We sit at 18-19 with four games to go until the halfway point in the season. OKC, New Orleans, Memphis and Toronto comprise those games and to be honest I would be shocked if we took 3 of them to finish above .500 in the first 41 games but we have to play the games to find out.
The first matchup of our teams since our recent trade but the end result was no different than the first time we played. Durant again scored 40+ on us but at least Tayshaun Prince only scored 8. It all came down to shooting again as we shot 45% on the night with 31% from deep and 57% from the line. We are currently 23rd in the league in free throw shooting at 72% as a team and that's not good enough
Monroe led the way with 18 and 6 while we got another strong performance from Drummond off the bench with 12 points and 3 blocks. He looks so much better in that role than his past ten or so starts. Sefolosha scored 13 for us in his return to OKC but wasn't up to the task defensively against the game's best scorer. Jerebko left the game with an injury but its just a minor one and he should be good to go tomorrow night against New Orleans.
The Hornets came to town and I was eager to get a look at Anthony Davis. Davis played well with a double double but only one block in the game. However we opened up a 16 point lead after one so the focus for the Hornets became quick jumpers mostly to get back into the game.
It is a good thing we didn't need to rely on jumpers though because we shot a putrid 1 of 11 (yes 9%) for three on the night and our free throw woes continued as we made 18 of 27 only on the night thanks largely to Greg Monroe who missed 6 of 16. However Monroe did score 36 in total so we'll take it. The formula has been the same all year - Monroe beasts and we win. Monroe gets held in check and we lose. Stuckey with 23 off the bench and Drummond with 10 and 9. I mentioned moving Lamar Odom into the starting lineup to see if giving him more minutes would help but he's been invisible in these past two games and all we're doing is splitting up minutes between him, Collison and Jerebko and nobody is playing well. Something probably has to give soon there.
Finally a road win after losing 8 of our last 9 on the road. Really though we played one good quarter winning the third 33-17 and the rest of the game was just flat out ugly by both sides. The two teams combined shot 58% from the free throw line and it was just a slow, ugly game. Monroe led the way with 22 and 10 and 3 blocks while Stuckey and Knight posted passable lines. Everyone else seemed to chip in 6 or 8 points and it was a nice team effort.
Defensively Sefolosha did a nice job on Rudy Gay holding him to 6 of 21 from the floor and Odom did a good job keeping Randolph out of the game. In very unlike Z-Bo fashion he only hoisted 8 shots on the night. Conley, Allen and Gasol scored theirs but the Grizzlies bench was a total non factor which speaks both to their lack of depth and the nice job our bench can do.
Game #41 DETROIT 105, Toronto 86
20-20 coming into this one against a team who is not very good at 12-31. The Raps scored the opening bucket of the game and never led again. As usual Greg Monroe was the player of the game dropping 22 and 8 while our guards really stepped up. Stuckey had 21 off the bench and starters Knight and English combined for 29.
The defense was the real key though as we held Toronto to 1 of 20 from three point land (and I thought it was bad when we put up 1 of 11). Lowry and Kleiza were to blame for 13 of the misses. The increase in defense is thanks largely in part to Sefolosha. He may not have been able to slow down Durant but he's given a lot of other guys fits and is contributing in the box score too. Thabo had 9 points and 9 boards to go with 2 steals in this one and Odom rounded out the starters with only 4 points and 6 rebounds.
The Halfway Point
41 games in and we're 21-20 which is good enough to be tied atop the Central with Milwaukee and 6th in the conference overall. 6th I can handle because it means steering clear of Miami until the ECF and we're 6.5 back of 5th in the conference (Boston at 28-16) so I don't think we're in danger of moving up - its just moving down we have to worry about.
Coming in the next post we'll do some midseason grades and get ready for the second half of the year and hopefully a playoff berth!