Our game recaps from Thursday, or what you missed while getting geeked about the return of Tecmo Bowl…
Heat 114, Lakers 111 (OT): Just was just a fun one to watch –there was a duel between Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, there was spots of good defense but better offense, there was a playoff feel. Just an entertaining game.
A couple defensive things that were interesting in this game. One was when Miami went to a zone for a stretch, which the Lakers struggled with. The Lakers reverted back to their isolation ways and were happy to shoot over the top of the zone rather than attack it inside by getting the ball to Bynum or Gasol. If teams make it hard to make a post entry pass for the Lakers, their guards will give up quickly. Miami only gave up on this when Kobe started getting into the soft middle of the zone with dribble penetration.
The other fun matchup was Ron Artest guarding Wade. Artest was Artest — relentless and trying not to let Wade get the ball in spots he wanted on the floor. It sort of worked. The problem was when Wade did get the ball Artest was often up tight on him and Wade blew past him. When Artest stepped back, Wade hit some jumpers. Still, Wade was just 9 of 21 on the night. Artest did his job.
The problem for the Lakers was with Artest on Wade, Kobe was on Quentin Richardson. Kobe loves to “play free safety” and gamble off his man to jump passing lanes and make steals. Richardson made him pay. A usually solid three point shooter (38% so far this season), Richardson was 7 of 11 from beyond the arc on the night and got looks because Kobe was roaming. And that was a key difference. (To be fair, Artest spent a handful of possessions on Richardson as well, and nobody was stopping him on Thursday.)
Grizzlies 105, Bulls 96: This is going to happen to the Bulls again in the next three weeks, or however long it is until Joakim Noah returns to the Bulls lineup. They don’t have the body to stop anybody inside — they start Brad Miller and Taj Gibson as their bigs. So you get Zach Randolph putting up 31 and grabbing 18 boards. You get Memphis scoring 62 points in the paint. Teams like Memphis with a powerful inside game are going to be very tough for the Bulls to beat for a few weeks (although Brad Miller did a good job on Mark Gasol).Good effort, as usual, from the Bulls.
Jazz 116, Suns 108: There are plenty of fans who scoff at the idea that NBA teams do or should struggle in the second game of a back-to-back, that these are professional athletes who shouldn’t get tired. Which is crap but people think it. Games like this are perfect evidence of what happens in a back-to-back. The Suns seemed to be in control of this one, jumping out to the early lead and leading by 12 early in the fourth. Grant Hill had been hanging with Ponce de Leon at the fountain of youth. Then the two nights of running hit them in the fourth quarter. The Jazz are too good, Deron Williams is far too good (13 points in the fourth quarter) and Mehmet Okur to hot to give the Jazz the added advantage of tired Suns legs.
The other thing in this one were the little things — Utah grabbed 19 offensive boards, or 40% of their missed shots on the night. Phoenix had 18 turnovers, 21% of their possessions on the night. That is just too many giveaways to a good team to expect to win.