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Friday, November 03, 2006

Cassell Scores 35, Clippers Beat Nuggets, 96-95

Sam Cassell scored 35 points and added six rebounds and six assists, enabling the L.A. Clippers to defeat the Denver Nuggets, 96-95. The Nuggets enjoyed a 56-38 rebounding advantage, a 14-4 edge in fast break points and a 42-28 lead in points in the paint. They also held Elton Brand to eight points and six rebounds, although Cassell played a part in that too, launching 24 field goal attempts to Brand's eight. To Cassell's credit, he hit a lot of big shots, including the two free throws that provided the final victory margin. Tim Thomas contributed 21 points, including five three pointers. J.R. Smith led Denver with 21 points, shooting 4-11 from three point range while the rest of his teammates combined to go 0-12. Marcus Camby filled up the boxscore with 16 points, 18 rebounds, four blocked shots and four assists. Carmelo Anthony scored 15 points before he was ejected after receiving his second technical foul with 8:22 left in the third quarter.

Denver led 24-18 after the first quarter, forcing several turnovers and closing the period with a 17-6 run. Anthony scored nine points on 4-7 shooting. The Clippers shot only 6-18 from the field, although Brand was 2-2 and center Chris Kaman was 1-1. TNT's Doug Collins virtually pleaded with the Clippers to feed the ball to Brand.

Midway through the second quarter, Cassell scored seven straight points and assisted on a Tim Thomas three pointer that put the Clippers up, 37-32. Collins always emphasizes the importance of closing out quarters well and Denver did so again in the second quarter, using a 10-4 run to cut the Clippers' lead to 49-48 at halftime.

The NBA has a new policy--dubbed by some the "'Sheed rule," for obvious reasons--that calls for quick technical fouls in response to complaining by players or coaches. Anthony received a technical foul early in the third quarter and after being called for his fourth personal foul he threw his headband as he walked to the bench. That led to a second technical foul, which of course results in automatic ejection. After the game, TNT's Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith argued that the NBA is going too far and is taking all of the emotion out of the game. As a politician might say, I feel strongly both ways about this. On the one hand, the antics of Rasheed Wallace and others are tiresome and unsportsmanlike and if the NBA follows through on this change then Wallace and his overly demonstrative cohorts will either be forced to behave like adults or else watch from the sidelines while donating significant portions of their paychecks to the NBA. On the other hand, it is a bit extreme, to say the least, to issue technicals (which can lead to ejections) for simply shrugging, as happened to Andres Nocioni on Tuesday. Fans pay a lot of money to attend NBA games and it is not a good idea for the league to send a parade of high profile players to the locker room. Of course, players could prevent that by simply restraining themselves but Barkley and the others make a valid point when they say that some reactions are simply a natural and instinctive part of human nature. Kenny Smith put it this way: How many fans could live up to this standard if they were told not to cheer or boo after exciting plays? Hopefully, we will soon reach a happy medium that involves the players acting with more maturity and the referees using some restraint and good judgement.

Denver managed to keep the game close even without Anthony and used another closing surge--this time an 8-0 run--to take a 70-65 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Cassell and Earl Boykins had an entertaining scoring duel in the fourth quarter, with Cassell producing 14 of the Clippers' 31 points and Boykins 10 of the Nuggets' 25. The Clippers had the ball and a 94-93 lead with just 26 seconds remaining. Cassell received the inbounds pass and was tightly covered by Smith. Cassell lost his footing in the backcourt and Smith picked up the loose ball and soared in for a dunk. It was not clear if Cassell simply stumbled or if Smith fouled him; it looked like Cassell was trying so hard to draw a foul that he tripped himself up. The shot clock and game clock were so close at that point that the Nuggets would almost certainly have had to foul, although perhaps they planned to wait to do so until Cassell made it across midcourt. Cassell complained vociferously to referee Steve Javie, who is normally quick to call technical fouls but refrained from doing so this time.

Cassell, being a crafty veteran, took the next inbounds pass and drove to the hoop, all but forcing the referees to call a foul after he pump faked. He then coolly nailed the two free throws to give the Clippers a one point lead. Boykins then missed a jumper as time ran out.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:23 AM


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