Posted on: March 8, 2012 9:12 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 2:12 pm
By Matt Moore and Ben Golliver
Wednesday night was one of those nights in the NBA. Multiple game winners, so many that we decided we need to break them down, power rankings style.
1. Rose does MJ: Derrick Rose's game winner had to be the best of the night for pure elegance. It had everything we look for from a winner: at the buzzer, walk off, isolation, high degree of difficulty, total calm, nothing but net. So much was going on in this one. He read the defense patiently, unleashed some crippling dribble moves, created and took the exact shot he wanted and even had large swaths of a road crowd cheering for him. Watch that thing and try not to think Michael Jordan.
2. Kyrie Irving's end-to-end. Irving's dash to the rim for what would be the game winner wasn't 94 feet of basketball brilliance, but it was as close as you want it to be. The fact that Byron Scott had the confidence in Irving to navigate all that space and the tactical knowledge to know the Nuggets wouldn't expect Irving to just get a running start and barrel to the basket deserves some points, while Irving's approach to switch hands on approach shows off his handle. That kid is something special.
3. Isaiah Thomas read-and-react. Thomas, at his best, is the type of undersized guard that just makes you marvel. That he was the 2011 NBA Draft's "Mr. Irrelevant" just makes the story that much better. Thomas was at his best on Wednesday night, intercepting an idiotic entry pass at full stretch and with perfect timing. Thomas' game is all action/reaction/action and he made an incredibly heady play to move the ball forward to a streaking John Salmons, hitting him in stride. No second-guessing, no covering the ball to allow the defense to react. Just pure open court instinct in a very unusual game situation. The only downside is that it wasn't a walk off winner, or the Power Balance Pavilion might have stormed the court. Thomas' growing reputation for putting smiles on faces continues to grow.
4. DWill trusts Farmar. What? Why aren't people flipping out over Deron Williams passing up the crucial shot in the Nets' win over the Clippers like they did with LeBron James? Regardless, Williams made a great play and Farmar didn't get too excited or go hero-mode. He just lined up and knocked down the open jumper. You know, the right basketball play. On the opposite end of the spectrum,CP3 was never going to take that pass, and gambling on it meant he couldn't run Farmar off. Big mistake as Farmar's been en fuego from the outside this year.
5. Nick Young has daggers on daggers. If this was later in the game, it would be a top-three candidate. After all, Young did rise and fear to knock off the master of rise and fire. But alas, we had more free throws and missed Kobe Bryant threes to get through before it was said and done. But make no mistake, Nick Young's dagger to punch the Lakers' comeback attempt was the game winner in the Wizards' stunner over L.A..
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:23 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:25 am
By Matt Moore
With 15 seconds left, down 1 to the Nuggets, the Cavaliers inbounded from their own basket, eschewing advancing the ball to half-court in favor of getting Kyrie Irving at full-speed going to the rim. The Nuggets essentially only needed to get in front of him as he was the Cavs' whole offense down the stretch. Instead...
Ty Lawson would miss a driving layup and the Cavaliers hang on to win, 100-99.
You have to give credit to Byron Scott for trusting Irving in that situation and for getting him the room to operate by inbounding full-court. It goes against traditional thought and involves trusting a rookie to go basically 94 feet against a defender. For Denver, what in the world were they thinking letting him get all the way to the rim? Unbelievable let down by the Denver bigs who needed to step up to help there.
Irving is 19 years old. Wrap your head around that.
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:19 am
By Matt Moore
Ty Lawson is stepping up and becoming a regular clutch machine. After hitting a game winner just days ago, Lawson stepped up in overtime and helped the Nuggets overcome a 5 point deficit with 15 seconds to go in a win over the Kings.
The Nuggets are starting to find that they have two closers, Arron Afflalo and Lawson. Both players played huge roles in the comeback Monday night, and both have the ability to score out of the ISO set, the preferred NBA offensive set. With big shots against Houston and Portland in the last week, the Nuggets are recovering their momentum they lost due to injuries.
It's nice to see Lawson taking the next step.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:22 pm
His body covered in tattoos and his past dotted with drug abuse, Denver Nuggets big man Chris "Birdman" Andersen is no stranger to pain. No matter, San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan was happy to re-introduce him.
The mild-mannered, strictly-business Duncan delivered one-two-three strikes to Birdman in less than five seconds during a Sunday night game at the AT&T Center.
With the Spurs trailing with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Duncan turned to face up on Birdman roughly 12 feet from the hoop. After a series of ball fakes, Duncan drew the ball back from left-to-right, clocking Birdman right in the face as he began his dribble drive.
With Birdman briefly stumbling and holding his face, Duncan took advantage of the opportunity, using a gather dribble to ascend through the heart of Denver's defense towards the hoop. By that point, Birdman recovered just in time to get put on a poster, as Duncan finished a one-hand dunk with authority over Andersen's challenge.
Then, for good measure, Duncan's momentum carried him into Birdman, causing Andersen to fall to the ground to further the embarrassment.
Let's review: clocked in the face with the ball, dunked on hard, thrown to the ground. That's a tough five seconds.
Here's the video of Tim Duncan abusing Chris "Birdman" Andersen via YouTube user nbaus3030 and @Jose3030.
Hat tip: IAmAGM.com.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:13 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:20 am
Posted by Ben Golliver
Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin took off from real deep to dunk in traffic over multiple defenders during the third quarter of a Wednesday night game against the Denver Nuggets. One of those defenders happened to be a familiar face: Timofey Mozgov.
Griffin received a pass at the top of the key from All-Star guard Chris Paul and attacked the middle of the paint, with Mozgov flying by behind him helplessly. He then elevated straight to the rim, launchpad style, and Nuggets big Kenneth Faried got trapped below him after take off. Griffin finished the thunderous dunk with one hand, and the force of the impact caused him to stumble to the ground after he landed.
Here's the video of Blake Griffin taking off in traffic for a dunk against the Denver Nuggets.
Posted on: February 21, 2012 9:24 pm
Posted by Royce Young and Ben Golliver
The 2011-2012 NBA season continues. Here's the tenth weekly installment of CBSSports.com's NBA Power Rankings by Eye On Basketball's Matt Moore.
What did he get right? What did he get wrong? We're here to break it down and take it down.
1. Too High: Houston Rockets at No. 9. I want to get excited about the Rockets too. They're an intriguing bunch of over-achievers with almost-stars in Kevin Martin and Luis Scola. But no way are they top 10 material quite yet. They are good at home but haven't been able to prove themselves much on the road. A 6-10 mark away from the Toyota Center has to improve if this group is to make a good case to be mentioned among the Western elite. -- RY
2. Too Low: New York Knicks at No. 15. Gauging the Knicks is all about how you want to look at the sample. They're 1-2 in their last three and they're 16-17 on the season, but they're also 9-4 in their last thirteen. All indications are that this is an above-average team that's put its early-season woes behind it. Working Carmelo Anthony back in after injury and adding J.R. Smith to the formula won't be a completely straightforward process, but this is a team that should be at least two spots higher. -- BG
3. Most Overrated: Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 14. We seem to go through this every week, but there's no chance that Minnesota should be this high, given that they're below .500, ranked above the Portland Trail Blazers, currently a game up on them, and still reside in last place of the Northwest Division. This week, they're not all that drastically overrated but placing them above New York, Portland, Memphis and Boston was a big with the heart, not the mind. Or maybe a pick made with googley eyes at Ricky Rubio. Whatever the reason, overrated. -- BG
4. Most Overlooked: Golden State Warriors at No. 23. Among the bottom ten teams in the league, Golden State seems the least awful. They're 5-5 in February, which counts as positive momentum after a slow start. Written off by many as early as mid-January, the Warriors are just four games out of the No. 8 playoff seed in the ultra-packed Western Conference, and even though they're 12th in the West, their No. 7 ranked offense provides enough reason to believe that they will land closer to the playoff fringes than the basement. -- BG
5. Sure Thing: San Antonio at No. 4. After back-to-back weeks of having the Spurs too low, it looks like they're finally in the right spot. Not quite as good as the Thunder, who own the West currently and certainly not among the Heat and Bulls. But absolutely a top five team with a look in them to make a strong push for the West's top spot before it's all said and done. They briefly got back Manu Ginobili, only to lose him again for a few weeks. No bother. The Spurs will just keep on. -- RY
6. Wild Card: Denver Nuggets at No. 11. At one point, it was nearly universally agreed upon that this team was legit contender material and a threat to the Thunder in the West. Then everyone started getting hurt and they started losing games by the bunches. What would've been a defining win against OKC Sunday was snuffed out by Kevin Durant. The Nuggets have shown they're almost good enough, but not quite there. If Danilo Gallinari can lift his game to another level when he returns, this could be a group to make a big Western push. -- RY
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:50 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 12:51 am
Posted by Royce Young
OKLAHOMA CITY -- There's a very, very fine line that separates the Thunder and the Nuggets. And you can basically draw it in between No. 35 and No. 0.
Oklahoma City has 'em. Denver does not.
Just like Game 5 in last season's opening round playoff series when Denver seemed to have things locked up, or Game 1 that the Thunder stole late, or Game 3 where the Thunder finished Denver in the last five minutes, the Nuggets watched Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook break their hearts. Durant, a career-high 51. Westbrook, 40. Thirty-nine of OKC's final 46. And all 13 in overtime. Oklahoma City 124, Denver 118.
"The game of basketball can be really mean to you," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "To have a great player take a game from you like that is heart-wrenching. It's just the bounce of the ball."
The Nuggets had it too. I mean really had it. They led by nine in the fourth quarter and seven with 5:39 left. The Thunder’s play-by-play from that point on: Durant made 3, Westbrook made layup, Durant made 3, Durant made layup, Ibaka made putback, Westbrook made jumper, Westbrook made jumper, Durant made 3, Durant made dunk. Where did the Nuggets turn? Chris Anderson took two 15-foot jumpers, for crying out loud.
People like to talk about “closers” in basketball, but it’s been pretty obvious as this theme has recurred in these games that the Thunder have not one, but two of them and the Nuggets don't have any. Granted, Denver played this game without Nene or Danilo Gallinari. But neither of those guys were able to step up in those moments last postseason either. The Nuggets tried to turn to Andre Miller, who was having a fantastic game. James Harden — who had a miserable offensive night — twice played him splendidly, staying down on Miller’s pump fakes and ended up forcing him into back-to-back traveling violations in overtime. Ty Lawson hit a big-time 3 to put Denver up three with 54 seconds left, but failed to his a pretty clean look at the end of regulation.
The Thunder, though, finished. Durant powered in a dunk with seven seconds left to send it to overtime. Westbrook drilled a free throw line jumper with 26 seconds left to ice it.
Said Durant, “A lot of people might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime.”
Take it to those extra five minutes. Durant was completely gassed, so Westbrook stepped up, hitting a 3 to kick things off and then a couple jumpers to keep the Thunder in front. Then Durant found his legs again finishing a fast break layup and hitting all four of his free throws. Those two scored all 13 of OKC's overtime points. Denver got their seven on two baskets from Arron Afflalo and one from Kosta Koufos. The Nuggets just didn’t know where to go for points. It wasn't very hard for OKC to figure it out.
Here's how wild this game was: Serge Ibaka has a triple-double -- 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks -- and it almost feels like a footnote. That's Ibaka's third double-digit block game of this season, in fact. (OKC is the first team EVER in NBA history to have a guy score 50, a guy score 40 and a guy finish with a triple-double.)
"He's been phenomenal man," Durant said. "It's just been fun to watch. You might not believe me but at the end coach said to press up on Afflalo and let him go to the rim. That sounds kind of weird, right?"
But that's an afterthought when you consider Westbrook and Durant did something nobody has done since Pippen and Jordan (two teammates scoring 40 or more). Westbrook and Durant actually had more points than seven teams tonight. The Heat, who were fantastic in a win over Orlando, we beat by Westbrook and Durant 91-90. Are you following me here?
Karl said after the game that in a lot of ways the Nuggets won the game. And they did. They played better than Oklahoma City. They executed better, worked the ball better and defended better. But they didn't have Batman and Batman. (There's no Robin here.) They had a group of sidekicks all trying to combine to finish out the superheroes. Just didn't have enough. Just couldn't close those guys from OKC.
Like Karl said, the game of basketball can be really mean to you.
Nah, just Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:12 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 2:13 pm
With Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith back in the states and signed with new teams, Wilson Chandler and Aaron Brooks remain the last two NBA players to head to China during the lockout still yet to return to the league. But that could be changing quickly as ESPN reports that Chandler could return as soon as next week thanks to an agreement with his Chinese team to leave before his team's playoff run is over in the Chinese Basketball Association:
Denver Nuggets restricted free agent Wilson Chandler is scheduled to return to the United States from China sooner than expected, according to sources close to the situation, with next week as his target.via Sources -- Wilson Chandler set to return from China sooner than expected - ESPN.
Chandler is widely expected to return to the Nuggets as a restricted free agent, whether on a long-term deal or just to finish the remainder of this season and enter unrestricted free agncy.
The Nuggets desperately need Chandler on roster as soon as possible, with a banged up club missing Danilo Gallinari with an ankle chip fracture and Nene among others missing time with injury. The wear and tear on Chandler from playing in the CBA is yet to be seen as is how he'll respond under this compacted schedule.
Denver is struggling right now, but with Chandler back and eventually Gallo, they should be able to gain some momentum headed into the playoffs as one of the deepest teams in the league.
Chandler still has to get FIBA clearance in order to play in the NBA, and that will only come once Chandler's CBA team notfies FIBA to do so. That could complicate when Chandler is eligibile to play, even if he's back in the states.