These fourth quarters are going to drive PJ Carlesimo nuts

By the time this post is completed, the Sonics will have fallen to 0-2 under P.J. Carlesimo. They could be 2-0 but the talent gap and divide in terms of experience in crunch time or winning time – otherwise known as the fourth quarter.

Sure enough as I’m typing this, this is what Doug Collins and Kevin Harlan have discussed. Hubie Brown and Mike Tirico also discussed this Wednesday on ESPN as the Nuggets outscored the Sonics 34-22 in the fourth en route to a 120-103 victory.

The Sonics had a chance, hung around all of the third quarter and were within 85-81 with just over a minute to play.  Then Delonte West, the same guy, whose mere presence impacted the game in Seattle’s favor picked up a technical after making two crucial turnovers.

So where did West wind up?

On the bench for the next eight minutes.

And where did the margin go from. It went from four to 10 and eventually 16.  I wasn’t in the locker room to pick up the answers but the Seattle Times was for the different versions of things.

“There was no message being sent,” Carlesimo said. “Not from me. Obviously, I don’t like technicals, but no message.”

“No doubt, I thought Coach was trying to send a message,” West said. “The message was I’ve got to do a better job of keeping my head, of keeping my composure. I let things get away from me and Coach, even if he didn’t say anything, he let me know.”

I didn’t watch the TNT game against Phoenix as closely because I wasn’t home.  I picked it up in the third and watched the Suns outscore the Sonics 27-17 and pull off a 106-96 victory.

If you don’t get league pass, you’ll still a few more chances to see how these fourth quarters play out for the Sonics.  Not including NBA-TV, this was the second of nine games on TNT, ESPN and ABC.

So what happened here? Durant kept them in it with back-to-back threes.  Next thing you know he’s making two turnovers and the Suns are ripping off seven straight points and that’s that.


Al Jefferson’s refreshing take on the big money

Chalk up another good character guy.  While it’s hard for me or any average person to relate to the $65 million that Al Jefferson will get over the next five years, it’s nice to see him express some modesty about the money.

Jefferson is probably the best player that the Celtics sent to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett deal and on the eve of the new era with the Timbewolves he signed for half of what Garnett got 10 years ago, a deal that some say was the impetus for the ugly lockout in 1998.

The story in the Star Tribune  calls him a throwback that your old and worn out Moses Malone jersey.  His take on the money is also a throwback considering he could have played like Malone and parlayed that into maximum money.

And to further illustrate his point he said the  following:

“I wanted to get in my head, get in my heart that I’m going to be here. “They traded for me. They traded one of the best players in the NBA for me. I felt this is where I needed to be. This is where I want to be.” (quote attributed to the Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“I didn’t even think I was worth max (money) this year anyway,” “I would’ve been a fool to go up there and ask for max, having not really proved myself for that. So the number I got was the number that was my goal from Day 1. And I think it was a win, win situation.”  (quote attributed to AP).

And in this day of trying to figure out where the disgruntled Kobe Bryant is headed, it’s nice to hear.  The Timberwolves might not be very good but Jefferson is worth a look.

My namesake

Before I was old enough to attend NBA games on my own, I was a pretty regular player in the business side of the NBA.  You must be puzzled reading that opening statement but I was big time in the labor side and spawned a couple of sons who became agents.

That’s right, meet the other Larry Fleisher.  Before dying in 1989 when I was 10, he was the founder of the NBA players association after getting the request to do by Tommy Heinsohn in 1953. In 1976, he helped free agency come into play, also brokered the merger between the NBA and ABA and finally before retiring in the mid 1980s, he negotiated the famous or infamous salary cap and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

He also has two sons Mark and Eric, who became player agents.  Eric only has two clients now while Mark has 10, including Tony Parker, Andrei Kirilenko and Jerome James.

In my three years of covering the NBA only once has anyone noticed the name and seen the connection.  That was Bernie Bickerstaff, who coached the Charlotte Bobcats in their first three seasons.  Bickerstaff was in the middle of talking about everything that Matt Carroll does for his team when he stopped and goes “Larry Fleisher, huh? You know his father? I had to tell him I’m not related but I knew who he was.  After finishing that, he goes what was I talking about and I politely remind him that he was discussing Matt Carroll, who wound up with about 26 points in a blowout win over the Knicks that night.


Fourth Quarter and we start it up at 12:35 AM:

and Mike Wilks opens it with a 15-footer, uh-oh for the Sonics. 88-81.

Durant blows a runner and Najera slices inside for an 90-81 edge.

Watson comes right back with his first basket. Long three by Kleza and it’s 93-83.  They might be not be able to come back from this one?  But Durant comes off a curl and scores his 15th point.  Watson forces a travel by Nene and a fan has an Oklahoma sign in reference to the relocation rumors.  And a 24 second violation as Watson is forced into a horrible angle to shoot and he’s 1-of-8.  Anthony is on the bench here so this could be the last stand for the Sonics if they don’t get it to four or so by the time Anthony returns.

So far no good for that theory as it’s 95-85 Denver with no starters on the floor and 8:48 remaining.

Back to the action and Durant hits his seventh basket, 95-89 with eight minutes to go.  It’s spurt time maybe but just as the thought enters my mind, Najera scores and Durant is called for a charge and guess who drew it – Najera.  That leads to a Kleza three 101-89.

Lawler’s law is now in effect – Ralph Lawler, who is the Clippers announcer states that the first team to 100 points will win and it’s right about 90 percent of the time.

And while I’m looking for the appropriate link the Nuggets go up 104-89 and they’re going for the kill with Iverson on the floor and 6:19 remaining.

Welcome to the NBA Durant.  Durant gets blocked, Najera again coasts in for the layup and it’s 106-90.  Najera and Kleza have combined for 30 and this Nuggets group might be better than I thought.

Down to the final five minutes, Denver probably gets to 115 and Seattle gets to high 90s. 16 turnovers and 10 misses from the line will make for a long flight to Seattle for PJ and company.

West puts home a difficult layup and it’s 106-94.  Another miss and West has the ball but there’s turnover 17 and Carmelo has a quiet 31 says Hubie Brown and he’s right.  Turnover 18 for Seattle becomes Iverson’s seventh steal and 14th assist and we’ve reached 110 for Denver.

The eggs are cooling, the jello is jiggling and this game is over. Nice job by the Nuggets. They perservered through all those Sonic spurts and could win by 20.   We are in garbage time now and the Nuggets have Iverson and Anthony hanging out on the bench and the Nuggets win it 120-103.
Durant’s debut was so-so 18 points, 7-of-22.  West was the best thing about this game for the Sonics.  I’ve seen him enough times in college and with Boston to know he’s a scrappy player.

As for Denver Anthony finished with 32, Iverson had 25 but 14 assists. Yes, that many! Camby has 15 boards and five blocks, overall a good night for the Nuggets, who feel they can win 55-60 games.

Third Quarter and we start it back up at 12:04 AM

Sonics get the ball and their first trip ends with a curl and a Wilkins miss. And it’s an easy layup for Yakhouba Diawara, 61-58, Nuggets.

Durant misses (3-for-15), Iverson layup 63-58. I don’t like where this is going for the Sonics and neither does PJ.

Out of the timeout and George Karl does an amusing promo hyping the other Kobe on the Lakers – his son Coby Karl. Back to the action and Durant knocks down a 20-footer (4-for-16). But nobody gets Anthony for the same shot 65-60 Nuggets.

Collison puts it in off great distrubution by Watson, another steal for the Sonics and it’s another spurt but no finish 65-62.

Spurt over? Anthony three-pointer looks easy 68-62. That is followed by a travel and another muscle layup by Martin 70-62. Perhaps time for Delonte West to re-appear?

Wilcox looked awkward and missed the layup, but Iverson misses the three and Collison cleans up Watson’s miss – 70-64.

That’s countered by a three from Anthony at the top of the key. He’s at 26 now. 74-64.

Big last two possesions Wilcox layup and a travel for Anthony 74-66 and West is back and scores 74-68.

Martin has missed 106 games the last two years and Iverson airballs and Durant hits again 74-70. Another spurt for the Sonics, Camby can’t put it down and Wilkins knocks it down and the Sonics are still alive 74-72 with 5:50 remaining. Still can’t tell who’s going to win or how many it’s going to take but it’s a good one as Durant takes a seat and Anthony goes to the line, 76-72.

Petro backs down his man with a baby hook that doesn’t feature much of a shoulder drop but he gets the foul and it’s a 76-75 game. The zone is obviously working as Denver misses again but Petro gets called for blocking but Nene puts back an Iverson miss 78-75.

And Camby tells Watson what to do with that one, Iverson attempts a drive on Green, misses wildly. Iverson has missed five straight and West leans in for two 78-77. One pump fake too many for Melo but Supersonics can’t convert. And more positive talk about West from Hubie. West steals and dunks, 79-77 and George Karl is furious after watching that indifferent pass from Camby.

Karl is trick or treating and looking for some more alertness during this timeout. Will he get it?

The answer is a Kleza three-pointers, 81-79 Denver followed by a carry for the Sonics and then a turnover by Nene. A turnover by Seattle becomes an Iverson layup and it’s 83-79.

The bodies are flying and Anthony misses but West gets caught up by Camby and the little guy travels. Camby takes a seat now and Iverson gives it Anthony., whose miss is rebounded by Najera. The big time hustle play puts Denver in front 85-81. Wests get a technical and a seat on the bench.

Watson’s entry pass to Szcerbiak is stolen by Iverson and he has four steals, 12 assists and 16 points. Anthony takes another three and misses and a semi-high screen, but a turnover and Anthony just misses giving Denver a seven-point lead. Anthony finishes with 11 in the third and has 29 on the night.

Second quarter:

Nene blows two baskets and it’s obvious he’s overweight. Delonte West, a Hubie Brown favorite hits a three. Haven’t heard Durant’s name in a while. 37-37.

And another three this time by Durant off a feed from Szcerbiak. Apparently Durant has the nicest sneakers on the floor. That’s followed by a Denver miss, an and one for Green and a highlight on Carmelo Anthony’s defensive deficiencies, 42-38 Sonics.

Nene fails to finish again, but it stays with Denver but a turnover and while we’re discussing Jeff Green has talent works hard and the second unit moves the ball and gives the perimeter defenders the old blow by .

Denver was 0-for-4 but a three by Najera and Iverson is back, 42-41 Sonics.

Wilcox and West work the two-man game and West gets in Iverson’s face and then a Green layup 46-41.

Najera hit one three all season but he already has one, so he goes for two and he misses. Durant also misses from downtown and then a 4-on-1 fastbreak handled by Durant and a dunk by Wilcox 48-41 Sonics.

back to the starters for the Sonics, brick by Wilkens and Denver scores on the other ned, Durant bricks a three, another miss by Seattle. PJ calls a timeout and tells them to probably calm down, defend in transition, 48-43.

After some typical Stuart Scott nonsense, back to the action. 10 minutes and counting for Iverson and Anthony in not scoring a point. Kleza shoots over the zone and misses but a foul on Nick Collison. empty possession for both teams and Iverson scores on a layup 48-46. The culprit on the 4-on-2 was Durant’s too fancy of a pass.

And we get a look at Kenyon Martin and he slaps it away from Wilcox. Sonics retain possession and Wilkins is at the line for two 51-46. And Durant is now 3-for-13 but Camby takes a horrible shot beyond his comfort zone, still 51-46. Camby’s comfort zone does not go past the top of the key, in other words take it to the hole.

While discussing the Laker game, Wilkins hits a three and Anthony hits one, 54-51 Sonics and PJ takes a timeout. So far, so good for the W and W boys on Wilcox and Wilkins.

Now we’re hearing the praises of Iverson, who just hit two at the line. Hubie loves the shooting percentage and Jeff Green steps out of bounds, 54-53. Now Martin attacks and its 55-54 Denver.

The defense is starting to swarm and Collison travels. Anthony’s lone three misses, West swings it to Wilkens for three. It looked like West never thought shot, have to love that unselfishness, 57-55 Sonics.

Iverson strips Petro, bounce pass to Martin and it’s 59-57. This is a nice pace for points and Iverson’s assists. He’s up to eight. Another half of that and he’ll be at 16.

West now attacks the rim and gets two foul shots. He misses the first hits the second, 59-58. Eight of 16 from the line isn’t going to cut it!

And we’ve reached halftime 59-58 Nuggets. Anthony 18, Iverson 14, Durant nine points but just 3-of-14.

So it’s 2:12 remaining and the Nuggets are up 29-28 after one, let’s see how this plays out.

Hubie Brown likes Delonte West slowing down on the offense, can’t say I disagree but Petro travels. Nuggets moving really well but a foul by Seattle pauses the flow. The Sonics average age is 25.4 and here comes Jeff Green for the first time in an NBA game. He doesn’t wow us but is smart (so says Mike Tirico).

Hubie Brown further pontficates on Delonte West, loving how he refused to back down to Marcus Camby’s swatting ability. West is rewarded and splits a pair at the line 30-29.and it’s Jeff Green’s first free throws as he’s fouled by Eduardo Najera. He missed both.

This is why I and Hubie like West. He passed the ball, forced the defense to react and got the ball back and scored 32-31. Quarter ends with a Lina Kleza three and we’ll take 35-31 in any quarter.

NBA Action Day 2

Back in the day and I think I’m talking mid 1980s, the slogan was NBA Action it’s fantastic. The league has changed since those fantastic days of Magic, Larry, Jordan and countless others but still has some excitement, especially in a day and age where you can watch every game thanks to the league pass, which is pretty much what I did tonight.

Game 1 – Indiana 119, Washington 110 – Watched the first quarter, came back to it in the third, flipped back and forth between that and the Raptors-Sixers game until I concluded the Sixers comeback was going to fall short. What we saw was one of the most entertaining players Gilbert Arenas do what he did many times last season and that’s hit a last second shot, which he did in regulation. Overtime was disappointing from an thrill factor standpoint but it was impressive watching Danny Granger hit five threes.

Game Two – Nets 112, Bulls 103 OT – A similar game in the overtime to the Pacers game, but just as exciting getting to the extra period, especially as Antoine Wright became the go-to guy in the fourth. Wright scored 21 points – 14 in the fourth. The Bulls have a chance for the win in regulation but Ben Gordon and Ben Wallace both miss at the buzzer and Wright puts the Nets ahead before Richard Jefferson (29 and 10), he of one double-double in 2006-07 hits the dagger three.

– Interesting here from the postgam, Wright hit a clutch three but before doing so in overtime, Lawrence Frank had Boki Nachbar at the scorer’s table but pulled him back.

Game Three – Spurs 104, Grizzlies 101 – The Spurs are to me the favorites to repeat. My theory is that as long as the defending champ has the roster in place, they’re the favorites until otherwise knocked off. Again it wasn’t easy, it was a little difficult than last night’s let the opponent hang around victory over Portland, but they got it done. They were able to get it done because Manu Ginobili’s jersey said San Antonio on it. He hit the go-ahead hoop and scored nine down the stretch.

New Orleans 104, Sacramento 90 – didn’t see a second of this one (can’t watch everything, especially when it’s’ a double-digit game in the first half.

Toronto 106, Philadelphia 97 – Philadelphia did decent job coming back from 22. This is going to happen a lot under Maurice Cheeks. They almost pulled it off but the Raptors stretched their 90-89 lead to four on the next possession and that was that.

Orlando 102, Milwaukee 83 – Sports Illustrated thinks Indiana is the worst team in the East but if they are, it could be a fierce battle with them and Milwaukee for that “honor”. Milwaukee hung around and then Rashard Lewis blew the Bucks out of the building. I think very highly of the Magic and believe they have more depth than the Wizards.

Dallas 92, Cavaliers 74 – The Cavaliers were sub-par (we’re being nice here) in the preseason and it carried over here much to the delight of ESPN. ESPN’s regular season debut was a clunker of a game as LeBron James went scoreless in the first half and finished with 10 points. As for the Mavs, they got 24 points from Jason Terry and won easily.

Now we’re on to Kevin Durant’s first career game and put out the bulletin he has scored a basket.