The Spurs Pay Up Big For Sending Players Home; Russell Westbrook Has A Game Like No One Else

David Stern dropped a $250,000 fine on San Antonio on Friday afternoon, then said he doesn’t want to talk about it any more. Good luck with that – the topic of what a coach can and can’t do with his team will be white-hot because of mistakes both the league and the Spurs made with Starter-Gate. It’s wrong to meddle with a coach’s team but Gregg Popovich had ways to achieve the same result (resting his four best players) without sending them home on Southwest Airlines without telling the NBA, too. The vigor Stern jumped at this is just as arrogant as and above-the-law as Pop was, and with such a nebulous definition about the crime left hanging unanswered. What’s the threshold for coaches now? They will, mark it down, find a way to get their stars rest in the regular season and will those means be any less of a violation of integrity than what SA did? We wonder if Pop will respond somehow. … The Suns hadn’t lost in Toronto since 2004, a strange streak of seven games that ended in an equally improbable way: Andrea Bargnani‘s lockdown defense on Goran Dragic that had him looking like a cover corner. The defense on the baseline led to a steal, which led to an Amir Johnson (16 points) dunk inside two minutes and the Raptors got out with a 101-97 win to snap their six-game losing streak. DeMar DeRozan had 23 for Toronto. This isn’t all bad for Phoenix fans, who could actually buck off their bumbling team this season: The Suns are promoting next Thursday’s home game against Dallas as “Satisfaction Guaranteed Night.” This is like real life Gladiator — “are you not entertained, Greater Phoenix area fans?” … It’s a rarity Jrue Holiday isn’t leading the Sixers in scoring this season, but his 13 points and 15 dimes set up Evan Turner‘s 25 and 10 in Philly’s 104-98 win against Charlotte. The Bobcats had their own crazy promotion in the works, where everyone in the stands got a free ticket for their game against Portland when Kemba Walker hit a three with one second left. Speaking of the Blazers … It wasn’t a case of Portland coach Terry Stotts resting starters in Boston, more like starters resting themselves while they were playing. A Rajon Rondo-less Celtics squad absolutely pounded Portland, 96-78, but the Blazers only scored 33 in the first half — and LaMarcus Aldridge (23 on the night) had 17 of those. Jeff Green had 19 points and looked good in his peaks-and-valleys season given the extended minutes. … The Hawks went really small by leaving Zaza Pachulia on the bench in favor of Devin Harris, DeShawn Stevenson and Jeff Teague, but the things sacrificed with a lineup like that came back to bite Atlanta at the very end. Josh Smith (25 points) and Lou Williams each hit clutch threes (from the wing and the corner, respectively) in the final 12 seconds to tie but offensive rebounding killed their home win. Dion Waiters‘ high-arcing supposed game-winner attempt fell right into Alonzo Gee’s (21 on 6-of-16) hands under the hoop off the carom, and he went up and under for the bucket with 0.4 left to win 113-111. Cleveland had 18 offensive boards (thanks to Anderson Varejao‘s 20 points and 18 rebounds), and Atlanta had just 18 defensive boards. … Ivan Johnson stuck a pretty-looking three-pointer from 28 feet to end the first half at the buzzer – we suppose you figured that wasn’t a regular part of the offense, but still. … D’Antoni ball was alive and well in the Lakers’ 122-103 win over Denver, but did you ever think Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison would be the cats leading it? Jamison had 33 and 12, Dwight Howard had 28 and 20 and Meeks blew up like he was setting Kentucky’s scoring record again, getting 7-of-8 threes for all 21 of his points off the pine. … Hit the jump to read about a Thunder star’s record stat line …

Outside of Kevin Martin (19 points) only attempting two threes in Oklahoma City’s 106-94 win over Utah – oh, and Gordon Hayward (13 points) finishing a nasty alley-oop over two defenders – nothing jumped out from this game as much as Russell Westbrook‘s line: 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, eight turnovers, and seven steals. According to ESPN’s crack stats team, that’s the first time that line’s non-turnover numbers have ever been achieved. The burst of speed he has that no one outside the Heat has been able to solve was a catalyst with seven to go in the fourth. He popped the ball out coming up as a wolf during Utah’s break, then looped a pass 50 feet the other way for an easy OKC layup. A seven-point lead went to nine and you’re not getting that lead back in OKC’s house. … There was a metaphor in there somewhere when OKC’s Hasheem Thabeet took three steps to the rim and tried a right-handed ‘hawk slam on Utah’s Enes Kanter, only to send both tumbling like two chopped-down trees. … With the way the Bucks can score quickly with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, Minnesota had no business feeling comfortable up eight with a minute left. That’s when Alexey Shved ended the Wolves’ win by crossing over Doron Lamb and hitting a 27-footer to put this out of reach. Bad news for the Bucks came earlier, too, when Beno Udrih had a nasty rolled ankle and banged-knee combo pack on a drive. He’d leave the game and, don’t laugh, he could be missed greatly. He has the team’s second-highest PER. … Also Larry Sanders continues to show why he’s at the top of the Most Improved list with ten blocks to tie Kareem‘s club record. … Carmelo Anthony had 20 points and the Knicks easily took care of the Wizards at MSG. Their moment in the win column was fleeting. … The Nets didn’t need Brook Lopez (out another game) to close out their most successful month in team history with 11 wins. Orlando was the perfect team to keep their big man out against in a 98-86 win where the Nets’ starters took care of almost all the business. All five had double figures scoring led by Joe Johnson‘s 22. … The Grizzlies continue to chew up the rest of the league to get to 11-2 thanks to a 90-78 win over Detroit. It seems like a different guy has a strong night every time out this season for the Grizz and this time, it was Mike Conley Jr.‘s turn: 17 points, five assists, six steals. … Pyscho T Hansbrough got his breakaway layup chase-blocked by Thomas Robinson all the way to Chico but not even DeMarcus Cousins‘ 19 points and 16 boards could match David West‘s 31 and 11 in the Pacers’ 97-92 win in Sac-town. … We’re out like the Spurs’ bankroll.

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