SUNS 113, PACERS 103
Amare Stoudemire (PHX)
49 points (17-21 FG, 15-15 FT), 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks. By far, the best game Amare has ever played in his career. This is what you normally see out of him in an online game of 2K9. No doubt he was aided by the "defense" of Troy Murphy in this one.
Shaquille O'Neal? (PHX)
Okay, not really. Shaq obviously took a back seat to Amare and only played 12 minutes. Nobody really played a bad game for either team. Indiana just has no chance against a team like this.
WHY THE SUNS WILL WIN THE WEST
The Suns are playing defense under Terry Porter, and they are looking like the favorites to be the NBA champions in my view. They may not score as much as the past, but they are still the most efficient offensive team in the league, which we tend to forget when we talk about their "pace factor". From what I'm seeing of D'Antoni in NY, that frentic pace is not what got the Suns 60 wins a year, it was their overwhelming talent (Four all-stars with Nash/Amare/Matrix/JJ the first year, two the following year with Amare hurt, and three AS at all other times).
The Suns right now have a team akin to the 02-03 Spurs in terms of personnel.
C: Shaquille O'Neal (24.6 PER)
PF: Amare Stoudemire (24.8 PER)
SF: Matt Barnes (17.1 PER)
SG: Raja Bell (15.7 PER)
PG: Steve Nash (27.0 PER)
PF: Boris Diaw (15.2 PER)
SF: Grant Hill (17.9 PER)
SG: Leandro Barbosa (11.1 PER)
(Suns PER doesn't include their most recent game. And it's obviously still early so their PERs need to be taken with a grain of salt, but in looking at the 03 Spurs, you can see how things will balance out.)
C: David Robinson (17.8 PER)
PF: Tim Duncan (26.9 PER)
SF: Bruce Bowen (9.1 PER)
SG: Stephen Jackson (14.5 PER)
PG: Tony Parker (16.5 PER)
PF: Malik Rose (16.1 PER)
SG: Manu Ginobili (14.7 PER)
PG: Speedy Claxton (15.9 PER)
Shaq should be about as effective as the Admiral was in his retirement year.
Amare is the leading man in the paint ala Duncan, though his team defense (something PER does not account for) is still leaps and bounds from Duncan's which is the one thing that could hold this team back from greatness.
Barnes and Bowen are the silent assassins, the offensive afterthoughts who can still nail a three but mostly do other things to help the team.
Jackson and Bell are quite similar, they are there for their defense and can contribute offensively. Jax was the primary backup at SF while the Suns have Hill off the bench.
Nash is obviously significantly better than Parker was at that age.
Barbosa and Ginobili are both 6th man of the year winners, due to their instant offense off the bench. Ginobili wasn't as good as he is today, and while Barbosa is struggling, I think it's fair to say he should at least be able to replicate the season Ginobili had as a rookie.
Malik Rose was actually good back then, though he disappointed after signing his big contract. In that respect, he has quite a bit in common with Boris Diaw. Rose wasn't as versatile as Diaw but they essentially filled the same function, backup PF/C with good defense/rebounding/passing.
Finally, Hill draws the Speedy Claxton comparison. Claxton only played 30 games that year and has missed just as many games as Grant Hill in his career, yet when he does play, he is very effective. Many fans still remember his harrassing defense on Jason Kidd in the Finals. Hill is the same player who could conceivably spend the entire year hurt and then play a huge bench role in the playoffs.
In summary, nobody has picked the Suns to win anything this year because they didn't win the first couple years, and they struggled with Shaq last year. Their run appeared to be over. But Terry Porter seems to have the Suns playing the style they need to play to win playoff basketball, and they are excelling at it. There are frankly more sexy picks out there. As just about everyone has the Lakers, Rockets, or Hornets taking it. And if we hear about a 4th team, it's the Jazz. Few people expect the Suns to have home court advantage in the first round.
Back to the recap...
PISTONS 100, RAPTORS 94
Tayshuan Prince (DET)
27 points on 10-14 FG. Detroit is showing they are a pretty good team even without Billups or Iverson.
Jermaine O'Neal (TOR)
8 points and 3 rebounds. 3-10 FG, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 0 blocks. Jermaine is really struggling out of the gate and last season may not have been an injury induced fluke.
HEAT 106, SIXERS 83
Dwyane Wade (MIA)
29/7/6 with 5 steals and 3 blocks! Wade is back to putting up monster defensive lines and will probably be named to an all-defensive team this season.
Yakhouba Diawara (MIA)
11 points and hit 3-6 threes.
Andre Iguodala (PHI)
Has really struggled to start the year, going 1-7 tonight with 4 turnovers. He could be struggling to adapt after being the main man since the Iverson trade in 06.
KNICKS 101, Bobcats 98
Nate Robinson (NYK)
Nate scored 19 points in the second quarter and it had to feel good sticking it to his former coach Larry Brown, who would bench him anytime he displayed emotion. He scored 24 tonight on 9-12 shooting including 5-5 on threes. He also dished 5 assists.
Quentin Richardson (NYK)
Q was 1-7 tonight as it was Wilson Chandler's turn for a big night, with 18 and 7 off the bench to go with 3 blocks (which vaults him into the team lead, with 3).
CELTICS 96, THUNDER 83
20/9/5 for Pierce in a game that'll never be a fair fight.
Thunder Offense (OKC)
Another 37% shooting night.
HAWKS 87, Hornets 79
Marvin Williams (ATL)
Williams only scored 11 points, but he went 3-3 on threes after going 1-10 all of last year. Told you he added that shot.
Chris Paul (NOH)
Peja Stojakovic (NOH)
8 points on 3-13 FG. Probably came back from injury a little early.
CAVALIERS 107, BULLS 93
LeBron James (CLE)
Ben Gordon (CHI)
31 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, hit 11-19 shots and 5-9 threes.
Daniel Gibson (CLE)
0-6 from field.
Kirk Hinrich (CHI)
0-5 from field.
BUCKS 112, WIZARDS 104
Luke Ridnour (MIL)
Returned from injury and finally had a good game to hold Ramon Sessions at bay. Scored 20 points and dished 11 assists
Ramon Sessions (MIL)
Scored 22 points and dished 8 assists. Combined with Ridnour for 42 points, 19 assists, 10 rebounds, and 3 steals. This looks like the new Ford/Calderon. Milwaukee isn't going to lose many games with that kind of production from the PG spot.
Richard Jefferson (MIL)
Has struggled with his shooting to start the year, but broke out here with 32 points and 9 rebounds.
Luc Mbah a Moute (MIL)
17 and 6 off the bench. How did this guy slip to the second round???
Antonio Daniels/DeShawn Stevenson (WAS)
Combined for 1-8 shooting, and some poor defense. Michael Redd did not even play and the Wiz were burned by mediocre PGs.
SPURS 129, WOLVES 125 (2OT)
Tony Parker (SAS)
Parker had never scored 40 points in a regular season game, setting his career high against Nash in the playoffs, so for him to have a 55 point game is truly remarkable, trumps Amare's performance, and could be the greatest performance Parker ever has. 7 rebounds and 10 assists were just icing on the cake. He shot 22-36 from the field (2-3 3pt) and 9-10 from the line.
Tim Duncan (SAS)
Lost in the shuffle of TP's night was Duncan with 30 pts and 16 rebs. While both players are performing well in Ginobili's absence, that they combined for 85 points and barely beat the Timberwolves in double OT is probably not a good sign regarding their chances of winning a championship. Hard as it might be to believe, they could actually miss the playoffs if they dig themselves too deep a hole early - remember you need 50 wins minimum to even make the playoffs in the west.
Roger Mason (SAS)
Mase is doing everything he can to fill Ginobili's shoes, scoring 26 off the bench on 9-16 shooting.
Al Jefferson (MIN)
30 pts and 14 rebs to cancel out Duncan's night.
Mike Miller (MIN)
25 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, easily his best performance of the season so far. Hit 5 of 7 threes and only committed 1 TO.
Whoever was guarding Tony Parker (MIN)
I'm guessing this was Randy Foye, which would mark his 3rd consecutive appearance on this list, but he finally had a good offensive game (11 pts and 9 ast) so I want to spare him. And Sebastian Telfair had 8 pts and 10 assists in his debut off the bench, so it's tough to criticize him either. TP is just a tough matchup for Minnesota as they don't really have the tools to stop him. There is no looming shotblocker in the middle either, which makes it especially tough on the rest of the team defensively.
JAZZ 103, BLAZERS 96
The Utah Jazz (UTA)
They are 4-0 without Deron Williams and are playing flawless team basketball. The quartet of Booze, Okur, AK, and Millsap combined for 69 points.
Nobody. Portland just isn't good enough on either end to matchup even with Deron Williams out.
KINGS 100, GRIZZLIES 95
Kevin Martin (SAC)
There's nothing like playing the Grizzlies to pad your stats (33 pts)
O.J. Mayo (MEM)
There's nothing like playing the Kings to pad your stats (28 pts)
Mike Conley (MEM)
4 pts and 6 asts as he struggles out of the gate this year.
Beno Udrih (SAC)
4 pts and 6 asts as he struggles out of the gate this year.
WARRIORS 111, NUGGETS 101
Brandan Wright (GSW)
Had the best game of his career with 18 pts, 13 rebs, and 3 blks off the bench. For the love of god Nellie, do not bench this kid the following game. He's an Al Harrington trade away from being the league's most improved player.
19 pts on 6-8 FG (7-7 FT), grabbed 15 boards, and swatted 3 shots. Solid all-around performance, good to see him healthy finally.
Al Harrington (GSW)
Started at SF (Turiaf at PF) which wasn't the greatest of experiments. He picked up 4 fouls in 15 minutes. The rest of his teammates were dynamite tonight though.
LAKERS 106, CLIPPERS 88
Kobe Bryant (LAL)
27 pts, boring.
Andrew Bynum (LAL)
9 pts, 17 reb, 4 blks. Best game of the season for him.
Tim Thomas (LAC)
18 pts and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Chris Kaman (LAC)
6 points, 6 fouls. Did grab 11 boards but only blocked 1 shot.
Ricky Davis (LAC)
Why is he on the team? He just collecting a paycheck and getting outperformed by Mike Taylor. He's obviously not meshing with Mike Dunleavy.