Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while reading the oral history (in twitter form) of Mike Woodson’s path to being fired…
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies. I saw a couple Grizzlies fans on twitter knocking Conley for a missing a couple free throws late and getting stripped by Thabo Sefolosha for a turnover. Guess what — without Conley’s performance the Grizzlies lose that game by 20. He was fantastic on the pick-and-roll, attacking and pushing into the defense (Marc Gasol would come to an elbow area to create another option, and when Gasol got the ball and the defense helped it opened up backdoor cuts that the Grizzlies exploited all night). The Grizzlies controlled the tempo of the game — a lot of that was the patient Conley. He finished with 19 points and 12 assists, plus did a good job defending Russell Westbrook. Conley is one of the most underrated point guard sin the NBA and he showed why on Monday.
Beno Udrih, Memphis Grizzlies. When Conley sat, Udrih was fantastic. The guy the Grizzlies picked up off the waiver wire and Mike Woodson decided not to use him, Udrih kept the ball moving and finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The Thunder guards would go under picks and Udrih just made them pay every time. It was a blow when Nick Calathes got a 20-game suspension but Udrih made Grizzlies fans forget that for a night.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. David Lee cannot cover Blake Griffin, and with Andrew Bogut out the smart help for Lee is gone (no offense intended to Jermaine O’Neal, but it’s not the same). In Game 1 the Clippers couldn’t exploit that because Griffin was in foul trouble from the start. In Game 2 there were no fouls but there was a very aggressive Griffin who was attacking the rim (9-of-11 inside 8 feet shooting) and it was key to the Clippers jumping out to a fast lead in what became a 40-point blowout. Griffin finished with a playoff high 35 points in just 30 minutes of play.
The Detroit Pistons’ playoff dreams hinged on them being able to hang around until point guard Reggie Jackson got back from this thumb and knee injuries. They have done just that — the Pistons are 11-10 and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs started today.
And now they get Jackson back. Stan Van Gundy made the announcement Sunday at shootaround, before the team takes on the Orlando Magic.
It will take a few games to get his conditioning back, but this is huge for Detroit. Jackson running the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond is at the heart of Detroit’s offense – the Pistons were 2.3 points per 100 possessions better with the ball in his hands. Ish Smith played well for the Pistons in his absence — 10.8 points per game, 6.4 assists, and he’s been solid. Move his playmaking to the second unit and suddenly the Pistons become a lot more dangerous.
The scouting report on Jakob Poeltl coming out of Utah said he could run the floor well and he was a good finisher around the rim.
But we didn’t expect this.
During the Raptors win Sunday against the stumbling Hawks, Poeltl filled the lane on the break, got the rock, and nobody was going to stop that finish. Least of all Tim Hardaway Jr., he just ends up in the poster.
Entering free agency last July, Hassan Whiteside said his first choice was to stay in Miami — then Pat Riley gave him 98 million reasons to stick around. While the Heat have been up and down this season, Whiteside has thrived as the franchise player in Miami.
Last July he also met with Dallas, but it turns out that was not his second choice. Here is what Whiteside told Erik Gunderson of the Miami Herald before his team fell to the Blazers on Saturday.
“Portland was my second option,” Whiteside said at the team’s Saturday shootaround in Portland. “I would have came here.”
Interesting. There were reports the Blazers chased Whiteside, but it didn’t seem that serious. Apparently, it was. If The Blazers got Whiteside, would they still have spent $70 million on Evan Turner? Probably not. And suddenly a lot of things look better in Portland.
For Blazers fans, watching their team try to outscore opponents while playing terrible defense this season — in part because of a lack of rim protection behind their undersized guards — it’s easy to imagine how much Whiteside would have changed the picture in the Northwest. But at this point, that’s just fan fiction.
JaVale McGree has become a solid contributor for the Warriors off the bench, giving them a needed shot blocking presence. He’s not getting a ton of run (seven minutes a night), but he’s efficient when he’s out there.
Still, there is his reputation as the guy most likely to end up on Shaqtin’ a Fool. He hasn’t done anything like that for a while… until Saturday night, when after a made free throw he tried to inbound the ball for the Suns for a second.
The Warriors bench was laughing under their shirts and towels.