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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Freaky Friday: A Wild and Wacky Night in the NBA

The NBA took Thanksgiving off but resumed play with a vengeance on Friday. Here is a sampling of the night's great--and not so great--performances:

**Allen Iverson scored a season-high 46 points and added 10 assists in his return to action after missing two games because of dental surgery, leading Philadelphia to a 123-108 win over the Chicago Bulls.

**While Iverson played like an MVP, Chicago's high priced offseason acquisition Ben Wallace literally played like a zero--as in no rebounds in 20 minutes, the first time since February 17, 1999 that he failed to grab a single rebound in a game.

**Kobe Bryant scored 27 points in a 114-108 Lakers loss to the league-leading Jazz but his most spectacular moment happened at the defensive end of the court: Utah led 103-102 with less than four minutes left in the game when Jazz point guard Deron Williams soared to the hoop for an apparently uncontested fast break layup but Bryant flew in--seemingly from nowhere--and swatted the ball away cleanly with his left hand. The Lakers retrieved the miss and scored on their next possession to take a 104-103 lead. Bryant's never say die play is reminiscent of Michael Jordan's two-handed block of Ron Mercer to save a game against the Bulls during Jordan's comeback with the Wizards.

**LeBron James had 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists but the Cleveland Cavaliers completely collapsed in the second half versus the Indiana Pacers, squandering a 56-44 halftime lead to lose 97-87. The Cavaliers only scored nine points in the third quarter and Cleveland mostly ran the "Messiah" offense in the second half--give the ball to LeBron, stand around and hope that he creates a miracle. Indiana's problem for most of the night was an inability to make open shots, but when those shots started to go down Cleveland had no answer. Cleveland got just six points combined from starting guards Eric Snow and David Wesley and the Cavaliers cannot wait until Larry Hughes' sprained ankle heals enough to allow him to return to action. Jermaine O'Neal had 29 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots for the Pacers, Jamaal Tinsley contributed 19 points, six assists and five rebounds and reserve guard Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 15 points.

**Cleveland's stumble means that the Orlando Magic (9-4) now have the best record in the East. Orlando beat the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat (4-8), 107-104. Dwyane Wade had 33 points and 15 assists in a losing effort. Miami outscored Orlando by 14 when Wade was in the game but trailed 19-2 in the 5:18 that he sat out. The Heat opened the evening as the owners of a dubious triple crown, ranking last in the NBA in scoring, field goal percentage and point differential. Heat Coach Pat Riley started Dorell Wright and Jason Kapono in favor of Gary Payton and Antoine Walker; each Heat starter scored at least 12 points versus the Magic but Walker had only four and Payton none as the Heat reserves totaled just 10 points, no match for the 32 points provided by the Magic's bench. Grant Hill led Orlando with 24 points, while Dwight Howard had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

**Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs 97-94. Tim Duncan had 29 points and six rebounds in defeat. Dallas has now won eight straight games after losing four in a row to start the season.

**Amare Stoudemire showed flashes of his pre-microfracure surgery explosiveness with 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots in a 99-93 Phoenix Suns win versus the New Jersey Nets. The Suns led by as many as 22 but New Jersey cut the margin to 96-93 before Phoenix held on to win. Marcus Williams keyed the Nets' comeback by scoring 21 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Remember, New Jersey acquired Williams with the 22nd pick in the 2006 draft; do you think Seattle (Saer Sene), Orlando (J.J. Redick)--and a few other teams--might want to redo the first round?

**Last but not least, Denver beat Golden State 140-129 in the highest scoring NBA game of the young 2007 season. Three players scored at least 30 points: Denver's J.R. Smith (31, including 4-8 three point shooting) and Carmelo Anthony (30, the eighth time in nine games that he scored at least 30 points) and Golden State's Andris Biedrins (31 on 14-17 field goal shooting). Anthony leads the NBA in scoring (30.9 ppg), just ahead of Iverson (30.4 ppg).

posted by David Friedman @ 1:36 AM

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3 Comments:

At Saturday, November 25, 2006 3:59:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

You know this is the best blog on the internet. But the Bryant love affair is ridiculous. He makes a block and its reminiscent of a Jordan block. It could have been anyone and you say Jordan. And they still lost. Does Bryant do anything wrong?

I wish the Knicks can trade Marbury for Marcus Williams right now. Or even waive him

 
At Saturday, November 25, 2006 4:06:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Any time the Mavs play the Spurs its must see. I wished they played every night.

 
At Sunday, November 26, 2006 4:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I don't think that anyone could have made that block. Kobe came from out of nowhere, swatted the ball with his left hand without committing a foul and kept the ball in play. The Lakers scored on the ensuing possession to take the lead. I've seen a graphic in NFL boxscores this year showing how much a certain play changed the probability of a given team winning the game; I wonder how much a blocked layup in the last four minutes--that is saved inbounds and leads to two points--increases a team's probability of winning?

The first thing that I thought of when I saw the play was MJ's block on Mercer; maybe others think of something else. The second thing that I thought of (perhaps because it happened longer ago) was Dr. J's block on Ricky Pierce in the 1987 playoffs. Doc specialized in catching guys from behind and nullifying layups.

Sure, Bryant is not perfect--no one is--but he is the best player in the game today. People talk about leadership skills but look at the example that Kobe sets by running downcourt and making that play. It would have been easy to wait a split second and then not run after Williams because he is too far downcourt. No one would say anything. When Kobe shows that kind of tenacity and hustle it should inspire everyone on the team to play just as hard. That is the ultimate form of leadership--showing the right way to do thihgs.

 

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