Posted: Tuesday December 12, 2006 12:12PM; Updated: Wednesday December 13, 2006 1:19PM
Jason Kidd did all he could, but Paul Pierce still nailed this game-winning jumper.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Though Nets color analyst Mark Jackson took issue with the decision, New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank had no regrets about using Jason Kidd to guard Paul Pierce down the stretch Saturday as New Jersey lost its third straight. Pierce hit a turnaround 20-footer at the buzzer, but Kidd played him as well as can be reasonably expected (taking away Pierce's pet hard-dribble move and sticking a hand over his eyes as he shot). Frank, who publicly excoriated himself after his team lost to the Suns last week, had no qualms about the decision in his postgame comments.
And, in case you missed it the first time, your next chance to see that glorious Nets/Suns double-overtime monstrosity will be this Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV.
Funny, in a sad, David Brenner-sort of moment this week: Isiah Thomas calling a 20-second timeout to diagram a play with 0.2 seconds left on the first-half clock in the Knicks' game against Boston on Monday. The Knicks were down 61-36 at the time -- and, no, they didn't score. Obviously, all coaches feel a need to adhere to the "you can't take it with you" line of thinking regarding those truncated timeouts, but a play to score a tip-in off an inbound pass from 79 feet away?
We're beyond pleased at Grant Hill's most recent comeback, and quite appreciative that he suffered through the rehabilitation process. The man is a joy to watch, averaging 15 points on 54 percent shooting, and he's a huge part of Orlando's 15-8 start. That said, we can't help but point out something we noticed during Hill's last healthy season (2004-05), one that saw him average nearly 20 points a night: Hill never seems to go to his right.
During his All-Star run with the Pistons, Hill was adept at driving to the hole in either direction, but he clearly preferred penetrating with his right hand. But after six surgeries on that left ankle, he appears to have much more explosiveness heading to his left -- and pushing off his right ankle. This hardly seems a detriment, as he scored with ease in '04-05 (even with Steve Francis dominating the ball) and is obviously succeeding thus far. But how long until teams start to overplay, and force him to his "strong" hand?
The Mavericks recently reeled off 12 straight wins, and the Spurs just won't stop being solid, but has there been a more impressive run than the Suns' 11-game winning streak? The kicker had to be sweeping that four-games-in-five nights stretch that ended Monday in Orlando -- a haul that started with that 58-minute marathon against the Nets.
Once Boris Diaw works himself into shape, he and Shawn Marion, along with the steadily improving Amaré Stoudemire (averaging 17 and 8 in just 27 minutes) have a chance to rank among the great frontcourts of all time. Their combination of skills, whether they're finishing on the break, spotting up from long range, making the extra pass or swatting away a shot ... when's the last time any of us have seen anything like it?
Raja Bell is shooting as well as ever (46 percent from long range), but he's fading a bit on the defensive end. Phoenix might want to think about snagging Memphis' Dahntay Jones in the offseason once he becomes a restricted free agent.
Portland rookie Brandon Roy got out to a strong start, averaging 18 points in his first three games before eventually hurting his left heel and finding the injured list (he hopes to return later this week). While Roy still seems one of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year, his closest competition might not come from Utah's Paul Millsap or Charlotte's Adam Morrison (not with that 2.8 rebounds per game average) but from teammate LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Texas big man missed the first six games of the season, but is making over half his shots and finding ways to score (7.6 points in 21.8 minutes) without having many plays called for him. When the Blazers finally dump rebounding (and turnover) machine Jamaal Magloire, look for Aldridge to hit his stride.
The Nets' offense is improving, as their normalized mark of 107.5 points per 100 possessions puts them at 13th in the NBA (up from 22nd last season), but their defense has fallen off a cliff -- from third last season in defensive efficiency to 16th. Any other guesses as to why this team is on pace to win 33 games?
Heard at least four times during Chicago's home loss to the Timberwolves last Saturday: a bell ringing (the usual sound effect designated for when Ben Wallace does something super-duper) when forward Luol Deng made a good defensive play.
Now, it's possible the Big Ben toll is being played because Deng spent his formative years in south London, but it's also possible that Chicago's PA crew may be getting its bigs mixed up. Perhaps a headband would help to distinguish the two.