West Wings

12.30.07 10 years ago 20 Comments

If the Celtics are gonna lose on their first West Coast road swing — the same trip on which a lot of people thought they’d drop at least one game — it’s gonna be up to the Lakers tonight. Boston knocked off Utah yesterday, improving to 7-0 against the West overall and 3-0 on this road trip. Paul Pierce went off for 24 points in the second half after going scoreless in the first, looking like a whole ‘nother player coming out of the locker room; whereas he was settling for jumpers before, Pierce was attacking the basket in the second half and getting to the free throw line. He scored the go-ahead bucket with 28 seconds left when he got past Ronnie Brewer for a layup, then hit a couple free throws to seal it later on … The last time Boston and L.A. played it was a rout, but the Lakers are on a roll and Andrew Bynum is playing better now than he was a month ago. Plus L.A. has worked Trevor Ariza into the rotation, and you know Kobe‘s gonna be locked in … Earlier in the day, the Jazz solved the Gordan Giricek problem by getting an upgrade: Giri was traded to the Sixers along with a first-round pick for Kyle Korver. Great move for both teams. Korver does a lot for a Utah team that has had problems knocking down jumpers (witness the Portland losses), and since the Jazz are trying to win now, they’re not worried about giving up what will likely be a draft pick somewhere in the 20s. For the Sixers, they’re getting rid of a contract they didn’t necessarily like (Korver makes about $5 million per through the 2010-2011 season) in exchange for Giricek’s expiring $4 million deal and another pick they can use to rebuild … What happened to the offense last night? The Raptors, Cavs and Heat were all kept under 80 points. The Heat looked especially bad, one because D-Wade followed his 48-point showing from Friday by getting outscored by Luke Jackson (14-12), and two because it’s not like the Wizards are a defensive powerhouse … The Cavs were shut down by the Hornets. We said the other day that Cleveland can be a contender if they play defense and get some second and third scoring options behind LeBron, but last night the supporting cast couldn’t capitalize on ‘Bron being doubled and tripled. LeBron himself didn’t have his best game (21 pts, 8-for-21 FGs), but had one sick play where he dusted Rasual Butler on a right-to-left shoulder fake and came flying in for a dunk that Tyson Chandler didn’t even want to challenge … LeBron turns 23 today. What does that mean? No more “He’s only 22!” being hollered by announcers every time he does something impressive … Jamaal Tinsley (back) missed the Pacers/Pistons game, the second leg of a home-and-home between those two. Of course the Pacers lost. The guy hosting NBA TV’s fantasy hoops show said about Tinsley, “He’s only 29. People forget that.” Translation: Jamaal looks and moves like he’s 35 … Seeing as Dwight Howard and the Magic had destroyed the Bobcats twice already this year, Sam Vincent did some tinkering yesterday: putting Emeka Okafor back at center and moving Nazr Mohammed to the bench, then going small with the lineup surrounding Okafor with J-Rich and Gerald Wallace at the forwards (to match up better with Rashard and Hedo) and Ray Felton and Jeff McInnis up top (reminiscent of the Felton/Knight two-PG backcourt that Bernie Bickerstaff liked). The ‘Cats also played zone to deny Dwight the ball and did some Hack-a-Beast, but he still worked Emeka a handful of times and couldn’t be kept off the glass — finishing with 15 points, 21 boards and 4 blocks in an Orlando win. There was one play where Dwight gave Emeka an up-fake that got Emeka in the air and all turned around, before coming back with a crossover and bucket. The move itself was great, but that Dwight now has that kind of confidence to pull it off against a good defender is bad news for the Eastern Conference … The Nets were up four on Milwaukee when Mike Redd hit a long three with about one second left. The Bucks fouled quick, sending Darrell Armstrong to the line. (Why was he in the game?) Armstrong made the first free throw, and trying to miss the second on purpose, fired a line drive off the front of the rim that came right back to him as time ran out. Luck, a savvy veteran move, or both? … Did you see the finish of Texas/Wisconsin? The Badgers (playing without leading scorer Trevon Hughes) were down two with about 10 seconds left when Michael Flowers came off a pick and hit a three with 2.7 ticks left. Then Flowers ran all the way across the court, stole the inbounds, and as he was flying out of bounds, flung the ball high in the air — where it stayed until the buzzer sounded. Michael Ruffin could learn a thing or two from that kid … We’re out like Ruffin’s arm …

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