- Karan Madhok / @hoopistani
When the going gets tough, the tough separate themselves from the rest of the pack and start going. This was more than evident over the past week in the NBA, as over and over again, each team’s toughest and baddest players shone brightly to leads their sides to victory. It was a week where the alpha dogs – paid to be cream of the crop – really made it count.
And the list of alpha dogs included the usual suspects: Carmelo Anthony for the Knicks, Derrick Rose for the Bulls, Kevin Durant for the Thunder, Tony Parker for the Spurs, and a name not usually mentioned in these lists (at least not yet): Brandon Jennings for the Bucks.
Wednesday: Pistons @ Knicks
Despite being loaded with All-Star talent, the Knicks have had an underwhelming start to the season, failing to gel without a consistent point guard to lead the show. Lucky for them, then, that the struggling Detroit Pistons came to town, and for one night, New York showed their potential. It also didn’t hurt that their best player – Carmelo Anthony – returned from a two-game injury layoff, and played one of his most efficient games of the season with 25 points. The Knicks as a team shot an incredible 60 percent from the floor for a comprehensive 113-86 win, just their second victory in the last 11.
Thursday: Heat @ Bucks
It all seemed to be going well for Miami: they had all their players healthy, were on a five game winning streak, and their own alpha dog LeBron James scored a season-high 40 points with eight rebounds in this game in Milwaukee. But even when trailing by 18 points before halftime, the Bucks found their way back behind point guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings scored 31 points to go with eight assists as he overshadowed LeBron’s season high to hand his team a 105-97 win. It was the Bucks’ fifth win in the last seven, as the Milwaukee side continued their road towards improvement.
Friday: Bulls @ Knicks
The Knicks were looking confident after their last win, but they faced a much tougher challenge in this game against the East’s best Bulls. For the Knicks this time, it was Amar’e Stoudemire who had a memorable game, going for a season high 34 points along with 11 rebounds. Chicago still led most of the way, and the Knicks’ attempts at a comeback were thwarted by MVP Derrick Rose, who came clear as the star of the night. Rose had an incredible night, scoring 32 points (15 in a clutch 4th quarter) and 13 assists to lead his side to an exciting 105-102 win.
Saturday: Grizzlies @ Thunder
Last summer, the Grizzlies and the Thunder faced each other in a memorable Western Conference showdown, decided after seven games to the Thunder who featured Kevin Durant, a superstar for whom Memphis had no answer. Last weekend, it seemed that the Grizzlies, now featuring a returned Rudy Gay, had found a small forward to absorb Durant’s blow. Memphis led for most of the game and seemed to be heading towards a win: but it was once again Durant who had the last word. Durant had a huge game with 36 points and 10 rebounds, but more crucially, scored seven points in the final minute to seal his team’s comeback and treat the home fans to a 101-94 win.
Sunday: Thunder @ Spurs
OKC were back playing a night later, but the best team in the NBA had to make a tough trip to San Antonio, who at 12-1 at home, had an near-impenetrable fortress at the AT&T Center. There were to be no repeat heroics from Durant this night, and it was not Tony Parker’s turn to be the hero. Parker had a season high 42 points with 9 assists, and was unstoppable at nearly every attack to the basket: OKC had no answer for his scoring and shot-creating as Parker reminded NBA fans that he is still having an All-Star caliber season. Durant had 22 points in a loss, as the Spurs prevailed 107-96.
And the rest of the weekend…
New York lost a night later to the Boston Celtics in close fashion once again, but recovered on the third night of the back-to-back-to-backs when their backup point guard Jeremy Lin led them to a win against the Nets. The Celtics continued their road to recovery, winning their fourth straight game against the Raptors on Sunday night. While the Minnesota Timberwolves, long-sufferers at the bottom of the NBA, improved to .500 this season with a loss over the Rockets, encouraging fans of a bright future behind their two exciting building blocks: Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love.
On your TV sets this week:
Wed – Cavaliers @ Heat, Thu – Mavericks @ Nuggets, Fri – Lakers @ Celtics, Sat – Thunder @ Jazz, Sun – Blazers @ Mavericks.