1. For A Night, Williams Homecoming King
LOS ANGELES -- Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown would traditionally start any member of his roster when the team took the floor in that player's hometown. Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman doesn't abide by such customs, which meant that rookie Derrick Williams would come off the bench, as he usually does, against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
Williams might not have had the privilege of starting in front of 30-40 friends and family from the Los Angeles area, but he finished in style. His 27 points were a team high, a personal career high, and sparked a furious second-half run by Minnesota in its 109-97 win over the Clippers.
"It all started with Derrick [Williams]," Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley said. "It's his night. It's his city. He's just playing the game he's been playing for 21 years."
Williams flashed a youthful smile (literally -- the rookie wears braces) as he greeted teammates and media after the game. During Williams' first season, the coaching staff has maintained a delicate balance between patience and prodding with the No. 2 overall pick. Williams has always been an inveterate scorer, but has been stuck behind Kevin Love and others in Minnesota's stacked frontcourt rotation.
"In the first half of the season, I was just trying to do too much," Williams said. "It's just learning a different role. I felt like coming off the bench I was just trying to get the ball and score every time. Being a scorer like that it's pretty hard but now I've learned Coach [Adelman]'s offense and his strategies and I think that's what I did tonight. I picked my spots."
Those spots were both near and far on Tuesday. In the game's first 15 minutes, Williams looked inside with a series of strong basket drives. Then came the long-range barrage, as Williams drilled all four of his shot attempts from beyond the arc.
Williams has been dogged by concerns -- some even voiced by Adelman -- that he's a young forward without a natural position, not unlike his teammate Beasley.
"I'm probably still going to hear a lot of those same questions: 'Is he a 3 or is he a 4?'" Williams said.
On Tuesday night, he was just a basketball player -- active on defense, eager to exploit space along the perimeter to spot up and shoot, and aggressive to the hole when he spotted seams.
Beasley deserves similar praise, as he also chalked up 27 points off the bench for Minnesota, whose 72 bench points was an NBA high for a single game this season. Collectively, the pair shot 20 for 25 from the field and 7 for 9 from the line.
Not bad for a couple of young tweeners.
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: Brook Lopez. In just his third game back, Brook Lopez dropped 38 points on the third-most efficient defense in the NBA. His offense came towards the rim, on a variety of post moves, rip-throughs, and a couple of jumpers. Lopez carried the team throughout the game.
Defining moment: With the game on the line, Dirk Nowitzki passed the ball to Jason Kidd in the corner. Kidd made a big 3 just a minute earlier, but DeShawn Stevenson hounded him on the perimeter, forcing Kidd into a terrible shot that had no chance.
X factor: Defense. The Nets haven't been a sound defensive team, but they pressured the Mavericks constantly in the halfcourt and used their quickness to cut off most transition opportunities.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Derrick Rose played the role of closer for Chicago, nailing a key jumper to take the lead with 19 seconds left. He then knocked home two big free throws seconds later to make it a two-possession game.
That was ... fun: With the Hornets missing three of their best six players, this one could have been a blowout. Instead, fans for both teams were treated to 48 minutes of energetic ball.
X factor: Hornets coach Monty Williams called two key timeouts early in both halves that succeeded in ending two Bulls runs and allowed the Hornets to keep it close.
Recap | Box score
MVP: DeMarcus Cousins is beginning to dominate the NBA and tonight was another example of the young center's growth. DMC finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds in just 32 minutes of action. The officials are the only ones that can slow down Cousins right now.
X factor: Rookie Isaiah Thomas is mashing right now. The pint-sized point guard out of Washington is averaging more than 19 points and nearly seven assists a game since becoming a starter five games ago.
That was ... Kings basketball: This team is still struggling to find an identity 34 games into the season. It appears they are better when they run. The team shot an abysmal 35.7 percent in the first half and then came out in the second half running and shot 52.4 percent.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Fresh off his All-Star snub, Kyle Lowry carried the Rockets with 26 points and five assists.
LVP: Late in the third, facing light pressure, Jerryd Bayless went wide on a crossover, losing it out of bounds. Early in the fourth, he was whistled for a travel. He came out right after. Very rough night.
That was ... familiar: With the game on the line, Kevin Martin went to the ol' familiar, drawing Anthony Carter off his feet and earning two free throws. He hit just 1 of 2, but the cushion was enough.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Kevin Garnett. Ray Allen and his beautiful jumper led the Celtics with 22 points, but KG pitched in 18 of his own while coming up with a huge defensive stop, offensive rebound, and pair of free throws that sealed the victory for the Celtics.
LVP: Antawn Jamison went 4-for-15 with three turnovers while getting completely destroyed on defense and on the glass by the aforementioned Garnett. For many Cavs fans, it was an unfortunate flashback to the 2010 postseason, when Garnett completely destroyed Jamison over the course of six games. Daniel Gibson (1-for-7, three turnovers) is a close second here.
That was ... weird: The Celtics won despite Rajon Rondo, their best player, going 0-for-6 from the floor and not shooting a single free throw. Rondo did finish with 11 assists, but his level of passivity on offense has become astounding. Rondo has never been a scorer, but he at least used to attack the basket whenever he had the opportunity to. Now, it looks like he wants to pass in every single situation, even if he has a better chance of scoring than a teammate does.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Derrick Williams. It's tough not picking Michael Beasley (27 points on 11-for-15 shooting), but Williams was simply on fire (9-for-10 shooting, 4-for-4 on 3-pointers). He finally showed flashes of why he was the No. 2 overall pick with a slew of perimeter moves.
X factor: The fourth quarter was where Minnesota pulled away, clamping down defensively on Los Angeles and going off for a torrid 11-for-14 in the quarter. In a repeat performance, the Clippers could not close out the Timberwolves.
That Was ... déjà vu: No, Kevin Love didn't end the game with a buzzer beater. But the Clippers ended up having another epic fourth quarter collapse at the hands of the Timberwolves, wasting monster offensive games from Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
Value On Rise?
3. Tuesday's Best
Brook Lopez, Nets: Hey, remember me? Lopez went for 17-for-28 from the floor en route to 38 points, helping the Nets to a 93-92 win in Dallas. Coach Avery Johnson should be quite happy with the win over his former employer.
4. Tuesday's Worst
Ben Gordon, Pistons: Detroit's demise was aided and abetted by Gordon, who sank but 1 of 10 shots in an awful trouncing by the Sixers. Things are looking up, though: Charlotte comes to town Wednesday.
5. Tweet Of The Night
6. Quote Of The Night
"I can't watch this stuff anymore."
-- Anonymous Pistons fan, whose heckling was more easily heard in the mostly empty Palace of Auburn Hills stands late in the third quarter. Detroit fell to the Sixers 97-68.
7. NBA Video Channel
8. Ersan On The Spot
Defining moment: With 2.2 seconds left, Ersan Ilyasova got his 11th rebound, fifth offensive, by tipping in a Brandon Jennings miss for what would be the game winner. With a chance to win for the Wizards, Roger Mason, who had a renaissance night with teammate and fellow NBPA VP Mo Evans (29 combined points off the bench, 7-for-10 on 3s), got called for travelling.
X factor(s): Mike Dunleavy scored 28 points off the bench, 16 coming in the second quarter, including four threes in a four-minute span midway through; the Wizards left him space for assisted spot-up chances. Dunleavy sealed the deal with a couple jumpers off screening action in the second half.
That was ... Jekyll, Hyde and JaVale: Milwaukee trumped Washington in passing, rebounding and shooting in the first half, taking a 67-53 lead into intermission. Randy Wittman sat three starters to start the second half -- Nick Young, Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee. Only McGee didn't return as Washington fought to outscore the Bucks 36-25 in the third and 29-27 in the fourth, but fell short.
9. By George, Indy's Strong
MVP: Paul George. Danny Granger's line (25 points on 18 shots) may stand out, but it was George's all-around game (11 points, nine boards, five dimes, four steals, one block) and active defense that fueled this blowout.
LVP (tie): Dorell Wright, Nate Robinson, Andris Biedrins and Charles Jenkins. This gruesome foursome combined to shoot 0-for-13 in the first half as the Stephen Curry-less Warriors apparently decided to take one extra night off for the All-Star break.
X factor: The Pacers' defense. Golden State shot 34.1 percent, becoming the 12th Indiana opponent to shoot below 40 percent this season. The Pacers compiled 11 steals that helped generate 26 fast-break points and held the Dubs to 3-for-22 (13.6 percent) shooting from 3-point range.
10. Sixers Snap Streak
MVP: The Sixers' wings were the wind beneath their wings tonight. Uber-athletic forwards Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala combined for 32 points, 13 rebounds and six steals. They shared the rock, and they share MVP honors.
Defining moment: Despite sizable deficits in field-goal percentage and turnovers, Detroit escaped the initial period trailing only 22-20. That didn't last. Philly ran off 11 straight to start the second -- punctuated by a Thad Young pirouetting layup by Jonas Jerebko -- and never looked back.
That was ... cathartic. The Sixers didn't "snap" their five-game losing streak on Tuesday as much as they put two in its chest before going after its family. They held Detroit (who they've now outscored by 73 points in three games this season) to 31.6 percent shooting on their way to winning the final three periods 75-48.