- Hawks 93, Raptors 84 - Since I was in attendance for this one, I'll lead with it. The Raps were without their #1 option (Bargnani), and the Hawks were obviously without Al Horford, which led to anything but a barnburner here. The "star" of the game was Josh Smith who finished with 28 points and 15 boards, but not before his now-customary TEN (10!!!) jump shot attempts. Yes, on this night, he managed to knock down 7 of them, but if there's anything we know, it's that this is the worst possible shot for Smith, and when he was attacking the rim on Monday, he was utterly unstoppable. Elsewhere, Jeff Teague posted a 13-point, 6-assist game, but was exposed defensively by both Calderon and Barbosa at different points in the game and it's starting to become a trend when you look back to the last few opponents (Rubio, etc.). By far the most curious decision of the night was Larry Drew's insistence on playing Willie Green for the entire fourth quarter with Marvin Williams sitting cold on the bench. We've been over the Willie Green thing ad nauseum, but it doesn't make a ton of sense to me. For Toronto, I was impressed from what I saw of Barbosa (22 points of efficient offense), Calderon (13 and 11; always in control), and Amir Johnson (13/10 in only 25 minutes). DeRozan was pretty bad, and the fact that the Raps have to play Gary Forbes significant point guard minutes with their current, healthy roster is not a good thing. Alas, it's a win.
- Zombies 97, Celtics 88 - Five straight losses for the C's for the first time in the Garnett era. OKC closed the game with 4 consecutive three-point makes (2 by Westbrook, 2 by Thabo), and exactly one of them was an open look (lol). Durant and Westbrook combined for their normal 54 points, but the key was Sefolosha who finished with 19 points on just 9 FGA to off-set a subpar game from James Harden. Boston was balanced throughout the night, but they were still limited to sub-40% shooting, and Garnett just couldn't get anything going offensively (5 of 19) with Ibaka swarming him. I still think Boston is a playoff team, even with the schedule stacked against them, but it's not exactly a "fluke" that they have the record they do without any depth to speak of, and no one on the way.
- Lakers 73, Mavs 70 - What a hideous basketball game. Both teams shot less than 40% from the field, and less than 20% from 3-point land. There were three guys that I would say had "good" games on either team. Dirk finished with an efficient 21/7 for Dallas, while Bynum had a pretty big night (17/15) for LA, but the x-factor was Derek Fisher. You've all heard me crap on Fisher in the recent past, and I stand by it, but he was unquestionably effective last night finishing with 13 points on just 9 field goal attempts, and knocking down the game-winner from distance after Kobe was doubled. It also helps Fisher that he didn't have to guard an opponent who could murder him off the dribble since Kidd is statuesque as well, but at any rate, he played well. Bad basketball.
- Box Score Roundup - Ryan Anderson is your current leader in the most improved player race. The Orlando forward put up 30 in their 102-93 road win @ NYK, and is currently averaging 18 and 7 alongside Dwight. The Grizz got a 16-point home win over short-handed Chicago led by 24 from Rudy Gay, but I'm not sure you can take a lot away from a win over the Bulls without Rose. FWIW, Mike Conley absolutely torched John Lucas to the tune of 20/7/8. Break up the Sixers, after yet another home win (undefeated there) against Milwaukee last night. The Bucks are now 0-8 on the road. Yeah. Is John Wall alive? It seems so after a 38-point, 8-dime outburst against one of the better defensive PG's in the game in Lowry. Of course, the Wiz couldn't parlay that performance into a win since, you know, they are the Wizards. 25 and 8 from Kevin Martin and 16/6/5 from Lowry in the road win for Houston. Kyrie Irving has 20+ points in 5 straight games after 25 last night in the Cavs win over Charlotte. Worth noting. Portland gets a nice road win in NO led by Aldridge's ho-hum 22 and 9, and he got help with 12 dimes from Ray Felton. And finally, Kevin Love is a man among men. 33 points, 11 boards and a game-high +22 for the T-Wolves in their home win over Sacto. Luke Ridnour bounced back from a horrendous game on Saturday (don't worry, he was as bad as I say he was) with 25 points and 9 assists, while Ricky Rubio went 9/8/8 alongside him.
- Kansas 92, Baylor 74 - Somebody remind Kansas that they aren't supposed to win the Big 12 again this year. Thomas Robinson led the way with 27 and 14, and the enigmatic Tyshawn Taylor posted a season-high 28 points for the Jayhawks in knocking off previously unbeaten (and trendy) Baylor. BU got a nice game from Perry Jones (18 points), and 17 from Quincy Miller, but they were no match for the vets from Kansas. For the record, I believe that Thomas Robinson is the best player in the country (or at least 1b to Jared Sullinger), and I'm officially all in on him.
- Syracuse 71, Pitt 63 - I didn't see this game, but the sad thing is, it was probably the best game Pitt has played all year, and they still lost by 8. Now 0-6 in the conference, and the grease fire persists.
- Marquette 74, Louisville 63 - Speaking of grease fires, Louisville has now lost 5 of 7 and stand at 2-4 in the Big East after being in the top 5 nationally prior to conference play. That Marquette team is really scrappy, and I like Darius Johnson-Odom (19 points) a lot.
- Tim Tebow is Denver's starter next year! Great! Awesome! Why are we talking about Denver's QB situation right now?... oh...
- Team USA Hoops has announced its 20-player pool for selection on the 2012 olympic team, and there are limited surprises. The new class? LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin. I'd say they got that right. Lamar Odom and Rudy Gay are the "worst" of the 20 players on the list, but you never know who will actually be available due to injury, rest, etc. by the time we get there. Stay tuned.
- The Falcons hired Dirk Koetter as the OC over the weekend. I have no issue with it whatsoever simply because a) he's a pass-first guy in a pass-first league, b) he runs a great screen game and any Falcons fan knows that's been lacking to the millionth degree with the previous regime, and c) he's put up points everywhere he's been with the exception of Jacksonville, and he was saddled with Blaine Gabbert. Done and done.
What to watch for on Tuesday...
- NBA - Spurs @ Heat - NBA-TV 7:30 - The Spurs haven't won a road game yet, and that'll likely continue when they go into Miami sans Ginobili, but this is still a nice matchup of contrasting styles and the only "national" NBA game on the night.
- NCAAB - #9 Michigan State @ #19 Michigan - ESPN 7:00 - Well, you know where my allegiance is. This may be the equal of the Ohio State rivalry (basketball only), and it's always fun when these two get together. I'm a big Tom Izzo fan, but there's no love lost. Mich State is one of the early "surprise" teams in the country after being unranked to start the year, and Michigan has it's best roster in over a decade.
- NCAAB - Arkansas @ #2 Kentucky - ESPN 9:00 - I really hate the 9:00 SEC Tuesday time slot, because, well, the SEC stinks at basketball, but with Kentucky as must-see-TV every time they hit the court, it could be worse. Worth watching for Anthony Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist alone.