Last night's Portland/Houston matchup was classic late-season fare... both teams fighting to the bitter end, multiple clutch shots and defensive plays... good ball, even if it did end after 1 a.m., Eastern.
And even though the 101-99 final score means I was wrong on my Prediction of the Night once again, I didn't mind too much.
Thoughts on the game:
1. At the end of regulation, with the score tied, the Blazers had the ball with about twelve seconds left. They call a time out and then inbound the ball to Brandon Roy, who commences dribbling around, 30 feet from the hoop, as seconds tick away. Finally he makes a move towards the hoop, gets inside the 3-point line, and tries shooting over Ron Artest with two seconds left.
Artest knocks the ball from Roy's hands as he goes up, and we go into overtime. My question is this:
THAT WAS THE PLAY YOU DREW UP? REALLY?
This is way too common in the NBA. The Rockets did it themselves with Artest late in the game, and it seems the Cavs ran this late-game "play" three hundred times with LeBron last season.
Please, NBA coaches, try running an actual play in these situations. Draw something up that gets Roy or LeBron moving to the basket, either with the ball or without. Run a pick-and-roll. Drive and kick. Something.
2. Despite Yao's heroics in nailing the tough baseline fadeaway and ensuing free throw, he was terrible, again. The 7'6" Chinese player shot 4-13 and grabbed only six rebounds in almost 42 minutes. Yikes. Oh, and he was stuffed by Joel Przybilla in the first quarter.
3. And despite Roy's heroics, he was terrible, as well. Before hitting those two clutch shots, he was 4-16 from the field. Not exactly scintillating.
4. On the aforementioned Artest attempt to get off a long, contested shot to win the game, he jumped into Roy, who was playing great defense, in an attempt to get the whistle. I was very, very happy to see he didn't get it. Manu and all the other European and South American floppers have ruined the game with crap like that. If you lean into the defender, you created the contact, and if anything, you get whistled for a foul, not the guy playing straight up.
5. Aldridge was great. 27 and 9 on 12-of-20 shooting and three blocks is a fantastic line for any forward in the league, let alone someone who's in his third season.
Before I post tonight's pick, here's some bad news out of Salt Lake:
Williams out four-to-six weeks instead of two as originally thought.
This will put Deron's return at the week of Thanksgiving at the latest, and he's likely to miss the five-game road trip the Jazz have coming up.
But like I said earlier this week, I'd rather have Deron return at 100% and have a great season than return too early and miss even more time.
Tonight I'm looking at Dallas at Denver. The Nuggets expect to play Chauncey Billups for the first time, and it will be interesting to see how he clicks with his new teammates. Will Carmelo benefit from playing next to a point guard who distributes the ball better than AI?
I think it'll take a bit before the Nuggets get comfortable with each other.
Mavs 115, Nuggets 105
0-4 on the week, 2-9 on the season