On the one hand, last night in sports showcased the new: the Knicks and Nets squaring off as newly-minted New York City rivals. On the other hand it was a bit of a throwback, albeit to a very recent past: last season in the NBA and NFL, to be exact. This was thanks to a couple throwback performances: one great, one decidedly less than great. And we know you’re dying to hear what they are (since, we assume due to your reading this, you didn’t see them for yourself – tsk tsk), so let’s not keep you in suspense any longer.
The Panthers won because Cam Newton was awesome again.
Sure, Cam Newton’s provided flashes this year of the guy who in 2011 took the NFL by storm and did things we never imagined an NFL quarterback doing, but overall 2012’s been a maddening step back. His completion percentage is lower than last season, he’s thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns, and generally hasn’t made the jump you’d want to see from a quarterback with a year under his belt. (He also hasn’t been scoring on the ground quite as frequently as he did last season, but most people would have predicted that.)
And thanks in part to Newton’s lack of progress, the Panthers as a whole have regressed: 2-8 heading into last night’s Monday Night Football showdown with the Eagles. And the Eagles, thanks to pretty much every possible thing going wrong (including Michael Vick getting hurt again), were only 3-7, leading to a complete dud of a matchup last night. Before the season, this game probably had ESPN execs salivating at ratings potential (The battle of the electrifying QBs! Playoff contenders squaring off!), but instead it was one of the dullest-sounding MNF games in memory.
And then… 2011 Cam Newton rode again. Aided by an Eagles team that, again, cannot do anything right, Newton completed 18 of 28 passes for two touchdowns, and ran 14 times for 52 yards and two more scores. What’s more, he didn’t turn it over once, an that performance spurred the Panthers to a 30-22 win. 2012’s mostly been a disappointment for Newton, and we as fans are now paying more attention to our shiny new quarterbacking toys named Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but last night’s showing proved we underestimate Newton at our peril. He’s still young, and has plenty of time to become an elite player. If he does, the NFL as a whole will be better for it.
The Bobcats got destroyed because they were comically awful again.
Due to a traveling snafu that was an outgrowth of the havoc Hurricane Sandy wrought on public transportation, I didn’t get home last night until the Thunder-Bobcats game was already in the third quarter. As I checked NBA scores, that one stood out… because it was 84-35. It was a 1 vs. 16 NCAA Tournament matchup masquerading as a contest between professionals.
I quickly learned other things, like that the halftime score was 64-24, the biggest halftime score differential the NBA has seen in two decades. Somehow, the fact that the Thunder eventually won by 45, 114-69, makes it sound too close. Cris Collinsworth said at the end of the Packers’ 38-10 loss to the Giants on Sunday night that it was a “burn the tape” type of game. If that was a “burn the tape” game, this was a “burn the tape, the TV you would have used to show the tape, the entire room you would have sat in to watch the tape, and possibly your entire team headquarters.” Michael Jordan must have been tempted to run out on the court himself.
The shame of it is that before last night, the Bobcats had shown real improvement this season with a couple new pieces, an improved Kemba Walker, and a new coach in Mike Dunlap. This, though, was a reversion to the 7-59 nightmare of last season… only even last year’s Bobcats never had a showing this bad. How the team responds will be a true test of how far they’ve come – last year’s Bobcats would have spiraled even further downward. What will this year’s edition do?
Elsewhere in the Association…
The budding Knicks-Nets New York rivalry got off to a tightly-contested start, with the Nets prevailing 96-89 in overtime despite Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler combining for 63. Much has been made of the potential of Amar’e Stoudemire’s eventual return to disrupt the Knicks’ chemistry, but having another scoring threat on a night only Anthony and Chandler cracked double figures sure seems like it would have helped.
And while bottom honors in futility last night went to the Bobcats, the Wizards weren’t far behind, falling 118-92 to the Spurs to move to 0-12 on the year. The Pistons, though, who suffered through a similarly miserable start, fared much better, beating the Blazers 108-101. The Bucks made Drew Gooden happy, beating the Bulls 93-92, the Grizzlies staved off a surprisingly game Cavs team to win 84-78, the Jazz rallied to beat the Nuggets, and the Hornets somehow beat the Clippers on the road with no Anthony Davis or Eric Gordon. Makes one think there’s something to the Monty Williams hype. (Or the Vinny Del Negro anti-hype, for that matter.)
College basketball upset watch:
No upset, since Kansas, the only top 25 team playing, beat San Jose State 70-57, but the Spartans did keep it close enough for Kansas center Jeff Withey to play 35 minutes, allowing him to post this stat line we’d like to highlight: 16 points, 12 rebounds, 12 blocks. Withey’s currently projected as an early second-round draft pick by nbadraft.net. Many more nights like that (and considering the guy is averaging 6.2 blocks through five games, it’s not terribly far-fetched), he won’t be a projected second-rounder for long.
Photos via Getty