by Adam Figman | @afigman
Oh hey, Richard Hamilton. Nice to see you. Rip scored 35, assisting the Pistons to a huge win at home over the Raps and giving them their second straight W. The last time these two met, Detroit blew a 25-point lead, so they made sure to keep the intensity up until the very end this go-around. Tracy McGrady scored a season-high 17, while Leandro Barbosa led Toronto with 21. And, of course, the #FreeRip campaign continues. (Come on, tell me a contender wouldn’t love to bring him off the bench, and tell me the Pistons couldn’t use some Draft picks as they begin look towards the future. Wait, they are looking to the future, right? Right?!)
Get well soon, John Wall. Aside from the obvious reasons, we really need to see you against the League’s top point guards, like, say Derrick Rose, on nights like, say, last night. With no JW in the lineup, the Bulls had their way, grinding out a defensive 14-10 fourth quarter and holding on. DRose scored 25 (plus 5 dimes and 5 boards), but Carlos Boozer was the real star, putting up a pretty 30-10-7 stat line. Chicago’s now won nine of 10, and their next contest will take place during a nationally televised Christmas matchup with the Knicks.
In Joe Johnson’s (23 points, 7 assists) best game since his return from surgery, the Hawks started slow but picked it up in the second quarter, cruising from there as they defeated the Cavs. All of Atlanta’s pieces were moving well, as Josh Smith (16 points, 11 boards), Marvin Williams (17 points) and Al Horford (18 points, 8 boards) all contributed. They’re now sitting at 19-12, and will (hopefully) use the Christmas break to get entirely healthy (Jamal Crawford is still out). A road trip awaits after the holiday.
For the second time in a couple of weeks, the Sixers gave the Celtics a real hard time, and for the second time in a couple of weeks, the C’s held Philly off and earned the victory. Ray Allen led ’em with 22, and Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 boards) had a huge block on Andre Iguodala down the stretch that all but sealed things up. The Celts will take a 14-game winning streak into Saturday’s bout with Orlando, and unless the Magic gain some serious chemistry over the next 48 hours, that one could get ugly.
I was in the Garden last night witnessing this one live, and this much was obvious: the Knicks were both well-rested and damn hungry. They got ahead in the second, and then stormed forward in the third, picking up a 20-point advantage in the fourth that led Scott Brooks to bench his best guys soon thereafter. The Thunder, who had a game the previous night down in Charlotte, just didn’t have the energy to compete with the jumpy Knickerbockers, and given that they were on the tail end of a back-to-back, it’d be tough to blame them. MVP candidate Amar’e Stoudemire and MIP candidate Wilson Chandler combined for 44, while ROY candidate Landry Fields scored 14 and grabbed 10. The win ended a three-game losing streak for NY, and now they have some more time to chill before some Xmas day fun on Saturday.
The Hornets really needed a rebound game, and a rebound game they got. The Nets didn’t put up much competition, “allowing” them to shoot 53.9 percent from the field en route to an easy home W for the Bees. Chris Paul scored 12 and dished 14, and Emeka Okafor led them in scoring (!) with 21. New Orleans will get a very-needed rest until Sunday, when they host the Hawks.
I guess “The Comeback Kids” is a pretty cheesy nickname, but haven’t these dudes earned it? They did it again last night, rallying with a 41-point fourth and coming back to win after being down 12 in the beginning of the final quarter. Deron Williams scored 25 (plus 7 assists and 7 boards), while Utah’s frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combined for 46 points. Oh, and Kevin Love had 25 points and 19 rebounds, which is simply standard operating procedure at this point. The Jazz have now won three in a row, and have off until Monday, when they host Portland.
With Carmelo Anthony out (death in the family), the short-handed Nuggets couldn’t keep up with the Spurs, who waited until the final quarter and then stormed ahead in the fourth. Gary Neal’s (22 points) emergence continued, while Manu Ginobili’s (22 points) strong season moved along as well. The Spurs, who were somehow left off the Christmas schedule (well, OK; we didn’t think they’d be this good either), are now a wildly impressive 25-3, and will play in Orlando tomorrow night on TNT.
The Rockets are one of those teams that remind you the NBA season is very, very long. And bad starts, like the one they had, can be overcame with some determination. They’ve now won six of seven, putting them only a half-game behind .500. Weird, because when they were at their lowest a month or so ago, nobody expected them to turn it up and make any kind of Playoff push. Well, here they are, world. Kevin Martin (28 points) and Luis Scola (22 points) were both vital, while Blake Griffin (24 points, 18 rebounds and a few absolutely disgusting dunks) led the Clippers in scoring and boards—as per the usual. It seems like Griffin and Kevin Love have a lot in common and could be close friends. I’m just saying.
Actual Stats: Rip Hamilton: 35 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound, 6 threes.
Moment of the Night: When Blake Griffin raises his hand and calls for an alley-oop, you stop what you’re doing, and watch. So, yeah:
Alright folks. No Post Up tomorrow on account of Christmas Eve, but I’ll be back Monday to recap all of Sunday’s excitement. Happy holidays, y’all.