By Rob Mahoney
• Steve McPherson of A Wolf Among Wolves on the wonderful defensive play of Andrei Kirilenko (click through for a great Street Fighter-inspired Photoshop, stay for more of McPherson's spot-on analysis):
Finally, in the unquantifiable column for this win, I have to put in a word about Kirilenko’s defense on [Kevin] Durant. Looking at his line, it looks like he had a pretty poor game: 3-10 shooting, 9 pts, and 6 personal fouls that sent him to the bench late in the fourth quarter. But throughout the game, he harassed Durant and kept him uncomfortable and frustrated. Sure, Durant got his 33 pts in a fairly efficient manner, but he was only 1-4 from distance.
“With those guys like Kevin Durant, LeBron, Kobe, it’s almost impossible to cut their scoring abilities,” he said after the game. “All you can do is break their percentage or make them work. And I think we did a pretty good job making him work for those points. He was shooting tremendously well tonight. Every time he got that little half step advantage, it was a guaranteed 100% shot.”
I thought the way he put that -- "break their percentage” -- was telling. You know those players are going to score, but you just try to make them do it under duress. As Kirilenko went on to explain, “You saw in the second half, I was trying in the half-court to deny him, to not let him get that ball easily. If you want to get it, go work for it. For those guys who are playing 40 minutes every game, it’s tough when he’s working and working and working to get that ball. If you let those guys start scoring easy shots and make those easy points, it’s going to be a long night. And we all know: I’ve been there, I’ve had 50 points scored on me and I don’t like that feeling.”
• Speaking of great Photoshop work ...
• Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty offers both some consideration of the reported in-locker room support for Isaiah Thomas and a look at how Thomas' game-by-game minutes compare to the other standouts of the 2011 rookie class. Most striking: Thomas has logged fewer than 20 minutes in about half of his games this season.
• Howard Beck's report regarding Amar'e Stoudemire's return for the Knicks has inspired plenty of interesting riffs on the subject, including this measured take from Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting:
There are real, legitimate worries [regarding Stoudemire's return to the lineup]. I just share very few of them. I see a second unit offense badly in need of (a healthy) Stoudemire's interior presence, and I even see iterations of an Amar'e-inclusive first unit that still haven't gotten a fair shake. I also see a defense that can't really get worse and, if anything, could benefit from a big dude willing to protect the weak side. And above all, I see a coach who designed something beautiful and wouldn't interfere without meticulous planning. This is mere prediction, though. All we can do is hope for the best.
• It's not exactly a common occurrence in Rockets games, but Jeremy Lin and James Harden have toyed with a 1-2 pick-and-roll a handful of times. As the conversation continues about how to best incorporate both players into a quality offense, little devices like this one could help contribute to a wide-ranging solution.
• Start the holiday season right with the last episode of The Basketball Jones this calendar year -- complete with plenty of NBA gift-giving, an intangible time capsule for the end of days and more J.J. Barea puns than money can buy.
• Danny Chau of Hardwood Paroxysm sees the Spurs as a team beyond the apocalyptic curve:
...layers worry about not being in a position to exercise their potential. They worry about wasting years of their prime. In a profession of finite years, time can only be an ally for so long before the clock ticks become deafening. It’s a snail’s race against time The Spurs are respected, but few teams want to follow their lead, and even fewer are capable. Even their model for success has been revamped and renamed by the Thunder organization. Youth will always be placed on the pedestal because youth is easier to manage. There is more room for error. Few teams are willing to test the limits of mortality like the Spurs, to hinge so much on creaking joints. But it’s not a question for the Spurs. It isn’t a matter of choice. There is no autonomy. There is only answering a primal urge until it is sated.
So, happy doomsday everyone! This will be the first doomsday since the last, and the first before the next. If the world ends in a flash and nuclear reactions reanimate our rotting corpses, and somehow these hardly-sentient sacks of flesh reconstruct society and recreate the NBA, nothing will change. The San Antonio Spurs will be the supreme overlords of basketball, as they have essentially been for more than 1.5 decades. You see, because they’re already dead.