Tuesday, December 3, 2013
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Playing the second of a back-to-back, short-handed, the Pelicans displayed an amazing effort to win in triple overtime against the Bulls. There were many opportunities for New Orleans to fold its tent in any of the extra periods, but the Pelicans persevered for the victory. There were incredible individual performances, notably Ryan Anderson who scored 36 points in 56 1/2 minutes on the floor. And consider this: for a game that went three extra periods, the Pelicans turned the ball over just 11 times. It really wasn't a surprise that small forward Al-Farouq Aminu would return to the starting lineup Monday night against the Chicago Bulls. The Pelicans will be without their best rebounder, Anthony Davis, for an undetermined length of time because of a broken left hand. So the next-best rebounder, Aminu, can't be sitting on the bench.
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Two of the Bulls' youngest players are headed in opposite directions. With Jimmy Butler still not even practicing because of turf toe, Tony Snell drew his third straight of what could be several more starts. Snell finished with six points in 22 minutes against the Pelicans. Meanwhile, Mike James, who, at 38, is the fourth-oldest player in the league, remained ahead of second-year speedster Marquis Teague in the backup point guard rotation. "You're doing what's best for the team," coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked if he felt the need to talk to Teague. "That's the way you deal with those things." Teague said he remains confident, even if his play has suggested otherwise. "It's not my decision, so all I can do is keep working and always be ready," he said. "It's a long season. A lot of things happen." Just look at Snell. Buried on the bench after a surprise first-half appearance in the season opener at Miami, the first-round pick averaged 15.5 points on 57.1 percent shooting, including 60 percent from 3-point land, in his first two starts. Asked if Snell had earned rotation minutes even when Butler returns, Thibodeau didn't bite. "We'll see how it unfolds," he said. "We need everybody.
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: At first, the Trail Blazers’ stunning early-season success was dismissed as a hot start. Then, after the wins piled up against so-so opponents, it was simply a byproduct of a soft schedule. But now, after another impressive victory against another top-notch foe, it’s hard to find too many flaws in what is unfolding in the Northwest. It’s time to hop aboard the bandwagon, Rip City. In one of their most impressive and rugged performances of the season, the Blazers outlasted Paul George and out-toughed the gritty Indiana Pacers, steamrolling their way to a 106-102 victory before 19,023 Monday night at the Moda Center. The win, which came in a playoff-like atmosphere before an energized crowd, improved the Blazers’ record to 15-3, their best after 18 games since the 1998-99 season, when they also opened 15-3. “We’re a pretty damn good team,” Wesley Matthews said, when asked what Monday night’s win showed. “And we can beat anybody.” ... The Blazers will face two more challenging opponents this week — including the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday — but they way they see it, they've already proven their early-season hot streak is no fluke.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: It hasn’t been the easiest start for 37-year-old Tim Duncan, who spent most of the opening month of his 17th season struggling to find a rhythm as his shooting percentage plunged below 40. But he picked a fine time to enjoy one of the greatest games of his career, exploding for 23 points and 21 rebounds to not only officially bust out of his slump, but torture former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer — now Atlanta’s head coach — in the process. Duncan became the oldest player since at least 1985-86 to record a 20/20, beating Boston’s Robert Parish (1991) by 48 days. And that was only half the story. He capped his historic night by drilling the game-winning jumper with 0.4 seconds left to rescue the Spurs after they squandered a late seven-point lead. Nobody was less surprised by Duncan’s dominance than Budenholzer, who sat courtside for all 20 of Duncan’s previous 20/20s. “I’ve seen that very play,” he said. “That’s a credit to them and their execution and to Timmy. He’s made that shot in a lot of games. Timmy’s a heck of a player, the greatest power forward ever. He did a heck of a job. I’m happy for him in a strange, pissed off kind of way.” The Spurs improved to 15-3, but only by the skin of their teeth
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks did play with much better pace then their previous two games, when the fell behind by 17 and 18 points. The guard play of Teague, Lou Williams and Shelvin Mack enabled the Hawks to push the ball. After struggling offensively the past two games, they put up 100 points against a Spurs team that entered the game second in the NBA in points allowed at 91.2. The improved pace, nearly to a man, was the biggest take-away for the Hawks. “We stayed true to our execution," DeMarre Carroll said. "We were running the plays with good pace. We were going to our second and third options on plays and not just settling for jumpers. It worked out. We hit a lot of shots. We have to take this game, even though it’s a loss, and continue to improve on it. "To be able to stand toe-to-toe with them, and it’s basically their system, we are working toward something bigger and better.”
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The goal seems simple for most organizations, but it has been an arduous journey for a Washington Wizards franchise accustomed to slow starts and lottery appearances in the past six years. But with the target well in sight on Monday night, and with a realistic chance to make it happen against a weaker opponent, the Wizards stepped onto the court at Verizon Center focused on finally reaching .500 for the first time in four years. With Trevor Ariza leading the way with hot perimeter shooting, John Wall running another solid floor game and Nene once again battling through a sore right Achilles’ tendon, the Wizards beat the Orlando Magic, 98-80, to improve to 9-9. Before the game, Coach Randy Wittman said he wanted to see his team continue its climb from a 2-7 start. The Wizards completed a stretch of nine games in 14 days by going 7-2 and they now have the third-best record in the weak Eastern Conference. They are also 34-34 in their past 68 games.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Former Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat can’t wait for Wednesday night. Gortat will visit Capitol Hill to attend a special screening of a movie based on the life of Lech Walesa, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Poland. “It’s going to be huge,” Gortat said, smiling broadly. For Gortat, a proud native of Poland, the event is one of the perks of living in the nation’s capital. Basketball, however, is the biggest perk. When the Phoenix Suns traded him to the Washington Wizards in late October, he moved from a rebuilding franchise to a team with legitimate playoff hopes in the weak Eastern Conference. He’s responded well. Averaging 13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. ... Gortat wanted a change, and the trade to Washington provided it. Now, he couldn’t be much happier. He’s scheduled to become a free agent after this season, but, first, he wants the Wizards to make a playoff push.
- Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: This kind of performance is not in the tanking handbook. And especially not after earning a road win Saturday and picking up a thrilling overtime victory a week ago. If the Utah Jazz continue playing the kind of solid basketball that was on full display during an impressive 109-103 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday, a #tankingfail hashtag might start trending on Twitter. And the re-energized Jazz, who’ve won two straight games and three of four, would love nothing more than that. “It is exciting,” Jazz center Derrick Favors said. “It’s always exciting to win.” Even more exciting when the team takes down a surging Rockets squad that had won five straight and had already won once at EnergySolutions Arena this season. Remember the way the Jazz played during that 1-14 start? Including that humiliating 104-93 loss to these Rockets after leading by 19 points? That was so November.
- Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was stretching and working on loosening up his back all the way until game time Monday night in Salt Lake City. Despite Parsons’ best efforts, he was unable to play in the Rockets’ 109-103 loss to the Jazz. Francisco Garcia started in his place. “They have been playing well,” coach Kevin McHale said of his team’s bench. “They have had to with this many injuries.” Omri Casspi said that because of all the playing time the reserves have been getting, there is no pressure on anyone to step up. “This is the nature of the NBA season,” Casspi said. “You are going to have bumps and bruises. It’s a long season, but I think everyone on this team knows his role and knows how to come out, and we are comfortable playing as much as we need to.”
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Ask Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman about flying 1,800 miles to play San Antonio in a “home” game in Mexico City and he’ll strike a pose of a man mystified. But he knows better: He was there at the beginning. Adelman was a Portland assistant coach in 1986 when the Trail Blazers drafted Arvydas Sabonis and Drazen Petrovic, a pair of European prodigies whose existence until then had been personally verified by NBA aficionados only with grainy video highlight reels or a fleeting Olympic appearance. Nearly 30 years later, the NBA is surfing a wave of globalization that sells jerseys and television rights worldwide and has lifted the league’s talent and skill. A record 92 international players from 39 countries and territories made rosters when this season started; 17 of them will play Wednesday night at the year-old Mexico City Arena when the Spurs and Wolves meet so far away from home in what the league calls NBA Global Games Mexico City 2013. The Spurs have 10 such players (a record itself) and the Wolves have seven after adding Cameroon’s Luc Mbah a Moute in last week’s trade of Derrick Williams. “You knew there were good players over there,” Adelman said, referring to somewhere across the sea and a time long ago, “but I never expected the game to change the way it has. You’re seeing guys coming over here, and large groups of guys. Still, that’s no reason to go to Mexico City.”