TrueHoop: Bill Laimbeer
Kevin Durant scored 29 points, earning his first victory in seven tries against LeBron James.
Based off of video tracking, Durant did much of his damage against James. Durant had struggled when guarded by James previously, shooting only 36.4 percent from the floor against him in his career entering the night.
Wednesday was a different story as Durant was 10-of-15 from the field when guarded by James, scoring 21 of his points against him.
This was one of those rare games though, where it wasn't just Durant's scoring that led the Thunder to victory, but rather his overall playmaking abilities.
Durant tied a season-high with six assists, and the Thunder improved to 8-1 this season when he collects at least five.
In their six previous meetings, Durant averaged only 1.5 assists per game compared to 7.3 for James.
James tied a season-low with just three assists. Miami is now just 6-5 this season when he dishes out four or fewer assists.
The Heat struggled badly in the second half, shooting 29.4 percent from the field, their worst second-half performance as a team this season.
The Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were at the center of the struggles, missing 20 of their combined 24 field goal attempts after halftime.
Miami's interior weaknesses were also exposed by Oklahoma City. The Thunder held a plus-11 rebounding edge and outscored the Heat 24-10 on second chance points, including 15-2 in the second half.
Elsewhere around the NBA:
• Speaking of Howard, he took a page of out Love’s book, as he scored 31 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in the Orlando Magic's victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. It was Howard’s first 30-point, 20-rebound game this season and fifth of his career. Love leads the NBA this season with four such games.
• Greg Monroe took Detroit Pistons fans back to the “Bad Boy” days in the team's victory over the Toronto Raptors. Monroe, who scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and had five assists, is the first Pistons center to go 20-10-5 since Bill Laimbeer did it three times in the 1988-89 season.
Last night I stumbled across the WNBA Finals. I watched the vast majority of Game 3, and thought to myself, WOW, I should really blog about this. It's good.
That was surprise number one. I'm not at all surprised that women play sports at a high level, give me a break. I'm surprised that the WNBA on TV, something I have watched in the past, has somehow (is it me?) become way more entertaining than I remember it.
Surprise number two is that reading some blogs today, I discovered that Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys had the exact same experience I did. He already wrote, essentially, the post that I had in mind.
It was early in the first quarter ... and I ended up watching the rest of the game (the Shock won, and now lead the best of five series 2-1). I didn't plan on it, it just sort of happened.
Maybe I did it because it's September and there's no NBA action in sight, or maybe it was because Bill Laimbeer is miked up on the sidelines and I felt nostalgic listening to him ream out the referees. Or, maybe despite my best efforts to remain cynical, it was a close game and the play on the court was quite entertaining.
I'm not sure I'll ever change my schedule to catch a regular season game, but there's something oddly compelling about championship-level basketball. They're playing hard basketball out there, diving after loose balls, throwing elbows in the paint and basically showing the same level of intensity you'd expect from any professional athlete. I know that probably sounds condescending - what else should I have expected? - but it's an honest observation. And it's enough that I'll probably be tuning in on Thursday at 8:30 to see if the Shock can close it out.
Another couple of things I'd add:
- Phoenix's Diana Taurasi is a livewire. You know how some athletes are just electric, and impossible not to watch? That's her.
- Bill Laimbeer is a dreadful complainer. It's embarrassing to hear his whines. He is the enemy of dignity. But all the same, I agree with him that the hometown Mercury got way more than their fair share of calls. I'm glad the Shock won so we wouldn't have to hear about rigged games and all that.
- Two-word scouting book on Cappie Pondexter: Dee Brown.
- I have interviewed Katie Smith and have a ton of respect for her. A fanatically dedicated professional.
- My favorite WNBA player, bar none, is Tamika Catchings. (I wrote an article about her once, which is reprinted at the end of this post.) But another one who is way up there is Deanna Nolan. Speed, shooting ability, strength -- she's someone you want on your team. And people from Flint, Michigan are always tough (even if she does have chihuahuas).
I interviewed him by phone, years ago, when he was running some company that made boxes. We talked for a while about what it took to be a champion. He sounded pretty passionate. Then I asked him if he missed the NBA. His response was immediate: "Don't miss the game. Just miss the money."
But then you take a look at his career -- his next move was to take over the worst team in the WNBA, which is rich in basketball and light on money -- there must be some basketball passion there. Even if you see the WNBA as a stepping stone to the NBA, that's still a move you don't make without some basketball passion to sustain you.
In today's New York Times, Jere Longman describes life on the Shock under Laimbeer:
"Functionally dysfunctional," is how the team spokesman John Maxwell jokingly refers to the Shock. In this environment, the versatile forward Swin Cash is called Crackhead by Mahorn for what he perceives as her occasional aimlessness. Fair game are Laimbeer's style of walking ("On his toes, like the Flintstones," guard Elaine Powell said.) and his favored wardrobe of short-shorts and boating shirts ("One of his pants are so tight they look like leg warmers," Cash said).
During the preseason, guard Shannon Johnson had a stomach virus and pulled a blanket over her head to take a nap in the airport in Dallas. Big mistake. When she awakened, Mahorn and others had thrown a few bucks into a change cup and Johnson's teammates had fashioned signs that said, "Will Shoot for Food" and "War Veteran - AWOL."
He isn't all barbs, though -- Longman also tells of Laimbeer moving practice times to accomodate Swin Cash's career as a sports journalist. He reportedly helped Katie Smith find a condominium that would take her large dog, and took the whole team fishing. And ... in what may not have been all that friendly after all, on his birthday it is said he took the team to a piano bar where he regaled hundreds with his version of "Piano Man."
Whatever he's serving up, his players seem to respond. The Shock became the best team in the WNBA shortly after he arrived.
So, can it be that long before he makes it to the NBA? Remember, he almost got the job coaching the Knicks a few years ago. Longman reports that he heard from Chuck Daly that Isiah Thomas wishes he had hired Laimbeer:
Reflecting upon the Larry Brown fiasco with the Knicks, Daly said, Thomas told him, "I should have hired Laimbeer; he's so thick-skinned."