Nets 109 (13-15), Celtics 107 (10-17)
He might not be the most notorious or heavily paid player on the Nets, but Jarrett Jack (27 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) carried his team to a victory Friday night. With Deron Williams (8 points, 4 assists) still easing his way back from injury and Joe Johnson (9 points, 4-13 from the field) having an off night from the field, Brooklyn needed every single one of Jack’s 27 points. None were bigger than his tie breaking jumper he hit with 28 seconds remaining in the game. Jeff Green (22 points, 5 assists) and Evan Turner (3 points, 6 assists) both went on to miss shots that would have knotted the game back up. Alan Anderson (15 points, 3-4 on 3-pointers, +17) had a very efficient game off the bench while the Celtics didn’t get much from their bench besides Kelly Olynyk (11 points). Jared Sullinger (19 points, 8 rebounds) and Tyler Zeller (14 points, 9 rebounds) both almost notched double-doubles, but they couldn’t protect the interior down the stretch.
Cavaliers 98 (18-11), Magic 89 (11-21)
Victor Oladipo (13 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) and his balanced Magic looked good early on, building a 32-27 lead after the first 12 minutes. The Cavaliers defense didn’t look good, allowing Orlando to hang in this one. After Oladipo hit a free throw to end the third quarter, the Magic led 75-71. Then, LeBron James (29 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals) honed in defensively, which spread to the rest of his teammates. The Cavs shot down Tobias Harris and the Magic in the final quarter, outscoring them 27-14. Dion Waiters (17 points, 3 steals) has held his own defensively the past two games. Kevin Love (22 points, 3-8 on 3-pointers) knocked down some treys while Tristan Thompson (9 points, 6 offensive rebounds) continued to show why he’s one of the most tenacious offensive rebounders in the League. If the Cavs are going to make some noise without Anderson Varejao, these two forwards will need to step into bigger roles.
Bucks 107 (15-15), Hawks 77 (21-8)
The Hawks couldn’t keep up their hot play for the rest of the season, as the Bucks brought their opponent back down to earth due to Jared Dudley (24 points, 10-10 from the field) shooting out of this world. The veteran didn’t miss a single shot he took from the field, defining what it means to “feel it” in an NBA game. He had plenty of help, though, as six Bucks players finished in double figures. Brandon Knight (16 points, 5 rebounds) had another respectable game, really coming into his own at the point. Milwaukee outscored Atlanta in every quarter, pouring it on as the game moved along. Paul Millsap (22 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals) finished with a double-double while Jeff Teague (12 points, 3 steals) and Al Horford (13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) reached double-figures. However, other than this, no other Hawk really showed up to play. The offense was stagnant and the energy was nowhere to be found. The Hawks only managed to shoot 40.8 percent from the field while the Bucks shot 50.6 percent.
Pistons 119 (6-23), Pacers 109 (10-20)
In the Pistons’ first game without Josh Smith, it seemed like they didn’t even know what was missing. In fact, for the first time all season—in 29 games—Detroit shot above 50 percent (54.7 percent). It might have just been the struggling Pacers, but the Pistons had a rhythm to their offense. Brandon Jennings (14 points, 10 assists, 2 steals) seemed to be in control of the offense, Greg Monroe (19 points, 15 rebounds, 3 steals) looked comfortable back in the starting lineup as the primary power forward and Andre Drummond (20 points, 6 rebounds, 9-12 from the field) controlled the interior. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (15 points, 2-5 on 3-pointers) shot the ball well in a team-high 34 minutes. Seven total Pistons reached double figures while Kyle Singler (9 points, 2-5 on 3-pointers) was one point away. Roy Hibbert (19 points, 5 rebounds) and the Pacers didn’t put up much of a fight, allowing Detroit to come out of the locker room hot. The Pistons scored 32 points in the first quarter and 36 points in the third.
Rockets 117 (21-7), Grizzlies 111 (21-8) OT
Josh Smith (21 points, 8 rebounds) had an instant impact in his debut for the Rockets, playing a key role in sending Memphis to a season-worst fourth straight loss. He seemed to fit seamlessly coming off the bench and might not be there long if he keeps up this type of production. He seemed to have a bounce in his step he rarely showed in Detroit. The Grizzlies guards really got their team off to a good start and gave their team a 57-50 lead at halftime. With Beno Udrih (17 points), Quincy Pondexter (14 points) and Mike Conley (11 points, 7 assists) leading the way, Memphis had 15 fastbreak points in the first half. However, as the Rockets started to control the pace in the second half, the Grizzlies didn’t remain as aggressive. They only had three fastbreak points in the second half and overtime. Marc Gasol (29 points, 8 rebounds) did everything he could to keep his team in the game. James Harden (32 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Dwight Howard (6 points, 11 rebounds) led the way in overtime while Trevor Ariza (15 points, 10 rebounds, 4-10 on 3-pointers) knocked down a huge 3-pointer on Harden’s 10th assist in the extra five minutes of basketball. The Rockets have now leaped the Grizzlies for the No. 3 seed in the West while the Mavs only trail Memphis by one game.
Pelicans 97 (15-14), Spurs 90 (18-13)
Anthony Davis (22 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals) wasn’t afraid of any of the San Antonio veterans. He had a couple of huge blocks against both Tim Duncan (20 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Manu Ginobili (12 points, 5 assists), epitomizing what it means to control the interior. If Davis can find a way to push his Pelicans into the eighth seed in the West, he has a legitimate case to compete with Stephen Curry, Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and James Harden for the MVP (as of now). After Boris Diaw (10 points, 6 rebounds) hit back-to-back turnaround jump shots at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Spurs only trailed 74-70. Cory Joseph (20 points, 5 assists, 8-9 from the field) had done a serviceable job in replacement of Tony Parker (hamstring). However, Austin Rivers (12 points, 5 assists) and Ryan Anderson (22 points, 7 rebounds) both had their inside-out game going, hitting shots from behind the 3-point line and getting into the paint. The Pelicans didn’t have much trouble finishing off the defending champs. The Spurs actually shot 49.3 percent from the field while New Orleans only shot 41.7 percent, but the Pelicans almost shot twice as many free throws and had more than half of San Antonio’s turnovers. At 18-13, the Spurs are off to their worst start through 31 games in the Tim Duncan era.
Thunder 98 (15-16), Hornets 75 (10-20)
Cody Zeller (9 points, 7 rebounds) scored the first basket of the game, giving the Hornets a 2-0 lead 33 seconds in. From this point forward, it was all Russell Westbrook (29 points, 5 assists) and the surging Thunder. OKC went on a quick 13-2 run after the bucket and went on to lead 33-24 at the end of the first quarter. Serge Ibaka (13 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks) had eight quick points in these first 12 minutes. In the first two minutes of the second quarter, the Thunder then went on a 8-0 blitz, built a 17-point lead and never looked back the rest of the way. When the Hornets digs themselves in a hole, it’s very difficult for them to fight their way back. Brian Roberts (17 points, 18 minutes) had a good night in insignificant minutes. Charlotte shot an atrocious 28.7 percent from the field and hit just 5-24 (20.8 percent) from deep. The Thunder did play good defense…but this was mostly rigid, discombobulated offense.
Mavericks 102 (21-10), Lakers 98 (9-21)
Dirk Nowitzki (14 points, 8 rebounds) played through some stomach sickness and added to his illustrious resume in the process. By nailing a jumper to start the third quarter, Nowitzki moved past Elvin Hayes for eight place on the all-time NBA scoring list. A major reason Nowitzki found the spacing to hit some of his shots on the night was because of Rajon Rondo (21 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists). The recently traded point guard had his best game since becoming a Maverick, looking like the All-Star point guard who is always threatening to notch a triple-double. To add onto this, Carlisle has to be happy with the fact that fellow backcourt starter Monta Ellis (15 points, 7 assists, 3 steals) also had seven assists. If these two can work together as playmakers, Dallas is going to be very dangerous once it all comes together. There most unlikely story of the night, though, has to go to Mr. Charlie Villanueva (13 points, 4 blocks). The big fellas has filled many of the minutes Brandan Wright left behind and shown a great amount of energy his teammates feed off of. Right when the Lakers were starting to creep back into this game due to some Nick Young (15 points, 5-8 on 3-pointers) heat checks, Charlie-V responded by scoring 10 points in exactly two minutes, giving Dallas enough cushioning to close this one out. Carlos Boozer (18 points, 8 rebounds) had the hot hand for the Lakers but didn’t get the ball enough. That will happen when you don’t have a true point guard who knows when he needs to feed a certain teammate. Tyson Chandler (15 points, 12 rebounds) picked up his 14th double-double of the season even though the Lakers destroyed the Mavericks on the boards, outrebounding them 63-40. Los Angeles grabbed 24 offensive rebounds…but when you shoot 36.4 percent from the field, many of those second opportunities don’t even matter.
Nuggets 106 (13-17), Timberwolves 102 (5-23)
Kenneth Faried (26 points, 25 rebounds) is one of the few players in the League that can command a game without even having any plays run for him. The Manimal was a beast Friday night, seemingly right where the ball was on every rebound or loose ball. This is the type of player that helped Team USA excel this past summer. Faried is the only Denver Nugget in franchise history to have a 25-25 game. Ty Lawson (16 points, 11 assists) fed his power forward on some of his baskets while Wilson Chandler (21 points, 2 blocks) had his isolation game going on the night. Yet, the Timberwolves kept this one close due to Andrew Wiggins (22 points) and Thaddeus Young (23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) being at the top of their game. Gorgui Dieng (14 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks) also notched a double-double. The Nuggets, though, made enough free throws down the stretch to inch a little closer to .500.
Blazers 114 (24-7), 76ers 93 (4-24)
Philly point guards Tony Wroten (22 points) and Michael Carter-Williams (17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) were able to keep this game respectable right up until the end of the first half. However, due to a Damian Lillard (28 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds) free throw and Dorell Wright (8 points, 2-4 on 3-pointers) 3-pointer, the deficit became 10 points and it only got worse after halftime. While Lillard led the way and Wes Matthews (25 points, 7-14 on 3-pointers) continued to knock down threes as he has down all season, the surprise of the night came from Joel Freeland (6 points, career-high 17 rebounds). The big man looked like Thomas Robinson (7 points, 2 blocks) from a few weeks ago, going after every rebound and winning 50-50 battles. He was the main reason the Blazers outrebounded the Sixers 48-42. The Blazers also hoisted more than three times as many 3-pointers as the Sixers, shooting 18-43 (41.9 percent) from deep.
Suns 115 (17-14), Kings 106 (12-17)
In his first game since leaving Sacramento, Isaiah Thomas (17 points, 5 assists) got a nice ovation from his former home crowd and went on to have a big fourth quarter. The lightning-quick point guard went off for nine points in the final quarter as his Suns shut down the Kings defensively. Phoenix won the fourth quarter 21-16. The Morris twins (37 points, 11 rebounds, 7-8 on 3-pointers) had a fantastic game, making up for their lack of size with their ability to stretch the floor and remain active. Goran Dragic (16 points, 6 assists) and Eric Bledsoe (18 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) provided stability in the backcourt. For the Kings, Darren Collison (19 points, 4-7 on 3-pointers) had a decent game while Reggie Evans (11 points, 16 rebounds) gobbled up the rebounds. However, it can’t be stated enough just how much this team desperately needs DeMarcus Cousins (viral meningitis). This team had so much promise early on…and now seems to be slipping farther and farther away from a possible playoff berth.