This was a night for the patient, marathon NBA junkie. There were only five games on the Tuesday slate in the NBA, and the best two were the first (Minnesota Timberwolves-Washington Wizards) and the last (Phoenix Suns-Sacramento Kings).
In between those two exciting slabs of basketball action was a hodgepodge of blowouts, mismatches and whatever it is the New York Knicks are doing these days.
Still, there were a few interesting takeaways. Two contenders are building steam, while one wannabe contender is showing a disturbing flaw.
Let's get to Tuesday night's action!
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love might just be the front-runner for MVP right now. And he certainly looked every bit of it...through the first quarter.
First quarter: 16 points, 5-of-6 shooting.
Last three quarters: nine points, 3-of-11 shooting.
The Wolves held a 12-point halftime lead, but with Love struggling and the Wizards cracking down on defense, they quickly wilted in the second half. Washington tied the game by the end of the third and stormed ahead for a quality 104-100 win.
With Love and Kevin Martin (11 points) held down, head coach Rick Adelman was disappointed in the effort of the other Timberwolves, according to The Associated Press (via 1500 ESPN):
"We need everybody every night," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "We can't usually get by if we have a couple guys with off games."
Adelman is a smart coach; he knows it takes more than a two-man team to win consistently in the NBA.
Lost among the subpar performance of Kevin Love and the 25-point performance of teammate Bradley Beal, Wizards point guard John Wall had himself quite a game. Though Wall finished only tied for fourth on the team in points, he overwhelmed Minnesota with his passing skills, finishing with 16 assists for only the second time in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
John Wall tied a career high with 16 Ast. In both of his 16 Ast games he had just 1 TO— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 20, 2013
Often thought of as a shoot-first point guard, Wall is on a career-high pace for assists, with 9.8 dimes per game, as well as a career low for turnovers, with just 2.9 per game.
If the Wizards fail to make a run for an Eastern Conference playoff spot this season, one thing seems certain: You won't be able to fault Wall for selfish play.
Unless he's playing the Mike Woodson-coached New York Knicks, that is.
With his team in desperate need of a win and finding itself down in the fourth quarter, Woodson chose to go the gentleman's route in refusing to foul Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond—he of the pathetic 17.6 percent free-throw shooting—off the ball.
Perhaps the "hack-a-Drummond" policy goes against Woodson's old-school code, like guarding the three-point line, apparently. Woodson could get away with this stuff when he had a 54-win team, but he needs to wake up and start paying attention to details if these Knicks are to climb above .500.
The surprising Atlanta Hawks had a chance to tie the Miami Heat Tuesday night atop the Southeast Division. Sure, it's the first month of the season, but it would have been a nice feather in the cap of the Hawks, who have lost eight of their last nine versus the Heat.
Instead, LeBron James and the Heat put Atlanta on notice: The Hawks are still playing for second. Atlanta stayed within three points at the half until Miami exerted its dominance in the second half.
Atlanta looks like a promising team under first-year head coach Mike Budenholzer. In another division (*cough* the Atlantic *cough*) they might even be able to compete for first place. But not in the Southeast.
Who does Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale turn to when he wants to get 20 points in a game from one player? Let's see: There's James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin...
What about Terrence Jones?
The "other guy" in Houston's frontcourt paced the Rockets Tuesday night with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting in their easy win over the Boston Celtics. Should McHale thank Jones for making the head coach look like a genius for starting him over Omer Asik, or should he curse Jones for making him look like an idiot for ever starting Asik in the first place?
Either way, the Rockets are rolling with incredible scoring depth. Now if only they could defend consistently.
Following their shocking 5-2 start to the season, the Phoenix Suns have fallen back to .500 with Tuesday night's heartbreaking 107-104 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Suns have now lost three games in a row by six points...combined. That's a bitter pill to swallow.
The Suns came into the fourth quarter nursing a five-point lead, only to wilt under the pressure from the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. The Suns are a young team. They've got a surprising amount of talent and they play extremely hard, but they were due for a letdown like this. The key now is to learn from this experience and carry it into the next tight road game.