Another basketball-heavy day and night, with some intriguing tennis mixed in while you were probably sleeping. Let’s get to it – quick, before today’s round of games starts and this recap becomes obsolete!
“This isn’t working.”
That’s about as succinctly as one could put the Lakers’ season thus far, and that is how Kobe put it after a 95-83 loss in Chicago last night, the Lakers’ second dispiriting defeat in as many nights and Kobe’s third straight off game (he scored 16 on 7-for-22 shooting; he’s 25-for-79 over the Lakers’ last three). The game was tied at the end of three quarters, but the Bulls pulled away in the fourth as once again, the Lakers’ on-paper talent advantage failed to translate to much of anything on the court.
Sure, there were some individual bright spots here and there – Steve Nash scored an efficient 18 and dished out six assists against just two turnovers, Metta World Peace filled up the stat sheet on defense with four steals and three blocks, and Pau Gasol made something of his unwanted bench role with 15 points and 12 rebounds (though he needed 14 shots to score those 15) – but the whole continues not to resemble anything close to what this collection of talent ought to look like. We’re halfway through the season. More Kobe, to Adrian Wojnarowski:
“We need to put guys in positions to do what they do best. We need to strip it down. Steve is best in pick-and-roll. Pau is best in the post. I’m best from the free-throw line extended down. Let’s go back to basics.
Yes, Mike D’Antoni is trying different things, the Pau-off-the-bench strategy being one. The Lakers organization is trying all sorts of different things, jettisoning Mike Brown after five games. But for each brief moment of promise the Lakers have shown, they’ve quickly regressed into somewhere between mediocrity and downright badness. Maybe getting back to basics is the way to finally fix things. In a season when nothing else has worked, it’s worth a try.
As for the Bulls, though: good stuff. 24-16 with no Derrick Rose is nothing to sneeze at, and while they’ll need him back at full strength to have any hope of dethroning the Heat in the East (and if the 2011 East finals were any indication, their hopes are slim even with Rose), fifth place in the East without their franchise player is pretty good. Tom Thibodeau is good at what he does, and his players are pretty damn good at defending. If the Bulls keep playing defense this good, they’ll tread water without Rose well enough to get favorable playoff positioning when he’s back in the fold.
Around the Association…
Speaking of teams that play some good defense, the Pacers got an important road win yesterday afternoon (fine, this wasn’t at night), narrowly defeating the Grizzlies 82-81 in Memphis. Speaking of teams that play some terrible offense, the Pacers got an important road win yesterday afternoon, narrowly defeating the Grizlies 82-81 in Memphis.
Seriously, though, these are despite their struggles getting buckets both good teams (the Grizzlies are now 26-14, the Pacers 26-16), and the fact that the Pacers have gotten to that record while one of their best players (Danny Granger) hasn’t played a minute yet this season has to leave one impressed with what Frank Vogel is getting out of his squad… and Pacers fans salivating at the type of player Paul George is becoming. He gets that shooting percentage up (42.4 percent so far this season), and we’re looking at an All-Star-caliber player for many years to come.
Elsewhere: it wasn’t a great night for L.A. hoops overall – the Clippers fell to the Warriors 106-99 thanks to a fourth-quarter Golden State rally, but the Warriors might have been more excited by this happening than winning. Tim Duncan continued to defy the aging process, posting 24 points and 17 rebounds in a 90-85 Spurs win over the Sixers in Philly. The Nets came out ahead in last night’s edition of the Battle for NYC Bragging Rights, beating the Knicks 88-85 and continuing their tear they’ve been on of late. The Rockets finally took a step toward righting their ship, rallying late to beat the Bobcats 100-94 despite an on-fire Kemba Walker scoring 35. James Harden continued to struggle badly from the field (5-for-20), but made up for it at the line (19-for-21).
Finally, the rest of last night’s action: the Hornets continued improving, beating the (for now) Kings 114-105 behind Greivis Vasquez’s 19 points, seven rebounds, and 11 assists. DeMarcus Cousins, though, continued playing well, posting 29 and 13. So, uh, good news, Seattle fans! The Hawks beat the still-hilariously-shorthanded T-Wolves (no Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, or Alexey Shved) 104-96 and the back of Al Horford’s 28 and 10. Finally, the Wizards continued to show signs of life, beating the Blazers 98-95, and in Portland, no less. It was the fifth win in seven games for the Wiz, who got 24 points apiece from Martell Webster and Nene, while Nicolas Batum continues to throw up fun stat lines for the Blazers (12/10/11/3/2).
College basketball upset sorta:
Georgetown handily defeated No. 24 Notre Dame 63-47, which might not have been much of a surprise at all except the game was in South Bend. [Joke about how it was almost like Notre Dame didn’t even exist on the court.]
NHL scoreboard watching…
I don’t have much to add on last night’s results, really, except that here they are, for your perusal. Besides that: tough luck for the Predators so far: two overtime losses. It’s almost a relief to see the Red Wings right the ship a bit, with a 4-3 shootout win over the Blue Jackets, after the way they got shellacked in their first game of the post-Lidstrom era. And the Senators winning 4-0 on the same night this guy becomes an internet sensation – coincidence? We’ll let you decide.
Aussie Open update:
The top players are starting to get a little more trouble, at least in the men’s draw. Novak Djokovic batted back fifth seed Tomas Berdych, but not before dropping a set, eventually prevailing 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to move on to the semis. Of course, that was still less trouble than he’d had the previous round, when Stanislas Wawrinka almost beat him. And speaking of high-seeded players almost losing, fourth-seeded David Ferrer was down two sets with opponent Nicolas Almagro serving for the match… and Ferrer broke him and never looked back, coming back to win 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-2. Meanwhile, in the women’s draw, Maria Sharapova romped 6-2, 6-2.
Tonight’s main event: Clippers-Thunder.
A few short years ago, this would have been a matchup of bottom feeders. Upward mobility in the sports world is a nice thing, is it not?
Photos via Getty