Yeah, the biggest news of the day was NFL playoff action, but that was more afternoon/evening than night. What you missed during those games: an NBA schedule that made up for what it lacked in quantity (five total games) with the stature of the teams involved (three preseason title favorites were among the 10 teams that played). Of course, only two of those preseason favorites still look like they have any sort of shot at a title at the moment. What do we mean? Better read on to find out.
The Lakers are still lost.
Yeah, on the surface a 112-105 loss to a Nuggets team that’s now 20-16, having won two straight, five of seven, and nine of its last 13, isn’t the worst. It’s a loss even a team with as much talent as the Lakers is expected to absorb from time to time. But as it actually was… well, the Twitter timeline of Nate Jones offers a glimpse into how it looked to those watching. Individually, some of the numbers don’t look bad: Dwight Howard had an eye-catching 26 rebounds, Steve Nash had a very Nash-like 13 assists, and Kobe Bryant overcame a slow start to finish with 29.
Collectively, though, it was just another reminder that while the individual pieces are there, the overall product is severely lacking. Ultimately, the number that stands out most last night isn’t anything any Laker did, but 101: that’s the number of shots the Nuggets took. They beat the Lakers through sheer volume of field goal attempts; they only made 44. How’d they do it? Well, they grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, for one thing – while again, part of that number is the astronomical number of chances for offensive rebounds they gave themselves with all those missed shots, another part is that the Lakers can still do better. The Lakers turning the ball over 18 times to Denver’s eight didn’t help matters, either. Nor did defense like this:
The loss dropped the Lakers to 15-18 on the season. And while there’s still a lot of season to be played – more than enough for the Lakers to get it together and make everyone forget how bad they were for so long – the team’s out of excuses. Nash is back, and has been for a couple weeks now. Howard might not still be fully recovered from his back injury, but he ought to be a lot closer than he was early in the year (and he’s well enough to grab 26 rebounds in a game). Kobe’s Kobe. And Pau Gasol is… well, sort of a shell of himself, which is another issue on top of the rest of what ails the Lakers. Anyway. Since firing Mike Brown after that awful 1-4 start, the Lakers are… 14-14. SHOWTIME!
Around the Association…
Well, at least some other title contenders are in decent form. The Thunder beat a Raptors team that’s much improved of late, 104-92, Kevin Durant continued his highly unusual run of technical fouls, then (jokingly) blamed Kendrick Perkins for it in genuinely amusing fashion because this is too-good-to-be-true Kevin Durant, after all. The Heat, meanwhile, manhandled the Wizards 99-71 (thanks largely to a 30-11 fourth quarter romp), which is precisely what the defending champs should be doing to a Wizards team that now sits at 4-28. We could do much, much worse than a Miami-OKC Finals rematch.
Elsewhere: the Grizzlies, who may well make some noise in the West themselves, topped the Suns 92-81 in Phoenix by doing pretty much the opposite of what the Nuggets did – Memphis took only 69 shots, but made 37. And the Bobcats bested the Pistons in Detroit (and the Pistons have actually been respectable at home), 108-101 in overtime. I can’t be the only one glad to see the Bobcats getting back on track following that terrible losing streak – they were doing so well at the start of the year.
Chip Kelly spurned the NFL again.
It’s a big loss for the Eagles and Browns, both of whom appeared to want him, and a gigantic win for Oregon football – Chip Kelly, the man who’s led the program to new heights over the last four years, decided his best option wasn’t to see if his style could work in the NFL, but to keep using it to dominate the college game. The rumblings that he might not be going anywhere got louder as Sunday progressed, and last night it became official.
Whether it was because Kelly decided he couldn’t leave the college game and wanted to shepherd his program through whatever NCAA-related difficulties might be coming its way, that he just didn’t find any open NFL job attractive enough, or that Phil Knight offered to remake Autzen Stadium in the shape of a giant Nike swoosh that is also a spaceship containing a machine that continuously shoots trillion-dollar coins at Kelly and seats 100,000, he’s staying at Oregon.
Maybe NFL teams wont trust Kelly now, and he blew any chance he had of ever jumping to the pros. Maybe you think he’s a self-serving attention hog for interviewing with all these teams and turning them down for a sweetened deal at Oregon… or maybe you just think he’s amazingly loyal to the Ducks for sticking with him despite being wanted by NFL teams and facing the threat of possible NCAA sanctions at Oregon. That’s all up for debate.
This isn’t: this is huge for Oregon. They’ve kept one of the best coaches in the country despite opportunities almost anyone else would have taken. They are going to keep winning tons of football games, and be a national title contender every year. And they will keep being appointment viewing every time they play.
Again… that RGIII injury.
Yeah, we talked about it already. But let’s face it: the controversy last night was only the beginning. So here it is again, if you haven’t seen it yet, via SB Nation:
Get better, RGIII. And fast.
Photos via Getty