Monday saw James Harden torment the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves for 31 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and four blocks. The world focused on the triple-double, the fourth of his career, and rightfully so. That last line, the four swats, is also a cause for recognition.
Why? Among NBA guards, Harden has the third-most blocks (46), behind only K.J. McDaniels and Danny Green. There aren’t any clamoring for him to get an All-Defensive team nod (except maybe Clyde Drexler and Daryl Morey), but his effectiveness defending the ball has ratcheted up a notch.
How is he racking up his swats? Smart weak-side help, strong hands, deceptive closeout speed, long arms, timing, timing, timing and strength. The same traits that make him a terror with the ball have emphatically caught DeMarcus Cousins, Zach Randolph (and others) off guard on the other end.
Harden has 26 games to finish off his best season and MVP submission. If he sustains his new-found tendency for rejections (his 46 blocks already are a career high), it will be harder to keep the Maurice Podoloff Trophy off his mantle. Especially with moves like this:
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER –There may be no greater way to show your devotion to your team than by having some sort of body art created of that team. And in San Antonio, where the Spurs rule everything around them, fans unsurprisingly embrace this fully.
As we saw last night, via Chris Herring of theWall Street Journal, there was a Spurs fan at Game 3 with an image of Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili shaved into his head …
And as ESPN’s Darren Rovell also tweeted last night, there was another fan there with an image of Tim Duncan shaved into his dome … (more…)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — With the San Antonio Spurs blowing out the Miami Heat in Game 3, 113-77, behind 27 points from Danny Green and 24 from Gary Neal (who were a combined 13-19 on three-pointers), we thought we’d check in with some NBA players who were active on Twitter throughout the game…
Watching the Heat Spurs game. Neal is coming alive this game. Watch out!
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Spurs F Danny Green took a while to find a home in the NBA, but he’s now firmly established in San Antonio as a three-point sharpshooter. That apparently carries over off the court as well, as we see here in this video that suspiciously resembles a viral spot from BurgerFi, a burger chain committed to natural ingredients and environmentally sustainable practices. -
Nothing better than more entries on the Horry Scale. Or, in this case, Mo entries.
The Jazz have been hovering around .500 all season, but a recent stretch of wins against the Lakers (in L.A.) and a nice rally against Toronto has Utah finding its rhythm. Being in a flow hasn’t been a problem for the Spurs, who — surprise!! — have been in and out of the No. 1 spot in the West all season. A nationally televised date between San Antonio and Utah in Salt Lake City wouldn’t seem to be a thriller in the making, especially given the Spurs’ defensive rating (6th) and the Jazz’s propensity for poor defense (20th in defensive rating). Yet down the stretch, we were treated to a Jazz-Spurs game that brought back memories of their 1990s rivalry, with Mo Williams putting on the hero cape this time.
For those that are new around these parts, the Horry scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?), and celebration, and gives it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does Williams’ shot Wednesday night stack up? Let’s take a look.
We’ll detail the play itself below — which the Spurs defended well twice — but overall the shot wasn’t too, too difficult for an NBA player of Williams’ caliber. San Antonio’s Danny Green was all over Williams on two different inbounds plays the Jazz tried to run and played him well once he got the ball. Williams wasn’t having a pretty night at this point — he was 3-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 on 3-pointers. But Utah traded Devin Harris (a career 31.4 percent 3-point shooter) and picked up Williams (a career 38.6 shooter) in the offseason in separate deals because of Williams’ ability to make big 3-pointers. He came through this night.
Utah rallies from a 90-83 hole with 4:50 left to eventually tie the score off Paul Millsap‘s short jumper in the paint with 40 seconds to go. After a missed jumper by Tony Parker — which Williams rebounds and brings up court — Williams takes a 3-pointer that goes off the front of the rim. Millsap rebounds it and the Jazz call timeout and set up a play, but Gordon Hayward struggles to find an open man and calls another timeout. Hayward is the trigger man again and Williams tries to work off an Al Jefferson screen with Green right on his hip, but eventually gets the ball. Williams dribbles out near the wing, gets about two feet behind the 3-point line and lets fly with Green closing out nicely. All net and buzzer, though.
As we mentioned above, the Jazz have been up and down all season, nearly matching a bad win with a good win game by game. But thanks to a West-leading 9-1 mark in front of the always-faithful Jazz fans at EnergySolutions Arena, Utah is No. 6 in the West and staying in the thick of things. San Antonio, as mentioned, is as elite as ever and came into the game having won 10 of its last 11 and sporting the best record in the NBA. It’s hard to imagine either team swapping positions once May comes around, but for both teams, wins and losses against playoff-level/elite-caliber opponents are what can build (or break) confidence, especially in the case of the youthful Jazz.
All that said, this one probably had a little more importance for the Spurs. They’re in a dogfight with Memphis and OKC for the No. 1 spot in the West and, in case you forgot, the third tiebreaker for playoff seeding is better winning percentage against teams in the conference.
Say what you want about Jazz fans, but those folks knowhowto celebrateamoment. Williams basks in the glory of the home crowd’s adulation as he runs to the opposite end of the court and is mobbed by Hayward, Enes Kanter and others. Exactly what we’ve come to expect from Jazz players in Utah, but nothing too over the top.
3 1/2 Horrys. We gave the Parker-over-OKC shot 3 1/2 and this one fits many of the same criteria. Early-season matchups between playoff teams from 2012? Check. A game that — depending on your point of view — will help or harm a playoff case a few months from now? Check. Great celebration in front of an always-loyal home crowd? Check. This is prime 3 1/2-star territory.
Much like our last Horry Scale participant, J.R. Smith, Williams shows the calmness and mental toughness to shake off a rough shooting night and be the hero when his team needed it.That’s something ol’ Mr. Horry used to do. That’s what we like about this one.
Andrei Kirilenko, along with a handful of other NBA players headlined the 11th edition of Basketball Without Borders Europe in Russia this weekend. Below is a recap of Day 4 — and the final day — of the event. This is the first time this clinic has been held in Russia.
The final day of Basketball without Borders Europe got off to a very colorful start at Children’s Home #59 in Moscow, where NBA Cares partnered with Kirilenko’s Kids to refurbish a basketball court. Ten children from the home greeted NBA/FIBA players and coaches with a traditional Russian welcome of bread and salt. The children were all dressed in bright Russian folk outfits and entertained the audience with a traditional dance. The director of the children’s home spoke and thanked Kirilenko, his foundation, and the NBA for their involvement in refurbishing the court, now complete with four baskets, bleachers and several basketballs to get the kids started.
Back at the Igrovoy Sport Complex there was a girl’s clinic, organized by the Russian Basketball Federation, in partnership with the NBA. After getting some exercise and playing advice from several of the Basketball without Borders participants, the girls all filled the stands to get ready for the All-Star game. The camp’s final and most anticipated event, the 2012 BWB Europe All-Star game featured the strongest players who were selected the night before by the coaching staff with input from the scouts in attendance.
The teams, simply known as ‘Red’ and ‘White,’ were evenly matched at the start, both coming off the bench strong. The Red squad was coached by Minnesota Timberwolves Player Development Coach David Adelman, assisted by NBA player Brian Cardinal and NBA Legend Sarunas Marciulionis. Denver Nuggets Assistant Coach Melvin Hunt led the White squad, along with Turkish Basketball Federation coach Ozan Havuzlu.
The crowd got the first All-Star moment at the end of the first quarter, when a long three-point buzzer beater fell, to put the Red team at 18, leading by four. Half-time saw the Red team with an even bigger lead of 39-22. While the coaches talked strategy, fans made some noise for the little volunteers in the Dress and Dribble contest and a couple players who tested their accuracy in the Three-Point contest. The whistle blew and the second half was underway with the White team chipping away at the Red team’s first half lead.
Cheering on the White team, the girl’s clinic participants clearly wanted Hunt’s team to come from behind for the win. Only down seven points with 2:10 on the clock, the White team pushed hard, but just couldn’t close the gap. Adelman’s team took the win, with a final score of 65-60.
Trophies were then given out to the game’s MVP, the camp’s MVP and the Three-Point contest winner. Each took a photo holding their prizes from Nike with the Kirilenko, Shved and Mozgov. The 11th BWB Europe concluded with players saying goodbye to their teammates and competitors, having played hard, fought language barriers and made the four-day camp count. Until next year!
You know that thing that Kevin Garnett made popular, where you swat away any shot headed towards the basket during a dead ball? Well Russell Westbrook just took it to a whole new level, trolling Danny Green and then some:
That’s a pretty jerk move, generally speaking, but this is the playoffs. Anything you can do to get in your opponents’ heads, I’m all for it.
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George Mason commit Patrick Holloway gets the loving adoration of the Paul VI fans for the winner. In theory this is a fairly simple shot, straight away from the top of the key, and Holloway does a terrific job of squaring his body to shoot in case the ball comes to him. This comes in handy, as he has just enough time to get the shot away before the buzzer sounds.
Paul VI trailed 62-61 after DeMatha’s Jerami Grant missed the front end of a 1-and-1 (“Don’t feel too bad Jerami,” said Derrick Rose and LeBron James) with 25.4 seconds left, Paul VI pretty much decided to play for the win at the end, waiting until only a few seconds remained before making their move to score.
I am way out of my element here, but according to the game story this game was for first place in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, so I’m guessing relative to the teams, the stakes were pretty darn high.
Dare I say I’ve not seen as good a celebration as this in a long time? I dare indeed. Oh, if we could only have each NBA team play a game each year in a local high school gym. There is nothing like the intensity of playing in front of a packed, tiny gym audience. I am a complete snob when it comes to rushing the court, but no doubt in my mind the Paul VI fans earned it here.
4 Horrys. I’m tempted to give it a full five, but the shot itself was fairly standard (albeit rushed) and while its a big game between top teams, there will presumably be bigger stakes once the postseason gets closer.
What do you think?
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