— Kobe and LeBron were the main attraction, but far from the only drama in Week 15.
If Week 15 of the 2008-09 NBA campaign were adapted into a theatrical performance, the title of said production could be anything from “61” to “52, 9* and 11” to “Letters from Madison Square Garden” to “The Missing Board Meets the Big Ben.”
And if you’ve been living in a basketball-free universe the past week and have no idea what any of those titles mean, the point is this: Regardless of what title you choose, any theatrical performance pertaining to last week would undoubtedly feature Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the production’s central players.
But while their memorable game of oneupsmanship was taking place front and center, there was plenty of compelling action on the fringes of the same stage. Here’s a look at some other memorable moments from Week 15:
Bad tidings, your majesty
The shellacking of the week comes courtesy of the Phoenix Suns, who annihilated Sacramento by a score of 129-81 on Monday. For some perspective on how truly lopsided this game was, consider the following:
1) The Suns outscored the Kings 40-19 in the first quarter, 30-12 in the third quarter and led by a score of 103-55 after three.
2) Suns forward Alando Tucker, who had totaled less than 100 minutes since being drafted out of Wisconsin in 2007, got off the bench for a season-high 21 minutes (more than one-fifth of his career total).
3) Seldom-used forward Jared Dudley had five steals — the same total as the Kings’ starting five and only three less than the entire team — in just 12 minutes off the bench.
4) Leandro Barbosa, who plays an average of 23 minutes off the bench and would normally benefit from a garbage-time situation, was only able to get 15 minutes. Why? Because this particular strain of garbage was so foul that coach Terry Porter largely bypassed the first tier of his bench in favor of lesser bench players.
5) To repeat: 103-55 after three quarters. Seriously.
School is in Session(s)
Though the most obvious choice would be LeBron’s 52-point, nine-rebound, 11-assist tour de force or Kobe’s Madison Square Garden-record 61 points, the most obscenely gratuitous statistical performance of the week goes to Bucks guard Ramon Sessions, who unleashed 44 points and 12 assists against the Pistons on Saturday in just his fourth start at point guard all year (before Saturday, he had started six games at shooting guard).
In case you’re wondering exactly who Sessions is, he was a second-round pick out of Nevada in the 2007 draft who memorably ended last season by averaging 19.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 17.0 assists in his last three games, including a 20-point, eight-rebound, 24-assist game against the Bulls.
And in case you’re wondering exactly why a man capable of uncorking statistics befitting a video game would find himself largely playing the role of backup thus far in 2008-09, the answer is that the Bucks also have Luke Ridnour, a decent enough (though considerably less dynamic) alternative who happens to be a favorite of coach Scott Skiles. The good news for Sessions supporters is that just like video games, you need two thumbs to play point guard, and one of Ridnour’s is currently broken, meaning Sessions has four weeks to unleash his wrath on unsuspecting foes across the league.
“Y” is for Crossover
Speaking of video games, there’s a title that first emerged on the market approximately five years ago called NBA Street. One of the many great things about this game (aside from the fact players could jump about 35 feet in the air for a dunk) was that you could repeatedly hit the crossover dribble button until a defender went flying out of the way in the most exaggerated fashion, as though he'd just been hit in the chest with a bazooka shell.
Even if you hadn’t played NBA Street in years (or, for that matter, even if you’d never seen the game in your life), the visual of Jason Terry get crossed over by Deron Williams on Thursday night would no doubt have come across as a little cartoonish, if not straight out of the archives of NBA Street.
Picture this: Williams is stationed near the elbow, sizing up Terry. Williams goes through the legs left to right, then back right to left, and Terry appears to be staying right with him the whole time. But then, as Williams crosses over from left to right one more time, Terry reaches in — and still, for a moment, everything looks normal — until Terry suddenly falls down backward, flying off to Williams’ left as though he’d just been steamrolled by some invisible force (or as though the eighth consecutive pressing of the crossover button had finally done the trick).
The Butler did it
The dagger insertion of the week comes from the hands of Caron Butler, who on Sunday night scored the Wizards' final 15 points over a span of 3 minutes, 45 seconds, capping it off with a winning, step-back jumper over Danny Granger, who had just hit a tying three 15 seconds earlier. A harsh realist would point out that this victory technically meant nothing, as the Wizards moved to 11-40 and the Pacers went to 20-32. However, the late-game theatrics were compelling enough to make you momentarily forget that you were watching a pair of less-than-splendid teams at work.
The honorable mention here goes to the Blazers' Brandon Roy, whose last-second, winning scoop shot on Sunday sent the Knicks to their fourth loss of the week and spawned one obvious question: What’s the worst indignity that happened to the Knicks last week?
A) Having Kobe drop 61 on your home floor.
B) Having LeBron drop 52, nine* and 11 on your home floor.
C) Having Roy get all the way to the rim on a last-second shot attempt when you inexplicably chose not to foul him despite having a foul to give?
One of the more bizarre and fascinating defensive plays you’ll ever see occurred Tuesday night in Denver, when Spurs guard Roger Mason drove in for a layup attempt, only to have J.R. Smith elevate and rapidly block the shot off the backboard two times in a row (once with his right hand, then with his left hand — both on the same jump). For a moment, Smith’s bizarre motion made him look like some sort of aquatic entity summoned from the deep to wreak havoc on opposing backboards.
For the record, Smith was only credited with one block on the play (Mason was twice as humiliated, but that doesn’t appear in the box score). It should also be noted that after the first block (which was somewhat softer), it appeared teammate Anthony Carter would be able to corral the rebound until Smith’s completely unexpected (and far more vicious) second block sent the ball ricocheting off the backboard to Spurs center Fabricio Oberto.
The lesson here, it would appear, is that blocking a shot just once is enough. However, considering Smith shot a miserable 1-for-10 but still turned our focus to the captivating double-block, the takeaway appears to be that if you ever get the chance to block the same shot twice (and happen to have the insane leaping ability and double-arm swimming technique required to do so), just pound the thing off the backboard and worry about the consequences later.