1. Night Of Super Finishes And More
What a night in the NBA. A couple of overtime games bolstered by a handful of contests that went down to the buzzer made for the best night of overall drama so far in the young, shortened season.
Here's a sampling from some of the night's excitement, highlighting turning points, comebacks and heroes, starting with a game-winner in L.A. from Mr. Big Shot himself.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Chauncey Billups: "There were two different options on the play -- a handoff if I was freed up, or Blake [Griffin] was going to fake a hand-off and turn and make his own play. He made a great read and I made the shot ... I was a little surprised I was that open. I actually thought that [Griffin] faking it to me and both guys running to me in that instance would be the right play -- then [Griffin] going to make a play. But I got some separation. Blake made a great play with the handoff."
Blake Griffin: "It was just kind of a 'read' play. Jason [Kidd] was trailing Chauncey, so I just gave it to him and Chauncey did what he does ... There were definitely multiple options and that was the one that stuck out immediately. You have a guy like that with two or three feet on a defender, you give it to him and he didn't disappoint."
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: In seasons past the Wizards had a big dry-erase board in their locker room conveying an array of game-by-game statistical benchmarks. This season they replaced all the numbers to keep track of just one thing: charges taken, both in practice and in games. The team leader thus far in the race to attract bumps and bruises? John Wall, by a mile.
Leading his league-worst Wizards in an upset win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Wall drew four charges. All came in the second half, two against Kevin Durant late in the fourth, the most important with 38 seconds left. Out of timeouts with his Thunder down 96-92, Durant came off a screen at the top of the key with a sliver of separation and drove left into a wide-open lane. Almost as quickly as Wall runs the fast break, he laterally slid his feet into Durant's path. Whistle blown, change of possession, and a big victory for the hapless Wizards.
Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: Steve Nash showed the Knicks how much they are missing a point guard just like him. The Knicks often struggled to get into their sets and ended up running isolation after isolation for Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, who combined to shoot 12-for-44.
Nash, meanwhile, pitched a near-perfect game at the point guard spot, going for 26 points and 11 assists on 9-for-12 shooting while consistently creating easy opportunities for his teammates. The two-time MVP assisted on four consecutive Suns buckets to help them build a seven-point lead with 3:21 left and then iced the affair with six straight free throws.
After this virtuoso performance, it would be understandable if many New York fans went home wondering how good Nash could make the Knicks if he becomes available at the trade deadline or in free agency next summer.
Chris Ramsay, ESPN.com: From 2006 to '09 Andre Miller did it for the Sixers. Wednesday night in Philly he did it to the Sixers. Miller scored Denver's last 10 points. He hit a 3, an and-1, a midrange jumper and a runner to singlehandedly carry the Nuggets into overtime. In OT Miller hit a jumper and got a key steal to seal the Nuggets' victory. The 35-year-old Miller ended with a season-high 28 points, plus 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Daniel Nowell, MagicBasketball: Though the majority of the game showed two teams out of gas and struggling to score, by crunch time Dwight Howard had muscled the Magic back into striking distance with his rebounding and explosive, timely putbacks.
As the Magic stood poised to vault the Spurs on Superman's shoulders, two thrilling, if disappointing, plays proved the difference. With 16 seconds left in overtime, surprise standout Von Wafer hit a driving layup while being fouled to give the Magic a chance to tie, only to miss the free throw. It seemed as if he might get off the hook when Howard gathered a Ryan Anderson miss and kicked it to the perimeter with time expiring, but J.J. Redick's swish was half a second too late. It was that sort of night for the Magic -- a gutty fight to the final seconds, but a fraction too little a second too late.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: A game so close that you could point to a number of different turning points. But boil it down and the reason the Hawks won their fourth straight without Al Horford, while the Blazers went to their fourth defeat in five outings, is pretty simple: In the biggest moments, Josh Smith came up bigger than LaMarcus Aldridge.
In Horford's absence Smith had to step up and check Aldridge one-on-one on repeated crunch-time post-ups, and he did it without any double-team help. Aldridge's failure to attack played into Smith's hands too ... as did his two misses from the free-throw line with 1:25 left. Meanwhile, Smith came off Aldridge to block a Gerald Wallace layup that could have tied the game with 2:48 to go, and followed it with a jumper a the other end to give the Hawks a two-possession lead; Portland never again had the ball with a chance to tie.
Joe Gerrity, Hornets 24-7: The Hornets trailed by nine and many of those in attendance had risen to their feet to vacate when Jarrett Jack stepped onto the floor for the final time against the Grizzlies. After watching as O.J. Mayo stuck a 3-pointer in his face, Jack responded with a 3 of his own, igniting the New Orleans crowd and bringing fans to their feet for the proper reason.
The Hornets defense didn't shut down the Griz in the fourth quarter by any means, but Jack just kept on pressing and finishing. The last of his three straight buckets cut the deficit to four with only 90 seconds to go, but the Hornets (a top three defensive rebounding team) gave up four consecutive offensive boards to assure themselves of losing their fifth straight and 11th of 12 overall.
Recap | Box score | Photos
Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Nets rookie MarShon Brooks is no rookie. Brooks dazzled, scoring 22 efficient points, dishing out six assists and grabbing eight rebounds -- the final one an offensive board to seal the Warriors' fate with 20 seconds left. No two baskets were alike. The 22-year-old hit 3s over big men, lofted floaters off the backboard, hit tough shots in the lane, and displayed his picture-perfect fadeaway throughout the game.
Brooks exhibited a worrisome tendency in college to look shot-first and shot-second, but he's balanced his penchant for scoring with a keen understanding of spacing and smart passing, and set up Kris Humphries for clean looks at the rim on multiple occasions. Brooks has exceeded all expectations thus far, and tonight's game is the pinnacle of his early career.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Rajon Rondo appeared to elude a serious wrist injury in the Celtics' blowout win over the Raptors. The All-Star point guard had been scoring at will all night against Toronto, and made a strong drive in the closing moments of the third quarter. Linas Kleiza met the C's floor general at the rim with a flagrant takedown, leaving the point guard writhing in pain under the basket. The 25-year-old laid there for several moments clutching his arm, with his teammates huddled around him.
The episode undoubtedly brought flashbacks of Rondo's dislocated elbow against the Heat during the Eastern Conference semifinals for the hushed TD Garden crowd. A serious injury for Rondo would likely have been the beginning of the end for this Celtics roster. Any premature thoughts of that possibility were quickly silenced though, as Rondo amazingly emerged from the parquet and stayed in the game to attempt his free throws. He remains day-to-day with a sore right wrist and a pain tolerance that continues to amaze NBA fans.
James Ham, Cowbell Kingdom: The Kings erased a 16-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Pacers. The turning point of this one came at the 3:04 mark of the fourth quarter. With the Kings trailing 87-86, center DeMarcus Cousins stepped in front of former All-Star Danny Granger as he cut to the hoop and drew the offensive foul. From that moment on, the Kings played a smothering zone defense, limiting the Pacers to a single point and stealing the victory on their home floor.
The Kings won despite shooting just 30 percent from the floor on the night. Cousins finished the game with 13 points and 19 rebounds, helping the Kings improve their record to 5-10 on the season.
Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: In what seemed a lock to be the ugliest and most forgettable game of the Timberwolves' young season, it took back-to-back plays from a couple of role players to help galvanize Minnesota to a victory. Wayne Ellington's vicious and unexpected tomahawk dunk followed by Anthony Tolliver's hustle to grab a long rebound, which led to a breakaway dunk, midway through the fourth quarter started a 12-5 run to end the game.
The Wolves badly needed to string together a couple of plays in a muddled and stagnant game to take control from Detroit and that's exactly what Tolliver and Ellington gave them. Wayne's scoring off the bench and Tolliver's fourth quarter on a hot Tayshaun Prince were big contributions, but those back-to-back plays helped finalize the victory.
2. Daily Dime Live Rewind
Relive and note all the chatter, memes and Photoshops of Wednesday's Daily Dime Live.
3. Extreme Behavior
Andre Miller, Nuggets: The former Ute ain't so old. The ex-Sixer had a season-high 28 points off the bench in Denver's 108-104 overtime win. Miller scored Denver's last 10 points in regulation and got another key hoop in overtime.
Jameer Nelson, Magic: The point guard went 2-for-16 from the floor in a 85-83 home overtime loss to the Spurs, failing to get to the line once. Not a reassuring outing when thinking about replacing Dwight Howard's scoring.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"We won. So if they want to do that and we win, I don't care."
-- Wizards forward Andray Blatche, whose return to the starting lineup was received with boos from the Verizon Center faithful. The boos turned to cheers by the end of the night, as the woeful Wiz beat mighty OKC. Blatche had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
Brandon Bass had 13 pts & 9 reb tonight. In a related story, Glen Davis got a technical for pulling down his own pants: http://thesent.nl/y8ohcs— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) January 19, 2012
4. Winning Wizards
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Billups' Big Shot
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers' backcourt is going to do a lot of damage this season, but the Dallas Mavericks weren't prepared for whom would inflict it and how devastating it would be Wednesday night.
With Chris Paul missing his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury, Mo Williams, fresh off his own injury issue, and old Mavs nemesis Chauncey Billups combined to hit seven 3-pointers and score 47 points. Billups, who has tormented the Mavs before in a Denver uniform, delivered the final blow, a 3-pointer with 1.0 left on the clock. It came just four seconds after Jason Terry knocked down his second 3-pointer in the final 36.7 seconds to bring Dallas back from an 88-83 deficit.
A last-ditch inbounds alley-oop pass to Ian Mahinmi failed and Dallas lost its fifth road game of the season, the third coming on a final-possession 3-pointer and the second in a row.
Williams and Billups carried Blake Griffin (14 points) and company to the win in their third game in three nights while Dallas spent Tuesday in L.A. recuperating from Monday's late-game heartache against the Lakers.
7. Nash Sticks By Suns
ESPN New York.com
NEW YORK -- Regardless of whether Knicks fans were salivating at the thought of watching Steve Nash run New York's offense, or whether Mike D'Antoni looked at Nash and envisioned "Seven Seconds or Less, The Sequel," Nash isn't thinking that far ahead.
"I'm still with the Suns and happily with the Suns," Nash said after carving up the Knicks for 26 points and 11 assists in the Suns' 91-88 win Wednesday night. "I've put everything I have into trying to turn this thing around and trying to see what we can do to get ourselves in back into contention. To be honest, with this condensed season, I've put all my focus into preparing to play every day."
The Knicks could go after the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer when he becomes a free agent this summer. It would be a perfect reunion for D'Antoni, who desperately needs someone to facilitate his pick-and-roll offense -- Nash was the maestro leading D'Antoni's up-tempo game from 2004-05 to 2007-08, when the Suns were good for at least 54 wins per season.
But Nash said he is focused on this season and the rumors will have to wait to be answered, especially with the Suns just 5-9 and having gained their first win in six games.
"It's tough," Nash said. "[We played] Chicago [Tuesday night], get in at three in the morning and play tonight. To recover takes more than a couple cold beers and a nap in the afternoon. I'm working hard every day just to try to get right every night and feel fit, and that's the main focus. In the summer, we'll deal with free agency, but right now I'm with the Suns and I'm not looking forward."
8. Advantage, Younger Gasol
Marc Gasol posted team highs with 22 points and 12 rebounds in the Grizzlies' win at New Orleans. It was Gasol's 10th straight game with double-digit rebounds. That's the second-longest streak of its kind in the NBA this season (Kevin Love has a current streak of 14 in a row) and it's the longest such streak of Gasol's NBA career. In fact, it's the longest streak of consecutive games with 10 or more rebounds in the NBA for either of the Gasol brothers. Pau's longest such streak was eight games for the Lakers in December 2009.