The San Antonio Spurs escaped with their sixth straight win over the Denver Nuggets at home, 121-117, to top all teams with the best and unbeaten record at home to start the season.
Danny Green led all scorers for the Spurs with 24 points. Shooting 3-for-4 in the three-point area and a perfect 3-for-3 in the foul line, Green’s last two free throws were actually the ones that mattered, as he got them all to ice the game with 3.6 seconds left. Richard Jefferson, who shot 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, and Tony Parker each chipped 19 points, while Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair and Gary Neal each had 10.
Danilo Gallinari notched 31 points to tie his career-high, but that wasn’t enough to hand them what would have been their fifth straight win. Ty Lawson scored 20 points and dished 10 assists, while Al Harrington scored 19 for Denver.
The game was actually a tight one towards the stretch, but it was the early 12-point lead by San Antonio during the first quarter at 37-25 that helped them enter in each of the next three quarters with control. A close look at the stats reveals San Antonio was better than Denver by just three field goals made, one three-point shot made, five rebounds and two assists. The Spurs however, never relinquished their lead throughout the game.
This is the third straight win for San Antonio since Manu Ginobili went down with a broken finger. Since then, TJ Ford has been doing a tremendous job in the guard position, stepping up to the void left by the Argentinian all-star. Other players like Green, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard have been stepping up with big contributions to their scoreboard.
San Antonio’s Sunday away game will be against the sizzling Oklahoma City Thunder, who is right now at the top of the Western Conference standings with a 7-2 record.
(Author’s preface: You might say the following post is a Sports post, which usually comes out on Friday. But while it is about sports, this post is more of an opinion on the on-going trade talks in the NBA, so this post still fits the genre for the day. Also, it’s just fitting that we can insert this topic as a filler for the missed count o our ‘Napag-uusapan Lang Naman’ series. So, I decided to squeeze in a ‘sports opinion’ post at number 14)
The smoke of All-Star Break has finally cleared out. The teams are back to their usual grind, including Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams.
But not in the same uniforms.
As of this writing, ‘Melo has just earned his first win as a New York Knick, while Deron Williams has yet to play with a “new jersey” with the Nets. These two blockbuster trades saw the exit of two All-Star players from the Western conference to the East (both were also gold medalists from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing), and are expected to up the rankings of the teams they will now be a part of.
The Knicks are right now standing at spot number 6–not a very comfortable spot, especially if you’re dead last among .500 teams in the East. Philadelphia, Indiana and Charlotte can pull off a late-season run and upset the bottom half of the standings. With ‘Melo off to a good start in New York, things can turn out good for the Knicks and their faithfuls. After all, the last ten games of New York were not impressive with only five wins, and indeed they could use some help from an offensive powerhouse like Anthony (and Billups). But beginner’s luck will soon have to give way to team chemistry, and that’s where the true mettle of a team with two All-Star forwards in Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony will be tested.
Denver was able to keep their spirits up with a win over Memphis yesterday minus Carmelo and Chauncey in the roster. The Nuggets, like New York, are also at number six in the standings in the West. But that’s just it–being number six in the West spells more danger than being number six in the East. As of this writing, the Portland Trailblazers, the team trailing Denver, are just a game behind them. One loss could loosen Denver’s hold on their spot. A few more could drop them off the playoffs. And that’s a problem not far-fetched, now that they’ve got no ‘Melo to bail them out come crunchtime.
On the other hand, trading Deron Williams was an inevitable option for the Jazz, whose concern is more on the franchise’s long-term goals, than on the immediate target at hand, which is to get into the playoffs. The Jazz are right now at number 9, just two games behind Denver. Greg Miller gave a sensible rationale for the trade–D-Will’s contract ends by 2012, making him a free agent. For the past couple of weeks, no one from D-Will’s camp had assured the Jazz’s head office that he will be staying for an extension, or from going out. This non-committal from Williams prompted Miller to trade him for New Jersey’s Devin Harris and Derrick Favors, rather than end up with nothing should Deron opt to leave. The trade was the only option Utah can still get something (though Harris and Favors combined, compared to Deron, are of lesser value) out of losing their marquee player. Acquiring Deron by trading Harris and Favors gives New Jersey a better control of how their long term targets can be met, and with just enough cap space to throw in some chips for the next trade session next year.
I agree with Miller’s decision, only that losing D-Will right in the middle of the season will not do Utah any good in the standings. Some are saying Deron’s exit from Utah is the signal of Utah’s exit from the playoffs this season. This, we have yet to see.
For now, D-Will’s role is to help improve the Nets’ record for the season. By 2012, Williams will be taking a more central role in New Jersey.
From my own point of view, the choice of letting Deron go was better than letting Carmelo go. Here are the reasons why:
1. Deron will be going to a team with no other all-star player. That makes him the go-to guy, and a point guard at that. The team will be definitely building around him, giving the Nets a better direction to follow. On the other hand, Carmelo will be sharing the spotlight with Amar’e. Both are forwards, all-stars, and the “give-me-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way” type of players. Good thing Chauncey came along, to help dispel the imbalance that could occur when you’ve got two power forwards wanting each a fair share of their time on the floor.
2. Carmelo is moving from one playoff contender team to another. That in itself is a pressure–pressure from your new home crowd to deliver and make sure that you will carry them to the promised land. As for Deron, he moves to a team whose only goal right now is to have a good finish for the season. He can think of upping his game next season.
3. Since the prospect of entering the playoffs isn’t as big a deal as losing a marquee with no one to fill in the spot, Utah’s choice of trading Deron fits their franchise’s philosophy. On the other hand, Denver will be putting pressure immediately on Felton, Gallinari and Chandler the moment they wear their Denver jerseys because they will be taking on the default role of season savior for the Nuggets.
4. Lastly, Denver doesn’t have much options when the season closes by June. New Jersey, on the other hand, does. Being one of the last six, they can do a lot of maneuvering when Draft day comes, giving them a free hand on building on Williams.