Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: DeAndre Jordan. Unquestionably, this was the most complete game of Jordan's career. He started hot, he stayed hot, and he finished hot. And he hit five free throws in a row, which is something I can't believe I just typed.
X Factor: He stunk up the joint last year, but Jamal Crawford came up smelling like roses in his return to Portland. The Blazers bench? 20 points. Jamal Crawford by himself? 25 points.
That was ... a struggle: Portland has some interesting pieces in place, but they just don't have enough creators to sustain consistent offensive production throughout a full game.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Serge Ibaka, for taking control of the game in the fourth quarter. With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah out, and Chicago looking stagnant, Thunder coach Scott Brooks went repeatedly to his young star against Carlos Boozer's listless D.
Defining Moment: With 4:16 left and tied, the Bulls had chances: Kirk Hinrich and (red-hot) Deng got open looks for daggers, and Joakim Noah crashed the offensive boards. All to no avail, and Durant inched OKC ahead.
X Factor: Turnovers. 21 turnovers by the Bulls led to 20 points. The Thunder actually had 22 turnovers that led to 19 points, but (unlike Chicago) the Thunder usually got those points in immediate transition plays.
Pacers Have Bigger Problems Than Just Granger
ATLANTA -- It looked like the type of win that can turn around a season. The Pacers were up by 14 points on the road in Atlanta, with just six minutes left, and had shown few signs of the offensive struggles that plagued them in their first four games.
And then, befuddled by a Hawks zone, here's how the next 10 possessions went:
5-on-5: Most entertaining teams in the NBA?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Occam's Razor ... also known as the Miami Heat. It's incredible to think there was a time in early 2011 when the Heat were unwatchable, but it's true. Then LeBron James was sold on harnessing his talents to their fullest, the court opened up and we began to see the speed and skill game we expected from the Heat.
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: The Knicks. While the Cleveland Cavaliers' backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters has made quite a statement in their first five games, they just can't compete with the thrill of watching Rasheed Wallace play again. As of this morning, the Knicks are undefeated at 3-0. Wallace has played in all three games. I don't think that's a coincidence.
Hayes Davenport, Celtics Hub: The Knicks. The combination of Carmelo Anthony liking basketball again, Steve Novak throwing up Discount Double Checks, a 35-year-old Argentine rookie and the bewildering presence of Rasheed Wallace has been difficult not to enjoy. It's also important to note that they're playing J.R. Smith, a player criticized basically for being too entertaining.
Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: The Knicks have played excellent basketball so far, which is entertaining enough. But looking at this ridiculous roster, it will be even more entertaining when a larger sample exposes the Knicks for what they are: a mediocre playoff team. Oh, and they have Rasheed Wallace -- which makes them No. 1 regardless of anything I wrote above.
Ian Levy, Two-Man Game: The Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving is officially a must-watch from now until age robs him of his wits or physical capabilities. Amazingly, the overweight and overwhelmed summer-league version of Dion Waiters has evaporated, replaced with a dynamic and efficient young guard. They may lose as often as they win this season, but a glimpse of the future is tough to turn away from.
NBA Video Channel
Rookie Watch: Who's No. 1?
There are many things Lillard is doing that are impressive, which we will be discussing at length all season. But what jumps out at me as I watch film on him is his patience and his willingness to think about the 5-on-5 game rather than the one-on-one game that so many point guards end up focusing on.
Lillard can score in big numbers, and it would be wrong for him to just ignore that. As a scoring threat that the defense is focused on, he opens up passing angles for his teammates. He understands that and is doing a great job of remaining a threat while looking for the best overall play.
Against a Dallas team that worked to frustrate and attack him the other night, Lillard made a play that greatly exemplifies this part of his game. With a minute to play in the third quarter and Portland trying to hang on in a road game, Lillard came off a side ball screen with Nicolas Batum, causing a defensive switch that put Vince Carter on Lillard and Darren Collison on Batum.
As Lillard squared up at the top of the key against Carter, who was playing high school basketball when Lillard was still in diapers, it looked like Lillard was going to try to take the slower Carter to the rim. But instead Lillard recognized that the Batum-Collison matchup might be the better option. So he patiently allowed Batum to body up Collison. Then in an instant, Batum faked moving up the floor and went backdoor, where Lillard easily hit him in stride. The play resulted in a nice dunk by Batum. Great players make great plays seem routine, and that is what Lillard is doing in this league already.
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