Tom Halzack's NBA Monday Night Heroics Recap

Thomas HalzackAnalyst INovember 11, 2008

It was a night of 4th quarter heroics with amazing individual clutch performances.

Celtics (7-1) Pierce Toronto ( 4-3) Raptors: 94-87

 Paul Pierce overcame a 3 of 13 shooting funk to score 36 points to lead the Celtics to victory over conference rival Toronto Raptors.

The Celtics were lethargic after a big win at Detroit the night before and heading for a loss at home until Kevin Garnett started trash talking and scoring and Paul Pierce woke up to score 22 points in the 4th quarter.

Boston has started slowly in 6 of their 8 games, losing the first quarter each time, before coming back to win 5 of those games. They are now 7-1.

Boston has been trying to work the role players into the offense more and the three stars have been sacrificing their own games a bit more this season. Paul Pierce, in particular, has been in somewhat of a shooting slump (32% over the last 5 games).

Tonight it took him most of three quarters before he finally woke up and broke out, shooting 7 of 9 in the 4th quarter to lead the Celtics back from a 16 point deficit to the win.

Though sharp shooting Jason Kapono (14 points) answered many of the Celtic scores with shots of his own, he was unable to stop Pierce from scoring in a variety of ways, including back to back three pointers.

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Jermaine O’Neal led Toronto with 23 points, 19 of them in the first half. The NBA’s 3rd leading scorer at 26 points per game, Chris Bosh was held to 9 points by Garnett. Kevin Garnett scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds, Ray Allen added 19 points as the Celtic big three won this game without strong bench support for the first time in many games.

Portland (4-3) "Out Benches" Orlando (4-3): 106-99

The Oden-less Portland TrailBlazers won its first road game while giving up a beastly 29 points and 19 rebounds to Magic superman Dwight Howard. Brandon Roy led the Blazers with 27 points, Steve Blake contributed 20, and LaMarcus Aldridge added a double/double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

But it was the Portland bench of Travis Outlaw (20 points) and Euro newcomer Rudy Fernandez (16 points) who led Portland in the 4th quarter to beat Orlando. Outlaw is shooting a white hot 65% from three point land and was 3 of 5 last night. Fernandez added 4 of 6 from downtown, but is showing he is more than a shooter with 3 steals, 3 assists and a blocked shot on the night.

Portland has played a tough early season schedule and are 4-3 so far.

Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu tried to bring the Magic back in the 4th quarter and led both teams with 35 points on 11 of 21 shooting with 4 of 7 from downtown. The Magic’s lack of depth, lack of help for Howard in the middle and middling point guard play will hold this team back from advancing beyond where they are.

An inside/outside team, they are shooting more threes but hitting them less often, led by Rashard Lewis’s 28% shooting from the arc. He was 0-5 last night.

Miami’s (4-3) Wade Outshoots the Nets (2-4) in the 4th

In yet another 4thquarter clutch performance, Dwyane Wade scored 19 of his 33 points to lead the Heat back from a 10 point deficit to beat the Devin Harris-less Nets. The Heat were without Shawn Marion as both are recovering from minor injuries.

The Nets were led by Yi Jianlian with 24 points and 5 of 6 from Chinatown, by far his best 3 point shooting as a pro. Yi also had 10 rebounds, while Vince Carter added 22 points, and Keyon Dooling, solid defensively, but erratic offensively, contributed 18 points in a rare starting role.

The Nets have some talented role players and some young players with promise, but it will probably be a long year for Nets coach Lawrence Frank as they learn how to play the game together.

Miami received scoring support from rookie Michael Beasley with 19 and Daequan Cook with 15. Don’t let the 4-3 record against weak early competition fool you. The Heat need point guard help and help in the middle, where power forward Udonis Haslem is playing center. Shawn Marion is having trouble fitting in so far averaging just ten points.

An unusual cast of characters has moved through Miami in recent years, including the departed Ricky Davis and Antoine Walker. They still have Mark Blount, and Marcus Banks, and aren’t sure what to do with them. How far the Celtics have come. How far the Heat have dropped.

Still, Dwyane Wade is better than Vince Carter by a country mile and showed it in this game.

Phoenix Suns (6-2) Barbosa explodes for 27 to beat Grizzlies (3-5): 107-102

In yet another 4th quarter shoot out, O.J. Mayo out scores Leandro Barbosa 19 to 16, but it’s not enough as the Suns regain the lead in the final seconds to win. Mayo scores 33 in the game, but Barbosa scores 27 in 22 minutes as the Terry Porter Suns are a surprising 6-2 to start the season.

The Suns are adapting from a run and gun D’Antoni offense that was perfect for 2 time MVP Steve Nash, to a defensive emphasis and half court game that will get the most out of Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal looks out of shape and Nash is not a strong defender. Yet, the early results are good. The reason?

The pairing with Shaq is great for young stud Amare Stoudamire, where he returns to power forward where he prefers to play and has excelled since the move. Matt Barnes has been added and Boris Diaw is versatile enough to play either way. They are hoping for a better showing in the play-offs with their stronger interior defense. So far, so good – but it is a long season.

The Memphis Grizzlies are a very young, athletic and talented group of players with Rudy Gay (20 points) and OJ Mayo leading the way. Point guard remains unresolved as Greg Oden friend, Mike Conley (0 pts. 0-6) is having difficulty adapting to the NBA. The Griz have the 2nd lowest assists in the league at 16 per game.

Olympian Marc Gasol (15 points) might prove to be more than a throw-in from his brother’s trade to the Lakers.

Indiana Pacers (3-3) Ford delivers 4th quarter win over Oklahoma City Thunder (1-6)

In the theme of the night, new Pacer point guard T.J. Ford scored 11 of his 24 points in the 4thquarter while snatching the Thunder’s first road win away from them, though OKC scorer Kevin Durant tried valiantly to deliver with 37 points and 8 rebounds.

It is a common heartbreak for the Thunder this season, losing the lead in the 4th quarter. They will end those heartbreaks soon. Soon, meaning about a year from now. Until then, expect more of the same, as they grow a team with mostly average talent, except for Durant and rookie point guard Russell Westbrook (6 points, 1-10 shooting).

Jeff Green added 14 points and veteran Joe Smith contributed 12 on 6-8 shooting. Veteran point Earl Watson (9 assists, but 2-10 shooting) wants out as they give the minutes to his youthful understudy in a learn-by-doing season. OKC has the lowest assists in the league at 15 per game.

Oh yeah, there was a Robert Swift sighting. The oft injured, 7 foot red headed, 22 year old entered the game and scored 9 points with 7 rebounds in 12 minutes for his first effort of the year. Unlike Sasquatch, he is not a myth, nor an urban legend. He does actually exist.

The Jim O’Brien Pacers don’t appear to have the talent to make the play-offs. But don’t tell them that. Other than star-in-the-making Danny Granger (20 points), and now TJ Ford (10 assists), it is a team of role players. O’Brien always gets his teams to overachieve, and so far they, too are surprising me.

Versatile Mike Dunleavy is still out with injury, but it hasn’t stopped the Pacers from giving former O’Brien team, the NBA champion Celtics their only loss of the season.

That 's it for now. Tune in next week for madcap recaps.


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