Hornets 110 (15-24), Knicks 82 (5-35)
Kemba Walker (28 points, 7 rebounds, +36) and the Hornets kept rolling to their fifth straight win while the dreadful Knicks dropped their 15th consecutive game. Walker poured in 28 points in only 28 minutes before the game became a bloodbath, as Charlotte led by 45 points at one point in the second half. The electric point guard has easily been playing the best basketball of his career the past five games. During that span, he is averaging 30.2 ppg, 4.8 apg and 4.8 rpg, leading his team to a victory in every contest. Bismack Biyombo (14 points, 12 rebounds) had one of his best games of the year, easily handling the Knicks big men. Quincy Acy (18 points, 2 steals), though, held his own during 21 minutes of playing time. He just didn’t have enough teammates willing to make the extra pass or go for the 50-50 ball. This New York team simply lacks any sort of energy or passion right now. The Hornets, on the other hand, are creeping up the Eastern Conference ladder and right back in the playoff hunt.
Clippers 120 (25-12), Mavericks 100 (26-12)
The Clippers steadily wore down the Mavericks, outscoring them in every quarter and really extending the lead in the third quarter. Los Angeles attacked Dallas with a strong game from its starting lineup and sixth man Jamal Crawford (19 points, 3-6 on 3-pointers). When Chris Paul (17 points, 13 assists, 0 turnovers) is distributing the ball, Blake Griffin (22 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 11-15 from the field) is hitting his midrange jumper, DeAndre Jordan (13 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks) is gobbling up the boards and Crawford has his long ball going for him, the Clippers are almost unbeatable. Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 6 rebounds) and Monta Ellis (23 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) looked good in the loss, but the other three starters struggled to fill their roles. Head coach Rick Carlisle was ejected midway through the third quarter for arguing. Rajon Rondo (2 points, 8 assists) had another dreadful shooting performance, which has become the norm since his breakout game against the Celtics. In the past four games, the Mavs point guard is shooting 7-37 (18.9 percent) from the field. Dallas doesn’t need Rondo to be a prolific scorer, but they do need him to knock down an occasional jumper and make more than 1-3 baskets a night. The Clippers have now won six of their past eight games.
Pistons 98 (13-24), Nets 93 (16-21)
The Pistons got back to their winning ways thanks to a huge second half from Brandon Jennings (20 points, 11 assists). The Pistons point guard scored all of his 20 points in the game’s final 24 minutes, during which his team broke a halftime tie. Both these teams were playing their fourth game in five nights, and by the end of the game, it was visibly evident they were out of gas. The Pistons just had a little bit more to give, including an 8-0 run in the final three minutes. The Nets, who have now lost five straight games, had six players in double figures but no one who really exerted themselves down the stretch. Joe Johnson (17 points, 4 assists) led the team in scoring. Jennings received a big double-double from Greg Monroe (16 points, 17 rebounds), who is starting to blossom since being inserted back into the starting lineup. These Pistons (just like the Hornets) are quickly climbing the East ladder.
76ers 93 (7-29), Pacers 92 (15-24)
For the second straight game on back-to-back nights, Michael Carter-Williams (15 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds) made a game-winning play with moments remaining on the game clock. Friday night, MCW gave a dump-off pass to Nerlens Noel (6 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks) for a two-point win against the Nets. Saturday night, the Sixers point guard knocked down a tough running layup with 9.9 seconds left to lift his team to their second straight win. Backup point guard Tony Wroten (20 points, 9 assists), who is turning into a dependable scoring punch off the bench, contributed in a major way while Noel added great interior energy in blocking five shots on the night. The Pacers simply couldn’t make any shots on the night. If you take away David West’s (28 points, 9 rebounds, 10-18 from the field) strong performance, Indiana shot 19-69 (27.5 percent) for 64 points. It doesn’t matter the opponent, it will be tough to win an NBA game with those type of numbers. For the first time this season, the Sixers have won three games in a four-game stretch. Specifically in these past two games, they have executed down the stretch in close games. It may be a lost season for Philly, but there has certainly been some solid development this week.
Raptors 109 (25-11), Celtics 96 (12-23)
The Raptors woke up after the first quarter and easily ended their four-game losing streak in taking down the Celtics. Kyle Lowry (19 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) scored 10 of his 19 points in the final quarter while James Johnson (15 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) notched a double-double. Both of these players provided solid perimeter defense and were key factors in Toronto’s strong defense on the night. After Marcus Smart (12 points) dunked home a missed shot with 8:57 left in the fourth quarter, the Celtics only trailed 85-77 and forced Dwane Casey to call a timeout. Kelly Olynyk (23 points, 5 rebounds) played a large part in bringing Boston back. However, the Raptors then came out of the timeout playing stingy defense and went on a 15-3 run to put this one away. Lou Williams (19 points, 2 steals) added 19 points off the bench, provided the offensive spark Toronto needed. The Raptors will host the red-hot Pistons Monday night.
Bulls 95 (26-12), Bucks 87 (20-19)
No doubt about it, the story of this game was Pau Gasol (46 points, 18 rebounds) and his commanding double-double. He became the first player to reach 46 points and 18 rebounds for Chicago since Michael Jordan posted 69 points and 18 rebounds in 1990. Gasol brought out all the crafty tools in his arsenal and knocked down his freebies to carry a Bulls team that was without Mike Dunleavy or Derrick Rose. Furthermore, leading scorer Jimmy Butler (9 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) didn’t even manage to get into double digits. Point being said, all of Gasol’s 46 points were necessary in this one. He might not have had 46 points, but Milwaukee guard Brandon Knight (20 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) added another 20-point performance to his resume this season. His undersized big men just couldn’t contain Chicago’s seven-footer. The Bulls needed this one after back-to-back ugly losses in which they looked lost on both ends of the floor.
Rockets 97 (26-11), Jazz 82 (13-25)
After a rough stretch with pieces being sent away and brought in, the Rockets have seemed to find a bit of a groove with the new players settling into their roles. What hasn’t changed is James Harden’s (30 points, 5 assists) ability to lead the Rockets to victory and he did that with another 30-point performance. The higher the Rockets climb up the Western Conference rankings, the higher Harden will rise in MVP rankings. Newcomers Josh Smith (10 points) and Corey Brewer (9 points, 2 steals) didn’t have eye-popping performances but gave Houston what they needed off the bench. Even though J-Smoove wanted to go somewhere he could start, he seems to fit much better in a sixth man role—especially with how well Donatas Motiejunas (14 points, 10 rebounds, +29) has played this season. Utah’s offensive struggles continued as Enes Kanter (16 points, 6 rebounds), Trey Burke (16 points, 5 rebounds) and Derrick Favors (15 points, 7 rebounds) led the team in scoring. However, when Gordon Hayward (9 points, 5 assists) goes 2-10 from the field, the Jazz are going to struggling beating anyone in the NBA. Rudy Gobert (4 points, 3 blocks) remains a nice surprise and silver lining for the young Jazz, as the long-armed frenchman is averaging 4.7 blocks his past six games. Keep an eye on the big man as the season moves along.
Spurs 108 (23-15), Timberwolves 93 (5-31)
The Wolves never had a chance against the machine known as the Spurs, especially when Austin Daye (22 points, 10 rebounds) unexpectedly goes off for a season-high 22 points. Prior to this game, Daye had only played 6 minutes and 43 seconds in the previous nine games. He played 20 minutes in his big game Saturday, really helping to provide a spark to San Antonio’s starting lineup. Andrew Wiggins (18 points) and the Wolves led 14-12 midway through the first quarter before Tony Parker (12 points, 5 assists) led an 11-0 run that gave the Spurs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way. Gorgui Dieng (18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks) managed to notch a double-double, but Minnesota only managed to shoot 39.5 percent from the field and 3-15 (20 percent) on 3-pointers. The Timberwolves have now lost 15 games in a row.
Blazers 103 (29-8), Magic 92 (13-27)
Orlando’s losing ways continued as the Blazers inched one game away from their 30th victory of the season. Portland came out of the gate sprinting, building a 26-13 lead by the end of the first quarter. Big men LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 6 rebounds) and Meyers Leonard (11 points, 6 rebounds) had 15 of the team’s 26 points in the first 12 minutes. Wes Matthews (18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals) continued to be one of the most prolific 3-point threats in the NBA, knocking down four treys. He is becoming a vital and dependable part of this team’s offense. The Magic, who have now lost six straight games, received a monster performance from big man Nikola Vucevic (34 points, 8 defensive rebounds, 8 offensive rebounds). When a shot is missed on either side of the floor, Vucevic seems to find his way to the ball. Unfortunately for the Orlando center, with no Tobias Harris Saturday night, Victor Oladipo (18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) was the only other source of offense. With Channing Frye (3 points, 1-8 on 3-pointers) not being able to find his outside touch, the Magic only shot 3-21 (14.3 percent) from deep.