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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Carter's Scoring, Kidd's Versatility Too Much for the Cavs

Vince Carter broke out of his mini-slump and Jason Kidd displayed his typical all-around brilliance, leading the New Jersey Nets to a much needed 113-111 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Carter scored 38 points on 10-18 shooting from the field (including 4-5 from three point range), adding six rebounds and five assists. Carter only scored 35 points in his previous three games, shooting just 12-48 from the field in those contests as the Nets went 1-2. Kidd produced nine points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot. LeBron James had 37 points and eight assists but only had one rebound and shot poorly for most of the game, although a late flurry brought his percentages up to decent levels (10-22 from the field, 16-21 from the free throw line). The Cavaliers shot just 35-83 from the field (.422) while the Nets hit an outstanding 39-68 (.574).

The game started at a quick pace, with Cleveland leading 11-7 after the first three minutes and each of the Cavs' starters making one field goal during that stretch. ESPN's Hubie Brown shed some light on why the Nets are performing so far below expectations this season. First, forward Richard Jefferson's numbers have dropped dramatically because he has two bad ankles, one of which may require offseason surgery. Second, as indicated above, Vince Carter has been in a slump recently. Jason Kidd has been carrying the team but in order for the Nets to become a contender Carter and Jefferson must step up. Maybe Carter heard what Brown said, because he scored 14 points in the first quarter and the Nets rallied to lead 29-28 by the end of the period. James had just six points on 2-5 shooting from the field, but both of his makes were highlight reel plays: a two handed fast break dunk and a one hand driving dunk from the right baseline.

The Cavs made 13 of their first 20 shots but then hit just one of their next 15 attempts. The Nets pushed their lead to 44-37 but James scored five points in the last four minutes of the quarter and the Cavs took a 52-51 halftime lead. James shot just 4-12 from the field in the first half but he shot 5-6 from the free throw line and had 13 points. Carter did not score in the second period.

Cleveland went into another shooting slump at the start of the third quarter, missing eight of their first 10 shots and shooting just 5-20 from the field in the period--and that includes Damon Jones' three pointer at the buzzer, after which the Nets still led 78-71. Nenad Krstic scored eight points for the Nets in the third quarter.

The Nets pushed their advantage to 86-71 in the first minute of the fourth quarter after a Hassan Adams drive and a three point play by Jason Collins. Drew Gooden was whistled for a flagrant foul on that play, so the Nets retained possession after Collins' free throw; the Nets took advantage of this extra opportunity with a Marcus Williams three pointer. The Nets went ahead by as much as 16 (89-73) before the Cavaliers ran off 11 straight points to get right back in the game. Damon Jones scored five points and James contributed four points during that run. Kidd then scored a very timely layup off of a nice backdoor feed by Carter to put the Nets up 91-84. James answered with a pullup jumper to bring the Cavs back to within five, 91-86, after which Brown chuckled that James was "not having a good night." James had 28 points but had shot poorly from the field and launched several ill advised shots. Brown's point was that James is so talented and so good that even on a bad night he finds a way to score and to keep his team in the game. James scored nine more points in the last 5:13 to push his total well beyond his season average and to get his shooting percentage back to its normal level, but Brown noted again near the end of the game that this was a tough game for James because the Nets made him work for everything he got and punished him physically when he went to the basket. Brown concluded that the Cavaliers can expect a steady diet of such defenses designed to frustrate James and that they will continue to struggle if they don't improve the spacing of the other players.

Carter and Kidd combined to score the Nets' last 14 points as New Jersey held off a late Cleveland rally. A meaningless Jones three pointer with .1 second remaining made the final score deceptively close.


>ESPN's pre-game Shootaround show spent much more time discussing the Allen Iverson trade than the upcoming Cavs-Nets game. Fred Hickman's voiceover for a video montage of previous Sixers greats who have been traded contained two silly errors. First, he said that Wilt Chamberlain led the Sixers to the NBA title over the Boston Celtics before he was traded to the Lakers. That would be like saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Denver Broncos to win last year's NFL title. Chamberlain's Sixers beat the Celtics in the 1967 Eastern Division Finals before defeating Rick Barry's San Francisco Warriors in the NBA Finals. That may seem like nitpicking but I've never understood how commentators who have teleprompters and notes prepared by a staff of researchers can make mistakes about things that they should just know anyway if they are students of the game. Later, Hickman said that the Sixers acquired Moses Malone, won the NBA championship and then traded him "the very next year." Malone played for the Sixers for four years; the video graphic had the correct information, so if Hickman had just looked at the screen he would have gotten it right. Again, my question is how can any student of the game make that kind of mistake? This is not some obscure piece of information dating back 50 years. When ESPN had the contest a while ago to select a new SportsCenter anchor, Stuart Scott made a big deal about Al Jaffe and his legendarily tough sports trivia questions to prospective anchors. Are NBA commentators not subjected to the same scrutiny?

>Jason Kidd scored his 13,000th career point near the end of the game. He told ESPN's Jim Gray that he feels great and thinks that he is having his best season, even better than when he led the Nets to back to back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He is scoring less than he did during those seasons but he is averaging a career-high 8.8 rpg--simply amazing for a 33 year old 6-4 point guard who has had microfracture surgery--and is exceeding his career averages in assists and free throw percentage. He certainly seems to have regained the bounce in his step that was missing after he first injured his knee.

>ESPN ran a graphic indicating that Kidd and Magic Johnson are the only players in NBA history to accumulate career totals of at least 12,500 points, 8000 assists, 5500 rebounds and 1500 steals.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:44 AM



At Thursday, December 21, 2006 12:15:00 PM, Blogger coach said...

vince broe out of his mini slump last night but he's not the same vc still. wonder why ?

At Saturday, December 23, 2006 4:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I'm not sure. As I've noted in my leaderboard posts, VC was on pace to set a new career-high in scoring average before his recent downturn. It could be nothing more than the NBA season is long and everyone has their ups and downs. Maybe this game will bring him out of it.


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