Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking I never had teachers like that…
San Antonio Spurs offense. The Bulls defense has forced everyone they have faced lately into an ugly, grappling fight on the ground that favors Chicago. Even Miami fell victim to it. San Antonio rose above it with an efficient night following the Popovich maxim of great not good (pass on a good shot if you can get a teammate a great one). San Antonio had an offensive rating of 112.3 points on the night with a team true shooting percentage of 60.7. They cut, they passed, and even the Bulls could not keep up. Tony Parker did most of his damage early and had 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, more importantly he had nine assists and no turnovers. Manu Ginobili looked like a Sixth Man of the Year award candidate with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting. No team is playing better than the Spurs right now.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. In the fourth quarter the Thunder had the lead but the Rockets kept trying to open the door and walk on through, and each time it seemed Durant was slamming it in their face. Durant had 12 points in the fourth, 42 for the game on 12-of-22 shooting. Also, thanks to Patrick Beverly clearly waking up Russell Westbrook, there was the old Westbrook/Durant chemistry. Now we’ll see if the Thunder can carry this over to the next game.
Andrew Bynum, Indiana Pacers. He looked good — eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, plus 10 rebounds. He brought some real energy to the Pacers reserves, throwing down a dunk, making a slick bounce pass in the paint, making plays over the top of the smaller Jared Sullinger, just generally providing a spark. More of a spark than we’ve seen from Evan Turner so far. We’ve all seen good games from Bynum before to be followed by him mentally checking out. Still a lot to prove here. But his debut in Pacers gold was impressive.
Detroit Pistons’ defense. For one night (and likely one night only) the Pistons defended, holding the Sacramento Kings to 88 points per 100 possessions and picking up the win — a win that moved them ahead of the Knicks into the No. 9 seed in the East, three games back of the Atlanta Hawks. In the second half in particular Detroit played the kind of defense we kind of expected from them this season, and if they have playoff dreams what they need to do the rest of the season
Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.
As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.
Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.
Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.
Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.
Maybe a little too pumped.
That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.
Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.
(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)
The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.
While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.
Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.
Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.
His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.
Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.