Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. Tuesday was bad matchup night for the top teams in the West. Gerald Wallace had a phenomenal night as the Bobcats completed a season sweep of the Lakers, 94-84. Wallace had 24 points, 13 rebounds and a whopping five blocks as the Bobcats held the third-highest scoring team in the league to 39 percent shooting. Charlotte, in contrast, shot 52 percent, with all five starters plus D.J. Augustin off the bench scoring in double figures. Boris Diaw played a point forward role, dishing out 12 assists to go along with 11 points, and Emeka Okafor, with 13 points and nine rebounds, was close to a double-double. The Lakers got good mileage out of their top three guys, as Kobe had 25 points, Pau Gasol 16 points and 11 rebounds and Lamar Odom 20 points and nine rebounds, but no one else had double figures in any category. L.A.'s bench was outscored 23-11, the second consecutive time it was more than doubled-up in the second straight upset loss for the Lakers.

2. The visiting Thunder held off a late charge by the Spurs on Tuesday to polish off their second victory against San Antonio in three games this year. The Spurs had whittled a 17-point lead down to one with 36 seconds to go, and had a chance to win the game after Tim Duncan blocked Jeff Green's shot and Michael Finley grabbed the rebound with 13 seconds left. Gregg Popovich eschewed the timeout, letting his veteran team set up a shot on the fly. It didn't work. Finley wound up with an off-balance 19 footer that went awry to give Oklahoma City the win and drop the Spurs behind Denver for second in the West and into a tie with Houston atop the Southwest Division. Kevin Durant had another splendid evening, with a game-high 31 points and eight rebounds, while Russell Westbrook got it done on both ends, scoring 16 and dishing out 10 while limiting Tony Parker to 11 points. Thunder center Nenad Krstic, whose acquisition was one of the most significant midseason moves this year, scored 16 and grabbed eight rebounds in just 25 minutes. Oklahoma City looks to be in great shape headed into next year.

3. Another team that seems primed to make a leap in 2010 is Sacramento, and they showed why against New Orleans for much of the night Tuesday, using three-point shooting to hang around in a game that shouldn't have been as close. The Hornets outshot the Kings, 54 percent to 49, and grabbed 41 rebounds to their 29. But Francisco Garcia's trey to complete a 14-for-24 shooting night from behind the arc for the Kings left the game tied with under a minute to go. Beno Udrih put up an awkward-looking jumper from 11 feet out that found the net with 1.7 remaining to give Sacramento a one-point lead. Then the Hornets, playing without James Posey and Peja Stojakovic and in desperate need of a role player to step it up, got exactly what they required. Rasual Butler found an open spot on the inbounds play, took the pass and hit a cold-blooded three as time expired to give New Orleans the 111-110 win. David West, with 40 points and nine rebounds, and Chris Paul, who had 15 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds, did the heavy lifting, but Butler did exactly what's required of a role player: execute when the occasion calls for it.

BONUS OBSERVATION (since it's close to playoff time):

4. Nobody can beat the Blazers when their full arsenal is on display. We realize this after Tuesday's 62 percent shooting night against the Jazz. Normally, a 49 percent shooting night like the Jazz had gets you a win, but not when the other team scores 125 points, makes 10 of 18 three-pointers and spreads around 32 assists. Brandon Roy had 25 points and 11 assists and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26, and they were joined by four other Blazers with double-figure points. The Jazz put five guys in double figures, but no one had more than Carlos Boozer, who had 20 points. Boozer wasn't supremely effective either, committing six of his team's 16 turnovers in the 125-104 loss that moves the Jazz into seventh place, a game behind the fifth-place Blazers with the Hornets sandwiched in between.


Anonymous said...

Observations 1 & 2 (and almost 3) speak to why the NBA season is too long. Several of the best teams are worn down by April. This benefits mediocre teams trying to make a late playoff push.

Chuck said...

Yeah, you're right. The competitiveness of the season would be greatly enhanced if you took away just a dozen games or so. The owners won't go for that, though, because it supposedly takes away revenue. (Although wouldn't you recoup the lost revenue from the sheer volume of games if the product itself were more competitive and crowd-pleasing?) I think if you experimented with radical ideas, like, say, a single-elimination tournament among lottery teams to determine the No. 1 instead of ping-pong balls, the owners could definitely shorten the season and make as much if not more money.