Well...maybe not. Winning such a game after our rotations recollapse into chaos and with mostly deep benchers getting the minutes and carrying you late may not mean much. But we did it with hustle after nearly giving it away, it was another win, strong opponnent or not, and you gotta crawl before you walk. Certainly if the late Reke scratch had spun us off into another collapse it would have messed up our head again, so this way at least we feel good as we head out onto the road. Forever.
Stats: 28min 2pts (1-8, 0-3, 0-0) 2reb 1ast 0stl 0blk 0TO
Salmons ( D) -- so Reke is out, and John immediately turns back into a pumpkin. Interesting. Immediately scored over in the post on his first play of the game, and was getting nothing going the other way. Had a poor first half, so of course this being Ketih Smart's bizarro scrub democracy, we run the first play out of halftime for him, because of course the key to victory is making sure John freakin' Salmons gets going. Its a 1 on 1 move, it doesn't fall, Afflalo goes back the other way and immediately scores over him, we come back down, John guns up another bricked jumper...and we call timeout to correct rampant idiocy that started on the sidelines with a halftime coaching brain fart. Didn't get any better from that point, as there wasn't much energy, the passing was nothing of note, he wasn't hitting his threes, and he grabbed another 2 rebs in 28min (John is rocking the 5.0rebs/48 this season, which is 164th out of 179 NBA forwards. I leave this at a D rather than worse simply because well, its John Salmons, not a guy you actually expect to be productive, and you more or less just wanted him to go away rather than wanted to throw sharp objects at him.
Stats: 28min 12pts (5-11, 0-0, 2-2) 6reb 1ast 1stl 0blk 3TO
Thompson ( C+ ) -- was reasonably productive in the first half. Was putting up points, including a tough tough fadeaway along the baseline that he should never have taken, let alone hit. but there was no real momentum to it, and Big Baby was better. If things were decent if uninspiring before half they turned in the third when he missed several easy opportuntiies early int eh quarter, and dropped an easy pass for another opportunity. He had his highlight during that time with a wild 1 on 1 fast break play with a spin dribble into the middle of 4 Magic that still got him to the line. but it was an isolated event, and he contributed to our fade durin the later stages of the quarter with a terrible shot out of a timeout in the middle of the quarter. It was an ok night, but with TRob getting his hustle roleplayer on in the 4th, Jason never returned for the stretch run.
Stats: 33min 17pts (5-13, 0-1, 7-10) 14reb 4ast 3stl 2blk 4TO
Cousins ( B+ ) -- remember how a few weeks back the light just suddenly seemed to come on for Reke and it wasn't just about the jumper falling, but just suddenly the decisionmaking looked so much better and he began to look confident and comfortable out there and in control? Well the last two games something similar seems to be going on with Boogie. Now if we can just get both guys out there on the court at the same time maybe we'll have something. Similar to last game, Demarcus had a couple of loose moments to start, settling for a jumper and having it rim out, and getting stripped by Big Baby trying to go by him. But his overall game seemed to really pick up when he extended for a nice help block directly under the hoop. Wasn't an offensive thing at all for him early -- think he only had 2pts until the final minutes of the half. But he was shutting down the defensive glass, and the really nice thing he was doing was passing ahead to trigger our fast break with outlet passes. Think he notched 4 first half assists and was very much the offensive centerpiece, without it being about hsi own scoring. That started to pick up lat ein the half though, when he came up with one of his lightning quick spin drives past Big Baby, added a smooth jumper, and worked a great give and go with Cisco on the break. Was rarely touching the ball in the early third as we came out flat, and collective BBall IQs seemed to drop precipitously. And as often happens when things are not going well and he's not touching it, he started to get frustrated. We did not lose him entirely, well until Smart (back in full rotation moron mode BTW) did his classic 30minutes on the bench freeze your own star thing), but the focus wavered and efficiency dropped. When he finally got back in with 3:30 minutes to go and the lead down to 3, he was pretty much ice cold, but contributed by knocking down 4 FTs in the final 2 minues as the Magic got desperate.
Stats: 22min 5pts (2-5, 1-3, 0-0) 2reb 1ast 2stl 3blk 1TO
Garcia ( B- ) -- got the surprise start when Reke was a lat scratch just before the game. The sense to it would have been that by inserting him in Reke's place it did not disrupt the rest of the guys from their normal rotation spots (of course this being Smart, he promptly jumbled everybody else's roles/minutes anyway). And in the early going Cisco rewarded the decision, and was actually one fo the main guys who gave us a kick of energy in the early going and got us off to the good start. Was 1 of 2 on early threes, was a willing passer, and reminded us that he can still be a disruptive help defender from the guard position, getting credited wiht 2stls and 3blks in 22min. Ran a great give and go on the break with Cousins just before half, and his steal up top in the early third led to our only score during a flat start. But Cisco is still Cisco, a roleplayer at best anymore, and the longer he was out there the more invisible and ineffective he got until Smart finally replaced all his late minutes with his wet dream all mini-chucker backcort.
Stats: 19min 11pts (5-9, 1-3, 0-0) 4reb 3ast 1stl 0blk 1TO
Brooks ( C+ ) -- I'm going to play a little game here. What grade would you give to a PG who played 36 minutes, and notched 21pts 8rebs 6ast 2stl on 10-17 shooting? Would you still think IT or Jimmer had done a better job than they did? Well, the above numbers are the pace of production we were getting out of Aaron Brooks last night. And yet...it just wasn't inspiring like that. Was doing a nice job in the early going playing off of and with DeMarcus -- and entirely apart from the Reke synergy, Brooks's previous experience with Yao is part of the hope here. Knocked downa three on a kickout from Cuz, got out on the break, albeit at least once makign a selfihs decision wiht it rather than doing the standard, and smart, reward the big guy for running thing. Where he annoyed again was on the other end, where the on and off defensive effort resulted in several open looks and defensive breakdown to the rim. Play in the early third before being subbed out for the last time was erratic in ways that don't necesarily show up in the boxscore. Just not showing control of the team's pace or decisionmaking, and letting Jameer Nelson have free looks at will.