Friday night was a dark time for NBA contenders.
Three—count 'em, three—teams that won a playoff series last year lost key contributors to injury. And we're not talking about scrubs here: Derrick Rose, Marc Gasol and Andre Iguodala. Those are three All-Stars. All three of those teams lost, by the way.
While the Brooklyn Nets didn't lose any more players to the injury bug, they might not even count as "contenders" anymore. They embarrassed themselves on the court, losing to the Timberwolves by 30.
On this night, it was better to be a team like the Pelicans and 76ers, two teams that continue to surprise.
Let's get to it!
They lose by 30 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Is Friday's 111-81 loss truly rock bottom for the Brooklyn Nets? According to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York, everything the Nets have tried so far has been for naught:
After the game, Kidd said that playing time is up for grabs. Didn't think you'd hear that in Game No. 12, did you? Nope. Not after the Nets held a closed-door meeting four days ago.
It didn't have any effect. Neither did the technical foul and flagrant 1 KG picked up after getting into it with Love early in the third. So much for trying to fire your team up. Minnesota ripped off a 19-2 run after that. The rout was already on.
"We're still confident we're going to turn this thing around," Pierce said.
They keep saying it. But when is it actually going to happen?
That is a good question. Everyone just assumes the Nets will pull things together, but this particular group of players have no track record as a unit.
They are experiencing every worst-case scenario the naysayers predicted: old players playing old, and injury-prone players being injured.
The worst of Friday night's injuries may have occurred in Portland.
Derrick Rose hasn't even been back for a full month, but now he has a new knee problem to worry about after suffering an injury in Friday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Rose injured his knee in the third quarter.
Here is how the play unfolded, courtesy of the Associated Press, via ESPN:
He lost his footing while trying to change direction to get back on defense when Nicolas Batum stole a pass from Joakim Noah and started the other way. Rose limped across the court and couldn't put any weight on his knee. After the Blazers scored, he came out of the game during a timeout.
Rose will have an MRI Saturday, and basketball fans will be holding their breath.
The Golden State Warriors are a great team. The Memphis Grizzlies made the conference finals last season. They both have a shot in the playoffs this year.
So maybe they should stop losing players already! Both Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and Warriors wing Andre Iguodala left their games on Friday night.
Derrick Rose, Marc Gasol and Iguodala all got hurt tonight. The MRIs are... rather important.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 23, 2013
So which player is more important to his Western Conference contender? Probably Gasol, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Defense is what the Grizzlies hang their hats on, and they would be in a lot of trouble if Gasol misses too much time.
The Philadelphia 76ers are in second in the Atlantic Division with Friday's 115-107 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, a half of a game behind the Toronto Raptors. Sure, there's little to be proud of in being second place in the Atlantic, but the 76ers have earned the right to brag.
The Sixers might not be the best team in the Atlantic, but they are certainly the most exciting. Philly has already played three overtime games this season, and five of its six wins have come by fewer than 10 points.
Of all the crunch-time plays the Sixers have pulled off this month, none was better than Spencer Hawes' fadeaway three at the buzzer, pictured above.
Pacers wing Lance Stephenson has come down to Earth a bit following his scorching hot start to the season. But that didn't stop him from registering his second triple-double of the season Friday night, with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the Pacers' 97-82 win over the Boston Celtics.
It's important to remember that Stephenson is only 23 years old. He'll have his ups and downs. But he has shown himself capable of these kinds of human-Swiss-Army-knife performances.
Yeah, the Pacers are good.
Following Friday's stirring, come-from-behind win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the young New Orleans Pelicans are now 6-6 on the season.
How good is that 6-6 record? Well, it's relative.
As it currently stands, the Pelicans would be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, with home-field advantage in the first round.
But the Pelicans are not in the East. They're in the Southwest Division, where 6-6 is only good enough for fifth place. That's right: fourth place in the East, dead last in the Southwest. It's a tough time to be a .500 team in the Western Conference.
Poor Josh Smith.
The Detroit forward, signed away from Atlanta in the offseason, had two chances this week to stick it to his old team, and he went 0-2.
Friday night's loss was probably for the worst. Smith was benched in favor of Kyle Singler before the game and scored zero points in the Pistons' 96-89 loss. This must have been one of lowest points of Smith's career.
As far as I can remember, Josh has always started the game. I knew his dad was not doing so well and that could have been on his mind a little bit. Josh is a great player. He's going to get it going. He's going to be fine.