NIT 2013 Scores: Maryland Continues Surviving with Lackluster Performances

The semifinals are beginning to take shape at the 2013 National Invitation Tournament, with Maryland surviving a lackluster outing to defeat Alabama. The Terrapins will now move on to New York, where they’ll play either Virginia or Iowa.

This is yet another sign of resilience from a team that has consistently displayed inconsistency.

Maryland outlasted Alabama by a score of 58-57. They shot 50.0 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc, thus establishing what would appear to be a great offensive effort.

With that being said, the Terrapins also shot 50.0 percent from the free throw line and committed 17 turnovers.

This is the third consecutive game in which Maryland has struggled taking care of the ball. They’re averaging 15.0 turnovers during the NIT and 14.8 for the season. They rank 336th in turnovers committed thus far in 2012-13.

Even still, the Terrapins have found a way to win. They pair elite rebounding with quality defense, thus leading to their current status in the NIT semifinals.

The question is, how far can they go with these type of performances?

 

The Alex Len Factor

During Maryland’s win over Alabama, Alex Len was sensational. He finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and five blocks.

This comes after two consecutive outings in which Len failed to top 10 points or five rebounds.

This has been the story with Len, as his world class talent has been on display on a far too inconsistent basis. Whether Maryland draws Virginia or Iowa, that will not be acceptable. Len needs to dominate as his ability suggests he can.

During Maryland’s past nine losses, Len is averaging 9.6 points per game. This is why the Terrapins need Len to step up, as his production is often the life of their putrid offense.

Maryland’s win over Alabama was evidence of that truth.

 

Can They Keep Shooting?

For the season, Maryland is shooting 33.6 percent from beyond the arc. Thus far in the NIT, they’re shooting 38.3 percent from distance.

The question is, can they keep on shooting at such a high clip?

Chances are, the Terrapins will cool down at some point during this tournament. They’ve been hot against Niagara and Alabama, but they made just 3-of-12 three-pointers against Denver.

If they shoot that poorly against Iowa or Virginia, Maryland will be on the outside looking in come the NIT Finals.

This is not to sell Maryland’s efforts short, as the talent is in place for them to win it all. Dezmine Wells is a legitimate star in the ACC, Maryland rebounds as well as any team and Len’s dynamic abilities have already been acknowledged.

Unless they cut down on turnovers and become a more consistent offensive team, however, the Terrapins will not reach the Finals.

The pressure is on.

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Grizzlies riding lackluster schedule to playoffs

A string of lackluster opponents couldn’t have come at a much better time for the Memphis Grizzlies, who are attempting to secure homecourt advantage for the opening round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies, though, aren’t necessarily making it easy on themselves in those games.

After surviving a late comeback attempt, Memphis will try to stay alive in the race for a top-four finish in the Western Conference by beating another sub-.500 team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Monday night.

The Grizzlies’ four straight wins have all come over teams with losing records but they’ve prevailed by an average of seven points in those games. They had to rally from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull out an 85-80 victory Friday against league-worst Charlotte and nearly blew a 12-point advantage in the final 4:15 of a 93-89 win over Portland the next day.

Rudy Gay made a key block on a 3-point attempt with five seconds left and had a team-best 21 points during that game.

“Sometimes, we play to the level of our opponents,” center Marc Gasol said. “If we play a good team, we play a lot better. If we play the not-so-good teams, we play to their level. That’s a part of the process of getting better and being a good team. At least, we get up at the end and realize that we’ve actually got to win.”

Memphis (39-25) is 14-4 over its last 18 with some of those early wins coming on the road against marquee opponents Oklahoma City, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Grizzlies also recorded home wins over Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers, who lead Memphis by one game for fourth place in the West.

“Those are the kind of games these guys get up for,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “Then after we had that stretch of those teams, all of a sudden, we get a stretch of a bunch of teams that aren’t in the playoffs. I can’t say we struggled. We haven’t been as focused to go out and dominate them.”

The Grizzlies and Clippers each have two games remaining with Los Angeles holding the tiebreaker. That means Memphis needs to beat the Cavaliers (21-42), losers in 19 of 24, to maintain its chances of a top-four finish.

The Grizzlies also don’t hold the tiebreaker over the third-place Los Angeles Lakers, who lead the Clippers by one-half game in the Pacific Division.

After earning one of its rare wins Friday against New York, Cleveland fell 114-98 in San Antonio on Sunday. Antawn Jamison scored 21 points and Kyrie Irving had 19 during their team’s ninth defeat in 11 road games.

“There are (three) games that we have left, but right now, it’s just about getting better every day and just having a good momentum going into the summer,” Irving said.

Cleveland has lost in each of its last two trips to Memphis after winning three in a row there, but those two defeats have been by a combined nine points. The Grizzlies had four players score 19 or more points, led by Zach Randolph with 29, in a 112-105 win at the FedExForum on Feb. 4, 2011.

Gay, averaging 22.6 points on 50.9 percent shooting over his last 10 games, had 26 points despite an 8-of-20 shooting performance. The Cavaliers put only eight players on the court during that defeat.

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Howard’s lackluster effort suppresses potential

NEW YORK Never one to mince words, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was both livid and candid after his teams 108-86 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. And rather than attribute the blowout to one thing, he chose to blame it on everything.

We were awful, a brusque Van Gundy said. You could go to everything, we were terrible. We turned it over too much, we didnt rebound, we didnt guard and we didnt move the ball, we didnt make shots and they did.

But in his frank evaluation of the teams one-sided loss one that really wasnt nearly as close as the score indicated he stopped short of blaming the person who, perhaps, was most responsible for his teams half-hearted attempt at professional basketball in front of a frenzied house at Madison Square Garden.

Dwight Howard, whose free-agency saga has cast a cloud over the Magic locker room all season, scored just 12 points on Wednesday nine below his season average and had more turnovers (six) than rebounds (five) in the loss. He looked disengaged and aloof at times against the shorthanded Knicks, who were playing without starting point guard Jeremy Lin and star big man Amare Stoudemire, and the residual effect on his teammates was unquestionable.

The Magic were overwhelmed on the glass, 49-34, by a team that was essentially starting three guards, and Howard, the leagues leading rebounder at 14.5 per night, was as inactive on the boards as hes been all season. It was the star big mans second-worst rebounding performance of the season he had just four in a win over Sacramento in January and it was only the ninth time hed been held to single digits all year.

Howard had just one rebound and five turnovers in the telltale third quarter, when the Knicks lead ballooned to as many as 39, and five Knicks players Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson had as many or more rebounds than Howard on Wednesday night.

Van Gundy didnt directly call out Howard for a lack of effort after the game and maybe he should have but there was still little question at whom his displeasure over Orlandos horrid rebounding performance was mostly directed.

They were playing small, and we got crushed on the boards, Van Gundy said. That tells me that the effort wasnt there. I just told them, Ill take the blame offensively weve got to have a better plan for what they were doing but if you give up 16 offensive rebounds to a team thats playing small, then thats an effort problem.

A careless showing out of the Magic surely did them in on Wednesday, but of larger concern, however, was Howards effort when he was no longer in the game.

With the Magic trailing 99-74 with just more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Howard and point guard Jameer Nelson could be seen joking and laughing at the end of the bench during a time out while Van Gundy brought the rest of the team in for what was surely a reaming.

Sure, Howard and Nelson had been out of the game for some time, and the discussion in the huddle was certainly not directed at them, individually. But what kind of example does their complete dismissal of the huddle set for the rest of the Magic bench? What does it say to the teammates when Howard and Nelson the teams two captains, no less decide that its OK to mentally check out just because their team is down?

This is a group that has already been dragged around throughout Howards on-again, off-again trade demand saga, and whether he intends it or not, sitting off to the side and laughing during a time out in an embarrassing blowout loss projects the same message that Howard has from Day One: Im only here for you when things are going my way.

Its troubling enough for a teams franchise player to be a lackadaisical rebounder from time to time, but at least he can make up for that the next night, and turn it on and grab 20 boards which hes done nine times this season. But theres never any excuse for being an apathetic teammate, and thats something Howard, in his eight years in the league, has yet to fully learn.

Unfortunately for the Magic, that unspoken message of indifference from Howard is nothing new, and its become something of a habit when he doesnt feel hes as active in the offense as he should be. Howard is not always what one might call the consummate team player, and the lingering effect of his frustration over a lack of touches often manifests itself in the form of a perfunctory effort somewhere else.

In two games at Madison Square Garden this season, Howard has combined for just 20 points (on 7-of-13 shooting) and 15 rebounds, while turning the ball over 12 times and committing 10 fouls.

Howard has had eight or fewer field goal attempts on five occasions this season, and hes been held below his season average in rebounds in each of those games, as well. Only twice has Howard still hit his season rebounding average in a game when he scored fewer than 15 points.

But after the dust settles on these types of games, Howard, like his coach, usually chooses to spread the blame evenly rather than hold himself to a higher level of accountability.

“Its the same thing Ive been telling the guys: Our effort has to be consistent, Howard said Wednesday. If we want to win a championship, every guy has to buy in to playing the right way every night. If we dont do that, were going to be sitting at home early.”

If Orlando does, indeed, find itself sitting at home early, Howard could have a new set of teammates to throw under the bus sooner than the Magic would prefer. But if that happens, there will be no one to blame but Howard himself.

And if Howard is looking for evidence, he can point to games like Wednesdays for all the proof he needs.

Follow Sam Gardner on Twitter: @sam_gardner

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Sacramento Kings: Ridiculous Arena Situation Overshadowing Lackluster Start

On the court, it’s very difficult to stay optimistic about a team that is 6-13 and ranked dead last in the league in assists and points allowed.  

On the other hand, Jimmer Fredette is shooting much better, DeMarcus Cousins is keeping his mouth shut, and aside from crippling injuries to Marcus Thornton and Chuck Hayes, they’re healthy. (Knock on wood.)

Off the court, the latest intrigue in the Sacramento Kings arena situation is very difficult to read, as just about every new development has been.  

One thing seems for certain: every time the Kings are one step closer to getting support (financial, governmental, environmental, chiropractic), someone comes in and breaks their back.  

When things don’t go my way as a writer, it’s easy to vent my frustrations by writing words exactly how I’d say them myself.  

At this point in Sacramento’s ridiculous tango to “try” (I put that in quotes because I’m still not sure the Maloofs even care) to get a new stadium, I’m channeling Dr. Seuss and going with a short poem about the Kings’ precarious situation.

 

To tell the story of the Sacramento Kings,

We must say “boo-hoo” and not “check out all these rings.”

As you can see by this graphic starting out in oh-one, (note: green is attendance and purple is win percentage)

They had a winning percentage that screamed “Arco Arena is fun!”

But as time went along and the Kings started losing,

We saw more and more fans resort to hard boozing. 

 

Arco Arena sold out every single home game 

From oh-one to oh-seven but the team was so lame. 

The rebellion began in the year of oh-eight

At this point fans seriously couldn’t see straight. 

From oh-eight to today there’s a direct correlation 

Between winning percentage and Kings’ fans exhilaration.

As we know every story has its breaking point

Where the hero falls down and tends to disappoint.

On Kings blogs and Facebook all over the net

Even right now on Twitter…you can see they’re upset.

So what can we do to make it all right?

To end community suffering and end the long fight? 

At first I thought to myself, “Smart can’t be the answer”

Although not Phil Jackson, he’s certainly no cancer.

DeMarcus is a baby while Bobby Jackson is back

 

But the worst of their problems is with the city of Sac. 

I can’t really tell if the Kings are getting rejected, 

But it’s obvious the players can’t help but be effected. 

A new stadium would help to ease the pain, 

Anywhere with hardwood floors so we can be loud once again

I don’t want it to be in La-la land or even the Midwest,

Let’s keep them right here in the pocket on our chest. 

 

Wouldn’t we all be a little happier if they stayed right here?  I can’t help but think that cosmically, the Kings won’t have another winning season until they figure this out.  

Even if they’re in LA or the middle of the country, they’ll still be my team.  It’s understandably irritating rooting for a team that can’t win consistently year after year.  

On the other hand, it’s even worse to know that your team is going to be sold.  One way or the other, I won’t let that hold me back.  Anaheim, Kansas City, Dubai, WHATEVER.  I’ll be a Kings fan. 

That’s the sad thing about being a sports fan though, isn’t it?  Right when you’re at a breaking point and you can’t take it anymore, you remember why you started liking them in the first place.  

Hopefully, this arena situation is just a “chicken or the egg” problem and the Kings can start winning some games in order to gain solid public support.  

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Jackson makes lackluster Bucks debut

OK, so it wasn’t exactly the way the Bucks wanted to start the season but you have to start somewhere.

Milwaukee blew an 11-point halftime lead before falling to Charlotte, 96-95, Monday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

The turning point for the Bucks came in the third quarter.

After turning the ball over just five times in the first half while shooting 44 percent from the field, the Bucks committed six turnovers in the third, leading to 13 Charlotte points as the Bobcats outscored Milwaukee, 30-14 and held the Bucks to just four baskets from the field on 16 attempts.

“They took it to us in the third quarter and we had a problem responding,” Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said.

Other notes and observations from the Bucks’ 96-95 loss to Charlotte:

Moving things around: With just two weeks of training camp and two exhibition games, there wasn’t much that Skiles and the coaching staff could bank on heading into the season. One thing, though, that received a lot of attention from coaches and players alike was the Bucks’ willingness to move the ball around.

That ball movement was a big reason the Bucks were able to put 52 points on the board in the first half, recording 12 of their 21 assists.

“I thought we had some nice stretches in the first half and then again late in the game,” Skiles said of the offense. “We have to come back and we have to win tomorrow night. It’s that simple.”

The Captain’s rough return: Stephen Jackson’s Bucks debut – and his return to Charlotte – were largely forgettable. Jackson finished with just six points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field with three turnovers. He played just 17 minutes due to foul trouble and fouled out of the game with 3:56 left in the fourth.

Maggette’s revenge: Corey Maggette, who the Bucks traded to Charlotte in the Jackson deal, had a big night against his former team. Maggette finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, playing 38 minutes.

He scored half of his points in the third, shooting 3-of-8 from the field.

“We just kept fighting,” Maggette said. “I was very passive in the beginning because the Bucks knew what I was going to do. I got us some transition points and go the team fired up. It was a great team effort tonight.”

Delfino, Mbah a Moute sit: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was inactive for the game due to patellar tendinitis in his right knee. He participated in the team’s shoot around Monday morning but was unable to go come game time. Darrington Hobson was activated in Mbah a Moute’s place, but did not play.

Carlos Delfino was active but didn’t dress for the game. He’s still recovering from a sprained right wrist suffered late last week in practice.

Up next: The Bucks open the home portion of their schedule Tuesday night at the Bradley Center with a 7:30 p.m. contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Telly Hughes of FOX Sports Wisconsin contributed to this report.

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76ers Lackluster Effort in 1st Half, Leads to Tough Loss in Utah

The 76ers lost their 2nd straight game, Monday night to the Utah Jazz 112-107, in overtime.
The Sixers trailed by as many as 21 points, before staging a late comeback, and briefly taking a lead.
After an abysmal 1st half of basketball, the 76ers had to fight and claw their way back into the contest. Jrue Holiday had arguably his worst game as a pro. No one could guard Al Jefferson all night long. Jodie Meeks missed a huge free throw with 11 seconds left, that would have given the Sixers a 3-point lead. And Andre Iguodala missed a possible game winning jump shot at the buzzer, then proceeded to go 0-3 in overtime. An overtime that saw the Jazz control the pace much like they did in the 1st half.
What did the 76ers in was their terrible 1st half. The effort simply was not there. Guys were standing around, there was zero rhythm to the offense and hardly a hint of defensive strength to be seen.
Doug Collins stated before Monday’s game that the teams struggles in Miluakee were due…

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Doc Rivers: No Defense for Celtics’ Lackluster Effort

Familiar nightmare? Monday night’s contest against Houston may have been a major wake-up call for the Boston Celtics. The C’s Dropped the ball game, 108-102, at the TD Garden. This game was anything but adrenalizing as the Celtics lacked in every category that recognizes effort. “I think we had 21 deflections in the first half, [...]

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Bucks Give Lackluster Performance In Loss To Hawks

After a successful Western road trip coming home would be something the Bucks were looking forward too. If they were they did not show it on the court as the Atlanta Hawks stopped the Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 95-80. The Bucks are a team that is hard to figure at times. They play well for a stretch and then they produce a game like this. It has to be frustrating for coach Scott Skiles as well.
John Salmons scored 18 for the Bucks, while Andrew Bogut finished with 14 points on 7-of-19 shooting and had 11 rebounds. The Bucks let the Hawks shoot over 50 percent from the field. When the Bucks let a team hit the 50 percent mark they are 0-6. Plain and simple the defensive effort was poor at best.

To the Bucks credit they did try to make runs in the third quarter, but the Atlanta Hawks always had an answer waiting for them. Up next for the Milwaukee Bucks will be the Chicago Bulls. That will be a tough game as Chicago is a tough place to play. Hopefully, the Bucks will give a better …

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Cavaliers Drop Another in Lackluster Effort

This is getting old quickly.
These guys just don’t get it. They don’t understand their potential. And they seem to be settling for mediocrity. It is frustrating to no end.
Sure, I do understand the fact that LeBron James is no longer in wine & gold. I do. But, as Byron Scott has said all along, this team has more talent than just about any other team he has ever been a part of. And we are now more than a quarter of the way through this season. Stop making excuses!
It is no longer that the Cavaliers are adjusting to life without LeBron. That period is long gone. It isn’t that they are introducing themselves to Scott’s new style of offense. That period, too, is long gone. It all boils down to the simple fact that a lot of these guys don’t believe in themselves. They are quite content to lose by 15 points to the Houston Rockets. The Houston freakin’ Rockets! It’s ridiculous. There is no excuse for getting your clock cleaned by teams like the Timberwolves and the Rockets. No excuse….

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Pacers-76ers: Lackluster Offense Lands Indiana Pacers Second Loss of Season

What was that?

After the first week of the season, the Pacers looked like a different team than we have seen in recent years. They looked rejuvenated, motivated and ready to pounce.

Wednesday night the old Pacers showed up in Philadelphia, and it wasn’t pretty.

The picture of Jim O’Brien says it all for this article.

Really, there was no silver lining for the Pacers in their 26-point route.

They let Elton Brand have his way, as he tallied 25 points and 12 rebounds. The Pacers were outperformed in virtually every statistical category. The Sixers shot 47 percent from the floor, compared to the Pacers’ pitiful 31 percent. The 76ers shot better from three-point range, and hit 21 of 25 free throw attempts. The Pacers were just 12 of 17 from the line. The Sixers had the edge in rebounds, assists, turnovers, blocks, steals, blocks, and even fouls. They also had more fast break points and more points in the paint.

In short, this was a game to forget for the Pacers.

Six players for Philadelphia scored in double figures, while the Pacers had only two, and just barely. Darren Collison finished with 11 points and Josh McRoberts added ten for Indiana.

Danny Granger played 39 minutes, and only managed seven points and seven rebounds. He was just 2 of 14 shooting on the night.

Collison was just four of 16 shooting and no Pacer had more than four baskets on the night.

The Sixers were able to get their first win of the season even without their head coach Doug Collins, who left at halftime for vertigo related symptoms.

Through the first three games of the season, I have been pleased with what I saw from the Pacers. They had improved in virtually every facet of the game, and looked to really “get it” as a whole.

That same team was nowhere to be found tonight.

What I saw was the same team that finished under .500 in recent years.

The turnovers and lack of execution on offense was horrific. It was almost as if the first three games, they had been wearing masks for Halloween. Now that November was here, the masks came off and they have returned to form.

I want to believe this was just a fluke. I want to believe that it’s tough to beat the same team twice in a row. I also want to believe that Jim O’Brien knows how to fix this.

I want to believe that, but I fear I am wrong.

O’Brien does not have a good track record at all, he has virtually never done anything to make us say “Wow, this guy knows what he is doing.”

The perception around here is that O’Brien was brought in as the “in between guy” and that he was okay with that. If the Pacers are somehow able to make the playoffs as a six or seven seed, I wouldn’t expect that he will be back as coach next season.

I questioned him several times in this game tonight. I have never understood his reasoning for playing Solomon Jones, ever. I understand he is the backup center with Jeff Foster still not able to play, but there has to be another solution to that equation.

Dahntay Jones also saw the court for the first time this year, and I’m just not sure if he even knows what rotation he wants to use this season. He has been consistent with the starters in all four games, but after that, things get complicated.

The offensive system he wants to use is not right for this team.

I think Larry Bird understands that, but I also think he wants to wait until after this season to make a change. He has been extremely loyal to Jim for whatever reason, but I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t think O’Brien is the long-term answer at the head coaching position for this team.

It was stated that they wanted to run the offense through Hibbert this year, but that completely goes against the offense that O’Brien runs. Something has to change.

There will be off nights, like the one Granger had tonight. The question is, when he has those rare nights, who is going to be capable of stepping up and leading this offense?

The whole team struggled shooting the ball, and the transition game also suffered. I would also like to know why O’Brien chooses to play Ford over Price at the backup PG position. Price was clearly ready to go this preseason and was lighting up the scoreboard.

The best thing the Pacers can do right now is forget that this game ever happened.

They do need to address the offensive game plan when Danny Granger is off like he clearly was tonight. They need to continue to focus on rebounding and improving the defense.

They still have a long way to go, and this was a major speed bump in the road, but they have gone over it and now it’s time to focus on the road ahead.

The Pacers will return home for a date with the up-and-coming Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse. Tip off is set for 7:00pm.

The Bucks are a much better team than their 1-3 record indicates. They are in Boston tonight, and are actually leading the Celtics midway through the fourth quarter. They have a very dangerous offense that can explode at any time, and they will certainly test the Pacers’ defense.

Indiana is back to .500 with their 2-2 record, but the differences between just missing the playoffs and having the last lottery draft pick, and sneaking into the playoffs for some much needed experience (and fan satisfaction) are these games here.

Beating the other teams that are basically in the exact same situation as you are.

The Pacers have been notorious the last few years for beating the best teams (Lakers, Celtics, Jazz) while getting beat by the mediocre-at-best teams like the Bobcats, Pistons, and Wizards.

I expect the offense to recoup from this porous performance and come to play Friday night at home. They had better too, if they want to keep pace with the Bucks.

The defense will be tested, and the key match up will be between the big men, Hibbert and Bogut.

While I am being very critical of Coach O’Brien and the Pacers’ offense, I expect better things from them, and I am confident that they will show up with a better performance at home on Friday night.

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