7 Takeaways from Monday Night's NBA Action
Monday night's six-game NBA slate was chock-full of valuable life lessons.
Kevin Garnett's fast start and sudden fade was a reminder that age is a foe even the league's most maniacally competitive personalities have never been able to defeat. Viewed more broadly, KG's rapid decline is a frightening sign for the disintegrating Brooklyn Nets.
On a lighter note, Monta Ellis taught us that it's never too late to change, Brian Shaw embraced his creative side and Tony Allen showed off the benefits of being flexible.
Plus, Stephen Curry learned the value of keeping one's head on straight, and the Portland Trail Blazers proved that not all wins are created equal.
Who knew basketball could impart so many useful truisms?
Father Time: Still Undefeated
Kevin Garnett showed unusual aggression in the first quarter against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, taking a whopping (for him) six shots in the early going. Even more impressively, the man who came into the game shooting just 30 percent from the field made all six of his attempts.
Brooklyn scored a season-best 40 points in the opening period, thanks in large part to KG's season-high 12 points.
You read that right, by the way. Garnett hadn't scored more than a dozen points in any game all year.
Perhaps KG was looking to send a message that his season-long swoon was over. Maybe he was tired of being little more than a vocal leader in the Nets' locker room. Whatever the case, the Big Ticket looked serious about turning back the clock.
Unfortunately, he made just two of his next 13 attempts, an age-related decline that mirrored the one that ultimately sank the Nets in the contest.
Portland left the Barclays Center with a comfortable 108-98 win because the Nets that were healthy enough to play lacked the stamina to sustain their first-quarter burst. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson combined to make just 6-of-24 shots from the field, and Deron Williams sat out the game.
Brooklyn's top talent is old and infirm, which means we're likely to see the occasional short burst of brilliance this year. But Father Time may not allow for much more than that.
A Win Is Not a Win
In the Big Book of Sports Cliches, there's probably an entire chapter titled "A Win is a Win."
Subscribing to that kind of reductive logic is a great way to avoid dealing with nuance. Just ask anyone who's ready to buy the Blazers' 9-2 start.
Sure, Portland's offense looks fantastic. And yes, the Blazers have put together a bench unit good enough to give the overtaxed starters a few valuable minutes of rest per game. In fact, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the Blazers in the playoffs this year. Teams that can win five straight games on the road, as Portland now has, are pretty rare.
But before we all cash in our life savings on stock in the Blazers, let's remember that they've still played just two teams with winning records this year: the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs.
The win over San Antonio on Nov. 2 was impressive, but the Blazers' other eight victories have come against a very weak slate of competition.
Let's all keep level heads until we see how Portland stacks up against the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors next week.
Derrick Rose Is Playing It Safe
As a general rule, Derrick Rose should never attempt more three-point shots than free throws. His greatest asset is his aggressiveness, and if he's not attacking the basket, the Chicago offense has a hard time generating good looks elsewhere.
In the Bulls' 86-81 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Rose fired up five triples while attempting just four free throws—two of which came when the Bobcats were purposely fouling at the end of regulation. Rose's reluctance to barrel into the lane is understandable; he's still unsure whether his body will hold up against repeated contact.
But it's a real problem for the Bulls.
Rose came into the game averaging 6.1 drives per game, per NBA.com, good enough for just 30th in the league. He's also shooting fewer foul shots per game than in any year of his career.
This has to change if the Bulls want to avoid nail-biters against teams like the lowly Bobcats.
Eventually, Rose will start to trust himself a bit more. That should lead to increased aggressiveness and fewer jumpers—good things for Rose and his team.
Brian Shaw Is...Creative?
In the world of late-game play-calling, there's real value in being unpredictable. But Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw may have overthought things in his team's 115-113 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With two seconds left and the Nuggets down by a pair, Shaw went way outside the box in drawing up his team's final play: a lob to noted offensive juggernaut Timofey Mozgov. The big man couldn't handle the pass, and the resultant carom led to a desperate 30-footer from J.J. Hickson.
To be fair, Serge Ibaka gave Mozgov a pretty solid bear hug that prevented him from getting to the pass. Denver Nuggets play-by-play man and unapologetic homer Chris Marlowe tweeted after the game that Mozgov complained: "he held me—I couldn't move! No foul?"
Maybe the Nuggets have a legitimate gripe about the way the final play was officiated. But if they'd managed to miss just 15 free throws instead of the 18 they bricked during the game, they wouldn't have needed to resort to such wacky tactics in the waning seconds.
Credit Shaw for employing the element of surprise, though.
Everyone Can Change
It appears that Monta Ellis is intent on making me feel stupid. I mean, it's also possible that he's just finally coming around to the idea that he's much more useful to his team when he employs judicious shot selection and uses his ridiculous speed to create for others.
But I still think he's on a personal mission to disprove every negative thing (and there have been a lot of negative things) I've ever written about him.
In the Dallas Mavericks' 97-94 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Ellis piled up 24 points and 10 assists on 7-of-14 shooting. Best of all, he stopped settling for jumpers, instead opting to take the ball to the rack with purpose.
As a result, he got to the foul line 13 times.
Dallas now sits at 7-4 on the season, thanks in large part to the best campaign Ellis has put together since he left the Golden State Warriors. If he keeps up his unselfish play, the Mavs will continue to be a dangerous outfit.
In a roundabout way, I'm taking credit for this.
Tony Allen Will Give You Something to Flop About
With 1:51 remaining in the first quarter of the Memphis Grizzlies' impressive 106-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Tony Allen earned a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for what has to be the first kick to the head in NBA history.
Chris Paul was driving the lane after getting past the first level of Memphis' defense, and as Allen leapt into the air to contest either a pass or a shot, he fired his left leg out, connecting directly with CP3's grill.
It was weird.
The officials reviewed the play and ultimately tossed Allen, but not before the Grizzlies' lockdown specialist pleaded his case.
Uh, Tony, maybe that was an accident. But I'm pretty sure that kicking a guy in the face is going to result in an ejection more times than not. This isn't Bloodsport, and you're not Jean Claude Van Damme.
In an entertaining twist, Paul's reaction was almost identical to the one he generally gives when an opposing defender breathes on him. His head flew back, his arms flailed and he heaved the ball into the air. It was a remarkable simulation of his trademark flop.
This time, though, the histrionics were justified.
There's a Way to Stop Stephen Curry
It's now pretty well established that conventional defense isn't an adequate solution for Stephen Curry. Thanks to limitless range, unparalleled confidence and a keen passing eye, the Golden State Warriors point guard is pretty much impossible to stop.
In the fourth quarter of the Dubs' 98-87 win over the Utah Jazz, Curry was well on his way to icing the game. His pair of jumpers in the two minutes of the final period put the Warriors up by 20 points.
But then he got tangled up with Marvin Williams as the two scrambled up the court, causing Curry to hit the deck. The 240-pound Williams toppled after him, dropping the entirety of his weight right on Curry's head, smashing the dome of the league's best shooter right into the hardwood.
It was a totally inadvertent play on Williams' part, but it was scary to watch.
Curry said after the game that he'd be fine, per the Associated Press (via ESPN): "I went to reach for the ball and the next thing I know, I hit the ground pretty hard and then I think Marvin landed on me...I've got a nasty headache but I'll be all right."
With the game well in hand, Curry wouldn't get a chance to add to his 22 points. He was done for the night.
Here's hoping the rest of the league doesn't add "crush skull" into its scouting reports on how to slow down Golden State's point guard.