Utah Jazz 99, at Minnesota Timberwolves 96
In Kevin McHale's first game as head coach, he had the Minnesota Timberwolves playing inspired basketball. After losing the lead in the second half, Minnesota fought back from the deficit, only to fall behind again after an 8-0 Utah run in the final minutes.
It wasn't a lack of heart Tuesday night in Minnesota; it was a combination of inexperience and being outplayed by the seasoned Jazz down the stretch. The Timberwolves were without shooting-specialist Mike Miller, who was much-missed as the T-Wolves shot 3-19 from behind the arc.
Unlike most interim coaches, McHale expects The Timberwolves to seriously outperform their 4-15 start over the remainder of the season. Keep in mind, when McHale took over for Flip Saunders in 2005 he led the Timberwolves to a 19-12 record.
Rookie Kevin Love had a big impact for the T-Wolves in 26 minutes, grabbing 15 rebounds, eight coming on the offensive end of the court. His outstanding effort was offset by 2-9 shooting from the free-throw line. It was surprising because Love came into the game an 82.1 percent free-throw shooter.
Many consider Love and his new coach McHale to share more qualities then just a name. Love used to watch old Celtic tapes with his father Stan, and considers McHale one of his all-time favorites. Maybe Kevin Love was named after Kevin McHale.
Minnesota fans get the privilege of watching Love and Al Jefferson develop into a potential McHale and Robert Parish duo under McHale’s tutelage.
San Antonio Spurs 133, at Dallas Mavericks 126 (2 OT)
This Texas-rivalry was played with the tenacity of a playoff matchup. Defensive stops and missed shots at the end of regulation forced the game into overtime.
In overtime, Tony Parker received a game seven-type flagrant foul from Jason Terry on a fast break. After the foul, Parker went 1-2 from the stripe and missed a jumper; followed by a Jason Kidd three to take the game to a second overtime where the Spurs were finally able to seal the victory.
Both teams entered the game at 11-8, tied for eighth place in the West. With the emergence of the Portland Trail Blazers this season, the NBA’s Texas Trio is in jeopardy of not having three playoff teams for the first time since 2006.
Although the Houston Rockets (who beat Atlanta Tuesday night) have the lead in the standings, they are once again plagued by injuries. When Tracy McGrady regains health, Yao Ming is sure to go down, opening the door for Dallas and San Antonio to clinch.
The way they played in this double-overtime battle, it will be hard to ward off either team.
The Jason Kidd stat-watch is living strong, as he had a season-high 24 points in 46 minutes. Kidd was two rebounds away from a triple-double.
Detroit Pistons 94, at Washington Wizards 107
Wizards coach Ed Tapscott is a perfect 3-0 on Tuesday nights, unfortunately he's winless every other night of the week. Led by Caron Butler's 33 points, the Wizards played smart basketball, limiting themselves to seven turnovers.
Antonio McDyess, who re-signed with Detroit on Tuesday, suited up and played 25 minutes. Nine points and six rebounds were solid contributions, but now Coach Michael Curry has the task of working McDyess back into the rotation.
Do the Pistons want to go big with McDyess, or small with Rodney Stuckey? Do they want to opt for the younger and more athletic Amir Johnson over the veteran McDyess?
At 11-9, Curry and the Pistons need to figure it out if they want to continue their playoff dominance in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto Raptors 94, at Cleveland Cavaliers 114
MVP-race leader LeBron James scored 20 of his 31 points in the first half to lead the Cavaliers to an easy victory over the downward-spiraling Raptors. While the Cavs continue to shine, the Raptors need to go back to the drawing board.
Interim coach Jay Triano needs to establish each player's role on the team. He needs to make sure each player understands what they are expected to do, and not to do.
The Raptors lack effort, direction, and a leader on the court as well as the sidelines. For a team who was picked as a dark-horse favorite in the East, they are severely underachieving.
During the game, James became the Cavilers all-time steals leader surpassing Mark Price. Coincidentally, Zydrunas Ilgauskas passed Brad Daugherty as the Cavs all-time leader in rebounds.
It came on a board that LeBron had initially snatched, then dropped when he saw Ilgauskas nearby, in a Brett Favre-Michael Strahan-esque record-breaking moment.
Los Angles Lakers 101, at Sacramento Kings 113
Sacramento surprised the Lakers with their tempo, and although they didn’t play flawlessly, they limited their turnovers to 10 and shot 49.4 percent from the field.
The Lakers are falling into a trend of undermining lesser opponents. In December they’ve already dropped games to Indiana and now Sacramento, not to mention the scare Washington gave them.
LA isn’t at risk of falling out of the playoffs, but they need to focus every night, not just for the big games if they want prepare themselves to hang another banner from the rafters.
Orlando Magic 109, at Portland Trail Blazers 108
Greg Oden was once again a non-factor for the Blazers. This time the letdown came in his highly anticipated initial meeting with Dwight Howard. Oden found himself in foul trouble and only logged 11 minutes.
Even with little help from Oden, the Blazers were able to contain Howard thanks to Joel Przybilla and a condensed zone defense.
It seemed as though the Blazers, were off to their 16th victory until the Magic finished the game with a 9-0 run, capped by a last-second Hedo Turkoglu three. It was Portland’s first home loss of the season, and one that was easily preventable.