You know, Carl Landry smiles -- scratch that, genuinely laughs -- while he's on the court more often than any player I watch. On two separate occasions, each after making a difficult shot over Marcus Camby, Landry jogged back down the floor, showing off whatever remains of his pearly whites, as if he had just gotten away with placing a whoopee cushion underneath the principal's chair. After all of the troubles that Carl has been through, it's a pleasure to see what has become such a rarity in today's game: an NBA player who looks like he is actually having fun.
Then again, scoring twenty-seven points off the bench may have had something to do with that.
More so than anything, Landry can thank his improved free-throw shooting for making him such a dangerous player in the post. If opponents foul him, it's nearly an automatic two points. Any post player shooting 87 percent from the free-throw line is going to be dangerous. Add Landry's intensity into the mix, and you've got yourself a moving landmine on the block - you touch it, you're dead.
Though it may have been Landry's final eight minutes of the game that served to determine the outcome, it was Tracy McGrady's similar amount of playing time that had everyone on edge. In all of my years of watching Tracy play, I have never once seen him that agressive driving to the rim. Perhaps it was because Rasual Butler was guarding him. Perhaps it was because he was guarding Butler, and wouldn't have to play much defense (trust me, he didn't). Or, it could have been due to his knowledge of how little he would play, and how much effort he could afford to exert in that time period. Whatever the case, McGrady looked as healthy as he has looked in the last two years. He attacked the rim, made his open jump shots, and dished out some incredible passes, including a mid-air, no-look ball through two defenders to Luis Scola for a lay-up.
Now, before you even think about it, catch yourself - this does NOT mean that Tracy's minutes should be upped. Keep him comfortable, keep him in rhythm game by game, and keep him healthy, either as trade bait, or, if he keeps playing well, for extended use during a playoff run. The last thing Rick Adelman needs to do is abandon the schedule that he laid out for Tracy. The fact that Jermaine Taylor played tonight (impressively, at that) indicates that Adelman doesn't plan on changing anything.
Shifting gears, Kyle Lowry had another great game, and has been really impressive of late. He may not be to the point of eclipsing Aaron Brooks for the starting point guard job, but he's certainly proved capable of running the show late in games when Brooks is having an off night. Normally, I'd say that Aaron needs to be more consistent, or something like that, but Lowry has been so good that there's really no point. At the end of a ballgame, I'll take whoever is more locked in. Isn't that a comfortable feeling?
Regarding the Clippers, Chris Kaman could be the worst possible match-up for Chuck Hayes. He's quick for his size, and keeps the ball high towards his chin, preventing Chuck from harrassing him with his hands during a post move. Sometimes, at least according to Barry Corbin, "you can't stop what's coming."
Al Thornton continues to slowly develop into fellow statistical nightmare Al Harrington, though Harrington is actually capable of making three-pointers. I really don't see what some people like in Thornton. He takes way too many bad jump shots, and until he makes a shot and his name is announced on the PA, you forget that he is even there.
Finally, Steve Novak appeared in what was probably the most glorious twenty-one seconds of basketball that I have ever witnessed. Defense be damned, at least when Novak's on the court.
So, when is our next game? Tomorrow at Orlando, you say? Oh boy, do we love those back-to-backs or what!?!?