7 Takeaways from Monday Night's Re-Centered NBA Action
Monday was a spotlight for the supposed non-contenders, after some bigger-name teams got their Sunday showcase. The Warriors, Rockets, Grizzlies and Bulls all prevailed before smaller-scale audiences.
Though Toronto is currently frozen, a returning Andrew Bogut made quite the splash against the Raptors. For all the coverage of how Rondo's injury influences the postseason, a returning big man could have an even bigger impact out West. The Warriors are already probably making the playoffs, and an upgrade at their formerly weakest position may have playoff consequences.
We were also witnesses to some interesting developments in the Mountain time zone. There was a seemingly meaningful blowout in Utah, and some hilariously poor refereeing in Colorado.
The Return of Bogut, Exit of Curry
The Golden State Warriors got off to a majestic beginning at Toronto, one that hinted at quite the high ceiling. Andrew Bogut finally returned from injury and he looked fantastic. The big man finished with a helpful 6-of-8 shooting and four blocks en route the 114-102 Golden State victory.
Perfect, right? Not so fast, as it seems a healthy Stephen Curry might not be able to co-exist at once with a healthy Andrew Bogut. Stephen Curry turned his ankle (again) during the third quarter, and had to sit out the rest of the contest.
Health will be an issue for this injury-prone Warriors team, but their "if healthy" potential is rising. At full capacity, this is a wonderful mix of interior passing and long-range shooting.
The first Curry-Lee-Bogut tic-tac-toe out of the pick-and-roll = my non-partisan Warriors love rising to scary levels.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 29, 2013
Nate Robinson Is Helpful
I thought this was an interesting observation from salary-whiz Mark Deeks:
Nate Robinson is so much better than basically everyone thinks he is.— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) January 29, 2013
Nate Robinson is much-maligned, but he's been Chicago's best guard this year. While that might be faint praise, he's helped an injury-depleted team immensely with his shot creation and athletic defense.
Nate was very productive in Chicago's 93-85 road win over the Charlotte Bobcats Monday night. In 26 minutes, he put up a quick 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The little guy has found a role as a microwave amid defense-first lineups.
Where Is Indiana's Defense?
The Indiana Pacers are numerically the top defense in basketball, but they haven't looked it in these past three games against Western Conference teams. The Pacers struggled on defense against Portland (100 points on 78 shots), Utah (114 points on 83 shots) and, most recently, Denver (102 points on 78 shots).
Part of the reason is that Indiana's been turning the ball over. It may not be such an issue versus certain Eastern Conference foes, but you don't want to fuel an opposing fast break in Denver.
This is something to consider if Indiana plays the Heat in the postseason again. That half-court D is awesome, but the transition defense is vulnerable.
Look at Utah, the Lakers Have a Chance
It's not a perfect rule, but it makes one wonder about the Utah Jazz. Houston was up by 30, even before their threes started draining.
Until Utah commits to a more defensive lineup, it's hard to envision anything past the first round for this squad. If they keep playing like they've been playing, it's hard to even see them holding on to one of the last playoff spots.
Right now, Lakers fans are circling Salt Lake City like vultures over a stumbling, bleeding wildebeest. Dallas fans, too.
Isaiah Thomas Is One to Watch
Isaiah Thomas had quite the game-winner to beat the Washington Wizards. To ice the 96-94 victory, Thomas knifed through the paint and cooly sunk the floater:
What I love about the play is how spread out the floor is before he makes his move. Keith Smart has been reluctant to use pick-and-roll (let alone spread pick-and-roll), but Thomas' speed calls for it.
The tiny slasher could be a fine player in the right environment, if he's not already. Thomas finished with 22 points on 16 shots for the evening. The Wizards evidently were unaware that the kid is left-handed.
Poor Officiating Helps the Nuggets
The aforementioned spotty transition defense was an issue for the Indiana Pacers in their 102-101 loss to Denver. So too, were the refs.
With the score tied and the clock winding down, Paul George isolated on Andre Iguodala. This wasn't the most creative play design, but it doesn't excuse how the officials reacted to its result.
Iguodala reached and bumped into George, quite obviously. It knocked the ball loose, and gave Denver one try at an alley-oop play with less than a second left.
On that play, George was then incorrectly called for bumping Iguodala, thus securing free throws and a Denver victory. While I'm sure that calls went both ways throughout the game, the final seconds were quite unfair to poor Paul George and the Pacers.
Marc Gasol Helps Memphis, His Injury-Replacement Chances
I still don't get how Marc Gasol was ignored for an All-Star selection, but the night brought him closer to the possible injury replacement. Gasol was brilliant in a 103-100 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring 27 points, dishing seven assists and snagging seven rebounds.
With Stephen Curry unfortunately getting hurt in the contest, one wonders if this makes Gasol the favorite to replace any injured player in the West for the All-Star Game. The roster is already a bit frontcourt-heavy, but nobody besides Curry comes close to being as deserving as Marc Gasol.
Rudy Gay played well, scoring 27 points on 17 shots. It's not clear whether that merely increases his trade value in the eyes of the Memphis front office.