Lion Face/Lemon Face: 11.23.09

I feel like if you were to take one of the characters from The Wizard of Oz and mix it up in an alternating fashion with Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, from 30 Rock then you’d probably get something like this:

Hit it, boys!

Lion Face: Surprisingly, Vince Carter
Vince Carter had to battle blustering barrages of boos from the Canuckian crowd in Toronto early, along with the fact that he couldn’t buy a basket in the first quarter. It was a hostile environment and one worthy of a riot shield for the newest Orlando Magic star. Vince attacked early and attacked often. In fact, he tried to really exploit the matchup of being guarded by a rookie (DeMar DeRozan). However, DeRozan stayed in front of him and made him just uncomfortable to miss his eight of his first 11 shots as the Raptors built a small lead in the early part of this game, unable to take advantage of Orlando’s sub-35% shooting.

So what does Vince do next? Well, if you guessed wilt like the pathetic, dying flower his career has always been then you were playing the percentages but ultimately incorrect. He scored 18 points in the second half, made jumpers from all over the floor and eventually led the Magic to a win. Vince was able to spray jumpers all over the second half and when he’s on like that, you start to get the feeling this Magic team could be more dangerous than last year’s NBA Finals team. Of course, it’s pretty rare that Vince decides to try harder in a game where things aren’t going his way. Good effort, VC.

Lemon Face: Celtic Pride
Happy about the win? You shouldn’t be. Happy about KG’s buzzer-beater? Don’t be. Feeling good about the fact that the Celtics won on the road when their offense and defense weren’t exactly clicking? I’d suggest you reconsider. In case the Boston Celtics haven’t noticed, the Knicks are the closest thing to the Washington Generals we’ll ever see at the pro ranks. Sure, they can score enough to look like they’re giving out good effort. And they can allow the opposing team to have their day while still pretending to show some effort. So I’m curious as to why the C’s needed overtime to put away one of the worst teams in the NBA.

When you watched this game, you could tell the Celtics just didn’t have it in them to care and try to beat the Knicks by 40+ points. They couldn’t be bothered to expend that kind of energy. So what did they do? They screwed around for 48 minutes before realizing in overtime that they needed some sense of urgency. It’s hard to root for and believe in this Celtics team with games like this. Acting like you’ve been there before is part of being a great championship team in the NBA. Next time, don’t screw around. Don’t let Al Harrington get away with being a lazy defender for Tommy Heinsohn to slay. Don’t let the Knicks get away with 3/17 shooting from their starting backcourt. Don’t let the Knicks get away with playing Eddy Curry at all. Damon Wayans is rolling over in his grave right now!

Lion Face: Amir Johnson
If Amir Johnson is going to keep playing like this, he’s going to turn Joe Dumars into an alcoholic. By the way Joey D, it’s time to sidle up to the bar and have one of everything. Amir Johnson is the big man off the bench that the Raps have been lacking for the better part of this decade. He hustles. He defends. He scores. He rebounds. Hell, he even makes a very nice fruit tart with wild berries and exotically grown kiwis. He had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench in 29 minutes of play but it felt like he played much better than what he gave. I chalk it up to his activeness on the boards and in the trenches. Here’s what I like about Amir: he’s not good enough to think he can realize all of the potential when he was drafted but he IS good enough to think it would completely embarrassing to trade him away in order to get your hands on cap space to blow on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

Lemon Face: Chris Duhon
Is it possible that Chris Duhon is shaving points on the basketball court? Now, I don’t think he actually is and I’m not trying to speculate at all. That’s not the point of that question. I’m just wondering if his play is so atrocious that it would be acceptable to entertain the proposition? He gave another stellar performance against the Celtics. He scored three points on 1/6 shooting to go with his six assists. D’Antoni decided to go with him late over Nate Robinson because Nate Robinson plays defense like Al Harrington is paying him to throw games. Duhon is now shooting about 24% from the field, which is slightly worse than a Chuck Hayes free throw and only a little better than Hasheem Thabeet’s chances of positively impacting a game for his team. Someone tell me why Toney Douglas was on the bench for most of this game? Isn’t he the best of both worlds?

Lion Face: Jonathan Clay Redick
Don’t look now but Adam Morrison J.J. Redick has become a deadly shooter in the NBA. Redick had 19 points off the bench for the Magic by hitting 6/10 shots and 4/7 threes. Not only this but he’s decided to not be Trajan Langdon 2.0 and instead might be the second coming of Steve Kerr, only bigger and capable of making more plays for him and his teammates. Going into their NBA careers, there were tons of questions about Redick and seemingly even more answers about the future success of Adam Morrison. Now? You could probably convince any casual fan that Adam Morrison retired due to being upset about the canceling of that old CW show, Girlfriends.

Lemon Face: James Harden
I know people like James Harden. Hell, I like him too. But 2/15 is still 2/15 and 0/10 from three is still a very inefficient shooting display.

Lion Face: Li’l Buckets, M’er F’ers!
Ticktock6 from Hornets Hype has dubbed Marcus Thornton as Li’l Buckets and the name fits perfectly. He finds a way to impregnate the defense and give it scoring babies, ruining their night’s sleep. Thornton ran out of steam in the fourth quarter by allowing his tired legs to take over his jumper but it doesn’t change the fact that he had 24 points off the bench. He galvanized an under-manned Hornets squad against a Heat team that no one can figure out but everybody loves watching because Dwyane Wade is still Dwyane Wade. But Team Thornton is forming and it’s forming quickly. The Hornets came up short in the game but it’s still fun to see scrappy little rookie guards like Thornton and Darren Collison figuring how to matter in this league… and matter they do.

Lion Face: Paul Pierce
He seemed to be the only guy on the Boston offense that was taking the Knicks seriously after it was obvious the Celtics wouldn’t be breaking much of a sweat out there. Pierce made his first five threes and ended up with 33 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. He also had the game-winning assist on the final play of overtime to get Kevin Garnett that wide-open jumper. Pierce still remains the heart and soul of this Boston team. Sure, KG provides the fire. Kendrick Perkins provides defense, toughness, and persevering without an upper lip. Ray Allen is the calm shooter from outside that can get hot at the drop of a three. And Rajon Rondo provides youth, exuberance, and flair to an otherwise, boring team.

But Paul Pierce brings the good just about every night. He’s clutch. He is great at veteranizing opposing defenders with the pump fake and body thrust to draw the foul as his man if falling back to the court. And his defense is very opportunistic. He knows when to turn it on for this team, especially when they don’t have the energy and determination to thwart a vastly inferior team.

Seth Carstens