Jan 3, 2012, 6:55 AM EDT
What you missed while watching Oregon and Wisconsin score another touchdown….
Hawks 100, Heat 92: Miami was zoned out again. The Hawks went to a zone defense a lot starting in the second quarter and it stalled out the Heat, who shot just 37 percent in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Tracy McGrady alone had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the fourth after apparently finding the Fountain of Youth in Florida (Ponce de León is jealous). Atlanta won the fourth quarter by 12 and with it the game.
The Hawks looked like a veteran team who had been through the wars and were not rattled by the Heat’s pressure game. The Hawks, a team known in past years for a stagnant offense, moved well off the ball and created shots, but were patient about it. That and knocking down the open looks slowed the Heat — the game had only 91 possessions, 11 fewer than the Heat averaged in their five wins.
Miami is going to see a lot of zone until they start blowing it up. Sebastain Pruitti of Grantland tweeted the numbers — Miami has 37 points on 50 possessions against the zone this season and are shooting just 38.1 percent against it. They are destroying man defense but struggling against the zone, and word is getting around the league.
Mavericks 100, Thunder 87: The biggest key for Dallas is that Dirk Nowitzki, who has looked like he has been shaking the rust off so far this season, returned to his old self on the way to 26 points. Then Vince Carter looked good as the hub of the offense, which felt strange. The Thunder looked flat, particularly the bench play, and they got killed on the glass. One game does not a turnaround make, but this is a good start for Dallas.
Raptors 90, Knicks 85: With Amare Stoudemire out, this was the Carmelo Anthony shoot-a-thon and he put up 35 points but needed 31 shots to get there. Neither offense was very efficient, but the Knicks shot just 35 percent for the game (Toney Douglas had 22 points but needed 19 shots). Toronto is working a lot harder on defense for new coach Dwane Casey but they had not seen the results until this game. Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan each had 21 points on just 13 shots. Jose Calderon had a dozen assists. The Raptors are not going to win a lot of games but they are playing teams tough and are improving. Casey deserves a lot of credit for that.
Timberwolves 106, Spurs 96: You’ve heard about Manu Ginobili breaking his hand, but that was not a determining factor in this contest — Minnesota was in control before Manu left. Minnesota was just on fire shooting much of the night — they were 11-19 on long two pointers (16 feet to the arc, the worst shot in basketball) with Wesley Johnson going 4-of-4, and they hit 12-of-21 from three. You’re going to win when those shots fall, it’s just not going to happen consistently.
Pistons 89, Magic 78: This is a schedule makers win — Orlando was playing their fourth game in five nights and just looked tired. It was a slow, slow game (82 possessions) which added to the feeling of everything dragging. The big key here was the Pistons attacked the rim and got to the free throw line 12 more times (11 more points on the night), thanks in large part to Rodney Stuckey who got 10 of his 14 points at the stripe. Ben Gordon had 26 points and he had his shot going from distance to balance everything out.
Suns 102, Warriors 91: Finally the Suns had an efficient game on offense (110.9 points per 100 possessions). Still not playing at the fast pace we hope from the Suns, but at least they were efficient. Steve Nash had 20 points and 9 assists, rookie Markieff Morris added a sweet 16. The Warriors were without David Lee but that was not the issue.
Celtics 100, Wizards 92: Wizards coach Flip Saunders figured out how not to watch this one — he got ejected 1:46 into the game. Washington was in this until a 12-2 run in the fourth gave Boston a lead it would not relinquish, thanks in part to Ray Allen’s 11 points in the quarter (he hit six three-pointers on his way to 27 points for the game). Paul Pierce looked like himself again and had 18. New Boston fan favorite Greg Stiemsma started for the injured Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) on Monday, and had 13 points on and seven rebounds with a couple of blocks. John Wall did this.
Pacers, 108, Nets 94: Think balance. The Pacers had five players in double figures and they can do that just about every night, which makes them hard to defend. The Pacers had good ball movement and the result was 52.6 percent shooting as a team, a level of efficiency the Nets could not match.
Jazz 94, Hornets 90: Jarrett Jack had a big game for New Orleans with an efficient 27 points, but the key here was getting to the line not just settling for jumpers — Utah took 17 more shots at the rim and had 22 more free throw attempts. Ballgame.
Nuggets 91, Bucks 86: Third night of the dreaded back-to-back-to-back for Denver and yet they seemed the energetic team trying to push the pace, while the Bucks looked like they were coached by Scott Skiles. Al Harrington carried the Nuggets down the stretch — pulling Andrew Bogut away from the rim on offense and then defending him well at the other end — and finished with 17. Note to Brandon Jennings: on your contested long three attempt to tie the game with 10 seconds left, Carlos Delfino was wide open. Just sayin’.
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