Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking Ronald McDonald may have an anger management issues (no, not that one)…
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets. He remains one of the best (sometimes overlooked) shooters in the game. In the first half the Nets largely ran the offense through their “power forward” Paul Pierce and Johnson kept getting open for catch-and-shoot threes (he was 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in the first half) on his way to 26 points before the break. The Hawks adjusted to Johnson in the second half and doubled him, and Johnson made the right play being patient and getting the ball to the open man (Alan Anderson had 10 in the third largely thanks to those plays). By the fourth quarter Johnson was comfortably on the bench wondering if he had time to get to a fish and chip shop before the flight home. Brooklyn cruised to a win in London and Johnson was a key reason.
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers. He looked like an All-Star in this one (and he is on my ballot, too). Stephenson led the Pacers when they stopped settling for jumpers and attacked the rim starting in the second quarter, but he was also a playmaker setting up teammates. When the Knicks started to focus more on him is when Paul George was able to step up and get his 25. Stephenson had 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and spent time guarding Carmelo Anthony, too.
Houston Rockets in first half. This team is unstoppable. This team looks like a contender. This team has a guy you have to respect in the paint and that opens up looks at the arc, and this team goes 12-of-20 from three. This team puts up 73 points in a half, plays with pace and confidence and is generally impressive.
Houston Rockets in second half. This team can’t shoot from the outside and goes 0-of-9 from three. This team looks like one that when challenged doesn’t now how to adjust and get scoring if its threes aren’t falling. This team’s stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard didn’t step up with plays when their side was struggling. This team looks nothing like a future contender.
The question is which is the real Rockets team? Or is it the more likely answer of none-of-the-above, rather still a work in progress with a ways to go?