The Chicago Bulls had lost three in a row and were reeling.
Then Monday night the Pistons came to town.
The Pistons had a couple ugly losses themselves leading up to Monday, and that sparked a “players only” meeting before the Chicago game, a meeting where defense and ball movement were stressed. Apparently not stressed enough. The Pistons didn’t do either of those things, and the result was a blowout 113-82 loss to a Bulls team that seemed to find its footing, at least for a night.
Stan Van Gundy went off after the game.
I love it. I’ve been in/you’ve watched so many coach interviews after a game like this where the coach tries to blow off the loss with “we just didn’t have it tonight” or some such talk, but this is what coaches are really thinking at those moments. This was a view inside a coach’s head when he’s being honest.
Van Gundy’s right, players-only meetings rarely lead to a change in behavior by players. Or, you get dramatic swings, like Reggie Jacksons’ decision seemingly pass only and not shoot in the first half Monday.
The Pistons are 12-14 this season, still in the playoff mix in the East, and they have enough talent on the roster that they should make the cut. But talent is only taking a team so far — without some toughness and passion they are going to stall out. They should find that again soon, but this team has been in a funk since Jackson’s return (did they expect him to come in and just carry things?).
The Wizards had won five-of-six coming in and had been the team making plays in the clutch.
But Monday night it was Thaddeus Young who hit a running floater to give the Pacers a 107-105 win over the Wizards.
Markieff Morris defended the play well. Young got the ball out high, didn’t get to turn the corner cleanly coming to the basket, and Morris was right on him the whole way contesting the shot. But insert your favorite basketball shooter’s cliché here — “good offense beats good defense” or “it’s a make-or-miss league and he made it” — they all apply here. Young made the play.
Paul George had 27 to lead the Pacers in a game between two teams in the thick of a crowded Eastern Conference (going into Monday night two games separated the four and 11 seeds).
This is the week a lot of casual fans start to flip on NBA games — usually on Sunday, on their new 55-inch, 4K, smart TV — but to do that is to have missed a lot of great plays and games already.
Like the top 10 dunks of last week.
Stick around for No. 1, because Larry Nance Jr. may have the Dunk of the year with that one.
It’s a lot of fun to watch Brandon Jennings come in with the Knicks second unit and just get out and run. The tempo changes, the flow of the game changes, and the Knicks are far more entertaining.
They’re just not better. Jennings is not terribly efficient, and neither is the Knicks bench. Derrick Rose has had his best season in a while — averaging 16.4 points per game, he was moving better laterally and was quicker than we have seen since the knee injuries began — and with that the Knicks have been 7.5 points per 100 possessions better when Rose is on the court.
But back spasms had sidelined Rose the last three games — all Knicks losses. Put Jennings in with the starters and they have been 5.7 per 100 possessions worse as a lineup. So it’s good news for New York that Rose should return Tuesday, via Ian Begley of ESPN.
“That’s the plan,” (Rose) said after participating in a full practice on Monday. “I just want to put all these injuries behind me and get on with the season….
“I think it’s just a one-shot thing,” he said. “Before I fell I wasn’t worried about it. Things like this are going to happen. It comes with the season — bumps and falls. I just got to find a way around it. I can’t let it get to me mentally.”
The Knicks host the Pacers on Tuesday, and on Sunday will host the Celtics in the tip-off of the Christmas Day games.
New York cannot afford a prolonged slump, they are currently the six seed in the East but are just a game ahead of nine-seed Detroit. Only two games separate the four seed and the 11 seed in the Eastern Conference right now, no team can afford to be off their game for long.
The Houston Rockets have won 10 games in a row, and in that stretch of time a Mike D’Antoni team has been the second best defense in the NBA. Seriously. On the season the Rockets have risen to 14th in the league in defense — ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Big man Clint Capela has been a big part of the Rockets’ success — he’s an improving rim protector — but it looks like the team will be without him for a while. A report out of L’Equipe, the very respected French sports publication (remember, Capela is Swiss and has connections to France), says the Rockets’ center has a fractured fibula and will be out for several weeks at least while that heals.
From Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle:
In the Rockets’ 111-109 win over the Timberwolves on Dec. 17, Capela left the game early in the second half after banging knees with Karl-Anthony Towns.
Coach Mike D’Antoni said on Monday that Capela will miss Tuesday’s game against the Spurs and was getting an MRI. The Rockets have not released any information about the results.
Most likely the delay in the team making it official is a second MRI or test. It will come.
Capela is averaging 11.8 points and 8 rebounds a game. Expect to see more Nene Hilario and Montrezl Harrell at the five. Also, this is D’Antoni we’re talking about, so expect him to experiment with smaller lineups that have more shooting (Ryan Anderson at the five anyone?).