It is hard to tell what to think of Pierce's badly missed three-point attempt near the end of Boston's home loss to New Jersey on Wednesday. The Celtics were down by one at the time, and even if Pierce were just following orders from the sideline, he should have known to break the play once the pitiful screens were barely set and the pass from Sebastian Telfair came in low. Pierce is averaging 27.4 points and 8.5 rebounds, but could use a little help.
Johnson's career year continues, and he's starting to fix what had been a season-long weakness. The Hawks' shooting guard saw his free throw percentage bottom out at 66 percent on Nov. 25, a disappointing mark for a player who shot 77 percent in five previous seasons. Johnson has made 15-of-17 in three games since then.
Redd's 45 points in Los Angeles on Tuesday impressed as he had an answer to every Lakers run in the Bucks' win. Three road games to open December against substandard defensive outfits in Phoenix, Golden State and Utah would also seem to offer a good chance for a string of 40-point showings, but we wouldn't expect it against wing defenders like Raja Bell, Mickael Pietrus and Matt Harpring. Actually, we're stretching it a bit there, because Redd is going to run circles around Matt Harpring.
Don't let Detroit's leisurely stroll up court distort your view of the NBA's most efficient offense. The Pistons' mark of 97.7 points per game may rank in the middle of the pack, but their normalized mark of 112.8 points per 100 possessions is tops in the league. That's right, better than Phoenix (110.8) and Denver (109.4). Billups is the biggest reason why, averaging 17.8 points and 8.1 assists.
Howard has been an absolute beast during the better part of the Magic's 9-1 stretch, averaging 20.4 points and 15.1 rebounds in his last seven games. The 20-year-old (!) is putting up 17.1 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the season, and he's the last line of defense for a team that is giving up just 92.1 points per game.
It took him long enough, but Bryant's 52-point explosion against the league-leading Jazz was enough to vault his scoring average to a Kobe-like 26.2 points and earn his first in-season entry in the Player Rankings. Better yet, he's shooting 49 percent for a Lakers team that has battled through injuries and defensive lapses to win 10 of its first 15 games. Kobe's most impressive feat? Doing his damage within the "confines" of Tex Winter's triangle offense.
Oral surgery for everybody! Or, at least, the rest of the 76ers. Iverson returned from two days spent recovering from the removal of a wisdom tooth with three brilliant games against the Bulls, Cavaliers and Heat. He averaged 40.7 points, 5.3 assists and 2.7 steals, and missed about nine minutes of game action as the Sixers dropped two of three. Now, Samuel Dalembert, close your eyes and count back from 10 ...
The Bobcats' big man nearly fell out of the Player Rankings altogether with one week's work, following a 23-point, 12-rebound effort against the Pistons on Nov. 24 with three-game averages of 6.3 points and six rebounds against the Heat, Nets, and Hawks. He didn't pull in a rebound in 17 minutes in the loss to Atlanta.
Shock horror, Kevin Martin had a bad game! Martin's two points in a win over the Clippers on Tuesday were a bit of a surprise; he entered the game averaging 24.9 points. With Martin passing out of double teams, the Kings took advantage of numbers on the weak side of the floor all night, managing 21 assists on 33 field goals and winning easily. Even with that frustrating night, Martin is still one of the league's most efficient players, averaging 23.2 points on just 14 shots.
The 22-year-old Raptors big man is clearly hurting, playing through right knee soreness that is limiting his contributions on both ends. Bosh has shot 20-of-55 from the field (36.4 percent) in his last four games, though he's managed to keep the numbers (16.3 points, 10.8 rebounds) respectable as the Raptors won two of four. Bosh is averaging 20 points and 12.3 rebounds in 36 minutes overall.
On the cusp: Baron Davis, Chris Paul, Gilbert Arenas