While You Weren't Watching: Magic from D-Wade and failure from Lakers
The NBA regular season operates at a frenzied pace, with one game and storyline bleeding into the next. Every Friday here at SI.com, we'll slow things down in While You Weren't Watching – a spotlight on the little moments in the week's slate that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. Here's what you may have missed...
• The miracle of creation. I’m still not quite sure how Dwyane Wade gets any breathing room on this play. After giving rookie Shabazz Napier a bailout target on his unproductive drive, Wade winds up lodged in the left corner with a mismatched Drew Gooden infringing on his personal space. Wade then proceeds to pivot deeper into the corner as a means to protect the ball before taking a hard dribble toward the sideline. With a slight push, Wade finds just enough air to step into a baseline jumper:
This is magic. Quick, clever guards can leverage a mismatch like this brilliantly in space, but on this occasion Wade is trapped against the court’s natural boundary with a much taller defender limiting his options. Yet because Wade is Wade, there is no issue.
• Failure in purple and gold. No team in the NBA defends as poorly as Kobe Bryant and his flotsam supporting cast. At no point this season has the Lakers’ full ineptitude been on such clear display, though, as when they surrendered seven points in five seconds to the Mavericks to close out a quarter:
• Spinning to bulldoze. Blake Griffin’s ability to change direction separates him most every other big in the game. His footwork is smooth and precise. His momentum shifts at a moment’s notice, and from even the smallest advantage Griffin could find a route to the rim or the means to draw a foul. Handling the full collection of power, quickness, and grace is especially brutal when Griffin invokes his patented spin move – a weapon that completely neutralizes defenders by clearing them out of his immediate space.
Against Charlotte, Grififn turned to the spin for a different purpose. After charging toward the hoop with a head of steam and only Marvin Williams between him and the rim, Griffin spun – or maybe full-speed drop-stepped, technically? – through Williams for the score. Not around. Through:
• Full extension. One more Griffin note: This is a hell of a play by Blake to keep a loose ball in bounds, all for a different reason than typically distinguishes this kind of effort. Griffin doesn’t leap into the stands or sprint across the court here. He explodes in an instant within a limited space, getting to the ball just in time to stop its roll and nothing more:
Smart, impressive play from a guy who probably doesn’t need the extra bruises.
• Happy feet. Amir Johnson clearly wasn’t pleased with some bit of setup in Toronto’s early offense on this sequence, though in attempting to the issue he shifts his pivot not once, but twice in the face of relatively light defensive pressure:
This was also the rare travel call in which the guilty party didn’t even bother to protest or feign confusion. Johnson’s self-awareness as a player stretches even to his faults, it seems.
Papanikolaou didn’t seem to be smarting too much after the hit, though I can’t imagine he much enjoyed getting leveled by the knee of a 270-pound hulk.
• A single, fleeting bright spot. These are dark times for the Hornets, losers of 10 straight and stuck in the bottom third of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Let’s take this opportunity, then, to celebrate success in micro with Al Jefferson’s overhead drop-off to a cutting Kemba Walker:
• Acrobatic playmaking. John Wall’s passing this season has been outstanding – representative not only of genuine development upon his already stellar work in that regard, but a step closer to actualizing his full potential as a player. His instincts here veer him far away from textbook instruction, but Wall is so balanced and explosive that it hardly matters. Watch him contort his way, after pulling three defenders to the ball, out of one potential passing avenue and into another:
And all he has to show for it is a measly secondary assist, tracked by SportVU but with nary a casual fan to notice.
• Guile. Leave it to Kyle Lowry, at all of six feet tall, to jump into three Lakers standing 6-foot-6, 6-9, and 6-10 and somehow come down with enough control of a rebound to roll the ball out to Jonas Valanciunas:
Toronto ended up dropping this game, but it was with plays like this from Lowry that they forced their way into overtime in the first place.
Note: Since this feature took a break for the holiday, some of the plays above were drawn from the week of Nov. 23-29.