Bulls vs. Heat
The Bulls won their second straight game with an upset vs. the Heat in Miami, led by dominant games from Carlos Boozer (27 points on 12-of-17 shooting, with 12 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (13 points, 12 rebounds and four assists). Nobody else played particularly well for Chicago, and their bench combined to shoot 11-of-29 from the field, but it hardly mattered -- the Bulls out-rebounded the Heat 48-28, with 19 second chances from offensive rebounds. I poked around on basketball-reference.com, and to my surprise there have been 37 victories in NBA history by teams that gave up 30 or more offensive rebounds. The 1989-90 Warriors top the charts, having won two games in which they gave up 37 offensive boards. Those Nellie-coached Warriors finished 37-45, dead last in their division, and they stand as a cautionary tale.
LeBron James scored 30 points and led his team with six rebounds, while Chris Bosh and Ray Allen grabbed five each. The Heat are No. 23 in the NBA in rebound differential per game, at -2.8, and as long as Chris Bosh is playing center it's a trend which will likely continue. It will be a point of emphasis going forward both in the media and in Miami's practices. ''It's killing us, plain and simple,'' said Bosh. ''Is it scheme? Is it mental? We'd better figure it out.'' Erik Spoelstra concurred, saying after the game, "Everybody in both locker rooms understands what the overwhelming key to the game was. They were throwing it up there and playing volleyball against us." As everyone knows, when you lose to a team that's playing the wrong sport, you're in trouble.
Pacers vs. Celtics
The Pacers were blown out in Boston on Friday, and their evening can be summed up with one fact -- they shot 32 percent from the field. David West and Paul George were each 4-of-18 from the field, Roy Hibbert had seven points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes, and Lance Stephenson's recent five-game streak with double-digit points is officially a memory, as he's averaging 5.5 points in his past two. Tyler Hansbrough led Indy with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting off the bench, but he logged just 23 minutes and does not have lasting appeal in 12-team leagues.
None of Boston's players cracked 30 minutes in the easy win, and there wasn't much new information to be gleaned from this game. Deep-league owners should take note, however, that Jared Sullinger played a team-high 29 minutes before fouling out with seven points, 10 rebounds and one block. The rookie PF can't avoid foul trouble and won't typically give you more than a handful of points and rebounds, but he's carved out a spacious role off the bench. Jeff Green was invisible with two points in 19 minutes and he's been incapable of sustaining any momentum this season. He'll earn $36.2 million over the next four years, but he's playing like he's on assignment with the Maine Red Claws.
Blazers vs. Grizzlies
Zach Randolph sat out Friday's game with the flu, his first DNP of the season, and the Grizzlies couldn't generate enough scoring down the stretch, ultimately losing by two points after a missed jumper by Rudy Gay at the buzzer. Gay finished with 19 points, going 8-of-21 from the field against aggressive defense from the Blazers' wings. Marreese Speights had more luck in a spot-start at PF, going off for 22 points (7-of-15 FGs, 8-of-8 FTs) and 13 rebounds in 27 foul-plagued minutes. With Z-Bo day-to-day, this momentary eruption has no lasting consequences. The other bright spot for fantasy owners was Marc Gasol, who scored 12 points with six boards, three dimes, three steals and a career-high eight blocks (including seven in the first half). He's been quiet lately but is still a first-round value on the season.
The Blazers improved to 17-15 with the victory, which featured all five starters in double-figures, led by Wesley Matthews' 21 points, five 3s, four assists and three steals. His hip injury isn't an issue, mercifully. Portland's frontcourt held its own vs. the short-handed Grizzlies, as J.J. Hickson had 19 & 11 with two blocks, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 & 12 with five blocks. All of this is fine, and even encouraging if you're a Blazers fan, but it's hard to imagine them sustaining above-.500 ball without getting more from their bench (a combined nine points on 4-of-14 shooting on Friday).
76ers vs. Thunder
The 76ers hung tight for a while on Friday, but the Thunder eventually pulled away behind Russell Westbrook's 27 points, Kevin Durant's 26 points, and another double-double from Serge Ibaka. Kevin Martin pitched in 16 points in 31 minutes, while hitting all four of his 3-point attempts, and the rest of OKC's lineup played their roles to perfection. Things weren't as clear-cut for Philly. Jrue Holiday had 15 points and nine assists, and the Sixers made 11-of-24 shots from deep, yet they wound up 40.5 percent from the field as a team. Nick Young's team-high 21 points included five 3-pointers, a flash-of-lightning performance that I doubt will be repeated this week. What could be repeated is Evan Turner's uneven game -- he scored five points with six boards, five assists, two steals and six turnovers. His struggles with inconsistency have returned, to his owners’ deepest regret, and he's been a liability in nine-cat leagues for the past two weeks (making 38.5 percent FGs and 46.2 percent FTs, with 3.1 turnovers per game). My recommendation? Keep his recent play in your memory, and trade him once he inevitably gets hot.