Late Rotations: 25 February 2015

Welcome back to my Late Rotations, where we take a look at last night’s action and talk about the goings on in the league, from the reeling Wizards and the new-look Thunder to the curious case of the Dallas Mavericks and the sad situation of Derrick Rose. 

The Bulls didn’t play last night, but the biggest story of the evening was the news that Derrick Rose has another torn meniscus and will undergo surgery. In layman’s terms, this absolutely stinks, for not just Bulls fans, but for the NBA. The Bulls came into the season with their deepest, most talented team in years, and at times, we saw glimpses of the incredible MVP Rose. The defense has been inconsistent, the random injuries kept popping up, but there was a widespread, unspoken belief that the Bulls would “click” and they’d simply grind their way deep into the playoff with a revitalized Rose leading the way. For Rose to suffer yet another potentially season ending knee injury is a crushing blow, and certainly puts Rose’s future in question.

The Bulls still have two All Stars, the toughness of Noah, and the stubborn excellence of Coach Thibodeau. The Bulls have a recent history of working harder and longer than any other team, of never hiding behind excuses,  and of wringing every last drop out of the guys who put on Chicago jerseys. You can wish for a speedy recovery for Derrick Rose, you can pull for Chicago to rally around their fallen leader, but don’t feel sorry for Chicago. Pity isn’t the Bulls way.

Warriors 114, Wizards 107

If I told you that Paul Pierce dropped 25 points, that John Wall racked up his 31st double-double with 16 points and 11 assists, and that the Wizards out-rebounded their opponent 45 to 29, you’d think Washington most likely broke it’s 3 game losing streak. You’d be wrong. Steph Curry dropped 32 and the Wiz coughed up 26 turnovers compared to to Golden State’s 9, resulting in a 114-107 Dubs’ win.

The Wizards are searching for answers, having now flushed away 11 of their last 15 games and have tumbled down to the 5th seed. This is the same squad that was 22-8 and envisioning that 1 seed less than 2 months ago. Bradly Beal is out yet again, wrecking the offensive spacing and taking away Wall’s most potent weapon. Rasual Butler shot 48% from 3 for his 1st 34 games, and then someone told him that he was Rasual Butler. He’s been shooting 25.5% in the 19 games since. The Wiz should take grim solace in the fact that the red hot Cavs are rocketing up the standings and should leapfrog the reeling Bulls soon, giving them a winnable Wiz-Bulls 1st round match-up.

For Golden State, Curry’s 32 point, 8 assist, 2 steal, 5 three-pointer gem is another feather in his MVP cap. As brutally efficient as the starters are, the bench gets the game ball: Bogut-Draymond-Barnes had an average plus/minus of -7 and Thompson and Curry were a puny +1 each. Every play off of the bench posted at least a +6, lead by Iguodala’s +19.  That’s almost scary.

Cavaliers 102, Pistons 93

Cleveland continued to chew through the league, picking up it’s 17th win in it’s last 19 games. The Big Three 3.0 of Kyrie, Love, and Lebron combined for 61 points, 18 rebounds, 19 assists, and 5 steals. Love has 2 games in his last 5 with at least 7 threes made.

For the Cavs, this is what the all envisioned when LeBron orchestrated his homecoming and banished Wiggins to the Hinterlands welcomed Kevin Love to the fold via trade. “Don’t Call Me Timothy”  Mozgov has been an absolute bear the last 5 games, slapping up almost 12 points and 8 rebounds with over 2 blocks nightly, in less than 28 minutes a game. And I know this will sound like I’m being a hater, but….since returning from his 2 weeks rest, it’s not weird to anyone else that LeBron’s averaging 5 turnovers a game? That and his 3 point shooting plummeting from 38.5% the last 3 seasons to 33% this year (28.5% post Rest-Gate). Fascinating to me.

For Detroit, there’s no shame in losing to a team streaking up the standings. Reggie Jackson further strengthened my faith in his emergence as a bonafide starter, tossing up 22 points, 8 boards, and 9 dimes (with only 2 turnovers! See, guys?), while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went for 20 or more for the 3rd time in the last 4 games. Only 1.5 games back of the 8th seeded Nets, it’s time for Detroit to make that push.

Pacers 92, Thunder 102

Indiana came into the game having won 6 of their last 8. OKC didn’t give a damn, Russell Westbrook continued his scintillating brand of basketball, collecting 20-10-11 in only 28 minutes of play and sitting the pine the whole 4th quarter as Indy ran out of gas in the second half. OKC flexed it’s new found depth, with 6 players scoring at least 9.

For OKC, this was another step on the path to the playoffs, and the growth of the players and team is astounding. Serge has been playing like a man possessed, erupting for 20 pts, 13 rbs, and 3.5 blks in the 4 games since the All Star break. I get why many don’t view Westbrook as an MVP candidate- games missed, volume shooter- but it’s tough to deny the 29.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 9.2 apg he’s hung on the league in his last 12 games (the Thunder went 9-3). OKC now has versatile size, a capable back up facilitator, and shooting, so there’s only one question: can they get Durant healthy in time for a deep playoff run?

For Indiana, it’s another obstacle in a season buried in disappointing injury-plagued season. There’s dim light on the horizon, with the Pacers’ goal of reaching the postseason only 1.5 games away, and Paul George may make his return soon. Stay strong, Pacer fans.

Raptors 92, Mavericks 99

Oh boy oh boy. As I touched in my last late Rotations, I was dubious about Rondo in Dallas. Free flowing historic offense based on movement and shooting + dribble loving assist hound who can’t shoot = “ah crap”. And it’s “Ah crap” indeed. This game was a microcosm of Rondo in Dallas- the Raps were handling the Mavs, up 62-53 with 8:10 in the 3rd, when Coach Carlisle abruptly called a timeout, put Devin Harris in for Rondo, and ended Rajon’s night. Dallas ended up winning by 9, completing an 18 point turnaround in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Come ON, man.

Maybe Carlisle turns it around and figures out how to integrate  Rajon. Maybe he reverts to “Playoff Rondo” from 2011 somehow. There’s still time, I get it. The reality is, while the defensive rating went from like 20th pre-Rondo to 7th-ish with him (thumbs up), the offense went from Numero Uno to about 15th-ish with him (Four thumbs down).

For the Raptors, this must be torture for the fan-base. They’re Jekyll & Hyde; smash the full strength Clippers, handle the Spurs, Wizards, and Hawks…then lose to a Pelicans team missing 3 starters, get skull-dragged by Houston, then get dogged by Jose Barea and Devin Harris.

The backcourt has to find a way to flat-out play better. Last year, the duo combined for 40.6 ppg, 9 rpg, 11.4 apg, shot 42.5% from the floor, and manufactured 13 ppg at the free throw line. Since the return of DeMar DeRozan 20 games ago, they’re combining for only 31.4 ppg on 37.7% with 8.6 boards and 9.6 dimes a night. Lowry in particular has been in a swoon since 2015 rolled around. An early dark horse MVP candidate (damn near 21-5-8 on 45%, 35% from 3 during Toronto’s torrid 24-7 start), Lowry’s been a mess since, hovering around 15-4-6 while shooting 37%, 28% from downtown as Toronto stumbled to 13-13 over their next 26. To be fair, a chunk of that was sans DeRozan, but losses like one to the Brow-less, Jrue-less, Anderson-less Pelicans are unacceptable.

Upcoming Notables:

25 February – Dallas rolls into Atlanta to take on the high powered Hawks. Can Rondo slow down dynamo Jeff Teague? Can Tyson Chandler handle the perimeter prowess of Al Horford?

26 February – The Warriors machine descends upon Cleveland in a battle of 2 of the hottest teams in the league. Can DPOY candidate slow Kenin Love’s recent 3 point barrage? An entertaining show-down of 2 of the most ankle-breaking-est point guards in the NBA will ensue.

27 February – Oklahoma City tries to ride this feel good wave, facing the swooning Blazers (losers of 11 of their last 17). Another amazing point guard battle as force of nature Westbrook duels with the cool of Dame Lillard.

28 February – The scuffling Spurs take on the gasping-for-air Suns in Phoenix. Tony Parker has been a shell of his former self (12 ppg, 41.7% in 2015), and will be hard pressed to explosive Eric Bledsoe (19.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 7 apg, 46% last 4 games). Tim Duncan versus the young Alex Len and the versatile Markieff Morris will be fun to watch.

 

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