch 3-pointer by Gallo, who also led Denver to a road victory at Golden State … It was a win the team will remember all season.
- Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: These Clippers said they were up for the challenge of this difficult four-game trip, even if it did start against the always-tough San Antonio Spurs. By defeating the Spurs, 92-87, Monday night at the AT&T Center, the Clippers began their trip the right way. They beat the Spurs for the second time this season because Chris Paul was solid again, scoring 19 points and handing out eight assists, and because Blake Griffin was solid with 16 points and 12 rebounds. "At the end of the day, I always say you can't win them all without winning the first one," Paul said. "So, you have to set the tone in the first game. And this is a place that you can easily come in here and get blown out." The Clippers won their sixth consecutive game because their bench was as good as ever. … Now it's on to Oklahoma City for the Clippers, where they will play the NBA runner-up Thunder on Wednesday.
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs were already down one starting small forward before they even walked into the AT&T Center on Monday night. Eleven minutes and nine seconds into the game against the Los Angeles Clippers, they lost another one. No Kawhi Leonard, no Stephen Jackson, and the Spurs still battled one of the NBA’s hottest teams to the wire before falling 92-87. If the Spurs were looking to take comfort from coming close, their coach was having none of it. “I thought for a portion of that game we were an embarrassment,” Gregg Popovich said. … Before the game, Popovich mentioned the Clippers in the same breath as Oklahoma City as a team that could win the Western Conference. “Absolutely, they’re legit,” Popovich said. For 48 minutes Monday, the Clippers did nothing to change Popovich’s mind, winning on a night in which the Spurs held them more than 10 points below their scoring average. But the Spurs didn’t help themselves during a dreadful second quarter in which they didn’t respond well to the loss of a player known as “Captain Jack.”
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Point guard Stephen Curry refused to let the Warriors lose. He tweaked his troublesome right ankle. He had Dallas throwing the kitchen sink at him. He had Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo trying to one-up him. Monday night, however, Curry would not be denied. He finished with 31 points, nine assists and six rebounds, leading the Warriors to a 105-101 overtime win over the Mavericks. Curry totaled 20 points and four assists in the fourth quarter and overtime. "He was our leader," coach Mark Jackson said. "He is our leader. But tonight, I really believe he took it to a whole different level."
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Rodrigue Beaubois' health has become a concern for the Dallas Mavericks. From injuries to his foot, ankle and hand, Beaubois has run the gamut on being gimpy and unable to give 100 percent on the court. It has become a regular occurrence for the fourth-year guard, who currently wears a brace on his left ankle. "I've been really concerned about his health, to be completely frank about it," coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's the guy that if he's five percent off in his athleticism and his quickness, it's going to affect his game and it's going to affect guys around him. Right now we are going to need him to play in some situations. But if he's not playing that much we encourage him to spend more time on rehab strengthening and those kinds of things." Beaubois has been in and out of the lineup while nursing his injuries and went into Monday's game against the Golden State Warriors averaging just 4.4 points and 2.6 assists in 16.3 minutes per game while shooting only 31.4 percent. "I don't think Roddy is completely comfortable yet," owner Mark Cuban said. "I still think he's favoring his foot and his hand and his ankle."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The decision last week to trade for power forward Hakim Warrick now looks quite fortunate after the Charlotte Bobcats lost Tyrus Thomas for two months with a calf injury. Thomas suffered a torn plantaris muscle during Saturday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bobcats traded Matt Carroll to the New Orleans Hornets to acquire Warrick. Coach Mike Dunlap said the biggest thing they’ll miss from Thomas is at-the-rim defense. Thomas averages 1.4 blocks per game this season. … If Ramon Sessions continues to play as he has this first month he’ll end up the best free-agent signing in Bobcats history. For now, I’d say that would be Kwame Brown on a one-year veteran minimum. … Rookie Jeff Taylor has greatly benefited from starting in place of the injured Gerald Henderson. He’s figured out how to guard aggressively without fouling and he’s driving effectively to the rim.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks backup point guard Beno Udrih is finding a way to contribute each night, even though starter Brandon Jennings is playing 35 minutes a game and Monta Ellis is averaging 36 minutes. On Monday Udrih had five points and a team-high seven assists despite playing just 16 minutes. He was on the floor early in the fourth quarter as the Bucks built their 11-point lead before Charlotte rallied to win, ending the Bucks' three-game winning streak. Udrih contributed 10 assists against Indiana last week, tying his highest assist mark as a member of the Bucks. Then he scored eight key points early in the fourth quarter against New Orleans on Saturday before giving way to Ellis. Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Udrih is shooting more confidently than he did last season. The veteran is shooting 46% overall (23 of 50) and 44.4% from three-point range (4 of 9).
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The Pacers simply needed a victory and Roy Hibbert simply needed to get on track offensively. All the parties involved walked out of the Verizon Center very happy Monday night. … I thought maybe Hibbert’s mother whipped up one of his favorite meals or something to get going. But instead I noticed her sitting feet from the bench during the first quarter after the Big Fella had already made his first three attempts and dished out a couple of assists. Pacers PR ace David Benner told Hibbert after the game that he needs to take some of the money from his high-priced contract and fly his parents to the remaining games this season. That wouldn’t be a bad idea for Hibbert. Then it turns out that coach Frank Vogel was also in the mix of things. He made a call to Hibbert at about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday to chat with him and let his starting center know that he still has confidence in him. Guess it’s a good thing that Hibbert’s a late-night person. … Monday was a start. Now it’s time for it to happen again on Wednesday against No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets.
- Gene Wang of The Washington Post: The lack of production from Crawford and fellow first-teamers Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Emeka Okafor and A.J. Price in large part sent the Wizards to their franchise-worst ninth consecutive loss to the start the season, 96-89, on Monday night at Verizon Center, where players heard boos early in the first quarter and as the final buzzer sounded. It was a particularly bad night for Crawford, who finished 2 for 12 and was inserted late only because backup Trevor Booker was limping on the court. “We don’t have a strategy right now. We’re 0-9,” said Crawford, whose 24 minutes 11 seconds and 11 points were the most among the starters. “We need to go with what works, and the second group was working. They got us back in the game, and I’m proud of them.”
- Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Turns out, Tyrone Corbin doesn't like the word "bench" being used when talking about the new reserve roles for Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams. While laughing, the Jazz coach made that point clear during Monday's postgame interview at EnergySolutions Arena. “They're not on the bench," he said, smiling. "We just call it, 'We didn't start them.' " However it's described, Corbin and the Jazz sure loved what those two players who didn't start accomplished after leaving their reserved seats down the row from him after tipoff of Monday's 102-91 win over the Houston Rockets. … Williams entered only a minute into the contest after Derrick Favors picked up a quick second foul, and scored all 12 of his points in a first-half reversal. Hayward, meanwhile, led all Jazz scorers with 15 points and played a key role in turning things around for Utah after coming off the area formerly known as the bench.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Jazz blew the Rockets out in the first half, let them rally, then blew them out again, leading by as much as 23 on the way to a 102-91 beatdown Monday at EnergySolutions Center. With the Rockets sick (James Harden struggled through a half with upper respiratory distress) and tired (playing their third road game in four nights), they were overwhelmed in every way, but it was clear what was lacking most. “It’s all about our effort,” said forward Chandler Parsons, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists but could not continue his recent hot shooting. “The first half again, they were getting so many easy buckets in transition. We didn’t come out there with the fire and passion we need to. Granted, it’s the last game of a road trip. There’s no excuse. We just didn’t come out and play the way we should have.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: There was a real sense of relief among the Hawks when they got off the road and away from the virus that swept through the team on the four-game trip. After seven days away, most of them spent trying to fend off the bug, the Hawks figured they’d find a safe haven at Philips Arena tonight. The Hawks were healthier but the effects of that West Coast voyage still lingered. The Hawks eventually shook off a sluggish start and overcame a lackluster finish to pull out an 81-72 victory against the Magic. “That was a really tough game for us to play,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “I could tell guys were still weary from the West Coast. We didn’t have our legs early.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The last thing the Magic should do is make things tougher on themselves. But that's what they did Monday night. They committed one turnover after another. The Atlanta Hawks took advantage of all those miscues and beat the Magic 81-72 at Philips Arena. Only a strong effort by their youngsters down the stretch prevented a blowout. "We just need to make the easy play, the simple play," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Basketball is complicated when you make it complicated. The first guy that's open, pass it to him. It doesn't matter who it is. Get movement. And keep it simple." It seemed anything but simple for the Magic (3-7) against the Hawks (5-4). Orlando committed 19 turnovers, which led to 24 Atlanta points. Game over.