The first half of the 2011 Rookie/Sophomore challenge only vaguely resembled basketball. None of the players on either side of the court even pretended to play defense, and stood under the basket and watch their opponents launch threes. Fast-break dunks after made baskets were common. Alley-oops were being thrown down every minute or so.
In the second half, the teams began to treat the game with the smallest dollop of respect and actually began to contest each other’s shots from time to time, but the rookies were able to pull away thanks to DeMarcus Cousins, who dominated the paint and put up 23 points and nine rebounds in the second half alone.
Blake Griffin, who will participate in the dunk contest tomorrow night and the All-Star game on Sunday, was the clear crowd favorite and provided some spectacular dunks, but only played 14 minutes and sat out the last part of the game. (The crowd started up a “We want Blake!” chant late in the contest, but Griffin stayed seated on the bench.) Fortunately for the crowd, John Wall was able to deliver a masterful performance in Griffin’s semi-absence.
Wall was named the game’s MVP and recorded a challenge record 22 assists, with the majority of those assists leading to alley-oop slams. Wall’s most spectacular assist was one to remember; on a fast-break, Wall stopped at the three-point line and bounced the ball over Steph Curry’s head to find Blake Griffin, who was there to slam the ball home. Before the game, Wall talked about how excited he was to throw lobs to Griffin, and the game showed that he was right to be enthusiastic.
Wall didn’t face much defense on Friday night, but he showed that he’s an unselfish player who would rather set a teammate up for a spectacular play than try too hard to make one himself. Winning the rookie/challenge game isn’t a huge accomplishment on its own, but Wall was able to show the world that he has a rare combination of athleticism, creativity, and unselfishness. If he continues to work on his game, particularly his jump shot, it won’t be long before he’s having huge performances against teams that are actually trying to play defense.
The Bulls suffered a rough loss in Boston last night.
It didn’t get better afterward.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge – who played for Boston in the 80s – pleaded ignorance to any nefarious plumbing:
I think the idea that teams plot to shut off the visitor’s hot water is often overstated. Arenas have complex infrastructure, and things can go wrong on their own. Sometimes, the home team loses hot water, but that never gets remembered.
But reasonable excuses don’t make a cold shower in the moment any more tolerable.
Robin Lopez had reason to be upset from the Bulls’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.
This miss was all on him.
Dwyane Wade (26 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) was the Bulls’ best player in their Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.
But the 35-year-old guard clearly didn’t go all out on every possession.
Players can justify not closing out by claiming they were prioritizing rebounding position. Wade clearly has no such excuse.
The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.
One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.
We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.
Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.
If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.
For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.