10 Takeaways from Saturday's NBA Action
Saturday night's NBA action was a set of games that didn't exactly titillate fans in anticipation, but the games that came across were actually better than they seemed on paper.
It just goes to show that you can get a night full of entertaining games from the bottom half of the playoff brackets and a handful of lottery teams, as long as shots are falling or defenses are playing as stingily as possible.
That even includes the Charlotte Bobcats.
Whether it be the Denver Nuggets' long-armed machine denying the Cleveland Cavaliers a comeback, the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks see-sawing or even an unexpected blowout from the Dallas Mavericks, there's always something exciting happening and a new storyline developing or a trend continuing.
With that, let's take a look at the night that was, and see how it continued the narrative of this thrilling NBA season.
Cleveland's Got a Bit of a Bench
For the first few months of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers bench was right up there with the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers as the worst group of guys coming off the pine in the entire league.
Now, not so much.
They are leagues away from having anything worthy of being called a bench mob yet, but after a handful of solid performances, it seems safe to say that they're worth more than just a few buckets per game.
A good night from Shaun Livingston and Wayne Ellington, along with a few buckets from Marreese Speights and C.J. Miles, and their bench didn't absolutely kill the Cavs like it did before the start of December.
They combined for 36 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocks and were responsible for a little run in the second quarter to keep Cleveland ahead in their eventual 111-103 loss.
Plus, all they've got to do is run around in some organized fashion, and they'll be as good as the starting unit on defense.
Sammy Dalembert Is Coming to Life
Maybe it's just a few hot games, or maybe he's waking up and coming out of his slumber, but Samuel Dalembert is starting to show some signs of life.
Dalembert had a few nagging injuries, but really the biggest problem has been his poor play in the shadow of younger guys like Larry Sanders and John Henson. The result has been just 15 minutes per game for Dalembert, and even more limited time as of late.
Cue an injury to Sanders, and the Bucks suddenly need Dalembert to step up.
He played a few solid games at the end of January, notching his first two double-doubles of the season, and then he went completely ham.
Dalembert's 17-of-21 night against the Nuggets with his career-high 35 points gave him the starting nod for Saturday night's game against the Detroit Pistons.
Sammy didn't disappoint, proving himself with a 14-point, 12-rebound game, along with two steals and five blocks in the 110-105 loss to Detroit.
Alec Burks? Seriously?
I've admittedly not watched the Utah Jazz enough to have formed an opinion on what Alec Burks' ceiling is as an NBA player, but halfway through the season, I certainly wasn't ready for Burks to come out and drop 24 in a contest in just 27 minutes of action.
Sure, it is just the Kings, but it's quite shocking after only seeing him play garbage time and at the ends of second quarters thus far.
He's gotten a bit more run as of late, putting up his previous season high of 14 points just a few games back against the Kings, but he had a solid night from the field, going 7-of-15.
It was one of the lone highlights in an otherwise bland night for the Jazz in their 120-109 off-night against the Kings.
Will Dirk Nowitzki Turn the Corner Any Time Soon?
Back before Dirk Nowitzki came back, the Dallas Mavericks were doing their best to tread water, using Dirk's return as hope that they could kick it into another gear and make a run for the playoffs.
I'm not so sure about the likelihood of that right now.
They're 22-28 after their very impressive 116-91 win over the Golden State Warriors in which they caught the Warriors in a lull, but Dirk's play has to be concerning.
He's only shot above .500 in seven games thus far, and he's shooting a terrible 41 percent from the field this season.
It's starting to approach the point where he's going to have to stop shooting if he's not feeling it on a particular night and even relegate himself to being a spot-up shooter from time to time.
Michael Jordan Could Play for the Bobcats
The Charlotte Bobcats aren't the terrible team they were a season ago, but they're still a pretty bad basketball team.
What they've got to hang their hat on this season is that they're a bit more fun to watch when they've got a completely healthy lineup, and there's something to look forward to with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist playing every day.
With all the talk about Michael Jordan's 50th birthday and whether or not he could still be a productive member of a basketball team, watching the Bobcats makes it obvious that he could.
If he could get into shape and somehow shimmy his way around any kind of rules barring an owner from playing for his own team, I could totally see Mikey J spotting up and shooting his way into a Bobcats uniform.
Houston Demoralized Golden State
The Houston Rockets put up 23 three-pointers against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday and completely killed anything the Warriors had going as they entered their four-game road trip against some top-tier teams.
After the 140-109 loss to the Rockets, Golden State fell 119-98 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 99-93 to the Memphis Grizzlies and now 116-91 to the Dallas Mavericks.
I suppose it hasn't really been any single issue they've been trying to overcome, but they've alternated bad perimeter defense with woeful interior defense and are just running into teams in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Perhaps there's some regression to the mean going on here and the Warriors have been overachieving all year, but a four-game stretch is a bit short to make those kinds of rash judgements.
Could the Isaiah Craziness Be Back?
For a good chunk of the season last year, it seemed as if Isaiah Thomas was an amazing pickup for the Sacramento Kings with the final pick of the draft. Getting anything out of pick No. 60 is a bonus, but they had a guy who came out and averaged nearly 12 points per game, shooting 37 percent from the three-point line.
There's been a notorious logjam in the Kings backcourt for a few years now, so seeing yet another young point guard emerge was unlikely, if not borderline impossible.
Thomas started the season as a reserve and stumbled a bit out of the gate. He was shooting just under 43 percent from the floor and fell off considerably from the three-point line, knocking in all of 31 percent of the long balls.
Moving him into the starting lineup didn't really change much; it just gave him more points from the added minutes.
In back-to-back games now, both against the Utah Jazz, Thomas has scored 17 and 25 points, shooting a combined 16-of-29 from the floor and making four of his eight three-pointers.
Sometimes all it takes is a spark to ignite a nice run, and I think I can speak for the group when I say we're ready to see the little man do some work again.
Detroit's Starting to Smooth out the Bumps
Perhaps it's the arrival of Jose Calderon, or just the fact that putting together a run and spoiling someone's playoff hopes got them going, but the Detroit Pistons looked like a good team out there against one that's likely headed to the playoffs.
They saw their bench score 49 points, Charlie Villanueva hit clutch shots (and logged his first double-double since 2010) and Calderon go hog-wild against the Bucks.
It just seems like everybody on the team is having fun playing together, and even Rodney Stuckey is feeling quite a bit more comfortable playing off the ball.
The only issue has been trying to get Brandon Knight to be a bit more fluid off the ball, which he definitely hasn't been.
Given some time, Calderon could actually have the team running smoothly, and they might win enough to just miss the playoffs.
Denver's Length Will Overpower Your Everything
Watching the Denver Nuggets run with the Cavaliers was like watching a lion take down a gazelle. It's a fun chase, but you know there's no way the gazelle is getting away in the end.
They did their best, but there was just far too much length for the Cavs, who aren't really a short team but just can't match the Nuggets' height and lankiness.
Whether it be JaVale McGee snatching a shot out of midair, or Andre Iguodala smothering Kyrie Irving near the end of the game to deny him the ball and force C.J. Miles to take the important shots, there's just too much length on that Denver team. It's really coming together for George Karl's squad.
When a team's got an insanely athletic center like McGee, a 6'10" guy who's playing small forward in Danilo Gallinari, a 6'8" shooting guard to bring in off the bench and nobody besides the point guards standing below 6'6", it has got a distinct advantage over the opposition.
That much was evident when the Nuggets ran with the Cavaliers Saturday night.