8 Takeaways from Saturday Night's Loaded NBA Action

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterDecember 30, 2012

8 Takeaways from Saturday Night's Loaded NBA Action

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    Saturday night means lots of NBA action, and once again it didn't disappoint.

    Eric Gordon made his return to the court, much to the chagrin of the Charlotte Bobcats. James Harden got the chance to face the team that traded him, which didn't work out well for one of the two parties. And Brook Lopez had a monster night in a game that went down to the final seconds.

    Oh, and the Heat lost—again.

Miami's Supporting Cast Is Doing Nothing, Raising Some Concern

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    The Miami Heat lost for the second consecutive night, this time to Bucks by 19 points.

    LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 62 points. The rest of the clowns finished with a total of 23 combined.

    Outside of the Big Three, nobody else scored more than five points. Five points!

    Ray Allen is limited to spot-up duties. Same for Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers. None of these guys are really capable of generating their own offense. If they aren't making their spot-up jumpers that are created by the team's playmakers, the Heat become vulnerable.

    With guys like Allen and Miller, as the opponent, you can't give them too many open looks. But as they age, getting open becomes more and more of a challenge.

Eric Gordon Can Still Ball

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    Eric Gordon was activated for the first time all season, looking fresh, aggressive and on point.

    He finished with 24 points and seven assists in a three-point win over Charlotte. To put it into perspective just how badly the Hornets need Gordon, consider this: Despite playing 28 minutes a game, Austin Rivers has only hit the 20-point plateau once all year and has never recorded a seven-assist game.

    Gordon's ability to balance playmaking with scoring will give the team a huge offensive boost. "I haven't had open looks like that in quite a while," Ryan Anderson said after the game.

    The best sign for Gordon was that he got 14 attempts from the line in 25 minutes. He's a dynamic scorer off the dribble, which he uses to create jumpers on the perimeter and scoring opportunities at the rim.

    Hopefully Gordon stays healthy to form a promising trio with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson.

Brooklyn Needs Brook Lopez at His Best

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    The Brooklyn Nets are now 2-0 under the direction of P.J. Carlesimo, after beating the now-7-25 Cavaliers by three at the Barclays Center.

    It wasn't the most impressive victory; they couldn't put away a team that had no business sticking around. Brooklyn allowed Cleveland to shoot 9-of-20 from behind the arc, with eight of those makes coming from C.J. Miles.

    But Brook Lopez was simply unstoppable offensively, scoring 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Cleveland had no answer for the big man, and it was a good thing for Brooklyn, because none of their supporting cast showed up.

    Outside of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, nobody scored in double figures. With Williams and Johnson strictly perimeter-oriented scorers, Brooklyn will continue to rely upon Lopez's interior scoring to give the team better offensive balance.

Golden State Warriors Have Officially Turned the Corner

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    This isn't just a group of young kids who can beat superior teams with energy and jump shots—they took out the Celtics at home Saturday night, controlling the pace and scoreboard for the majority of the night.

    At 21-10, the win gave Golden State their best start in 32 years.

    What really stood out was how they reacted after the Celtics made their inevitable run. After dominating much of the first half, the Celtics made it a game in the third. Mark Jackson's crew responded with poise and timely execution, thanks to a number of made jumpers from Jarrett Jack and Charles Jenkins and the usual production from Stephen Curry and David Lee.

    If things stay the same, nothing should keep Lee from the All-Star game this year. He's the only player in the league averaging 20 points and at least 10 boards and now has scored at least 20 in 14 of his last 15 games.

    There's a sense of maturity and chemistry from this team that we haven't seen in the past. With the young guys producing and the veterans staying consistent, the Warriors compete every night with effective team balance.

    It looks like the Warriors have officially turned the corner and should be taken seriously as playoff contenders.

Memphis Is an Elite Defensive Team

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    Currently ranked second in the NBA in defensive points allowed, the Grizzlies put on another clinic in a win over the Nuggets.

    Memphis held Denver to just 72 points, playing suffocating defense on the perimeter and physical defense inside.

    What's notable about the win is that the Grizzlies were not at their best offensively themselves. They managed to escape despite shooting 40 percent from the floor and only getting to line seven times all night to finish with 81 points.

    Being able to beat teams when your shots aren't falling is what separates the good ones from the great ones.

    Because of their ability to defend, this isn't just another one-and-done Grizzlies team in the playoffs. They'll be feared in the long run as a disciplined, two-way machine.

Kevin Martin Is Mastering James Harden's Old Role in Oklahoma City

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    The Thunder smoked the Rockets by 30 points in Kevin Martin's return to Houston, who finished with five three-pointers and 19 points in 24 minutes.

    Martin is excelling in his role as the sixth man and third scoring option, averaging 15.8 points on the year and shooting 46 percent from the floor.

    Because Martin isn't relied upon as a go-to player, he has his best shooting percentage since Sacramento in 2006. Martin's ability to create on the perimeter, spread the floor and knock down spot-up three-pointers makes this the most potent offensive team in the NBA.

    Oklahoma City scored 124 points, while Harden struggled to gain rhythm despite scoring 25 points of his own (6-of-17 from the floor). The Thunder look as good, if not better than, as last year.

Nikola Pekovic Is the Strongest Dude in the NBA

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    Marcin Gortat isn't exactly a scrawny fellow, and Nikola Pekovic downright owned him in Minnesota's 111-107 win over Phoenix.

    He held Gortat to just nine points and three rebounds, while Pekovic went off for 28 points and 11 boards.

    The 6'11'', 290-pound center uses his brute strength to overpower his defender down low and his touch to finish inside. Contact bounces off Pekovic as if he's a refrigerator planted in the lane.

    It's a great debate to have, but if the NBA held a "Strongest Man Competition," Nikola Pekovic would be my No. 1 seed.

Standout Performances

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    The 76ers lost a close one in Portland, but not to the fault of Jrue Holiday, who finished with 29 points, nine boards and nine assists. He's really taken the next step in his development as a complete point guard.

    Brandon Jennings dropped 25 points and seven assists, making Mario Chalmers and the Miami Heat points guards look downright silly.

    Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 54 points and have the Thunder playing championship-caliber basketball.

    A couple of rookies looked sharp in Orlando, with Andrew Nicholson getting the start and finishing with 22 points and seven boards. Terrence Ross scored 16 points for the Raptors, including 4-of-5 from downtown off the bench in the Raptors' 123-88 blowout win.

    And in Atlanta, where the Hawks came out on top, 109-100, over Indiana, Lou Williams got the start in place of Josh Smith who was out with a strained hip flexor, finishing with 21 points and 12 assists in a complete playmaker performance.