Saturday, February 7, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. Last night gave a perfect example of the effect of Jameer Nelson's injury on the Magic. The Pacers went small and pushed the pace against bigger Orlando, which in Anthony Johnson doesn't have a point guard at all suited to the transition game now. The Magic ran the ball through Hedo Turkoglu, who had 11 assists, but that took away from his role as a scorer, and they had no one who could match the output of Danny Granger, who had 33 points for the Pacers. Dwight Howard had a field day on the boards against Troy Murphy, finishing with 20 rebounds, but it wasn't enough in a 107-102 loss at Indiana. The phrase "it wasn't enough" may repeatedly haunt the Magic until Nelson heals.

2. The Blazers gave an inexplicable performance last night, losing 102-93 to the Thunder in the much-anticipated first meeting between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Oden was clearly spooked, scoring four points and grabbing two rebounds in just 16 minutes of playing time. Brandon Roy, who led the team in points, rebounds and assists, Travis Outlaw and LaMarcus Aldridge were the only players who looked like they so much as showed up at the arena for Portland. The Blazers were dominated in the post by the less-than-imposing Nick Collison, who had 21 points and and 13 points. It's performances like these that keep Portland from joining the Nuggets and Spurs in the contending tier of the Western Conference.

3. That was an odd game in Charlotte last night. Joe Johnson missed a second game with a viral infection, and with Al Horford easing back into the lineup after missing 12 games with a bone bruise in his right knee, the onus falls on Josh Smith, right? No, Smith had only nine points, and it was Marvin Williams, with 29 points and seven rebounds, who was the dominant force for Atlanta in 102-97 victory. He went to the line 20 times and had 18 makes, enough to frustrate Larry Brown, who compared the calls Williams got to those usually reserved for superstars like LeBron and Kobe. Brown has a player who's playing like a star himself in Raymond Felton, who scorched Mike Bibby for 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. But while he was perfect from the line he got there four only times, and the Bobcats as a team shot 11 fewer free throws than the Hawks.

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