Sunday night was a big "test" night in the NBA, as two Western Conference unbeatens faced their first real challenges of the young season, and the Pistons squared off against the opponent they brought Allen Iverson in to beat the Boston Celtics.
- Pierce's shot hands Hawks first loss
- Lakers hold off Hornets, stay perfect
- Oden returns as Blazers beat Heat
- 2 ejected as Rockets stump Suns
- Brand busts loose, Sixers snap skid
- Knicks pile up 132 points on Grizzlies
- Ford drives Pacers to third straight win
- Bucks rally past short-handed Spurs
- Magic dominate Durant-less Thunder
- Wizards overcome Jazz for first win
- Udrih scores 30 to carry Kings
- Kahn: Jazz making sweet music
- Rosen: Lakers' D makes difference
- Kahn: Who might get dealt?
- Galinsky: NBA power rankings
- Celtics celebrate 17th title
While the Lakers aced their first test, the Jazz flunked theirs by losing 107-99 in Madison Square Garden to the Knicks. The Utah offense was still ultra-precise, and took advantage of the smaller Knick lineup by posting up whenever they could, for 33 points during their 31 adventures into the low box.
If post-ups didn't work, after setting a cross-screen in the post, a Jazz guard would receive a down screen, and pop back out on the weak-side elbow. With all the smaller Knick bodies tangled up in the chaos, Utah's guards would frequently wind up with wide open jumpers.
Catch-and-shoots, pin-downs, baseline brush screens, virtually everything Utah dialed up resulted in an open player.
However, the Jazz are probably the worst passing team in the NBA. Any pass that required a degree of trickiness was an adventure and usually wound up in the stands. That's why the Jazz committed 20 turnovers.
On defense, Mehmet Okur was unable to defend screens, and was too slow to out-jump Zach Randolph for rebounds, tallying two defensive rebounds to Randolph's seven offensive ones.
Utah needs Deron Williams back in the lineup to improve their passing, and a more athletic defender and rebounder than Mehmet Okur to defend the back line.
As for the Knicks, defense is still a problem, as are easy looks in the halfcourt, but the offense has much better ball movement and spacing. Progress is being made, albeit slowly.
Detroit's offense was horrendous against the Celtics in an 88-76 defeat. Allen Iverson shot 4-for-11 for 10 points with four assists, but none of those assists came in the first half, while all four of his turnovers did. Iverson also missed three layups, and his inability to find Rip Hamilton in harmony, resulted in Hamilton shooting 0-for-8.
It's hard to blame Iverson too much as it was only his second game playing with a stringent offensive system, but if he can't grasp the ins and outs of where to make the right pass and when, the Pistons might not make it back to the conference finals.
It would also be nice if Rasheed Wallace didn't attempt nearly half as many 3-pointers (going 2-for-8) as two-pointers (making 2-for-9).
Of the other teams faced with important tests, the Hawks were able to keep their perfect record alive by coming back to beat the Thunder 89-85. Despite the victory though, Atlanta's offense really struggled, shooting 37 percent and tallying 13 assists. They were still able to beat the going-nowhere Thunder, but a better opponent would have knocked Atlanta off. Their trip to Chicago on Tuesday will be a nice indicator of how resilient the Hawks can be.
The Los Angeles Clippers are finally healthy and it showed in beating the Mavericks 103-92. Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman combined to block five shots and pull down 23 rebounds, while Baron Davis supplied 22 points and 10 assists.
Now at 2-4, it was a terrible loss for Dallas. They get the Lakers and Orlando in the next week, sandwiching a trip to Chicago.
The Toronto Raptors continued their trend of riding Chris Bosh to victory despite getting little out of Jermaine O' Neal. Bosh poured in 30 and 15 in an 89-79 road win over the Charlotte Bobcats. O' Neal only had five points in the game, all from the line. He missed all five of his field goal attempts.
Chauncey Billups only shot 2-of-13 against the Grizzlies, but Denver won 100-90. Despite an off night shooting, Billups moved the ball, attacked the paint and played exceptional defense. Meanwhile, Nene had 18 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He's the post player the Nuggets thought they'd be getting when they acquired him from the Knicks on draft night in 2002, and when they signed Kenyon Martin in 2004. Injuries have severely curtailed his development, but he's healthy now, and making a strong early case for Most Improved Player.
The Warriors have competed hard this year, but playing so many youngsters is taking its toll. The team won't defend, the scorers are inefficient, the ball movement is non-existent, and the inexperience is catching up. Losing Baron Davis, losing Monta Ellis, and now losing Corey Maggette has left the Warriors with Stephen Jackson as their only accomplished perimeter player, and he's not nearly as consistent, or as talented, as the above three.
For more from this Bleacher Report writer, click here.