What Happened Last Night: Knicks Lose First Game, Lakers Win First Game (With D’Antoni)
It was a pretty busy Friday night in the NBA, with nine games in action. Luckily, we’re only ten games into the season, so barely any of these games matter right now (Unless you play like fantasy basketball, in which case, ALL of these games are of the utmost importance.).
That being said, there were two games of note last night: the 6-0 New York Knicks vs. the 6-1 Memphis Grizzlies, and the debut of Mike D’Antoni’s offense with the Los Angeles Lakers as they took on the Phoenix Suns.
Grizzlies hand Knicks first loss of season, now hold best record in NBA
Memphis two-headed monster of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 44 points and 22 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies to a 105-95 victory over New York, ending their season-opening win streak at 6 games and catapulting themselves to the top record in the league at 7-1. Both teams played pretty evenly, but it was the Knicks’ poor shooting from the outside (New York shot 51% overall, but went just 5 for 19 from three-point land) that did them in.
So what does this game mean for both of these teams? Not much, since we’re only ten games into the season, but there are couple of things worth keeping in mind in the early going.
On New York’s end, this game answered the question “What happens when the threes aren’t falling?” I guess the answer is “Keep shooting them”? For the Knicks to only score 95 points while shooting 51% from the floor as a team is pretty embarrassing. In a game like this, you’d like a championship contending team to have a go-to plan for easy buckets when the outside shot isn’t falling, which you’d think would be sending Carmelo Anthony into the post, but with Gasol and Randolph waiting for him, not to mention a solid defender in Rudy Gay manning him up, that proves tougher than first thought. I’d like to say things will get better when Amare Stoudemire gets back, but who really expects him to be a significant threat down low? I feel as comfortable in relying on Amare to show up every game as I do for Carlos Boozer to do the same for Chicago.
For Memphis, this game just confirms what we kind of already knew: the Grizzlies are really good. Good point guard in Mike Conley, good wings in Tony Allen and Rudy Gay, one of the top frontcourts in the game in Randolph and Gasol, and an okay bench. I’m not a big fan of Lionel Hollins, but he is helping Memphis rack up the wins right now. That being said, with this lineup, you’re basically hoping for a mid-’00s Pistons-esque run at a title, which is not the best position to be in. But considering the lack of size from every other team in the league besides the Lakers, maybe the Grizzlies to break through? That’s something that will have to wait until the playoffs, though. Memphis is supposed to win a lot of regular season games. So really, we didn’t learn anything from this game. Bleh.
Lakers unveil D’Antoni offense, defeat Suns 114-102
Mike D’Antoni isn’t quite ready to coach from the sidelines just yet, but after a practice and a pre-game pep talk, the Lakers confirmed exactly the kind of attack you’d expect from his team. LA scored 114 points, took 21 threes, only turned the ball over 11 times, and got big contributions from their starters en route to the 114-102 win over Phoenix. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 31 (and 6 assists), with major help from Metta World Peace (22 points, 6 rebounds), Dwight Howard (18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks), and Pau Gasol (16 points, 10 rebounds). Phoenix was led by Goran Dragic with 22 points and 7 assists, and Luis Scola with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
Granted, Phoenix isn’t the toughest of opponents, but this was definitely a promising start for the D’Antoni-era Lakers, especially as they play in D’Antoni’s point guard-heavy offense without a point guard. Steves Nash and Blake are still injured, so Darius Morris and Chris Duhon combined for 5 points and 8 assists in 48 minutes. Yikes. Even so, the Lakers were able to hang 114 points on the Suns in an offense they’re still learning. Once Steve Nash comes back and can get things humming along perfectly, the Lakers could start hanging 120-130 points on teams consistently. A scary thought for the rest of the league.
All stats via ESPN.com