Well, this is certainly one way to go about winning when your team is missing two of its starters.
The Knicks came limping into Phoenix on Wednesday, with both Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton unable to go due to injuries suffered in the team’s Christmas Day loss to the Lakers.
That just meant more shots for J.R. Smith, who didn’t get the start, but played a team-high 37 minutes while also leading the team in shot attempts with 27.
He only made 11 of those attempts, but the last two he hit were big-time difference-makers that gave his team the 99-97 road victory.
It probably didn’t hurt New York’s chances that the Suns were without their starting point guard Goran Dragic for the entire second half, after Smith took him out on this flagrant foul just before halftime.
This play is not only just as bad as the one that got Dwight Howard immediately ejected in Denver on this same night, but given Dragic’s vulnerable in-air position, along with the fact that Smith had zero chance of making a legitimate defensive play here, it’s actually much worse.
The only thing that could have come of Smith making contact with an airborne Dragic was exactly what ended up happening — an injury. That’s the type of play that deserves to be ruled a flagrant-two, but instead, the officials decided it was harmless enough to allow him to remain in the game.
Tell that to Dragic, who missed the second half with a combination wrist/back/hip injury.
Smith added the proverbial insult in the game’s final possessions by hitting two very tough shots, but after watching this play a few times, it appears he shouldn’t have been able to continue to play in this game to the point where he had the opportunity to do so.
The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.
Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.
Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.
You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)
“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”
It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.
It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.
Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.
“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”
“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.
“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”
Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the
Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8
The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.
I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.
If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.
At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.
This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.