by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
76ers 123 (16-57), Pistons 98 (26-47)
They found a way—the Sixers avoided owning the longest losing streak in NBA history by winning for the first time since January 29. And they did so with Michael Carter-Williams (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) pushing the ball all night and Thaddeus Young (21 points, 6 rebounds) fighting for every ball. The Sixers seemed to play with a sense of urgency Saturday night while the Pistons simply looked…pitiful. This is a team that added Josh Smith (4 points, 6 rebounds, 0-3 on 3-pointers) and Brandon Jennings during the offseason and was supposed to be a potential playoff contender. Now they are a team that doesn’t know what to do with their three big men—Smith, Andre Drummond (8 points, 6 rebounds) and Greg Monroe (20 points, 10 rebounds). Even though it is already late March, these three have little to no chemistry and lack any sort of defensive continuity. Philly didn’t have much trouble tearing up the Pistons defense, leading by double-digits by the end of the 1st quarter as Jennings got ejected after picking up two technical fouls for arguing. The Sixers eventually led 98-66 toward the end of the 3rd quarter, and out of their 13 made field goals in this quarter, seven of them came right at the rim in the form of a layup or dunk. Philadelphia cruised to a win the rest of the way. Henry Sims (16 points, 7 rebounds), Elliot Williams (13 points) and Hollis Thompson (14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) all had efficient offensive games. Philadelphia ended the night shooting 52.2 percent from the field while Detroit only managed to shoot 38.8 percent. After losing 26 games in a row, the 76ers made winning look simple. This season has been more than disappointing for the Sixers, but they do have some potential in Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel (potentially) moving forward.
Clippers 118 (52-22), Rockets 107 (49-23)
The Rockets didn’t have their defensive anchor in Dwight Howard (ankle) and scrappy perimeter defender in Patrick Beverley (knee). It showed as Chris Paul (30 points, 12 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover) and the Clippers got almost anything they wanted offensively and took good care of the ball. This was especially the case during the 2nd quarter in which the Clippers poured on 38 points and overcame a double-digit deficit to take the lead into halftime. DeAndre Jordan (20 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks) had eight of his 20 points in the 3rd quarter as the Clippers sustained their lead. Every time James Harden (32 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 turnovers) started inching his team back into the game, the Clippers offense had a response. Behind an 8-1 run to start the final quarter, Los Angeles led 96-85 and held a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Sixth man Jamal Crawford (22 points, 25 minutes) scored all of the eight points during this run. He played efficiently during his 25 minutes on the floor, showing exactly what it means to be a scoring punch. Rockets rookie Isaiah Canaan (14 points, 6-8 on free throws) took advantage of his extra playing time because of Beverley’s injury and was one of four Rockets (Parsons, Harden, Lin, Canaan) consistently getting to the line. Omer Asik (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Matt Barnes (15 points, 10 rebounds) each had a double-double. The Clippers had some trouble, though, with their power forwards. Blake Griffin left in the first quarter due to back spasms, and backup forward Glen Davis missed the second half after throwing a fit in the second quarter. In sweeping the season series against Houston, the Clippers have now clinched a franchise-record third straight playoff berth.
Wizards 101 (38-35), Hawks 97 (31-41)
The Wizards followed up a big 13-point win over the Pacers with a close win over the reeling Hawks. Newcomer Drew Gooden (16 points, 8 rebounds, 5-5 from the field) played big in the final quarter, making two free throws with 7.8 seconds left in the game to give the Wizards a two-possession lead. With how quickly Gooden has been inserted into the rotation as an integral role player, he might just be the best midseason pickup of the season. John Wall (25 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) had another great game, looking to be much more in control of his game and his team’s offense. He scored 13 of his 25 points in last 7:16 of the 3rd quarter Jeff Teague (19 points) did everything he could to keep his team in the game, scoring seven of the Hawks’ final 12 points. But Atlanta has turned into a team that must make the long ball to win games. Saturday night, the Hawks only made 9-31 (29 percent) 3-point attempts. In the 4th quarter, during which they were trying to come back from a close deficit, they shot 1-6 from deep. The Hawks have now lost six straight games and 20 of the last 26. Centers Marcin Gortat (12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Pero Antic (13 points, 12 rebounds) each had a double-double. If the Knicks lose to the Warriors Sunday night, Washington will earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2008.
Mavericks 103 (44-30), Kings 100 (25-48)
With six players scoring in double-figures, the Mavs staved off a Kings’ comeback that could have been a major blow to their playoff hopes. With Dirk Nowitzki (19 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) leading the way, Dallas built up a 50-33 lead with a few minutes left in the 1st half. Without Isaiah Thomas (quad), the Kings offense had no flow early on. Then, Rudy Gay (30 points, 7 rebounds, 7 turnovers) came alive and scored 19 of his 30 points in the 2nd half. After Brandan Wright (6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 19 minutes) knocked down two free throws with 8:53 remaining in the game, the Mavs led 79-77. The Kings responded with an 8-1 run as they showcased some solid defense. If DeMarcus Cousins (17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) puts his mind to it, he can have an impact on both the offensive and defensive end of the court. After the Kings extended their lead 89-84, Mavs veterans Shawn Marion (14 points, 5 rebounds) and Nowitzki helped the Mavs go on a 10-0 run and take a 94-89 lead. When engaged, Samuel Dalembert (15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) looks like the center the Mavs expected him to be when signing him this summer. Reggie Evans (6 points, season-high 18 rebounds) helped the Kings dominate the boards 47-35. Dallas, though, made a concerted effort to get into the paint (28-35 on free throws). This game ended up being much closer than it should have been, but the Mavs grabbed the victory and handed the Kings their 20th straight regular-season loss in Dallas. For some reason, this veteran squad enjoys giving up leads and the Big German realizes it. After the game, Dirk said, “I mean, we lose leads. That’s what we do.” If the Mavs find a way into the playoffs, find a way to build up a lead in a game and allow a good team back into that respective game, they will be in for a very short postseason.
Heat 88 (50-22), Bucks 67 (14-59)
Even though the Heat were playing without Dwyane Wade (quad) and Mario Chalmers (hamstring), nothing surprising happened in this one. LeBron James (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Chris Bosh (14 points, 5 rebounds) led a balanced attack as the Heat led the entire way after the Bucks scored the first basket of the game. Ramon Sessions (15 points) led the Bucks in scoring and John Henson (12 points, 10 rebounds) notched a double-double. Every single Bucks player, though, shot below .500 on the night as Chris Andersen (8 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks) altered a lot of shots in the paint. Not only was Miami’s defense stifling, Milwaukee’s offense was simply dreadful. They ended the night shooting 34.2 percent from the field, 28.6 percent on 3-pointers and 64.3 percent on free throws. The Bucks only had 29 point at halftime and 46 after three quarters. If the Bucks didn’t score a quick nine points in the last two minutes, this score could have looked even worse. With 13 points, James extended his streak of 564 straight games scoring in double-digits, the fourth longest in League history. With the Sixers finally picking up a win, the Bucks just took a step forward in the tank race.
Spurs 96 (57-16), Pelicans 80 (32-41)
The Spurs continue to just go about their business in winning their 17th game in a row. This is the franchise’s longest winning streak since 1996…before the Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan (12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks), Manu Ginobili (15 points, 7-10 from the field), Tony Parker (3 assists, 23 minutes) dynasty had even begun. Marco Belinelli (18 points, 4-5 on 3-pointers) and Kawhi Leonard (15 points, 5 rebounds) each had effective games as San Antonio took down a Pelicans team that has been playing extremely well. Without Anthony Davis (ankle) anchoring the defense and offense, the Pelicans had no chance against the League’s best team. To stand a chance Saturday night, the Pelicans would have needed a big game from Tyreke Evans (11 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 4-13 from the field, -25), who has been living in the lane of late. Evans, though, ended up having one of his most inefficient games. And during the 1st quarter in which the Spurs took hold of a 28-15 lead, Evans shot 0-4 from the field before backup point guard Brian Roberts (18 points, 5 assists) replaced him. Fellow backup point guard Austin Rivers (16 points, 6 rebounds) took advantage of garbage time.