Saturday, December 29, 2012

The NBA: Different Directions: LA Clippers vs. Brooklyn Nets and Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams



The Fates can be kind and cruel at the same time, and right now that can be seen in the different directions being taken by the Los Angeles Clippers and the Brooklyn Nets.

As of this writing, the Clippers have gone 15 games deep into December and have NOT lost yet this month. Not even one game. Utah came awfully close today, but the Clips rallied from 19 down to pull the rug from under the Jazz. Because of their immaculate performance so far, the Clippers have gained not just the top spot out West, but in the whole league.
Of course, a lot of things are going well for coach Vinny Del Negro, but the biggest reason, without a doubt, is the fact that Chris Paul is having a great season. His current numbers prove that he deserved being named to the All-NBA First Team last year. CP3 is norming 16.2ppg, 9.4apg, and 2.6spg, while shooting 47% from the field and 89% from the stripe. Overall, he’s #1 in steals and #2 in assists. His production has also made him the best overall point guard in the league in terms of simple player efficiency. At this rate, and if the Clips continue winning, then CP3 might be a major player in the MVP discussion once again.

Chris Paul's high-level play has helped the Clippers
notch the top spot in the whole league.
(image by Harry How/Getty Images)
In contrast to the fortunes of Lob City and Paul, the new-look Nets and their most high profile cager, Deron Williams, have gone on a downward spiral. As of this writing, the Brooklyn quintet that started the season 11-4 has slowed down significantly. At just one game above .500, the Nets are now sitting at 7th place in the East. Based on some reports, their morale is low and the ouster of erstwhile head coach Avery Johnson might make the locker room situation a little trickier than it already is. Replacing AJ, at least until the Nets tire of him, too, is PJ Carlesimo.

Just as coach Del Negro has an all-world point guard leading the Clippers, coach Carlesimo has a similarly talented playmaker leading the Nets – at least on paper. AJ’s shortcomings notwithstanding, one of the main reasons Mikhail Prokhorov’s squad isn’t performing up to par is the underwhelming play of Williams. The former Utah Jazz floor general is averaging 16.6ppg, 3.0rpg, and 7.8apg, while shooting just 40% from the floor – all well below D-Will’s career averages. Williams has expressed his position that AJ’s isolation-heavy offense is a big reason for his below-par play, but such finger-pointing tactics should be reserved only for cannots and has beens, not superstars. At this point, it’s clear that, no matter who the coach is, the Nets’ collective destiny rests on whether or not Williams can overcome his current circumstances and lead the squad to new heights.

The Clippers and the Nets. Paul and Williams. Two teams. Two point guards. Two different directions. When the season sees its end, who will gain the Fates’ favor, and who will earn their ire?

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
Indiana 97, Phoenix 91
George Hill scored 22 points and the Indiana Pacers ran their winning streak to a season-high four games with a 97-91 decision over the Phoenix Suns at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Hill went 9- of-13 from the field to lead five Indiana players in double figures, and the Pacers bounced back after squandering a 16-point third-quarter advantage to record their fourth consecutive victory at home as well. David West netted eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to help Indiana prevail, while Paul George added 15 points and Roy Hibbert pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds in the triumph. Sebastian Telfair, starting in place of an injured Goran Dragic, registered a season-best 19 points -- 13 of which came after halftime -- to spur Phoenix's near-comeback. The Suns ultimately came up short, however, and were dealt their fourth straight defeat and seventh road setback in a row. Marcin Gortat finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a losing cause.

Washington 105, Orlando 97
Jordan Crawford led five Washington players in double figures with 27 points, as the Wizards downed the Orlando Magic, 105-97, on Friday at Verizon Center. Nene added a season-high 23 points and 11 rebounds and Kevin Seraphin chipped in with 17 points and six boards for the Wizards, who snapped an eight-game losing streak. Garrett Temple and Bradley Beal finished with 13 and 11 points, respectively, in the win. Arron Afflalo had 26 points and J.J. Redick chipped in with 23 for the Magic, who have dropped four straight. Jameer Nelson had 16 points, eight assists and three rebounds in the setback.

Brooklyn 97, Charlotte 81
Brook Lopez posted a double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets pounded the Charlotte Bobcats, 97-81, in the debut of interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo at the Barclays Center. Former coach Avery Johnson was relieved of his duties on Thursday afternoon after Brooklyn went into a 3-10 skid in December following an 11-4 start to the season, which earned him the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award for November. Deron Williams added 19 points and Joe Johnson followed with 16 in the victory. Hakim Warrick paced the Bobcats with 13 points, while Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon recorded 12 and 10 points, respectively, in Charlotte's 17th straight defeat since a double-overtime victory over the Washington Wizards on Nov. 24.

Deron Williams will have to step up as the Nets move on after
unloading coach Avery Johnson.
(image by Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

Atlanta 102, Cleveland 94
Jeff Teague posted 27 points and eight assists as the Atlanta Hawks took a 102-94 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. Louis Williams scored 16 points with five rebounds, while Al Horford gave 14 points and 11 boards for the Hawks, who have won three straight. Kyrie Irving had a game-high 28 points along with six rebounds and five assists for the Cavaliers, who had their first two-game winning streak of the season snapped. Dion Waiters donated 18 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Detroit 109, Miami 99
Will Bynum dropped in 25 points on 10- of-16 shooting to go with 10 assists as the Detroit Pistons knocked off the Miami Heat, 109-99, at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday. Charlie Villanueva netted 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and pulled down six boards, while rookie Kyle Singler added 12 points and five boards for the Pistons, who have won three of their last four. Austin Daye hit 4-of-5 shots from the floor for 11 points and Tayshaun Prince also donated 11 points to the victory. LeBron James scored a game-high 35 points with six rebounds, five assists and six steals for Miami, which had a seven-game winning streak against the Pistons broken. Chris Bosh added 28 points and nine boards in the loss. The defending champions played without star guard Dwyane Wade, who was suspended for striking Charlotte Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions in the groin during Wednesday's 105-92 victory.

Toronto 104, New Orleans 97 (OT)
DeMar DeRozan poured in a game-high 30 points on Friday, as the Toronto Raptors outlasted the New Orleans Hornets, 104-97, in overtime at New Orleans Arena. Kyle Lowry returned from a seven- game absence and finished with 17 points and eight assists, while Alan Anderson followed with 16 points for the Raptors, who have won six of their last seven. Greivis Vasquez finished a rebound shy of a triple-double, tallying 20 points, 14 assists and nine boards in the setback, New Orleans' 12th in its last 13 games. Rookie Anthony Davis donated 25 points and nine boards and Ryan Anderson added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who snapped an 11-game losing streak with Wednesday's win over Orlando.

Denver 106, Dallas 85
Danilo Gallinari connected on 7-of-11 shots from beyond the arc en route to career-high 39 points and the Denver Nuggets clobbered the Dallas Mavericks, 106-85, on Friday. Overall, Gallinari shot 14- of-23 and grabbed eight rebounds, while Andre Iguodala netted 20 points to go along with eight boards in the Nuggets' sixth win in eight games. Kenneth Faried added 11 points and 19 rebounds in the victory. O.J. Mayo scored 15 points to lead the Mavericks, who have lost five in a row and eight of their last nine games. Darren Collison, Vince Carter and Brandan Wright scored 10 points apiece in defeat.

San Antonio 122, Houston 116
Tony Parker posted 31 points, 10 assists and five rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs out-gunned the Houston Rockets, 122-116, on Friday. Tim Duncan scored 30 points while Manu Ginobili added 23 for the Spurs, who are now 8-0 at home in December. Danny Green gave 17 points and five boards in the win. James Harden scored a game-high 33 points along with seven assists and five rebounds for the Rockets, who saw their season- high five-game winning streak snapped. Chandler Parsons gave 24 points and eight boards in the loss.

LA Clippers 116, Utah 114
Chris Paul scored 29 points, including the deciding free throws in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, as the Los Angeles Clippers put together a fierce rally in the second half to down the Utah Jazz, 116-114, on Friday. Blake Griffin added 22 points and 13 rebounds, while DeAndre Jordan also contributed a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards for the Clippers, who extended their franchise-best winning streak to 16 games. The Clippers' 16-game winning streak is the longest in the NBA since the Boston Celtics won 19 straight during the 2008-09 campaign, Randy Foye scored a season-high 28 points to pace the Jazz, but his tightly contested 3-pointer as time expired rimmed out to hand Utah its sixth loss in eight games. Al Jefferson finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, and Gordon Hayward dropped in 17 points off the bench in a losing effort.

Sacramento 106, New York 105
James Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer as Sacramento survived a furious comeback by New York to take a 106-105 victory on Friday. Johnson finished the game with 17 points and seven rebounds, Marcus Thornton gave 18 points while DeMarcus Cousins scored 15 to go with 10 rebounds and five assists for the Kings, who have won two of their last three. J.R. Smith scored a game-high 28 points with seven rebounds and five assists for the Knicks, who have dropped two of their last three. Chris Copeland had 23 points while Tyson Chandler donated 21 points and 18 boards.

Golden State 96, Philadelphia 89
David Lee paced a balanced Golden State attack with 25 points and 12 rebounds as the Warriors held off the Philadelphia 76ers, 96-89, on Friday. Carl Landry also contributed a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards, while Jarrett Jack added 16 points, Klay Thompson poured in 14, Stephen Curry scored 11 and Harrison Barnes finished with 10 for the Warriors, who have won two straight. Jrue Holiday had 21 points and 10 assists, and Thaddeus Young finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia, which lost for the seventh time in nine games.

LA Lakers 104, Portland 87
Kobe Bryant netted a game-high 27 points on 9-of-18 from the floor as the Los Angeles Lakers thumped the Portland Trail Blazers, 104-87, on Friday at Staples Center. Bryant added five rebounds and four assists, while Dwight Howard posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won six of their last seven. Pau Gasol scored 15 points and added nine rebounds, while Steve Nash handed out 10 assists to go with six points in the victory. LaMarcus Aldridge hit 12-of-17 from the field for a team-high 26 points, while Damian Lillard gave 11 points and four assists for the Blazers, who have lost two of three on the heels of a five-game winning streak. Will Barton scored 11 points and Nicolas Batum finished with 10 and eight assists in a losing effort.


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