Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant combined for 134 points last night. They each also went to sleep with one more loss than they had when they woke up with yesterday morning. They all did their whole “superstar” thing, but it wasn’t enough. They ran into three teams likely to make the playoffs that, for what they may lack in superstars, make up for with all-around basketball.
The Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 112-108 and had six players score in double figures. The Memphis Grizzlies easily beat the Miami Heat 97-82 with an even more impressive seven players score in double figures. And of course, the Indiana Pacers outplayed the Oklahoma City Thunder by accumulating more rebounds, more assists, more steals, fewer turnovers and, in case you didn’t know, more points on their way to a 103-98 win.
I don’t want to generalize too much, but it is easy to see the similarities between the Pacers, Rockets and Grizzlies. They don’t rely on anyone; they rely on everyone.
Last night, they all had young point guards who played very well against their championship contender foes. Mike Conley had 15 points, 4 assists and 3 steals while shooting 63%. Gordon Dragic had 26 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals while shooting a respectable 42%. And Darren Collison had 11 points and 3 assists while shooting 43% and playing well down the stretch. When we hear about the current “Golden Era of Point Guards,” we never hear about these three guys. But all three of them are young and already doing what they need to do to help lead their team to wins.
But even more than young point guards, all three teams thrived off of efficient play from their big men last night. Roy Hibbert set the tone for the entire game (despite what SportsCenter’s Top Ten may tell you) with his big time double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds to go along with his 50% shooting. Thanks for coming out, Kendrick Perkins. You’re 6 points and 7 rebounds were pretty cute, I guess. The Pacers also got an efficient 14 points from David West.
Or how about the Rockets’ Luis Scola dropping 25 points off 59% shooting on Pau Gasol (who only scored 14)? Pair that with his teammate, the ageless one, Marcus Camby, bringing home 12 points and 11 rebounds and you have a nightmare for opposing big men. Such a nightmare in fact, that Andrew Bynum went ahead and had himself thrown out of the game. Yet again. Nice work, Andrew.
Oh, and the Grizzlies just brought Zach Randolph off the bench for 14 points and 14 rebounds. Z-Bo made up for Marc Gasol’s “meager” 10 points and 9 rebounds. Thank God the Heat got Ronny Turiaf’s contributions of 2 points and a rebound. Way to go, buddy.
It also helps that all three of these no-star squads bring their own flare to the table. It helps, for example, when you have someone like Danny Granger trying to do their best Kevin Durant impersonation like the Pacers do. Or when you have someone like Rudy Gay doing their best Lebron James impersonation like the Grizzlies do. Or when you shoot nearly 60% from three-point land like the Rockets did last night.
When you have to carry the team on your back for 66 games in 123 days, your back just might start to hurt. But if you can share the load with six or seven other players than hopefully you will keep your strength. Last year’s Grizzlies showed the world what a complete team firing on all cylinders can do.
The fact all the uber-stars mentioned in the opening sentence played as well as they did goes to show why their teams are among the favorites to win the title. But that’s not what last night’s games proved. These upsets proved that the Rockets, Grizzlies and Pacers are threats in every definition of the word.