Some matches are really made in basketball heaven!
NBA history is filled with the perfect duets, two complementary players who have figured out the perfect chemistry between each other to then wreak havoc on the rest of the league. In the past, we’ve had Frazier and Reed, Magic and Kareem, Jordan and Pippen, and Shaq and Kobe. Some relationships were rosy and some were not, but somehow, even for only a brief period of time, they all made it work for the greater championship good.
There are a lot of intriguing twosomes in 2012, too. Leading the way of course are Miami’s two-man wreaking crew LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Although they are part of a larger ‘Big 3’ along with Chris Bosh, it is James and Wade that makes Miami such a formidable squad. James and Wade are in the top six in scoring this year and are also now ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the NBA’s Player Efficiency Ratings (PER) rankings. Miami’s 28-9 record, second place in the East, is a testament to their dominance.
There is a similar tandem dominating out West. Few teams have two players who are currently scoring with the ferocity brought by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant is second in scoring this season (28.2 ppg) while Westbrook is not far behind at fifth place (23.7 ppg). A few weeks ago, they became the first teammates since Jordan and Pippen to score 40 or more in the same game, when Durant had 51 and Westbrook 40 in a game versus the Warriors. The end result of their work so far this season? The Thunder holding a West’s best 29-8 record.
A duo moving up the charts this year is the newly-formed pair of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. After Griffin had a Rookie of the Year season last year, the Clippers brought in one of the league’s best point guards in Paul to provide leadership and create plays complementing Griffin’s explosiveness in the post. The experiment has been successful so far: Clippers have a great 22-13 record and both Griffin and Paul are averaging over 19 a game.
And here are a few other duos to keep an eye on: Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio for Minnesota, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson for the Jazz, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry with the Warriors, and Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins for the Kings.
Some of these teams brought out their tandem play over the past week, and here is my short recap of how those games went down!
Wednesday: Timberwolves @ Clippers
The last time these two teams faced each other, it took clutch baskets by Rubio and a game-winning three for Love for the Wolves to escape with a win. This time around, Minnesota didn’t need to rely on their primary duo to bail them out: it was their bench tandem of Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley who both scored 27 points to get their team another great road win. Griffin (30) and Paul (27) weren’t enough to stop the final result, a 109-97 win for Minnesota.
Thursday: Bulls @ Spurs
Two of the NBA’s ‘silent assassin’ squads, the Bulls and Spurs, faced each other. Without much hoopla or hype, both these teams are near the top of their respective conferences, and they both feature quick penetrating point guards in Derrick Rose and Tony Parker. Rose is known for having past success against the Spurs, and this game was no exception as he led the way with 29 points. After a close contest, the Bulls improved their execution on both ends of the floor to survive for a 96-89 victory. It was only the second home loss all season for the Spurs.
Friday: Thunder @ Magic
Down by 11 in the final quarter, Kevin Durant showed why he is a top MVP candidate, scoring 18 of his 38 points in the final quarter to give OKC an exciting comeback win, 105-102. His scoring partner-in-crime Russell Westbrook wasn’t far behind, pitching in with 29 points and 10 assists. OKC’s comeback masked a great game by Orlando’s Center Dwight Howard, who finished with 33 points in the loss.
Saturday: Kings @ Lakers
Goodbye Black Mamba, hello Masked Mamba! Ever since getting his nose broke in the All Star Game by Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant has donned a protective mask as he has gone out to battle. The results have been great: in three games since the All Star Break, Kobe has averaged 34 points per game in the mask and the Lakers have won all three. This was the second of those three games, and while the Lakers seemed to be cruising to an easy victory, the struggling Kings made a valiant comeback to make the game interesting again. But Kobe took over down the stretch, hitting big shots to finish with 38 and lead L.A. to a 115-107 win. Andrew Bynum added 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers.
Sunday: Thunder @ Hawks
The Hawks used to have a 'Big Three’ of their own until Al Horford went down with a season-ending injury. Then, Joe Johnson got hurt, and the team’s burden fell on the wide shoulders of forward Josh Smith. Playing against an elite Thunder squad, Smith didn’t back down, dropping thunderous dunks and scoring clutch baskets. Smith's 30 points and 12 rebounds were enough to keep the visiting Thunder at bay as Atlanta won, 97-90. Durant (35) and Westbrook (25) were ‘Double Trouble’ once again, but they weren’t enough to stop a rare loss for the team.
… And the rest of the Weekend
It was a memorable Sunday night in the NBA - leading the way was an epic performance by Deron Williams, who scored 57 points in the Nets’ win over the Bobcats, the highest point total by anyone in the NBA in over three years. The same night, Rajon Rondo had a historical stat line of 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 20 assists to lead the Celtics in an exciting overtime victory over the Knicks. And the ‘Masked Mamba’ continued his good run of form, scoring 34 points to get revenge over Wade and the Heat, as the Lakers won 93-83 at home.
On your TV sets this week: Wed – Knicks @ Mavericks, Thu – Knicks @ Spurs, Fri – Magic @ Bulls, Sat – Mavericks @ Kings, Sun – Jazz @ Bulls.