Pacers 107 (15-23), Celtics 103 (12-22) OT
Roy Hibbert (19 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks) showed great motivation and fight Friday night that—at times—makes him one of the most dangerous big men in the League. He poured in 13 of his 19 in the first two quarters, helping the Pacers build a 46-37 lead going into halftime. Coming out of halftime, C.J. Miles (17 points, 4-8 on 3-pointers) and David West (11 points, 6 rebounds) both made clutch shots and free throws late in the fourth quarter and overtime to help the Pacers stave off the pesky Celtics. Even though both these teams have had their struggles for their own respective reasons, they have shown great effort throughout the season. The Celtics, who were already short handed, were playing without Jeff Green due to trade rumors. Avery Bradley (23 points, 2 steals) stepped up and made many big shots, including a game-tying 3-pointer to send this one into overtime. Bradley left the University of Texas without much of a jump shot and has developed one since joining Boston. The Celtics just couldn’t keep up with the Pacers ability to get to the free throw line, as Indiana shot 30-34 (88.2 percent) from the line and Boston shot 11-16 (68.8 percent).
76ers 90 (6-29), Nets 88 (16-20)
The Nets entered into this game losers of their last three games and things got even worse as they allowed Philadelphia to earn its sixth victory of the entire season. Robert Covington (20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, 8-12 from the field) had one of his most efficient games of the season, netting a clutch 3-pointer late in the game to keep the score within reach. The Sixers were full of dramatic shots Friday night as Tony Wroten (12 points, 3 steals) followed up Covington’s trey with three points the old-fashioned way to give Philly a two-point lead. After Brook Lopez made a jumper with 25 seconds left in the game, the game was tied 88-88. The play of the game then took place as Nerlens Noel (12 points, 2 blocks) took the dish from Michael Carter-Williams (8 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and hammered home the game-winning basket. The Nets missed too many 3-pointers (3-16) and didn’t get much consistency aside from Mason Plumlee (15 points, career-high 15 rebounds) and Jarrett Jack (14 points, 10 assists). With all the struggles the Sixers have had this season, Coach Brown has to be pleased with his team’s execution down the stretch in this one.
Hawks 106 (28-8), Pistons 103 (12-24)
It was fun while it lasted, but the Pistons’ post-Josh Smith seven-game winning streak has come to a close in a respectable manner. In the process, the Hawks now have their own seven-game winning streak thanks a balanced scoring attack and solid team defense down the stretch. Atlanta had six players in double figures, led by Al Horford (19 points, 16 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (14 points, 11 assists), who each had big double-doubles. These two have been the catalyst behind the Hawks’ current win streak while Paul Millsap (17 points, 7 rebounds) has done a little bit of everything with his never-ending motor. Friday night, the Hawks led 61-38 with 2:42 left in the first half and clearly looked like the better team with more energy. However, the Pistons came roaring back, especially in the fourth quarter. After Kyle Korver (11 points, 3-3 on 3-pointers) made a 3-pointer with 2:11 to go, Atlanta led by ten. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20 points, 4-16 on 3-pointers) knocked down two 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to quickly make this a contest. (KCP does need to learn how to pass up a bad 3-point attempt.) However, the Hawks forced the Pistons into jacking up a couple bad 3-point attempts to close this one out and stay atop the Eastern Conference. They are now 20 games over .500 for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Pelicans 106 (18-18), Grizzlies 95 (25-11)
Zach Randolph’s (11 points, 11 rebounds) return was spoiled due to big games from the Pelicans’ top four player. Anthony Davis (20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks), Tyreke Evans (20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists), Jrue Holiday (23 points, 8 assists, 2 steals) and Ryan Anderson (20 points, 6 rebounds, 4-8 on 3-pointers) all reached the 20-point plateau. When these four players are at the top of their games and Eric Gordon (13 points, 3-4 on 3-pointers) can chip in a handful of 3-pointers, the Pelicans suddenly have one of the best offenses in the League. The question is if they can all consistently bring it every night and if they can supported by their subpar teammates. Mike Conley (19 points, 7 assists), Marc Gasol (19 points) and the Grizzlies were honestly never really in this game and never held a lead at any point. New Orleans jumped out to a 31-19 lead after 12 minutes and Memphis couldn’t muster enough offense the rest of the way. The Grizzlies got no closer than eight points in the final quarter as the Pelicans’ Big 4 scored 23 of the team’s 24 points in the quarter.
Thunder 99 (18-19), Jazz 94 (13-24)
It may have been a sloppy win, but Kevin Durant (32 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) helped lead a fourth-quarter push to inch the Thunder a little closer to .500. However, the deciding shot of the night came off a Durant assist and a Dion Waiters (15 points, 4 steals) triple. The new OKC sixth man netted a 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining to give the Thunder a 97-93 lead. If Waiters can figure out his defined role on this team and let the game come to him, he could certainly mesh next to Durant and Russell Westbrook (25 points, 12 assists, 3 steals). The question still remains how Reggie Jackson (5 points, 15 minutes) fits into this new system. Utah’s most promising prospects in Gordon Hayward (27 points, 3 steals), Derrick Favors (22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Trey Burke (20 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) all reached 20 points, but they didn’t get much help from their teammates…well, other than Trevor Booker (8 points, 9 rebounds) hitting a shot for the ages. (It’s also going to be tough the beat the Thunder when you cough it up 20 times…which led to 25 fast break points for OKC.) The Thunder now have a long five-day break before taking on the Rockets next Thursday.
Wizards 102 (25-11), Bulls 86 (25-12)
John Wall (16 points, 12 assists, 2 steals) and the Wizards came out firing away and never took their foot off the gas. They led by 20 points before the first quarter was even over and led by double-digits for almost the entire second half. Marcin Gortat (21 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Nene (15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals) efficiently controlled the interior while the Bulls frontcourt offense was simply dreadful. With 21 double-doubles, Wall is now tied for the most in the NBA. The star point guard also beat Derrick Rose (19 points) head-to-head for the first time in six meetings. Jimmy Butler (10 points, 3 steals), Joakim Noah (3 points, 10 rebounds) and Taj Gibson (2 points, 2 blocks) combined to shoot 4-22 (18.2 percent) from the field. Pau Gasol (12 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks, 5-12 from the field) was the exception to the rule Friday. It may only be a two-game stretch, but the Bulls have had consecutive no-shows offensively against the Jazz and Wizards. They take on the Bucks Saturday night.
Bucks 98 (20-18), Timberwolves 84 (5-30)
The Wolves losing streak has now hit 14 as the Bucks keep on moving above .500 and looking like a legitimate playoff team. They were able to cruise to this easy victory because of a huge second quarter in which they outscored the Wolves 34-16. No Milwaukee player scored more than 14 points Friday night, but all 11 players that stepped on the court scored at least four points and seven had at least eight points. Brandon Knight (14 points, 4 assists) led the way in scoring and had the best plus-minus (+23) on the night. He probably won’t make it, but Knight should at least be considered as an All-Star with the season he is having. (Sidenote: there are a surprisingly high number of quality guards in the East that could/should make the All-Star game.) Newcomer Kenyon Martin (6 points, 8 minutes) looked fresh in his short time on the court. For the Timberwolves, it is about finding silver linings, and there is one shining through in Andrew Wiggins (20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals). The rising rookie has scored at least 20 points in six straight games and and seven of nine. The Bucks shot 52.0 percent from the field while the Wolves only shot 40.5 percent.
Spurs 100 (22-15), Suns 95 (22-17)
The Spurs stopped the Suns in their hot tracks thanks to strong play from Tim Duncan (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and the Big 3 early on followed by a strong finish by Patty Mills (15 points, 3-5 on 3-pointers) and Danny Green (20 points, 2 steals, 2 blocks). After Gerald Green (16 points) finished off an alley-oop with 2:08 to go in the third, the Suns led 69-57. Phoenix was playing loose and looked to be on their way to their fifth straight win. However, even with Popovich resting his Big 3 for almost the entire fourth quarter, San Antonio began executing and whipping the ball around. They poured in a season-high 41 points in the fourth quarter while the Suns only managed 26. Mills splashed two treys in the final two minutes and Cory Joseph (11 points, 5 assists) scored nine of his 11 points in the last five minutes. Eric Bledsoe (19 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds), Goran Dragic (17 points, 4 assists) and Isaiah Thomas (11 points, 4 assists) scored their team’s final 15 points, but they couldn’t slow down San Antonio’s guards. The Spurs had a 28-23 advantage in assists.
Nuggets 118 (17-20), Kings 108 (15-21)
Arron Afflalo (22 points) and Ty Lawson (22 points, 8 assists) led the way in bringing the up-and-down Nuggets their fourth straight victory. These two guards and rookie starter Jusuf Nurkic (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) took over in the third quarter when Denver outscored Sacramento 36-15 and put this game away. Nurkic had an interesting game, as he fouled out after only 22 minutes of play—but it was an efficient and fun 22 minutes. DeMarcus Cousins (32 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals, 7 turnovers) had a roller coaster of a game, doing a lot of good and a lot of bad. This team just hasn’t found the groove it had before Boogie left with his illness earlier in the season. J.J. Hickson (16 points, 8-11 from the field) continued to play well in the wake of the Timofey Mozgov trade. The Nuggets shot 55.3 percent from the field and had a 27-19 advantage in assists.
Warriors 112 (29-5), Cavaliers 94 (19-18)
Kyrie Irving (23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) and the Cavs hung around as long as they could before the Splash Brothers and company locked down on the defensive end of the court to pick up their sixth win in a row. Klay Thompson (24 points) might have taken an inadvertent elbow from J.R. Smith (27 points, 5 rebounds) that caused the Golden State guard to get seven stitches, but he still posted solid numbers in the win. Thompson had plenty of help as Stephen Curry (23 points, 10 assists, 2 steals) notched another double-double and Draymond Green (10 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocks) almost earned his second triple-double this week. The balance inside and out both offensively and defensively makes this Warriors team legitimately a top team in the NBA. Newcomers Smith and Timofey Mozgov (9 points, 8 rebounds) did have promising games. Once LeBron James and Iman Shumpert return from their injuries and Smith becomes a spark plug off the bench, the Cavs have a good chance to make this experiment work. But right now, they have lost four straight games and fallen behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the East standings.
Lakers 101 (12-25), Magic 84 (13-26)
The Lakers showcased one of the most dominating interior performances of the season in sending the Magic to their fifth straight loss. Six Lakers scored in double-digits led by Jeremy Lin (18 points, 6 assists, 4 steals) and newcomer Tarik Black (career-high 14 points, 9 rebounds, 4-4 from the field), but the Magic had five players in double-digits with Victor Oladipo (17 points, 2 steals) and Tobias Harris (15 points, 4 rebounds) leading the way. Most statistics for these two teams were actually fairly similar…except for rebounding. The Kobe-less Lakers outrebounded the Magic 60-36 in embarrassing fashion and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds while they were at it. Five Lakers had at least eight rebounds while Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 11 rebounds) was the only Magic player to reach this amount. The Lakers made a late push to make this a blowout, as they went on a 12-2 run midway through the fourth quarter. Carlos Boozer (12 points, 14 rebounds) made three straight buckets during this run.