(Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Most notably, this was Utah's fifth straight loss.
Watching Utah the last two or three years, this recent stretch is by far the worst the Jazz have played offensively. The big part of it is they don't have that third guy behind Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Utah has to hope somebody else gets hot, but too often nobody does. And the answer is not Mehmet Okur, who missed this game with a trapezius strain. He backed into an All-Star appearance last season, and his shooting percentage has sunk to 40.8 from the floor this season. Ronnie Brewer (13.4 ppg) and Andrei Kirlilenko (10.0 ppg) are the current leading third options.
Utah could swing a deal to improve its chances. And it seems that after the Jazz's big two and Paul Millsap, the rest of the roster should be an open book. They need more offensive firepower.They've got the right point guard. If I were starting a franchise tomorrow, I'd take Williams over any other point guard.
Phoenix has a superb one, too. Steve Nash (29 points, 11 assists) showed he's anything but soft in this win. He chips a tooth, hands it to the trainer, and looks like Lloyd Christmas, Jim Carrey's character from "Dumb and Dumber." This after playing with that gash in his nose last season.
He's played tough and tougher. One thing to note about the Suns: This season's version looks similar to the last couple of years, but I know for a fact Suns coach Mike D'Antoni is not putting as much emphasis on the regular season as in the past. They now look at the regular season from a different perspective; the Suns want to be healthy and rested going into the playoffs. D'Antoni wants to be a top-four seed, so his team gets first-round home-court advantage, but the emphasis is on being hot and healthy when the playoffs come. Even with that approach, the Suns (17-6) are now No. 2 in the West, trailing the Spurs by one game.
The defending champion Spurs have approached things this way for years; they know how to pace themselves and hit their stride come playoff time. And that shows with Manu Ginobili, who took his first offseason off in five years. He doesn't look beat up anymore. He's fresh and ready.
Figuring out how to bring down the champs is the job of all the West contenders.
The Suns don't match up that well with San Antonio, even though I thought they were one Amare Stoudemire suspension away from beating the Spurs last season and winning the NBA championship. As for the Mavericks, I think the Spurs have gotten inside their heads a little.
Despite their lack of that third scorer, I think the Jazz are the team the Spurs would least want to face in a West final. Utah has that inside-outside presence, they have the best offensive rebounding team, play hard every night and have the right coach in Jerry Sloan.
Of course the Jazz have time to get back on track. They are now 13-10, in seventh place, closer to being out of the playoffs than up in the Spurs' territory.
ESPN analyst Tim Legler is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.
NEW YORK-- If you're looking for progress from the New York Knicks, you obviously have to look hard. But we might have found something Wednesday night: Thanks largely to Zach Randolph's 27 points and 16 rebounds, those familiar "Fire Isiah" chants at the Madison Square Garden didn't start until the final minute.The rest of the evening, though, will be remembered for what we saw from Kevin Durant from start to finish. In his first-ever professional visit to MSG, Durant not only settled any lingering doubt about who will be named Rookie of the Year in 2008 but also offered a tantalizing glimpse of the days when his Seattle SuperSonics are a credible NBA team. After the Sonics' 117-110 victory -- featuring 30 points, five boards and four assists in 35 minutes from the spectacular Durant -- it was easy to forget that the ROY front-runner's team (6-17) actually owns a worse record than the wretched Knicks (6-15). The difference between the clubs lies, of course, in the medium- and long-term outlooks for both, at least as far as on-court performance is concerned. Durant was not the only outstanding young player on this Sonics crew. Fellow rookie Jeff Green likewise made an impression with his 17 points and five rebounds and the efforts of various role players almost made you forget that Seattle had lost by 27 points in Chicago just 24 hours earlier. "I was nervous coming here and playing in the Garden, but it was fun," Durant said. "I think we played very well. It's the Garden. Everyone says it's the best arena in the world. Right before we went out, my heart was beating real fast." If he was nervous, well, you couldn't tell. Nor will you soon forget Durant's thunderous two-handed dunk with 56 seconds to play that put his team ahead, 114-108, and put away a Knicks team spiraling all over again. Durant's poise and willingness to take the game on his shoulders down the stretch was particularly impressive, enabling him to become the first Knicks rookie opponent to score 30 in his Garden debut since Houston's Steve Francis in 1999-2000. With Durant and Green at the core of the Sonics, the future is starting to look promising wherever this organization calls home in the future. But if the Knicks can't beat the Sonics now, when Durant and Green are just starting out, there's really only one promise you can make when it comes to the home team: Isiah-related abuse from the crowd won't be dying down any time soon.
Dirk Nowitzki went 0-for-3 from 3-point range Wednesday in the Mavericks 92-78 loss to the Raptors. It's his third game this season going 0-for-3 or worse. He had only two such games all of last season.The career 38 percent 3-point shooter is shooting at a 31 percent rate this year. Looks like the top of the key area is no place for Dirk this season (see chart below).
Samuel Dalembert, Sixers center: His 18 points and 11 rebounds were good, but nine blocks were huge in Philly's fourth straight win.
Stephen Jackson, Warriors forward: The heart and soul of the Ws played like a gall bladder. In the loss to the Blazers, Jax missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, 12 misses altogether, along with four turnovers.
Quote of the Night
"The arena was kind of dead and that's what we played like."
-- Wolves coach Randy Wittman, after his team fell to 3-17 with a loss in Philly. • See how all 217 players fared
-- Andrew Ayres
Joe (NY): Are you still sticking by Bulls vs. Rockets NBA Finals?
John Hollinger: That pick is working out well, huh? Here's my honest thought on predictions: The day the season starts I set them on fire (well, figuratively anyway). You learn infinitely more once the season starts than you did trying to figure out how the pieces fit on paper. If forced to pick today, Celtics vs. Spurs would seem an obvious call.
• See the full Hollinger chat
The Celtics improved to 11-0 at home this season with a 90-78 win over the Kings. Boston won only 12 home games all of last season.
The 11 straight home wins to start the season ties for the third longest home win streak to start a season in Celtics history.
C's Home Win Streaks, Season's Start
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony had 32 points, including a three-point play with 38.4 seconds left, lifting the Nuggets to a 105-99 win over the Hornets. The Nuggets won their third straight game.