What The Hell Happened Last Night: Mike D’Antoni Is Back, And So Is Butler
Well, the Lakers finally have a permanent coach on the bench again. Mike D’Antoni debuted last night. How’d he do? Well, unless you were up until around 1 a.m. Eastern time tracking the results, you don’t know. That’s where we come in. That’s right: it’s time to break down last night in the world of sports via our ongoing feature, “What The Hell Happened Last Night?” Enough intro – let’s answer our own question now.
D’Antoni wins debut.
Mike D’Antoni was on the Laker bench last night for the first time since officially taking the team’s head coaching job, and it was a successful start: the Lakers beat the Nets (who were 6-2 going into last night’s game – they’re putting together a very solid start) 95-90. While the 95-90 score doesn’t exactly scream “FAST-PACED HIGH-POWERED D’ANTONI BASKETBALL,” it does scream “THE LAKERS WON,” and in a season the title hopefuls began 1-4, that’s the important part.
Since that 1-4 start, L.A. is now 5-1, and they now have a winning record (6-5) on the season overall. There’s a long way to go, but they look well on the way to righting the ship. The stars are playing well (Kobe has 25 last night, Dwight Howard had 23 and 15, and Pau Gasol had 17 and 11, along with seven assists). And when Steve Nash comes back and gets a feel for his teammates? Things could get real interesting.
Elsewhere in the Association, the Sixers topped the Raptors, and the Knicks easily beat the Hornets, 102-80. Granted, they probably should have won that easily, considering the Hornets were without Anthony Davis in addition to still playing without Eric Gordon, but still: the Knicks are 8-1. Anyone who predicted that kind of start coming into the year?
Look out for Butler, everyone.
Remember how Butler made back-to-back national title games in 2010 and 2011? You forgot about them when they were away from the national scene last year, didn’t you? It’s not that they had a bad year, going 22-15, but it was the first time in a while the school failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and long-standing powers Kentucky and Kansas played for the title instead. Butler? They were a nice story and everything, but they fell by the wayside.
Not anymore. You thought you were done hearing about Butler? They’re just getting started, evidenced by their performance at the Maui Invitational. One day after beating Marquette on a last-second three, the Bulldogs needed no such late heroics to beat No. 9 (for now) North Carolina, 82-71. What they did need to do was stave off a furious late Carolina rally – UNC closed what was at one point a 60-31 deficit (Butler was really, really hot for a while there) to 77-71 with a minute left, but Butler finished the job. A week ago, Brad Stevens’ squad was reeling after a 62-47 loss to Xavier. Now? Once again, he’s got a team to be reckoned with.
Elsewhere on the college basketball scene: we came dangerously close to an upset of the No. 1 team in the land, but Indiana held on for an 82-72 win over Georgetown, which has played some impressive basketball this young season. Even in defeat, the Hoyas looked formidable. Also formidable: UCLA’s now-eligible star freshman Shabazz Muhammad, whose 21 points helped the Bruins edge Georgia last night. Additionally, Michigan State got all it could handle from Boise State, but escaped with a 74-70 win.
Oh, and there was a college football game.
In it, Toledo beat Akron 35-23. The Rockets finish the regular season 9-3, 6-2 in the MAC. All three of their losses were by a touchdown: to Ball State and Northern Illinois (combined record: 18-4) and a solid Arizona team in overtime to open the season. And they beat Cincinnati (one of only three losses for the Bearcats) for good measure. This is a good football team. Give the MAC its due.
Safe holiday travels, everyone.
Because let’s face it, even if you’re at work, you’re not focused.
Photos via Getty, AP