Erick Blasco's Sunday Review, Nov. 16 Edition
Most of yesterday’s matchups pitted squads hoping to do damage in the postseason, against teams just hoping to make it there.
The lone exception featured Phoenix knocking off Detroit 104-86. The Suns frontcourt was ferocious against the Pistons. Shaq had 12 points in 12 minutes before slamming an airborn Rodney Stuckey down to the ground, earning himself a flagrant two foul and an ejection. Amare Stoudemire picked up the slack, scoring 29 points on 11-17 shooting, while grabbing 11 boards.
With the Suns big men playing so well, the entire team played in synch. Raja Bell and Sean Singletary were the only players who shot below 50 percent for the Suns, as the team combined to shoot 57 percent against a stout Pistons defense.
Phoenix’ road doesn’t get easier with a trip to Utah, and home dates against the Lakers and Portland rounding out their week.
For Detroit, the loss was a second straight game in which they scored only thirty points in the paint. Allen Iverson struggled again, shooting 4-17 from the field, committing five turnovers negating his seven assists, and missing two of his three layups. Since Detroit’s offense has morphed from a deliberate offense featuring staggered screens for Rip Hamilton and post ups for Chauncey Billups into a drive and kick offense predicated around Iverson in the paint, when the Answer struggles, the Pistons will usually follow suit.
While Detroit’s win against the previously unbeaten Lakers was impressive, the lack of interior offense is still a huge concern, especially since Rasheed Wallace only wants to be an oversized jump shooter.
Dallas’ 124-114 overtime win in the Garden against the Knicks probably saved their season. The Mavs had been down 15 points in the second quarter to the Knicks, and were in danger of falling to 2-8 in the murderous Western conference. But then Rick Carlisle inserted Brandon Bass, and everything changed.
With Bass on the court, the Mavs had somebody to slow down Zach Randolph. Erick Dampier didn’t want to guard Randolph on the perimeter and Zach hit his first seven shots. James Singleton couldn’t keep Randolph off the offensive glass and Randolph finished with seven rebounds. But with Bass on the floor, the Mavericks had somebody who would contest Randolph’s jumpers, his lumbering drives, and his post ups, while keeping him off the backboard.
And to take advantage of Randolph’s slow arriving help-defense, Bass set up on the baseline and knocked down five jumpers for 11 points.
Without Randolph terrorizing them, the Mavericks were able to push the ball and get into favorable offensive matchups. Josh Howard and Jason Terry each torched the switching Knicks defense and shot a combined 20-38 for 51 points. Dirk Nowitzki shot over any Knick defender assigned to him for 39 huge points, including seven backbreaking ones in overtime.
Too many times this year, the Mavericks have simply collapsed down the stretch of ball games. Hopefully for their sakes, their win against the Knicks, and how they got it, will lift them out of their miasmal start.
As for the Knicks, lost in their 6-4 start is the fact that they haven’t beaten anybody good (except for a Jazz team playing without Deron Williams). They had a chance to make a statement by beating the Mavs and squandered it.
Because Zach Randolph was making jumpers early, he fell in love with his shot and forced jumpers when he wasn‘t open. Because the Knicks hit their first four three-pointers, they looked outside more than they looked inside.
Because Jamal Crawford (5-19 FG) hit a number of difficult jumpers early in the game, he decided that taking difficult shots was better than taking easy ones. And because the Knicks had such an easy time scoring the ball, they had no idea how to buckle down when the Mavs turned up their own defense and started making shots.
The Knicks finally have hope, but they’re still a long way off.
Toronto played without Jose Calderon, and their offense dissected Miami 107-96. Chris Bosh was too athletic for Udonis Haslem, Shawn Marion, and Michael Beasley to handle, and he got to the line 15 times on his way to a 27 point game. Will Solomon started for the Heat and had 15 points and 11 assists, as the Raptors recorded assists on 31 of their 36 field goals.
For the Heat, the fact that Dwayne Wade, Haslem, and Marion are the only quality veterans on such a young team shows up defensively on the road. The Heat youngsters simply don’t know how to defend away from the confines of American Airlines Arena, the main reason why they’re 1-4 away from home this season.
Orlando showed that they’re much more than Dwight Howard by beating the sad-sack Bobcats 90-85. Howard didn’t record a field goal, and fouled out after 25 minutes. Without him, Jameer Nelson, Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu were each able to put up at least 15 points, and the Bobcats couldn’t answer.
Denver struggled against Minnesota, but their defense was the difference in a 90-84 victory. Last year’s Nuggets wouldn’t be able to survive a 4-17 performance from Carlmelo Anthony, and a 7-23 performance from their starting point guard. But with Nene healthy and Chauncey Billups on board, while Marcus Camby and Allen Iverson are elsewhere, the Nuggets are physically stronger, more assertive, and more disciplined than their previous incarnations. So far, that’s translated into victories as Denver is 5-1 with Billups in the lineup.
By beating Sacramento 90-88, the Spurs are only a game under .500 despite not having Manu Ginobili the entire season, and losing Tony Parker two weeks ago.
While beating a Kings team without Kevin Martin isn’t overly impressive, the fact that Michael Finley and Matt Bonner shot the ball well—each went 3-5 from behind the arc—is a huge relief to a Spurs team thirsting for offense.
While the Spurs aren’t anywhere close to escaping the woods, they have the luxury of an easy road schedule to start the season. Most of their tough road games come after January 25th which will give the Spurs enough time to hang around before they get fully healthy. So while the Spurs are struggling now, they probably won’t be dead and buried before their stars get healthy giving them hope for a second half run into the postseason.
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