5 Takeaways from Wednesday Night's Nostalgic NBA Action
We saw a championship rematch Wednesday night that featured two teams in vastly different positions. Back in the summer of 2011, we might have assumed that the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat would see each other again in a more equal capacity.
It hasn't gone that way. The Mavericks have since crumbled, squandering championship chances by letting go of center Tyson Chandler. The Heat, of course, went on to win last year's championship and look poised to try for a repeat.
For a brief moment, though, it felt as though all the intervening time had not happened. Dirk Nowitzki looked like Dirk, and Dallas played a thrilling, competitive game in Miami. It was a captivating beginning to an evening that later ceded the spotlight to some new, ascendant teams.
LeBron James Is a Basketball Genius
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LeBron James made an incredible play to help save the Miami Heat. With 16 seconds left in regulation and the Heat trailing the Mavericks by one point, James made a casual bullet of a cross-court pass to Shane Battier in the corner.
Battier swished the corner trey, and though Nowizki responded with an incredible OT-forcing jumper, LeBron's pass serves as a reminder of what kind of superstar he is. After the game, LeBron asked ESPN.com reporter Tom Haberstroh an interesting question:
Got LeBron up to speed after the game. "So I got the most assists on corner 3s? That's cool."— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) January 3, 2013
James is an analytical player, someone who plays the odds no matter the situation. While so many pundits want to wish him into heroball, James prefers good odds, no matter how it looks. For the Heat, it works out more often than not.
No Offense, but Avery Bradley Isn't Fixing Boston
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Avery Bradley returned to action Wednesday night, looking to improve a struggling Boston Celtics defense. It was a tall order for someone in his first game back. He played 20 minutes and his team lost by 10.
The oft-balky Memphis offense actually performed quite well against Boston, claiming 93 points on 71 shots. It will take Bradley some time to be defensive Spackle for the Celtics, but a larger, more persistent problem remains.
Boston was poor offensively, likely sinking the 20th-ranked offensive efficiency rating lower after the loss. Rajon Rondo continues to struggle with his jumper, and Doc Rivers' team continues to struggle at finding easy points. It's hard to see this squad getting to a third playoff round, even in an anemic East.
This strategy by Memphis looks great when your opponents pg airballs 3s o on the regular.— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) January 3, 2013
Oklahoma City Gets Thunderstruck
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This was easily most shocking result of the evening, for multiple reasons. The Brooklyn Nets (of all teams) blasted the Oklahoma Thunder off their home floor 110-93. That wasn't even the most surprising aspect, mind-boggling as it was.
Kevin Durant got ejected for the first time in his career. It wasn't even a "Tim Duncan got tossed for laughing" scenario. Durant lost his cool and used some dirty language on TV:
Or, as Kevin Durant tells it:
KD on what he said to the official: "I told him it was a bad call."— Royce Young (@dailythunder) January 3, 2013
It probably has little bearing on the rest of the season, but what a strange night in Oklahoma City.
Not Having Andrea Bargnani Is on a Roll
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The Toronto Raptors have won eight of their last nine since Andrea Bargnani went down with injury. The Portland Trailblazers were the victim on Wednesday night, losing 102-79. I keep joking about Not Having Bargnani as an MVP candidate, but you have to marvel at how the team has responded to his absence.
It could all be a "correlation is not causation" error, but the defense looks rather invigorated in Bargnani's absence. The offense hasn't been too shabby either.
Ed Davis (Andrea's replacement in the lineup) continues to impress with 19 points on 12 shots, and DeMar DeRozan splashed in 24 points on 17 shots. Though Kyle Lowry went scoreless on the night on just two shots, he racked up an impressive nine assists and two steals in 22 minutes of floor time.
Seriously, Take the Warriors Seriously
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Stephen Curry did much of the legwork in the first half, claiming 25 points on an absurd 11 shots. He was scalding, breezily swishing shots when drifting to the left side of the floor. On the night, Curry finished with 31 points on 16 shots, and occasional ownership of the Oracle crowd.
I say "occasional" ownership because David Lee received some un-ironic M-V-P chants. As absurd as that sounds, Lee's been GSW's best player so far, knifing opposing defenses with his perceptive passing. Lee had seven assists on the night in true point-forward fashion.
Can the Warriors win a championship? Probably not. But you certainly don't want to face this squad in the playoffs, especially if it gets Andrew Bogut back healthy.