Weekend Observations 1.21.12: Dead legs and the dirty ground

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Each weekend we bring you 25 random observations from the NBA week that was. 

1. The Lakers use the pick and roll a lot but what winds up happening is it just resets the offense on the weak side. It doesn’t result in shots or quick passes. It’s like spending 10 hours cooking a hamburger. Just cook the thing.

2. Apparently the European baskets Rubio was shooting on were much smaller.

3. Kyrie Irving’s game is incredibly balanced in ways you rarely see for rookie point guards. The numbers really are a reflection of how well he’s playing.

4. Oh, hey, John Wall’s alive. Good to know.

5. The Kings’ win over Sacramento was a great example of what the Kings are trying to do. Both Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans were involved in scoring and producing.

6. The worst thing for Boston and L.A. right now is that teams simply aren’t afraid of them anymore.

7. The Sixers can have a terrible start and still annihilate you with their depth. You have to limit their first and second units and if you can’t do that, they’re going to be at your throat.

8. Ty Corbin has turned Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors from a cluster, into a well-defined frontcourt that just hammers teams offensively.

9. Turns out the key in a compacted, lockout-shortened season isn’t just depth or talent or youth, but coaching.

10. Of course, coaching doesn’t always help. Sorry, Doc Rivers.

11. Well, the Lakers were barely winning over lottery squads and not winning versus playoff teams with Kobe chucking, and are getting blown out with him playing restrained and efficiently. So… yeah, I got nothin’ for you, L.A..

12. Mike D’Antoni needs to title his eventual book: “Why Didn’t Anyone Ask Me First?.” Between Steve Kerr trading for Shaq and the Melo trade he’s had his whole program undone in two spots by unnecessary and premature tinkering.

13. Kawhi Leonard works harder than you, and probably harder than anyone you’ve ever met.

14. I told Memphis radio a week ago that the Grizzlies need Rudy Gay to score 25 points a game in order to win with Zach Randolph out. I was wrong. Turns out he only needs 22. 21.8 during the win streak, actually. His ability to create perimeter scoring is unique to Memphis.

15. The Nuggets keep adding new skills, like “winning tough games where they don’t play well.” Tough to find teams with better resumes.

16. Don’t look at the Thunder’s defense. It’ll spoil all the wondrous positive feelings everyone has about them.

17. Toronto misses Andrea Bargnani. So. So badly.

18. The Bulls would win the Western Conference. They could win the East. They would win the West.

19. It’s weird for a team that supposedly had trouble with cohesive offense. The Thunder have a ridiculous amount of playmakers right now. And Russell Westbrook re-signing with the Thunder shows a tremendous amount of maturity. How he handles it going forward will also be important, but anyone who underrates the weapons the Thunder have offensively is a fool.

20. Player I feel the worst for this season, non-injury award: Greg Monroe. He’s been versatile, well-coached, efficient, working in the flow of the offense, and he’s stuck on a team trying to go two directions at once.

21. Some team is going to wander into a dark first-round alley against Philadelphia and there will have be officers called to the scene.

22. The Suns are very much a wounded animal. They can get overrun easily, claw up their opponent, anything right now.

23. Tony Parker’s teardrop is still a weapon that should be outlawed in most states.

24. LeBron James is nothing if not great for the headlines. He gives both sides what they want. Fails in huge moments, takes over in big games, plays terribly to start then plays amazing. Dominates a game then fades away. Really, he gives everyone what they’re looking for.

25. And in conclusion, I suppose, for better or worse, Iman Shumpert.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.

Bulls Fred Hoiberg complains Isaiah Thomas gets away with palming. Thomas shrugs.

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The Boston Celtics have evened their series with Chicago Bulls, and more than that seem to have been able to take the Bulls best punch and now are responding.

At the heart of that is Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who had 33 points on Sunday. He was attacking and getting into the heart of the Bulls defense all night, telling Michael Carter-Williams “you can’t guard me” so many times Thomas got a technical. Thing is, Thomas was right. No Bull has been able to guard Thomas the past two games.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said the reason for that is the officials let him get away with a palming the ball when dribbling. Via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (video above).

“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he’s going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight,” Hoiberg said. “When you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he’s impossible to guard. Impossible to guard. When you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”

I liked the follow-up comment from the reporter (not on the video), which was essentially “the league doesn’t call that on anyone, so that’s your complaint?” Thomas doesn’t get away with palming any more than any other ball handler in the league. If you want to define the rule by a 1950s standard then yes, he does carry, but so does pretty much every Bulls’ ball handler. So does 3/4 of the league by that measure.

Fortunately, Hoiberg never had to coach against Allen Iverson or he might have completely lost it watching him dribble.

This came off as a desperation ploy by Hoiberg. Or it was the worst attempt ever at a “take that for data” rant ever.

Thomas, for his part, basically shrugged when told about it.

When told about Hoiberg’s comments, Thomas said, “That’s not the reason. It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I’ve been dribbling that way my whole life, I don’t know what to say to that.”

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.