5 Takeaways from Monday Night's New Year's NBA Action
Happy New Year's everybody. If your team lost on New Year's Eve, fear not, dear fan. Tomorrow's another year, and another chance at becoming better.
The Orlando Magic could resolve to lose fewer overtime games. The Grizzlies could swear to a "more shooting" resolution. Brooklyn can resolve to hire a new coach and actually be patient with him in 2013. Atlanta can make Josh Smith pledge to take shots that make sense.
Chicago can promise never to lose to the Bobcats again (one of the easier pledges to keep). And Phoenix can embark on a new era of actually spending money on players. The possibilities are endless in a new calendar year. Embrace the future, people!.
The Spurs Are Beginning to Rope You in
The Spurs crushed Brooklyn, as expected, breaking them over their knee, 104-73. San Antonio's won six in a row, and they're currently second in league-wide margin of victory. We are about to enter that time of year when smart basketball analysts warn us about the oncoming Spurs onslaught. The upcoming Spurs schedule is relatively easier and Kawhi Leonard is back in the lineup.
To be sure, there will be plenty of compelling, objective reasons to believe in a San Antonio takeover. They will run up the score on inferior opponents, they will make fringe players look like stars. This could be the year for the first Spurs title since 2007. Or, it's a typical San Antonio tease. You've been warned.
LeBron James Works Overtime
Losers of their last two, the Miami Heat badly needed a win against Orlando. LeBron, Bosh and Wade all responded with fine games, while the supporting cast somewhat sputtered in Miami's 112-110 OT victory.
James was fantastic in overtime, but it was Dwyane Wade who sealed the deal. With the score 108-106 Heat, and one final shot for the Magic to tie or go ahead, J.J. Redick threw a cross-court pass to Hedo Turkoglu. Even though the pass was crisp, and Dwyane Wade was far from him, he had such a break on the ball as to snatch it and steal the game. Here's a shot of just how far Wade was when the last left Redick's hands:
Memphis Has a Scoring Problem
The Grizzlies aren't a bad offense, compared to the rest of the league. Also, in losing, 88-83, to Indiana on 37.8 percent shooting, Memphis hasn't embarrassed itself either. The Pacers are a top defensive unit, and such games happen in the regular season.
But you can see some issues in this one game—issues that will make it hard for the Grizzlies to overcome in a tougher-than-tough Western Conference.
The 3-of-17 night from Rudy Gay isn't his typical output, but it's indicative of how unreliable a scorer Gay can be. Tony Allen was 5-of-8, which is good, but he didn't attempt a single three-pointer. That's his usual decision—Tony's hardly a three point shooter. But you have to wonder how far the Grizz can go with an inefficient primary scorer and a non-shooter on the perimeter.
The Good Russell Westbrook Returns
Russell Westbrook has had a rough go of it in some nationally televised games, two of which Oklahoma City lost. Against the Suns on Monday night, we were reminded of the good version of this incredibly talented player.
Russ was under control and devastating while restrained. The Thunder point guard fueled his team's 114-96 victory with 24 points, nine assists and seven boards. Best of all, to those who overanalyze his shot totals, Westbrook took eight fewer attempts than Durant. This would seem a good blueprint for the Thunder in general. Of course, playing that cleanly is easier said than done, and only happens so often:
The Thunder's five turnovers tonight is the fewest in the OKC era and matches an all-time franchise low.— Royce Young (@dailythunder) January 1, 2013
James Harden Is Annoyingly Good
No player balances "fun to watch" and "excruciating to watch" quite like James Harden. It was all on display during Houston's 123-104 trouncing of Atlanta. Harden knifed into the lane on pick-and-roll, demonstrating some delightful handles. That was fun.
The frustrating is his knack for drawing real and imagined contact. Harden again put up another double-digit free-throw attempt game, this time drawing 13 of them. He was averaging 10.2 FTAs going into the game, and many of them come from his ability to induce self-whiplash. It's fantastic for the Rockets, but man is it cheap. Houston certainly doesn't want Harden to change any time soon, but the casual fan might.