Thursday, March 1, 2018

Behind the Boxscore: Steven Adams moves you

GOOD MORNING, PEOPLE!Oklahoma City 111, Dallas 110 (OT)

You have to play perfectly against Steven Adams. He will crush things – whole cans of peaches, his older brother’s attempts at chatting up the food runner, the offensive glass, this plate of shredded chicken nachos, whatever.

Guards will screw up on plays, they have a lot to consider defensively and nobody that they’re legally allowed to touch. Guards will typically throw up a “my bad” while watching the defensive action get away from them, mindful that in a second a power forward and a small forward will have to corral a loose ball that someone like Steven Adams has a beard on. Guards have to recover a second and third time, with Adams around, just to help the teammates that have already given so much.

The last time we saw anything like this, anything like this center’s crush on the offensive carom, rules had to change. Teams have to toss player after player at Adams’ core, on the move, and who the hell would want to try and get in the way of this guy’s legs? Not a guard, that’s for damn sure.

Few centers or forwards, either, Adams had nine offensive rebounds in a contest that Dallas could have won, this was one of the Mavs’ best defensive efforts of the season.

Dwight Powell continued his run for Dallas, his opportunistic play is a delight in the emerging spring and he contributed 21 points and eight boards with three steals in the loss. Nerlens Noel got in 16 minutes and three turnovers and four fouls and he didn’t get any calls, but at least someone’s playing basketball, and Harrison Barnes (26 points on 16 shots, five turnovers, five assists) was charmingly bristly.

Oklahoma City: 36-27, tied with Portland and New Orleans for the fifth-best record in the West.

Dallas: 19-43, out ahead of it.

Detroit 110, Milwaukee 87

We took in Giannis Glimpses early in Milwaukee’s loss, he was caught using his length and smarts and touch at the same time again, but outside of those initial steps he and his Bucks looked horrid as usual.

This was a game until the Pistons began to play Detroit Piston players: Anthony Tolliver and Stanley Johnson worked over puddles of shine, Andre Drummond had 10 offensive boards, Reggie Bullock paced the starters with 16 points and zero turnovers, Johnson bullied his way toward 19 and nobody had to mention Blake Griffin until now.

MKE countered with setting Giannis up to pick off teammates with passes thrown safely from a long distance well behind the action, as if he were Chad Pennington, and the back page results were just as helpless.

Later, Antetokounmpo (5-13, 11 points, more turnovers than rebounds or assists) was left to try and bring the Bucks back two points at a time, using that face-up jumper that asks the arms to run East/West before the shot heads directly to the side of the rim.

Detroit: 29-32, ninth in the East, three games out.

Milwaukee: 33-28, tied with PHILA for sixth.

Toronto 117, Orlando 104

The Magic beat the Heat, Cavs and Hawks in a four-day stretch early in February but they’d lost six straight entering Wednesday, this is a club that knows its limitations. Wednesday could have been a signature win for a really bad team from Orlando, the light it needed in the face of daytime chatter, but Toronto even at a half-try is just too good for most opponents. The Raptors have too many players.

Dwane Casey’s team wasn’t at half-try, though, and Orlando did well to look as potent as they ever have in the first half. The Mackmen were key in a second quarter surge, Biyombo and Shelvin can move bodies, while Mario Hezonja found the space he needed to look like he could win a game for the home team – 17 bench points off seven shots.

Shelvin turned it over four times, though, in a game in which you cannot, and Toronto’s bench could have won this game twice.

Fred Van Vleet giving it to Siakum, Van Vleet giving it to Jakob, the Raptors just giving it to teams that have already begun to give Toronto their best – Orlando wanted a win to feel good about, its strongest in weeks, but Toronto could just not stop scoring the ball.

Toronto: 43-17, half-game up in the East.

Orlando: 18-43, last in the East.

Atlanta 107, Indiana 102

ATL saw spots in Indiana’s small, still-rotating defense. Hawks were allowed to poke and prod and, had Dennis Schroeder connected on shots beyond the game-cincher, the Hawks coulda preened a bit too. Credit to Atlanta, there was perpetual effort until the length of the game reminded everyone that the Hawks are a poor basketball club.

Indiana was able to make a game of this late by demanding ATL take the ball out of the net, but before that realization the Hawk effort was whipping around and the club’s striking Dutch Boy in the Paint advantage (56 to 40, Myles Turner attempted two shots) was all the proof you need in a contest that you really didn’t’ have to watch.

John Collins is wonderful, he had 16 points for Atlanta and all he does is dunk, I had to look up to see if he was from Quitman, MS but instead it says the kid was born in Utah.

Atlanta: 19-43, half-game up on those Magic.

Indiana: 34-27, fifth place in the East.

MAUMBLES

The band wants back on the road.

Boston 134, Charlotte 106

Boston would not miss in this game, and it was more hurtful than anything. Charlotte’s working hard and they did not deserve this.

The Hornets’ steak of wins is over, the club petered out at five, not bad in the slightest for a team that has been through more than most. Charlotte played on Tuesday, lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a sprain, Wednesday’s forward combo of Traveon Graham and Marvin Williams (2-13 shooting, combined, Celtics all around them squirreling in for good looks) just did not have the alertness needed to keep up.

Too much going on, with the Hornets now convinced that they have to score 110 points to win, with Kemba Walker losing steam as Wednesday moved along, with a season slipping away and Boston, again, refusing to clang anything – the C’s shot 62 damn percent. Milt Palacio hit for five of seven shots in the win.

Boston: 44-19, half-game behind the Raptors for the lead in the East.

Charlotte: 28-34, 4.5 games behind Miami for the final slot in the bracket.

Houston 102, Los Angeles Clippers 95

The rotations were awfully slow for the Clippers in this loss. That’s the Wesley Johnson joke.

Sindarius Thornwell helped bring Los Angeles back from the brink, the lack of LAC quit after Houston’s initial burst was incredibly encouraging, Montrezl Harrell (22 points) was proud and the Clippers like playing alongside each other. If Doc Rivers is free to paint …

The first and final quarters were absolute shyte, spacing was poor and the ghost of Blake Griffin was still trying to toss in a jump hook from his hip, but Los Angeles would not let up a night after charming us in Denver.

This is a good club to toss out for one game at a time, with a playoff berth on the line. You’ll enjoy watching the Clippers down the stretch of 2017-18.

Houston could beat a tree at standing right now if it wanted to.

Houston: 47-13, tops in the West.

Los Angeles Clippers: 32-27, just ahead of the Nuggets in the race to pee in the kid’s urinal.

New Orleans 121, San Antonio 116

The Spurs had plays for the Pelicans, they had designs on both ends. This wasn’t another instance of San Antonio’s Ethereal Whatever losing its karmic value as the night moved along, the Pelicans’ win also can’t be cribbed up to the inability of several Spurs to act either half or twice their age down the stretch.

No, New Orleans earned this and all the other praise that’s about to hit. Alvin Gentry finally has a team rolling when it hurts to, when the focus is real but the season is fractured. After a head coaching career full of shit luck, this is great.

The Spurs had plays, plays to go at certain Pelicans both big and small, attacking turned heads and reserves without prejudice. San Antonio leaked out on New Orleans turnovers, and the club fruitlessly tried to make Anthony Davis work, defensively. A fine idea, even if things went terribly: LaMarcus Aldridge could not strike fear with those jumpers, and then he sprained his ankle.

The Pelicans are strange, sometimes the club has to drop a few dishes before Anthony Davis can get going, the team screws up plays and the ball bounces incorrectly, but, 26 and 15. Jrue Holiday had legs, 25 points, Darius Miller’s Draymond Heaves from long range hit three out of five times, and the Pelicans took chances. The team moved the ball ahead in unexpected spots and made a scramble out of this.

The Spurs don’t like to scramble. Eggs over easy, runny as hell, or eggs cooked harder than the biscuit they’re brought with. Nothing in the middle.

If the Pels continue to with this sort of pell-mell immediacy, the run will continue.  

New Orleans: 35-26, tied for fifth in the West with Portland.

San Antonio: 36-26, fourth in the West.

Phoenix 110, Memphis 102

Memphis’ work early in this contest was hip, the team got into its sets quickly and didn’t let the ball stick. If the Grizzlies had Denver’s rotation, J.B. Bickerstaff’s team would have topped 100 points in the first half, but instead it lost a home game to the Suns later on.

Devin Booker sucks in a defense, the opposition can’t help it, his ability to drag and click was as important as those 34 points. Alex Len was all about the legal movement in the second half, for once, Elfrid Payton had time to find the soft spot on the rim for his heaves (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Josh Jackson has always wanted to be a professional and now he gets to be one – 29 points, seven rebounds, four assists and 13 trips to the line.

Jackson saw enough of the Grizzlies when he visited Memphis in January. The rookie returned to the same city a month later and built upon what he’d learned, what he’d observed, where Jared Dudley went and where the ball wasn’t. Josh Jackson wants to be a sponge and we should want to watch all of it.

Phoenix: 19-44, in that pile.

Memphis: 18-42, same pile.

Golden State 109, Washington 101

Washington has shown a remarkable ability in mixing it up during John Wall’s absence, this continued in the club’s attempt at a comeback on Wednesday. Crushing the champs on the offensive glass while turning a second quarter roll with the bench is riotous, this is what the Wizards have to do in what would have been the toughest part of the season even with Wall.

Tim Frazier and Mike Scott brought Washington even with the Warriors on Wednesday, Otto Porter managed 29 and 10 and the Wizards still lost. The Warriors only leave your building after wearing you out, Golden State will stick four NBA games where one used to go.

Bradley Beal missed a dozen shots and turned the ball over five times, he ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken before the game and all the delivery guy brought him was a big box of nerves.  

Golden State: 48-14, “Mr. de Cordova will see you now.”

Washington: 36-26, fourth in the West

BLUES WALK

We’re off to Cleveland, to get a better look at whoever decides to fly in and out of there over the next few days.

(More to come.)