What I Saw, where Portland didn’t miss a beat

7 games on the schedule for today, let’s take a look around the league and see what went down:

Toronto 94, Washington 109: The Raptors allowed the Wizards to shoot 56%, while managing just 41% themselves in the loss. Washington out-rebounded Toronto 47-36 and had 28 assists on their 45 field goals, all contributing factors in the easy 15 point win. John Wall sat the game out to rest that foot, with Gilbert getting the start; it was vintage Gil, 20/7/6 on 7-14, 3-6, 3-4 shooting, with Blatche adding 22.

Sonny Weems led the Raptors with 16, and as much as I respect what he’s done to go from second-round draft pick to NBA starter, you’re not winning games if he’s your lead scorer. The guy that should be leading the scoring every night, Bargnani, needed 13 shots to get 12 points (3-13, 1-2 and 5-6 shooting). This is what you get when Dirk leads Dallas to the NBA finals, and then an Italian 7-footer that can shoot threes enters the draft; everyone thinks he’s the next Dirk. Sadly, he really, really isn’t.

Philadelphia 93, Cleveland 101: The 6ers didn’t take care off the ball in this one, 15 turnovers; 4 players had multiple TO for Philly, yet no Cavalier had more than 1. Evan Turner turned it on for his home crowd (he attended Ohio State), 16 points and 9 boards, and while he struggled with his shot, making just 4-13, he went to the line for 7-8 free throws. Thad Young added 17/8 off the bench. For Cleveland, Boobie Gibson continues to help out to fill-in the scoring void, 18 on 6-12, 3-5, 3-4; he’s averaging 14ppg this season, up from 6ppg last season.

Atlanta 102, Indiana 92: Josh Smith had 25 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 7 blocks for the game, and shot 9-16, 1-1 and 6-7; he’s averaging 16/10/4 along with 2.4 blocks. Al Horford is averaging 17 and 9, and those two may be the Hawks best players. Keep in mind that they’re paying Joe Johnson $124 million to be their best player, and I still don’t know how Hawks ownership didn’t realise that was a bad idea at the time.

L.A. Lakers 118, Milwaukee 107: Funny game this one, the Lakers shoot 54%, the Bucks just 46%, but Milwaukee stays close by grabbing a ridiculous 19 offensive boards. Kobe led the Lakers with 31, while Gasol added 18/10. For Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings matched Kobe with 31 of his own, while Drew Gooden had 22 points and 13 rebounds on just 8-11 from the floor, 2-2 from three and 4-4 from the line. Bogut was everywhere with 12 points, 18 boards and 4 blocks, but he shot just 2-10 from the stripe; the Bucks shot just 59% from the foul line.

Portland 100, Memphis 99: Bittersweet for me, this game. Although I was disappointed that (my) Grizzlies lost, I enjoyed the fact that Wes Matthews stepped in for the injured Brandon Roy and had himself a career-high 30 points on 11-19 from the floor, 5-10 from deep and 3-4 at the line, along with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. I talked about Wes here, suggesting that his rich 5-year/$33 million deal may not have been as ridiculous as everyone thought it was; additionally, I picked him to be the 6th Man of the Year. Realising I’d picked him for 6th man then took some of the enjoyment out of the 30 points, because they came in a start. The longer B-Roy sits, the more starts he gets, there’s less chance of him being the 6th Man of the Year. Anyway.

LMA had 23 on the night, while Camby grabbed 17 rebounds. For Memphis, Rudy Gay led with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He’s really earning his $80 million, averaging 23/7/3 for the season. If that assist average holds, it would easily be a career-high, he’s only averaged 2 per game once (2007-8 season). Zach Randolph added 19 points and 14 rebounds, with most of that coming in the second half.

Chicago 95, Houston 92: Kyle Lowry might want to be extra careful, because he’s having some pretty bad luck at the moment. The Houston point-guard had not one, but two baskets disallowed in the fourth quarter  of this game, the first an off-balance heave from way behind the three-point line, the second a runner from just outside the lane. Upon video review, both times the referees ruled that the ball was still in his hands after the expiration of the shot-clock. With Houston dropping the game by just 3 points, you have to wonder…

Regardless of the replays, the Rockets are always going to have a hard time getting the W if they let Rose dominate. 33 points and 7 assists for the point-man, shooting 13-20 from the floor, 4-5 from range and 3-6 at the stripe. Luis Scola led Houston with 27 on 11-17, 5-6, as he continues to have a very impressive season (22.5/10/2.5 per contest).

New York 118, Denver 120: Another wacky game, lots of misses and lots of rebounds for each club. How many rebounds? Well, rookie Landry Fields, playing at shooting guard, grabbed 17 to go along with his 21 points, both career-highs. That’s super impressive for a guy that no-one knew about drafted in the second-round, 17 boards, and from the 2 spot. Actually, I know for a fact that he was responding to me overlooking him in the Eye on ROY yesterday (note: not an actual fact). Gallinari had a double-double for New York, 21/10, but shot just 2-10 from 3 on the game. Stoudemire had 24 and Wilson Chandler chipped in with 23 off the bench, along with 5 blocks.

Carmelo led the Nuggets, as always, with 26 points, while Harrington came off the bench to throw in 22 points against his old team. The rookie Gary Forbes was solid with 19 points and 9 rebounds.

***

Before I wrap things up, I want to just talk about something I heard earlier on. I was watching the NBA TV guys interview Thabo Sefolosha, the starting 2 guard for OKC, after their win at Utah the other night. I was enjoying the back-and-forth until the host said this:

‘You guys shot nearly 51% tonight, that particular number has been a trouble for you in the early going this season, what was the difference between the offence against the Jazz in this game, as opposed to what’s been happening with you guys, at times struggling to score so far.’

And this is where I got mad, and realised that the TV guys are dumb. You can’t just pay attention to points per game; you need to look at the pace-adjusted offensive and defensive ratings. Here are the figures for the Thunder this season:

Points per game: 103

Opponent points per game: 106

These compared to last season’s numbers:

Points per game: 101.5

Opponent points per game: 98

And then when we look at this season’s offensive and defensive ratings (which are points per 100 possessions; allowing us to adjust for pace):

ORtg: 109.3

DRtg: 112.5

Compared to last season:

ORtg: 108.3

DRtg: 104.6

In this case, it would be enough to pay attention to the per game numbers, in addition to the offensive/defensive ratings. Both show that the Thunder are struggling mightily on the defensive end of the floor this season, with their defensive rating dropping a whole 8 points from 104.6 to 112.5; while their offensive has improved slightly, up 1 point per 100 possessions to 109.3 from 108.3.

Anyone that pays any attention realised that the Thunder won games last season with their D, remarkable considering the youth on the roster and the difficulties that coaches can have getting young guys to buy into playing defence. Furthermore, those same people would realise that the D has been absent so far, but they are managing to pile up plenty of points (7th in the league right now). I’d love to be the 7th best offensive team on the league at the same time you’re ‘struggling to score’, wouldn’t you?

***

Lastly, I want to link to a couple of articles:

This one, from NBA.com, is a great read on the Monta Ellis-Stephen Curry backcourt that’s doing so much damage for Golden State so far. Count me as one of those that were saying they were too small and similar to work together. I was wrong;

And this, from Hardwood Paroxysm, is a good look at a travel that was called against Tyrus Thomas in the Charlotte-Minnesota match-up. Make sure to be careful with that pivot foot.

Thanks for reading.

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