5 Takeaways from Saturday Night's Bizarre NBA Action
The NBA's Saturday night action did not disappoint, but this one had a bit of an extra squirt of secret sauce in between the meat and the tomato.
What it lacked in star-studded matchups, it made up for in strange finishes and just strange games altogether.
We saw a huge lead evaporate late, a big-name player sit on the bench through the fourth quarter and overtime, a star player finish a game as we've always known him to and a few guys we've never heard of take center stage in a game.
With one game going into extra time and a few others going right down to the wire, there's no question Saturday's games were something to talk about.
In the end, it was one of the most unexpectedly satisfying nights of basketball all season long, and it all started with a San Antonio Spurs-Atlanta Hawks matchup that featured what most people would agree was too few players.
Matt Bonner Leads Spurs' Strong Second Unit
When the San Antonio Spurs strolled into Atlanta Saturday night, it was the second game of a back-to-back in a different city. It was a foregone conclusion that there were going to be a few players held out of this one.
Not including the injured Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan was the only major player out of action.
It's disappointing to see a player as good as Duncan sit out a game in which he would be matched up against one of the Eastern Conference's best big men in Al Horford, but it's understandable.
While the game was punctuated with the likes of Tony Parker putting together a 23-point, 12-assist night, it was Matt Bonner and some of his bench cohorts having all of the fun.
Hope the guys who might put Matt Bonner in 3-pt contest are watching this Spurs-Hawks game. They're not? Well then.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) January 20, 2013
San Antonio won 98-93, thanks in part to the fact that Bonner stepped up and had 17 points, nailing three straight three-pointers.
In the End, It's Always Chris Paul
Watching Chris Paul is always an interesting way to spend an evening. There are some nights when he's feeling his shot, so he'll take a jumper early and often in a game.
However, he's usually quite willing to let the other players on the Clippers get their fun in while he sits back and distributes the ball. He's incredibly active, yet for a player of his caliber, he almost seems passive.
Of course, we know what's coming when the game is close late; Paul is taking the shots, and he's usually going to make them.
Washington found that out in its 94-87 loss to the Clippers on Saturday.
The Wizards were trying their hardest to claw their way into the lead, but Paul kept breaking their backs, first hitting a three-pointer to put Los Angeles up by five with three minutes to go.
A few plays later, he found Blake Griffin on an island in the post, dropping in an easy assist before hitting his own jumper a few seconds later.
Benching a Star Big Man Isn't Always the Best Idea
Joakim Noah had a decent night for the Bulls, scoring 10 points, blocking two shots and pulling down five rebounds in only 27 minutes of work against the Grizzlies, but looking at the box score seems a bit fishy.
Why would Noah play just 27 minutes in a game that went into overtime unless he was injured in some way?
Well, he most certainly wasn't hurt.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said sitting Joakim Noah in the fourth and OT was just a coach's decision. No health issues. But there's an issue.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) January 20, 2013
When you look at the box score, you see that Taj Gibson had himself a very good night, which would explain why Noah played so few minutes. Gibson had 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, even though he fouled out.
However, when Gibson fouled out in overtime, Noah still didn't come into the game.
Every point Memphis scored in overtime came at the hands of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, save a layup that Jerryd Bayless had to end the game.
Noah ended up sitting out the final 22 minutes of the game that ended in an 85-82 loss for Chicago. That is going to take some explaining over the course of the next few days.
Even When Milwaukee Looks Good, It Looks Bad
The Milwaukee Bucks are somehow staying afloat in the Eastern Conference, despite the fact that their offense relies heavily upon two guys who are notorious chuckers in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings.
One is fine, but having two seems like it would be a death sentence.
Well, they showed how good their offense could be Saturday as they ran up a huge lead on the Portland Trail Blazers late in the fourth quarter. With under four minutes left in the fourth and a 15-point lead, you would assume coasting wouldn't be too much of a problem.
Portland was able to go on a 12-1 run over the course of the next three minutes, cutting the lead to 104-100.
Thanks to a missed shot in the lane by Damian Lillard and a no-call on a shot by LaMarcus Aldridge, Milwaukee was able to escape with a 110-104 win, but the Bucks did nothing to silence the naysayers.
Don't Bat an Eye at the Guy on the 10-Day Contract
This has officially become my favorite story of the 2013 portion of the NBA schedule (the 2012 portion has to be the happenings in Los Angeles), especially if it keeps going in Minnesota.
Coming into its game against the Houston Rockets, Minnesota was without a number of players, with Alexy Shved and Nikola Pekovic the new names added to the injured reserve list. That would mean a starting lineup that would put Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour in the backcourt, and Greg Stiemsma in the middle.
To fill a couple roster spots, Minnesota picked up Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale. Each player was signed to a 10-day contract.
Naturally, Johnson threw in 15 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes, while Gelabale added 11 points and four boards in the Timberwolves' 92-79 win.
The two were instrumental in holding Houston off down the stretch, combining for 23 of Minnesota's 29 points in the fourth quarter and playing alongside Ricky Rubio like seasoned pros.
Each guy even got an "MVP" chant along the way.