Editor's note: This year's Christmas list begins today. Get psyched.
The Denver Nuggets: It was like the _enver Nuggets of old last night in Madision Square Garden. The Nuggets managed to lose despite earning 40 free throw attempts, shoot nearly 51 percent from the field and scoring 125 points. That takes an earnest lack of effort on the defensive end.
Sure enough, the Knicks scored 129 points on 52+ percent shooting as Denver blocked only four shots and forced only six turnovers.
As for New York...Amar''''e Stoudemire set a franchise record with his eighth straight 30-point game. What's more, the Knicks have now won 13 of their last 14 games, including the last eight in a row. That's the first time they've had eight straight victories since December 27, 1994 through January 13, 1995. And their 16-9 start is their best since opening the season at 18-7 in 1996-97.
Om nom nom! That's me...eating my words about the Knicks and STAT.
Of course, here's the obligatory moment when I point you to John Hollinger's Power Rankings and note that the Knicks have had, by far, the easiest strength of schedule in the league. The team with the second-easiest schedule? The Lakers. Funny that. Third-easiest? The Kings. Sorry, Chris. For what it's worth, the Heat have had the 23rd easiest SOS.
Chauncey Billups: He played 28 minutes and finished with 4 points on 1-for-7 shooting. By contrast, his backup, Ty Lawson, logged 20 minutes and finished with 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Billups was -5 and Lawson was +8.
Dude's having a rough season. His PER is nearing a career low, his Turnover Percentge is at a career high (18.1 percent versus a career average of 13.5) and his Offensive Rating (108) is lower than his Defensive Rating (111). At this point of the season, Chauncey is making Derek Fisher's corpse smell springtime fresh.
Officiating: So, uhm, Stoudemire already had one technical when he shoved Nene after fouling him. Probably should've been technical number two, but the refs swallowed their whistles. Imagine that.
Said 'Melo: "I guess you can call that physical play."
That. Or home cookin'.
The New Orleans Hornets: Back on November 21, after an exceedingly ugly 75-71 win over the Excremento Kings, Hornets coach Monty Williams played the role of NBA prophet to perfection when he said this about his team's 11-1 record: "At this point in the season I don't even look at the standings. I had no idea we would have this kind of record. Looking at our record, it might be fool's gold."
Since then, New Orleans has gone 3-8. They've lost to good teams (Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Knicks) and they've lost to bad teams (Clippers and Sixers).
Their latest loss -- in Philadelphia -- was the kind that makes eyes bleed. The Hornets scored 23 points...in the first half. That was their season low for points in a half. Their 10 points in the second quarter was also a season low.
New Orleans shot 30 percent and finished with four assists. That wasn't a typo. A team with Chris Paul -- sometimes referred to as the league's best point guard -- had four assists in 48 minutes.
The Hornets are like a 50-year-old bachelor at a World of Warcraft convention: It would take a miracle of modern science for them to score. They haven't reached the 100-point plateau since scoring 108 at home against the Cavaliers on November 21. That was 13 games ago. In 23 games this season, they've scored 100 or more points only five times.
New Orleans is ranked 24 in Offensive Rating. Here's a list of the team's they're actually ahead of in that category: Clippers, Nyets, Bobcraps, Kings, Cavs and Bucks.
And check out some of these shooting stats from last night's loss to Philly: David West (2-for-10), Trevor Ariza (2-for-11), Emeka Okafor (0-for-5), Marco Belinelli (3-for-9). And those were the starters! The bench didn't fare much better: Willie Green (0-for-7), Jarrett Jack (3-for-8), Marcus Thornton (3-for-8), D.J. Mbenga (1-for-5), etc.
Said Chris Paul: "I don't even catch myself looking at the score. When you're out there playing, it's about the next possession. How can we get a stop and how can we score. We weren't making shots. We kept settling for outside jump shots instead of attacking the basket. It's been like that for a while."
Countered coach Williams: "Give them credit. They switched, they're active and athletic. But we missed a lot of point-blank shots, and we missed a lot of free throws."
At least Paul and Williams are on the same page...
The Los Angeles Lakers: Rough time to be the defending champs. As I mentioned above, the Lakers have had the second-easiest schedule so far and have an "okay" 17-7 record to show for it. Of course, they started the season 8-0, which means they're only 9-7 in their last 16 games. They're a lowly 4-5 in their last nine games.
And their offense? It's slowed way the hell down. After scoring 100+ points in 13 of their first 14 games -- which included 10 games in which they scored 110+ points -- they've only crossed the 100-point threshold twice in their last 10 games. They've been doing this despite facing a series of sub-.500 sadsacks like he Grizzlies (96 points scored), Rockets (99 points), Clippers (87 points) and Nyets (99). They also managed only 92 and 88 points in losses to the Pacers and Bulls.
Said Lamar Odom: "We can't be great every single night. But it's just the way we've been going for us for the last 10 to 15 games. We get a lead, give it away and have to fight back. We're not playing to our potential. Not taking anything away from the Nets, but we're just not playing well right now. It's a little disappointing."
Added Kobe: "We have to muster up the energy and muster up the motivation to play every night. I'm [annoyed] about it. We're not doing a good job of doing it.
So what's wrong with L.A.? Well, Pau Gasol has logged 40+ minutes 13 times this season -- including 45 and 42 minutes this weekend -- aftering playing 40 or more minutes 20 times all last season. He's wearing down late in games and, despite what Mamba fans want to believe, Gasol is the key to the Lakers' offense. That's why he leads the team in Offensive Rating (124 to 112 for Kobe) and Offensive Win Shares (3.1 to 2.3). And it's why Phil Jackson never wants to take Pau out of the game.
Then too, Ron Artest's shooting has gone completely in the crapper (38 percent from the field and 32 from downtown) and his 1.1 free throw attempts per game are a pretty good indicator that he's chucking his junk up from the outside.
Finally, the so-called "Killer Bs" have cooled way off lately. Take last night, for example, when they contributed 18 points on 6-for-18 from the field and 2-for-6 from downtown. Against the Bulls on Friday night, the bench finished with 13 points...and most of that was Matt Barnes (10 points, 5-for-7).
Without a fresh Gasol, with Artest misfiring all over the place, without consistent bench production, the Lakers are strugglin'. Even with the easy schedule. Presumably, some of this will be fixed when Andrew Bynum returns. Until he gets hurt again, of course.
The Cleveland Cavaliers: You know, the Cavs didn't fall on their face to start the season the way a lot of people thought they would. They were 4-3 after seven games and still a not-all-that-bad 7-9 a couple games before LeBron made his dramatic return to Cleveland.
Since then, Cleveland had dropped eight straight games -- including last night's blowout loss to the Thunder -- and check out these scores:
106-87For those of you who enjoy simple math, the Cavaliers have been outscored 876-716 in the last eight games they've "played." That gives them an average margin of defeat of 20 points per loss.
So, uh, no Ewing Theory for these guys, I guess.
Next up for the Cavs? A Wednesday night game in Miami against the Heat...winners of eight straight. Uh oh.
Said Clevland coach Byron Scott: "I'm not even thinking about Miami. Right now, my biggest concern is those guys in that locker room. I'm not thinking about Miami or the next game. It's just about getting those guys to start understanding a little bit more of what we have to do as a team."
Added Mo Williams: "It doesn't matter. You've got to come to work every day. It's going to be the next challenge, and it happens to be Miami. We've got to go to Miami and play really well to get a win there."
Concluded Anderson Varejao: "It's another game. We're all looking for a win and we're going to go there and play hard, and hopefully we win."
Bonus stats: Against the Thunder, the Cavs shot 34 percent, surrendered 53 percent shooting, got outscored 56-28 in the paint, gave up 29 fast break points, committed 17 turnovers for 29 points going the other way, and missed 12 free throws.
The Portland Frail Blazers: Brandon Roy was held to 9 points for the second time in the last three games and the Blazers finished with a season-low 78 points on 38 percent shooting en route to a 95-78 road loss to the Spurs.
San Antonio's bench outscored Portland's reserves 42-18. Hell, the Spurs' pine riders almost had a standoff against the Blazers' starters (60 points).
Meanwhile, Tim Duncan logged 28 minutes in his 1,000th career game, finishing with 13 rebounds, 8 points, 4 assists, 2 blocked shots and a game-high plus-minus score of +18 despite making only a token appearance in the fourth quarter. It was the first time in four games Timmy logged any fourth quarter PT. Speaking of which...
Tim Duncan, quote machine: Regarding his recent lack of fourth quarter minutes: "I think [coach Gregg Popovich's] philosophy this year is to try not to play me in the fourth quarter at all, whether we're winning or losing. I think he thinks our team is better without me out there. I've been trying to disprove him at some point. As the minutes continue to drop and I'm not in the fourth quarter, I'm going to become unbearable on the bench and pretty much annoy him to the point where he has to put me in. That's my goal."
The Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin (27 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists) had his 18th double-double of the year and added yet another highlight to his ever-growing reel...
...unfortunately he still playes for the Clippers. The Other L.A. Team fell behind by as many as 26 points before pulling to within six points in the fourth quarter. But, well, 85 points on 38 percent shooting -- including 4-for-23 from downtown and eight missed free throws -- really isn't enough to get it done. Even against a slumping Magic team.
Said Eric Gordon: "We took good shots and just didn't make them."
Added Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro: "We had some good looks, we just couldn't knock anything down."
Replace "Eric Gordon" with "Derrick Rose" on the first quote, and those could be stock statements from VDN's two seasons as head coach of the Bulls.
Anyway, the Clips are now an NBA-worst 5-20. That includes 0-10 on the road. And you have to wonder: Could things get any worse?
This is the Clippers. Of course things can get worse...
Donald Sterling: Team owner. Team heckler. Seriously.
It's not uncommon to hear Los Angeles Clippers fans heckle Baron Davis(notes). Of late, however, the jeers directed at the team’s struggling point guard are coming from a far more surprising source: The man paying Davis, Clippers owner Donald Sterling.If you ever want to know exactly why the Clippers are the worst NBA franchise -- maybe even the worst sports franchise -- of all time, just remember that shit flows downhill. And there's no bigger shit in this league than Donald Sterling.
Sterling has expressed his displeasure about Davis' play by taunting him from his courtside seat at Clippers' home games, several sources told Yahoo! Sports. Among Sterling’s verbal barbs:
- "Why are you in the game?"
– "Why did you take that shot?"
– "You're out of shape!"
While Sterling has also taunted other Clippers players since the middle of last season, none have received it worse than Davis, the sources said. Davis has missed 14 of the teams 25 games this season and is averaging 7.4 points while making a team-high $13 million. Including this season, Davis has three years and nearly $42 million left on his contract.
"There's nothing I can say," Davis said of Sterling's taunts. "I have no comment on that. You just get to this point where it's a fight every day. It's a fight. You're fighting unnecessary battles. I'm fighting unnecessary battles.
"It's frustrating because I know and my teammates know I'm capable of getting it done, even dudes on the other team. It's frustrating."
Sterling had little comment when asked about his behavior.
"When they make shots, it's great," Sterling said during halftime of the Clippers' loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday. "When they don't, we're all disappointed."
When asked for more explanation, Sterling shrugged and politely ended the questioning.
Chris's Lacktion Report:
Nuggets-Knicks: In the "Carmelo Anthony Audition Special at MSG," Shawne Williams wowed the Manhattan crowd by tossing a brick from Wall Street and fouling and losing the rock once each in 3:08 for a +3.
Fellow Knickerbocker Bill Walker can now afford a one-room apartment on Madison Avenue after garnering a 2.65 trillion (2:40).
Lakers-Nyets: Sasha Vujacic clearly has had his share of toadstools and princesses, at least if an 8-second Super Mario is any indication! Johan Petro provided one block in 4:46, still gathering a trio of fouls for a 3:0 Voskuhl.
Frail Blazers-Spurs: Tiago Splitter divided his masonry between the charity stripe and the field in 3:33, and also lost the rock once for a +3 that garnered a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl!
Cavs-Thunder: Cleveland's Ryan Hollins had a 75% shooting percentage from the charity stripe (in four tries), but for the rest of his 13:54 stint, fouled thricely and gave up the ball twice for a 5:3 Voskuhl.
Magic-Clippers: Jarron Collins can now afford to hire some servants to underpay - just like owner Donald Sterling - after a 3.85 trillion payday (3:52)!