10 Takeaways from Sunday Night's NBA Action
Sunday night's NBA action was headlined by a Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers matchup that did not disappoint, and we found ourselves with a ton to talk about after a full slate of games, as far as Sundays are concerned.
Aside from Denver-L.A., we were privy to Toronto Raptors versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards taking on the Miami Heat, an overtime finish between the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats, and the Phoenix Suns playing host to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Some of the league's most intriguing teams were in action, and a lot of them had something to prove. All that happened while a handful of dreadful teams similarly tipped off, but it actually ended up giving us something to talk about.
It wasn't all pretty, but it was basketball.
So, with a Sunday full of NBA games potentially overshadowed by those silly NFL playoffs going on elsewhere, it's entirely possible that a handful of you guys out there decided to take those in rather than a bit of round-ball action.
Charlotte vs. Detroit Doesn't Have to Be the Most Depressing Game Possible...
Looking at the schedule of games for the evening, I can't say I was overly excited to see a matchup between the Pistons and Bobcats on tap.
I wouldn't say I was pleasantly surprised by the contest, but, generally speaking, there wasn't as much terrible basketball as you would have expected between the two teams.
With Bismack Biyombo showing up (more on that later), a bit of a throwback performance from Tayshaun Prince, and a big shot from Kemba Walker, this game was borderline fun.
Of course, the game going into overtime didn't really make it any better, and the 'Cats came away with the 108-101 victory. Detroit's implosion was inevitable, and we really didn't need five more minutes of basketball to tell us that.
Free basketball...I guess.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 7, 2013
...But Anything Involving Washington Has a Chance to Be Horrifying
The Heat-Wizards game was a rematch of their Dec. 4 meeting in Washington, which ended with the Wizards inexplicably taking down the Heat.
More ridiculously, they looked like they had the chance to do it again in Miami. Well, they were at least keeping it relatively close, playing to a 69-60 game at the end of the third quarter.
Hell, they actually cut it to seven, 78-71, with seven minutes to go.
Cue 21-0 run.
Washington actually missed just eight shots and four free throws during that horrendous stretch, but they turned the ball over three times, gave up four offensive rebounds and watched helplessly as Miami refused to let them score for the remainder of the game. 99-71 Miami.
It was the second game in a row in which the Wizards let a late-game run kill them. Brooklyn went on an 11-0 run in OT to force a second overtime period in Washington's 115-113 loss to the Nets Friday night.
Biz Keeps Pulling Us Back in
On draft day in 2011, Bismack Biyombo was the most intriguing guy not named Jonas Valanciunas. Roughly 100 games later, I've given up on him about a dozen different times, writing him off as a lost cause.
Realistically, he's been so bad offensively, and not good enough defensively, to be anything special in the NBA. Basically, we were looking at DeSagana Diop 2.0.
Of course, every time I give up on him, he goes and has a game that gives the the faintest glimmer of hope, just enough to reignite the spark.
Against the Detroit Pistons, Biyombo was a big part of Charlotte's win, pulling down 17 rebounds and scoring 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting. It was just the fifth time this season that Biz scored in double figures, while the 17 boards was a career high.
He's still as raw as roadkill at this point in his career, but he's slowly putting things together and is fun to watch when he plays well.
Toronto Raptors' Small Ball Doesn't Work
With Ed Davis and Amir Johnson the only two guys over 6'8" in the Raptors rotation Sunday night, there was a lot missing from the team's game against the Thunder.
Aside from the fact that they were outrebounded, 41-31, by OKC, they were constantly getting beat in the post by Serge Ibaka, knocked around by Kendrick Perkins and unable to stop Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook from getting to the rim on a consistent basis.
Obviously with Jonas Valanciunas out, the Raptors are missing one of their most effective big man, but they would probably settle for a little bit of Aaron Gray back in the post if it meant they'd be able to count on more than a stray rebound here and there.
Even without the height, however, I think Raptors fans would continue to be saddened to see Andrea Bargnani on the court.
Jerryd Bayless Can Be Extremely Useful
Maybe he just needed a trip back to Arizona to remind himself that he can still be the player that he was back in his Arizona Wildcat days, but Jerryd Bayless had himself an impressive game in Memphis' 92-81 win Sunday night.
Bayless has been out of sorts lately, putting together unproductive games and battling an ankle injury, but he seemed fine in Phoenix.
Besides the fact that he's shown an incredible knack for defense that hasn't really been seen too often in the past, Bayless put together one of the most productive nights of his career. A real Jason Kidd-type of stat line.
The Ramon Sessions lookalike dropped in nine points on just two shots, seven rebounds, six assists and a steal in 25 minutes.
In the end, the Grizzlies were able to keep the Suns from totally tripping them up, thanks in large part to Bayless and the rest of the Grizz bench.
LeBron James' Consistency Is Getting Spooky
Scoring 20 points in the NBA isn't really a rare feat, but it's definitely a way to prove that you do, in fact, belong in the league.
Do it five games in a row and we'll call it a nice streak. Bump that up to 10 straight and it'll start looking like something meaningful. Get that streak up to 32 out of 32 games to start the season, and we'll talk MVP.
That's where LeBron is right now.
LeBron with 20 points. That's 32 games in a row to begin the season.— Joseph Goodman (@MiamiHeraldHeat) January 7, 2013
It's not the first time LeBron's done this. He's got streaks of 49 and 36 games in his career, but that doesn't make this feat any less impressive.
Of course, Kobe Bryant's longest such streak is a 62-gamer, while Michael Jordan was able to put together 69 and 72 straight games with at least 20 points. So LeBron's got a bit of a way to go before we start talking about history.
Nonetheless, kudos for the hot start.
Perhaps It's Time for Rudy Gay to Go
As most of Memphis begins to turn on Rudy Gay, it seems that it's becoming increasingly likely that the Memphis forward will be traded by the time the trade deadline rolls by.
Rudy Gay is becoming the Andrea Bargnani of Memphis. Who's your Bargs?— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 7, 2013
Against the Suns, Gay had himself a respectable night, putting forth 20 points on 50 percent shooting, three boards and a steal.
Not exactly ho-hum, but not really spectacular either.
Zach Randolph, on the other hand, scored 21 on 9-of-11 shooting, while pulling down eight rebounds and doing his usual bulldog impersonation on the defensive end.
While it's silly to base any kind of trade speculation on just one game, it seems more and more like the Grizzlies would be better off focusing on defense, running their offense through the post in Randolph and Marc Gasol, and trading Rudy for a wing player who can defend and score efficiently, but sparingly.
Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala Are Finding Their Roles
It's been a long-time coming, but the Denver Nuggets are finally starting to figure out how their pieces fit together, mostly in the case of Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala.
While Danilo Gallinari continues to struggle from downtown (3-of-10 from three Sunday night, although it includes a late make to put Denver up by six) and the rest of the team shuffles themselves between good and bad games, Lawson and Iggy are going to have to be the constants.
In the 112-105 win over the Lakers, Iggy played his role perfectly and Lawson was immaculate, with 21 points, 10 assists and three steals.
If Ty Lawson played every game against the Lakers, he'd be an MVP candidate.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 7, 2013
You're progressively seeing a lot more interaction between Iguodala and his teammates.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 7, 2013
Of course, JaVale McGee scoring 17 points on nine shots while initiating what was a backbreaking steal for the Nuggets certainly helps as well, but Iggy and Lawson will control where this team goes down the line.
It's Time to Stop Talking About the Lakers Offense
Admittedly, the time to chill out the criticism on the Los Angeles Lakers offense was probably a good month ago, but now we're really getting to a point where we need to chill out.
Lakers shoot 58% from the floor in the first quarter and are down 8. Let's talk about where they play Pau Gasol on offense some more.— Tas Melas (@TasMelas) January 7, 2013
Los Angeles scored points in droves against Denver in their loss, as was expected. And they gave up bunches of points in the process, as was expected.
Sure, we can complain about how they go about getting points, or even that they could potentially be scoring more. However, they are not losing games because of their offense—they are losing games because of their bad defense.
It's not that they simply can't keep up with younger teams, it's that they're not putting forth the effort to keep up with younger teams.
Corey Brewer going end to end on an inbound is exactly what's wrong with LA. Stopping the ball, defensive principles, the boring stuff.— Tas Melas (@TasMelas) January 7, 2013
I still think they'll figure it out enough to be a dangerous playoff team, but they've showed us nothing that says they'll be able to come even close to winning a championship this season.
We've Got an Impossibly Close MVP Race
After Chris Paul put on a show over the weekend—averaging 28.5 points, 11 assists and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field, 60 percent from the three-point line and making all of his free throws in wins over the Lakers and Warriors—Kevin Durant had to remind people that he has a say in the Most Valuable Player race as well.
Durant scored 22 measly points, but he did it all on 6-of-11 shooting while pulling down seven rebounds, giving out seven assists and ending up with a steal and a block.
Of course, at that point, the weekend wasn't over. There was another MVP candidate that we needed to hear from.
LeBron James walked onto the floor against the Wizards and dropped in a cool 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, collected seven assists and a block.
So, who is the frontrunner? Honestly, I've got no idea.