Cavaliers 91 (19-14), Hornets 87 (10-24)
The Hornets jumped out to an early 25-16 lead after the first quarter thanks to a balanced scoring attack and solid defense. However, Kevin Love (27 points, 5 rebounds) and the LeBron-less Cavs picked up the pace in the third quarter when they outscored Charlotte 32-18. Kyrie Irving (23 points, 8-27 from the field) hoisted a lot of shots but made some key buckets in the second half that helped his team grab the win. With Anderson Varejao done for the season, Tristan Thompson (14 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks) played 42 big and efficient minutes, which he’ll need to do many times this season. For the Hornets, this was yet another game shooting below 50 percent from the field…this time below 40 percent (36.8 percent). With still no Lance Stephenson or Al Jefferson, Hornets guard Kemba Walker (10 points, 5 assists, 4-16 from the field) tried to carry the offensive load but ended up forcing many shots. Charlotta also had twice as many turnovers (14) as Cleveland (7).
Nets 100 (16-16), Magic 98 (13-23)
After Deron Williams (16 points, 7 assists) nailed a 3-pointer right before the end of the third quarter, the Nets led 86-60 and seemed to be well on their way to their third straight victory and back to .500. However, thanks to guards Elfrid Payton (16 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals) and Ben Gordon (14 points) scoring all but 11 of the team’s 37 fourth quarter points, the Magic almost made a dramatic comeback down the stretch. The Nets perimeter defense seemed to have disappeared. Evan Fournier (12 points, 4 assists), though, missed a potentially game-tying trey with 23.9 seconds remaining, and Joe Johnson (14 points) calmly hit a pair of free throws to close this one out. Mason Plumlee (18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) almost picked up another double-double, giving more reason to keep him in the starting lineup. The Nets somehow pulled out the win even though they had twice as many turnovers (22) as the Magic (11).
Mavericks 119 (24-10), Celtics 101 (11-19)
For the first time since he entered the NBA in 2006, the Boston Celtics saw Rajon Rondo (season-high 29 points, 5 assists, 6 rebounds, 12-19 from the field, 5-7 on 3-pointers) in blue rather than green. And the point guard reminded them of the player he once was, performing at the highest level when the lights are shining brightest. Rondo is just one of those athletes that needs a little motivation to play to the best of his ability. This can get frustrating during the middle of the season when he may seem to play uninterested at times. However, when he takes over a game like this when it means a lot to him or his team, he’s almost completely forgiven. After scoring a career-high 15 points in the first quarter, Rondo receiving plenty of help from his arsenal of options as Monta Ellis (22 points, 5 rebounds), Dirk Nowitzki (17 points) and Chandler Parsons (13 points, 7 rebounds) all helped expand this lead and get it to garbage time by the fourth quarter. Tyson Chandler (8 points, 16 rebounds) continued to gobbled up rebounds and helped the Mavericks outrebound Boston 52-38. Avery Bradley (22 points) and the Celtics frontline held their own but didn’t get much help from the bench. Defense has definitely been an issue for Boston before and after the Rondo trade.
Pistons 97 (9-23), Knicks 81 (5-30)
Just like that, the Pistons rid themselves of Josh Smith and have now won four games in a row. Even though he was statistically one of the team’s best scoring options, he simply did not mesh with this unit. Brandon Jennings (29 points, 4-8 on 3-pointers) and Andre Drummond (7 points, 20 rebounds) each played their roles, as they provide a nice balance in the starting unit—which includes a revitalized Greg Monroe (12 points, 10 rebounds). And with Jodie Meeks (15 points, 3-7 on 3-pointers) finally healthy, the Pistons have a strong spark plug in their second unit. There’s not much new to say about these reeling Knicks. They now have two 10-game losing streaks this seasons, and with coach Derek Fisher saying it might be time for Carmelo Anthony (knee) to call it quits this season, they might have another one before the season ends. J.R. Smith (22 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) shot his way to the 20-point plateau and Cole Aldrich (11 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) has found a bit of a groove of late, but there aren’t many other silver linings in this one. New York shot 35.2 percent from the field while the Pistons shot 50.0 percent. The Knicks are certainly reeling right now.
Pelicans 111 (17-16), Rockets 83 (22-10)
MVP-candidate Anthony Davis (7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) had one of his least impactful games of the season, statistically speaking. However, his presence can definitely be felt even when he isn’t putting up monster numbers, as he finished with a game-high +26 on the night. Ryan Anderson (22 points, 3-6 on 3-pointers) and Tyreke Evans (21 points, 10-15 from the field) poured it in before the benches were cleared in the final quarter. These two have been a huge part in getting the Pelicans back above .500 and closer to the eighth seed in the West. The Rockets, who fell out of the four spot in the West, could not find their offense Friday night. Out of the 12 players that stepped onto the court, Dwight Howard (12 points, 5 rebounds), Donatas Motiejunas (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Nick Johnson (6 points) were the only Rockets to shoot above 50 percent from the field. Josh Smith (8 points, 4-11 from the field) had as many points as he did fouls (4) and turnovers (4) collectively and missed the two 3-pointers he jacked up. To be fair, his teammates weren’t shooting the ball much better as James Harden (11 points, 5 turnovers), Trevor Ariza (2 points, 21 minutes) and Jason Terry (7 points) combined to shoot 2-13 (15.4 percent) from deep.
Thunder 109 (17-17), Wizards 102 (22-10)
The Thunder have had their ups and downs this season, dealing with Kevin Durant (34 points, 8 rebounds, 12-18 from the field) and Russell Westbrook (22 points, 6 assists) being in and out of lineups with injuries. Friday night, though, a healthy OKC team picked up a quality win against a healthy Washington team. Durant and Westbrook led the way with scoring and attacking of the rim, as they each shot 6-7 on free throws. Big men Serge Ibaka (13 points, 6 rebounds) and Nick Collison (10 points, 5 rebounds, 16 minutes) each reached double figures. John Wall (14 points, 12 assists) had yet another points-assists double-double while fellow backcourt mate Bradley Beal (21 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) reached the 20-point plateau. The Wizards’ struggles came in trying to find someone to guard Durant. Paul Pierce (12 points) has certainly lost a step while Nene (12 points, 1 rebound) and Kris Humphries (8 points, 7 rebounds) couldn’t keep up with the reigning MVP, and Durant took advantage with one of his best games of the year. With a game against the Golden State Warriors Monday night, OKC could earn another statement win while making it above .500 for the first time all season.
Pacers 94 (13-21), Bucks 91 (17-17)
C.J. Miles (22 points, 6-9 on 3-pointers) and Roy Hibbert (18 points, 7 rebounds) led the way for the Pacers in a back-and-forth game that featured neither team holding a double-digit lead at any point. Brandon Knight (20 points, 7 assists, 4 steals) reached the 20-point plateau for the 16th time this season as Zaza Pachulia (12 points, 14 rebounds) and John Henson (14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) each notched a double-double. This game had a very odd ending as a Lavoy Allen (6 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) jump shot with 6:11 remaining was honestly a key shot from this quarter. After Allen made this jumper, neither team would score for almost four straight minutes before Hibbert sank two free throws. Rodney Stuckey (11 points, 4 assists) and Solomon Hill (7 points, 5 rebounds) made their free throws down the stretch to grab the gritty win.
Suns 112 (19-16), 76ers 96 (4-27)
Nothing surprising in this one as the Suns bounced back from their overtime loss to the Thunder against the lowly Sixers. After Philadelphia held an early 10-5 lead, Phoenix went on a quick 23-13 run and held a five-point lead after the first 12 minutes. The Sixers, though, fought in the second quarter behind strong play from Tony Wroten (28 points, 4-9 on 3-pointers) and Henry Sims (16 points), who combined to have 27 points in the first half. Going into the second half, the 76ers actually led 59-57. Goran Dragic (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Eric Bledsoe (17 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) then started to pick up the pace while Markieff Morris (21 points, 2 steals) and Gerald Green (21 points) drilled some 3-pointers. The Suns ended up easily pulling away in the second half. Alex Len (0 points, 5 rebounds, 6 blocks) didn’t do much offensively but ended the game with six blocks.
Hawks 98 (24-8), Jazz 92 (11-22)
With a win over the Jazz thanks to another strong defensive performance from the entire team, the Atlanta Hawks now hold the best record in the Eastern Conference. Jeff Teague (26 points, 8 assists, 3 steals) ran the offense to perfection and Paul Millsap (15 points, 11 rebounds) picked up another double-double as no one specific player had that outstanding of a defensive game. But as a team, they locked down and held the Jazz to 37.2 percent shooting from the field. Gordon Hayward (18 points) led the Jazz in scoring but didn’t get much help from his teammates. Coach Mike Budenholzer really has something special going on right now and has his team buying into a system. They will face a tough test on the second night of a back-to-back against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday night.
Warriors 126 (22-10), Raptors 105 (24-9)
On the night Draymond Green (16 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) picked up his first career triple-double, I think it has become evident just how special Green is for these Warriors. He came to this team as a raw athlete out of Michigan State with plenty of flaws. He still has nothing close to a finely-crafted game, but he offers the Warriors a piece that most championship-aspiring teams need. He has the grit, fight and versatility that works perfectly alongside Stephen Curry (32 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds, 5-11 on 3-pointers) and Klay Thompson (20 points, 4-6 on 3-pointers). Curry had some phenomenal plays in this one, including a monstrous dunk over Lowry. The Warriors’ star point guard has clearly put his name in the discussion for MVP. And with Andrew Bogut still sidelined, Green has started playing more in the interior and banging with the opposing bigs. He’s a major reason the undersized Warriors won the rebound battle 45-37. The Raptors, who were led by guards Kyle Lowry (22 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds), Lou Williams (20 points) and Greivis Vasquez (25 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds), just couldn’t slow down this Golden State team that posted 40 points after the first 12 minutes. The turning point of this game came after halftime when Golden State sprinted out to a 23-5 run to start the third quarter and never looked back.
Grizzlies 109 (24-8), Lakers 106 (10-23)
The Grizzlies were on the verge of going to overtime for the fifth time in the past 11 games, thanks to a Lakers team that wouldn’t give up. Kobe Bryant (15 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) had a balanced game while Ed Davis (20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Jeremy Lin (20 points, 5 assists) led the team in scoring. Davis, though, missed a free throw with 2.8 seconds left that would have tied the game. The Grizzlies were led by (no surprise here) Mike Conley (19 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and Marc Gasol (18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks). With no Zach Randolph for the time being, these two have to come up big late in games. Beno Udrih (16 points, 6-8 from the field, 15 minutes) provided valuable minutes off the bench and made the most of his time on the court. With the win, Memphis still holds a one-game lead over Dallas in the Southwest Division.