1. Late Stumbles Seal Celtics' Loss To Lakers
BOSTON -- "One of them I didn't make the pass, the second one I just missed the shot."
It's funny how one simple sentence can encapsulate two pivotal moments in a back-and-forth overtime basketball game. A simple sentence that came from Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce and was really devoid of any flippancy. It was purely matter-of-fact.
With less than 10 seconds to go in regulation, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called a familiar number. They would inbound the ball to Pierce, Ray Allen would set a ball screen and then flare left behind a nearly 7-foot wall built by Kevin Garnett. In this moment, Pierce has options. He can make the pass to Allen. He can take his man off the dribble. He can pass to another open teammate.
So what happened?
"I didn't make the pass."
Garnett concurred. "I don't think Paul was comfortable with throwing the pass," he said. "He picked his dribble up and time expired. It's that simple."
Unfortunately, those simple, explainable instances of failed execution weren't just limited to the deciding possessions. They were indicative of the entire fourth quarter and overtime of Boston's 88-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Both the Celtics and Lakers struggled with late-game execution, so much so that the decisive bucket came by the grace of Andrew Bynum's good genetics.
With 1:29 left in overtime, Bynum found himself in comfortable territory right in front of the rim and tipped in a miss by Kobe Bryant. A few minutes before, Bynum found himself collecting a badly missed corner 3-pointer from Pau Gasol and laying it in, solidifying the Lakers' comeback.
Bynum's ability to crash the offensive glass was the difference between the Celtics celebrating on their home floor and the Lakers creating a little momentum as they head into New York on Friday night.
While happy with the win, Bryant knows that the Lakers can't rely on their height advantage night in and night out. They have to get better at running plays at the end of games. "Our execution in the fourth is still very poor in terms of what we need to accomplish," he said.
Luckily for Bryant, he has two 7-footers to come to the rescue when the execution isn't there.
Brendan Jackson covers the Celtics for Celtics Hub, part of the TrueHoop Network.
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
That Was Incredible: The Kings improved to 10-16 on the season while dropping the Thunder to 20-6 in a dramatic, down-to-the-wire finish.
MVP: Marcus Thornton. Russell Westbrook (33 points) had the MVP locked up until Thornton dropped two huge 3-pointers back to back late in the fourth to tie the game.
X factor: The crowd. This was Sacramento's lone nationally televised game this season and the crowd brought the old Arco Thunder back to the capital city.
Recap | Box score
That Was Classic: The Celtics-Lakers rivalry is one of the best things about the NBA, as each meeting feels like a playoff game. This one had the characteristic drama at the end but the normal vitriol was conspicuously absent. Lots of public admiration between these two clubs.
MVP: Andrew Bynum. Bynum had huge offensive rebounds and putbacks late in the fourth quarter and in overtime that really made up for Kobe Bryant's lack of success playing hero ball. If Bynum doesn't own the offensive glass, the Celtics win this game in regulation.
LVP: Metta World Peace. Two points on 1-for-6 shooting, including some big airballs that kept Boston in the game toward the end. His lack of production, coupled with a bizarre moment before a second-half jump ball, really captured World Peace's effect on the game.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Stephen Curry made this decision easier than the victory looked. With 36 points, seven boards and seven assists, he flashed the talent that prevented the Warriors from (wisely, probably) trading Curry for CP3. Maestro performance.
Defining Moment: Curry played seven third-quarter minutes before taking a long bench break. In that time he made five consecutive shots, nabbed two rebounds and added an assist. GSW went from being down four to up 11. Game.
X factor: Ekpe Udoh continues to play brilliant defense amid awful scoring and rebounding numbers. He welded the rim shut, notching five blocks in 20 minutes of play. Did he score a single point? No.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Chase Budinger drilled the 3-point dagger that put Houston ahead for good and sparked the Rockets with 12 points, 7 boards and 4 dimes off the pine.
X factor: The Rockets' bench turned the tide of another game, outscoring the Suns by 13 in the second quarter before stopping the bleeding when Phoenix made a run early in the third.
That Was Familiar: Ex-Sun Goran Dragic showed Phoenix fans what they are missing by exploding for 11 points and 11 assists while darting around in his usual aggressive style.
3. Thursday's Best
Pau Gasol, Lakers: With word of his All-Star snub coming down right before tipoff, Gasol went out and played like an All-Star, finishing with 25 points, 14 rebounds and one game-saving rejection in the Lakers' OT win in Boston.
4. Thursday's Worst
Kevin Garnett, Celtics: KG's accuracy was scarier than his mean face. Garnett missed his last nine shots from the field and finished with 17 misses overall, the most he has had in a single game in more than eight seasons.
5. Tweet Of The Night
6. Quote Of The Night
"You got to scrape the plate. As long as I'm playing, the goal is to win championships. Anything else is just not an option."
-- Kobe Bryant, who, despite being a meal-finishing enthusiast, is still hungry for another ring
7. NBA Video Channel
8. Power Play
9. Stat Check
Five Rockets subs scored in double-figures in Thursday's 96-89 win at Phoenix. It was only the second time since the Rockets moved to Houston in 1971 that five players came off the bench to score at least 10 points in the same game. The first time was in a blowout victory over the 76ers in 1993.