Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets. In a game against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, The Truth was the best player on the court. He couldn’t seem to miss on his way to 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting including 5-of-7 from three. He did most of his damage in the third quarter, but with the game on the line he did hit a driving lay-up that broke a 92-92 tie. Early on in the game the Heat played back daring Pierce to shoot a jump shot, then he started to nail them. Miami adjusted and closed out, so Pierce went the fake and it opened up drives and more. Since going to the four he has sparked the Nets and he was key to them getting their biggest win of the year.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. Drama swirls around the Knicks — Phil Jackson will be in, which means Carmelo Anthony will be in or out, depending on who you ask — yet through it all Carmelo Anthony busts it hard on the court. He did that again Wednesday with 34 points on 25 shots to lead the Knicks to their fifth straight win, doing a lot of his work early in the game. It says a lot about Anthony that he has brought this effort and played this well through it all. To quote Kipling:
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
Philadelphia 76ers. They have lost 18 straight games — they sent the Sacramento Kings to the free throw line 50 times Wednesday, which is a good way to extend a losing streak. The NBA record is 26 and if the Sixers were going to avoid tying that they needed to beat the Jazz, Knicks or Kings this week. They didn’t. Now their schedule goes Pacers, Grizzlies, at Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, at Bulls, at Spurs, at Rockets. Hard to see a win in that stretch. Lose those games and the Sixers are at 26 having tied the league record for consecutive losses. That could make March 29 against the Pistons (potential loss 27) very interesting.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies. Remember those people who said “who is going to take the last shot, the big shot” when the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay? Meet Mike Conley. He led Memphis with 16 points in a key win over New Orleans that puts the Grizzlies two clear of the Suns in the race for the final playoff spot in the West. Oh, and he also did this to get the win.
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.