9 Takeaways for Monday Night's NBA Action
Monday night's NBA action was an emotional experience.
Rudy Gay's historically awful shooting performance against the Houston Rockets inspired disgust (and a little bit of awe), Kevin Love felt regret and Danny Granger could be dealing with some abandonment issues after what the Indiana Pacers did to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Plus, J.J. Hickson left some psychological scars on Marvin Williams. Trust me, you're going to want to read to the end of these slides to find out what happened in Utah.
Fans who surfed around to take in everything the nine-game slate had to offer might be feeling a little overwhelmed. You know what works as a pretty good coping mechanism, though?
Danny Granger Can Take His Time
Danny Granger is almost ready to rejoin the Indiana Pacers, but with the way things are going in Indy, he doesn't need to rush back.
Per the Associated Press (via USA Today):
The injured 6-foot-9 swingman is expected to work out Tuesday and could return to practice as early as Wednesday, coach Frank Vogel said before Monday night's game against Memphis.
Overall, the Pacers aren't playing like a team that needs a boost. They smoked the Memphis Grizzlies by a final score of 95-79 and have been playing historically good defense throughout the season's first couple of weeks.
But there's more. Lance Stephenson has basically played at a level that makes Granger obsolete. He posted a triple-double that included 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists on Monday, and is now shooting 48 percent on the season. Granger hasn't shot better than 43 percent since the 2008-09 campaign.
Stephenson fits perfectly with this Indiana group. He shoots open threes, sets up teammates, creates havoc in transition and defends at a high level. Plus, his teammates love him, a fact made evident when he logged his 10th assist of the evening.
With 10:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, Paul George curled hard off of a screen at the right elbow. When Stephenson hit him with a pass, George rose up immediately, taking a contested shot solely because he wanted to get his teammate his first triple-double.
When George's jumper splashed through the net, he and Stephenson burst into ear-to-ear smiles and exchanged celebratory chest-bumps. It was a cool moment, and one that hammered home the fact that Granger is little more than a trade chip for the Pacers these days.
Bonus tidbit: Tony Allen is very honest. After blatantly tripping Paul George to stop a fast break in the third quarter, he approached the officials reviewing the play to confirm that it was a flagrant foul. Per Scott Agness of Pacers.com, Allen walked up to the huddled referees and said of the call: "That's right. You ain't gotta look."
Kyle Korver Is Consistent
Kyle Korver hit a pair of threes in the Atlanta Hawks' 103-94 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
I mean, Korver has made a triple in 80 consecutive games, so it's hard to get excited about something that has happened in every contest the Hawks sniper has played since November of last year.
Still, I guess it's worth mentioning here, especially considering that Korver's streak now ranks second all-time, per NBA.com. The record is 89 straight games, held by the immortal Dana Barros.
Here's a little context from Kris Willis of PeachTreeHoops.com:
Korver came into the game having made 206 three-pointers during the streak while shooting a crisp 46.7 percent. Both of those marks are best in the league over that time span.
If Korver keeps up his current consistency, he'll tie Barros Nov. 27 against the Houston Rockets and pass him Nov. 29 against the Dallas Mavericks.
Of course, now that we've spent all this time talking about it, I'm sure a full-on jinx is in place. Best of luck, Kyle.
The San Antonio Spurs Are Gentlemen
The Philadelphia 76ers were probably feeling hopeful before the opening tip of their tilt against the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich's crew were coming off a 120-89 beatdown of the New York Knicks the day before, and Tim Duncan was scheduled to sit out.
The ingredients for a letdown game were there, which meant the Sixers were in a good position to try to steal a win against a superior team.
But the Spurs didn't let those silly hopes linger for long.
In the spirit of good sportsmanship, they put the game away early, saving the Sixers from the pain of being strung along. The Spurs burst out of the starting block, amassing a 31-13 lead by the time the first quarter ended.
After 12 minutes, the game was already over.
If you think about it, that was the humane thing to do. It's always better to rip the Band Aid off quickly, rather than dragging out the agony.
The Spurs could have started slowly, allowing the 76ers to feel like they had a chance. But the team that has made surgical dominance its calling card for more than 15 years simply operated on Philly before any real hopes could take root.
Tony Parker put up 14 points and nine assists in just 29 minutes as San Antonio cruised to a gentlemanly 109-85 win.
It's Time to Break Up the Celtics
The Boston Celtics notched their fourth straight win by beating the Orlando Magic 120-105 Monday night. Jordan Crawford dished out 10 assists as a de facto point guard, Avery Bradley pumped in 24 points on 15 shots and Kelly Olynyk had his best game as a pro.
Rest assured that this kind of success will not stand in Boston.
Danny Ainge has been telling the world for months now that the mighty Celtics were above tanking, but everyone assumed that the roster would be so inept as to render any actual efforts to lose unnecessary. This team was supposed to give away games without even trying.
Now that the Celtics have reeled off four straight victories, Ainge is going to have to take matters into his own hands. That could mean anything from trading away the team's veterans to mandating the Celtics travel by bus only from now on.
In the quest to secure a high lottery pick, almost any option is on the table.
The alternative, I suppose, is that Ainge really was serious about trying to win games this season. But that seems a little too far-fetched to be possible, doesn't it?
Andrew Bynum Can Treat, Not Cure Cleveland's Offense
In theory, the logic behind Mike Brown's decision to start Andrew Bynum was sound.
Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers came into their game against the Chicago Bulls with the second-worst offensive rating in the NBA. Only the Utah Jazz could boast a worse attack than Cleveland's 93.8 points per 100 possessions.
Bynum, a major post-up threat once upon a time, figured to be a potentially helpful offensive piece. And at first, it looked like Brown's bold decision to start Bynum was going to pay off.
The big man went to work on Joakim Noah, scoring easily on two post-ups in first few minutes, drawing fouls and generally showing the polish that made him an All-Star in 2011. In one early sequence, he corralled an offensive board in traffic, drew a double team and found a cutting Alonzo Gee for a dunk.
Outside of that glimmer of decent offense, Cleveland's attack remained a stagnant mess.
Irving scored two points and registered no other statistics in an atrocious first half that saw the Cavs score just 36 points. Remember when LeBron James couldn't get things going on Brown's old Cleveland teams? That's pretty much what the Cavs looked like in the first half against Chicago.
It wasn't pretty.
From there, little changed. Bynum looked pretty good in a short second-half stint while Irving did his best to shoot his way out of his slump. In the end, Cleveland shot just 41 percent from the field in a 96-81 loss.
If Bynum can contribute consistent minutes, he'll help the Cavs' anemic offense. And frankly, it's uplifting to see flashes of the player he used to be. But what Cleveland really needs to do is install an offense that keeps the ball from sticking. Until that happens, points will be hard to come by for the Cavaliers.
Bynum is a treatment for what ails the Cavs' chronically ill offense, but he's not the cure.
Rudy Gay and Shot Selection: Still Unacquainted
The Toronto Raptors dropped one of the ugliest double-overtime games you'll ever see to the Houston Rockets by a final score of 110-104, and Rudy Gay did his best to contribute to the aesthetic horror.
The swingman made just 11-of-37 shots from the field in 49 migraine-inducing minutes. You read that right, by the way: 37 shots. With that huge figure bolstering his season total, Gay has now taken more shots than any other NBA player, per NBA.com.
He's shooting 35.6 percent from the field.
Congratulations rescinded, Rudy!
Gay, often justifiably criticized as one of the worst perimeter shooters in the league, managed to distribute his misses all over the court against Houston. His 2013-14 shot chart, which you can view here, doesn't even seem like it's real.
Undaunted by the added pressure of overtime, the small forward fired up a dozen shots in the two extra periods, hitting just two. Of course, one of those makes was a heavily contested three that sent the contest into the second overtime period.
So, I guess anyone looking to defend Gay's shot selection can point to that shot as proof that he knew what he was doing all along.
The rest of the Raptors weren't much help on offense—DeMar DeRozan was 6-of-25, and Kyle Lowry was 6-of-16—but Gay was almost comically trigger-happy. If the Raptors are looking for ways to lose games on purpose, allowing Gay to take that many shots is a good place to start.
Now let us never speak of this again.
Damian Lillard Knows How to Bounce Back
Coming off of a horrendous 1-of-15 shooting performance in a 96-85 win over the Sacramento Kings Nov. 9, Damian Lillard was looking to right the ship when the Portland Trail Blazers squared off against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.
Lillard got to work early, hitting a pair of threes in the game's first three minutes and finishing the first quarter with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. All told, the Blazers point guard finished with 25 points, five boards and four assists on 7-of-16 shooting from the field.
Thanks in large part to Lillard's remarkable shooting from long range (he's now sitting at a cool 45.5 percent on the year), the Blazers have a 5-2 record and quality wins against the San Antonio Spurs, at the Denver Nuggets and now at home against the Pistons.
There'll be plenty of highs and lows as Portland tries to navigate its way through a brutal Western Conference, but at least now we know that the Blazers' best player never stays down for long.
Kevin Love Would Trade It All for Another Chance
Down by two points with just under seven seconds remaining, the Minnesota Timberwolves had no fewer than three chances to tie things up against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Kevin Martin took the inbounds pass and dribbled hard to his left, hoping, as always, to somehow draw a foul on his defender. When he couldn't get his man to bite, he fired up an off-balance heave that caromed off the rim and into Nikola Pekovic's hands.
Pek flipped up a six-footer that wouldn't fall, but Love was right underneath the bucket for what should have been an easy tap-in.
After the buzzer sounded, all Love could do was smile incredulously. He'd just put up 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists on the second night of a back-to-back set—a phenomenal performance by any standard.
But he couldn't get that final shot to go down.
The Clippers took the game by a final of 109-107, and Love will certainly be thinking about that missed opportunity for a good, long while.
J.J. Hickson Hurt Marvin Williams' Feelings
In the interest of completeness, it bears mentioning that the Utah Jazz ran their winless streak to eight games because of a totally inept bench and woeful shooting from long range (3-of-17). The Denver Nuggets had little trouble blowing the hapless Jazz away with a 30-13 fourth-quarter run.
Ty Lawson and Co. notched a 100-81 win in Utah. There's your game story.
And now that we've dispensed with the basics, let's all just enjoy the ferocity of J.J. Hickson's two-handed smash in the second quarter.
At the same time, let's also remember that in every situation like this, there are victims. Marvin Williams was in the wrong place at the wrong time here, and even though he made only a perfunctory effort at contesting the play, he's deserving of our sympathies.
Don't worry about sending donations or anything. The Jazz are already paying Williams, a true charity case, $7.5 million this year.