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News » Court Awareness: Sunday Review 2009-02-02

Court Awareness: Sunday Review 2009-02-02

Court Awareness: Sunday Review 2009-02-02
In the fourth quarter of their 90-80 victory, the Cleveland Cavaliers showed why they're legitimate contenders for a championship this season, while the Detroit Pistons indicated why they've been relegated to the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference.

The Pistons entered the final stanza with a hard-earned 66-58 lead as a result of solid defense leading to a handful of transition baskets, running Rip Hamilton around screens, and getting a handful of successful isolations by Allen Iverson.

Detroit's defense baited LeBron into taking more jump shots than he would prefer, bottled up Cleveland's screen/roll game, and held Mo Williams to 10 points over the first three quarters.

Bleacher Report

Monday's action

  • Kobe scores 61, breaks MSG record
  • Blazers storm back after Paul's injury
  • Nelson injured as Magic fall to Mavs
  • Mayo, Grizzlies snap skid at 12
  • Marion returns as Heat crush Clips
  • Stoudemire, Suns steamroll Kings
  • Jazz pull away from Bobcats
  • Spurs at Warriors analysis

  • Rosen: Bynum's injury a huge blow
  • Hill: Phil, Shaq and Kobe reunited
  • Rosen: Celtics show clutch play
  • Galinsky: NBA Power Rankings


  • Lowe: When will Bynum be back?
  • Hill: Who were All-Star snubs?


  • Eastern Conference All-Stars
  • Western Conference All-Stars

With Kevin Garnett out with the flu though, Paul Pierce had the green light to show that despite averaging less than 20 points, Pierce is one of the best offensive players in the game.

Pierce helped the Celtics decimate the Timberwolves 109-101 with 36 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field, 9-of-9 shooting from the stripe, eight rebounds, and six assists.

It was vintage Pierce, who overmatched Minnesota's inferior wing defenders, and overmatched interior help defenders.

The other "big three" member who suited up, Ray Allen, also turned in a stellar performance with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting.

Al Jefferson paced the Timberwolves with 34 points on 15-21 shooting, but while his offense was dominant, he was a non-factor on defense, and his inability to box out allowed the Celtics to grab 15 offensive rebounds.

Orlando Flexes Muscle Against Toronto

You could see it coming from a mile away, the toothless Raptors with absolutely no physical presence, matching up against the strongest player in the league, Dwight Howard.

Taking a cue from their five-game first round series win against Toronto last year, the Magic were able to pound the Raptors into oblivion 113-90.

No matter which Raptors defender was assigned to stop Howard, they had no answer, and he bulldozed his way to 29 points and 14 rebounds against Toronto's underwhelming front line. Chris Bosh was a non-entity with only 11 points, nine rebounds, a solitary assist and four turnovers. Bosh repeatedly disappears against the league's more physical front lines, plays with no toughness whatsoever, and is the leader of a team which has been a colossal disappointment. Why exactly is he heading to the All-Star Game?

Of course, Bosh wasn't alone on Toronto's front line. Andrea Bargnani continues to get lost defending screen/rolls, and is constantly abused on the defensive end. The only use he has as a player is if he's hitting his shots, and he went 4-of-16 against Orlando. Toronto has only to look at its frontcourt to see why they're at the back of the Eastern Conference.

Kings Of The Basement

The Kings got 37 points from Kevin Martin to beat the Thunder 122-118 in overtime. While Sacramento won, the game was noteworthy for Oklahoma City's exceptional play from their young trio of Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and Kevin Durant.

Durant scored 33 points, Green scored 28, and Westbrook put up 34, including going 20-of-22 from the free throw line. The trio combined for 95 points and 31-of-35 free throw shooting.

That's the major difference between the Thunder and the Kings. Kevin Martin is legit and has room to grow, and John Salmons is a solid veteran, but the Kings have too few young impact players, and too many over-the-hill veterans.

Oklahoma City's nucleus is extremely athletic, and even their veterans, players like Nick Collison, Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox, and Desmond Mason, can defend, rebound, and fill roles.

So even though Oklahoma City lost the game, and even if Oklahoma City winds up with a worse record than Sacramento at the end of the year, the Thunder have much more hope for becoming a better team in a shorter amount of time than the plan-less Sacramento Kings.

For more from this Bleacher Report writer, click here.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 2, 2009


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