by Jay Wallis | @Jay Wallis11
There were some tired legs Saturday night, as 13 of 24 teams were playing on the 2nd night of a back-to-back.
Celtics 103 (13-17), Cavaliers 100 (10-19)
Even though Boston almost let this game slip away in the 4th quarter, not wanting us all to forget that they are a pretty bad team along with the now Bynum-less Cavaliers, Brandon Bass (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) came up with a huge block on a Dion Waiters (17 points) layup with 8.9 seconds left in the game. Avery Bradley (18 points, 8 rebounds) would make 1 of 2 free throws to extend the Celtics’ lead to 3 points and put the Cavaliers away for good. However, just 12 minutes earlier in this game, Boston seemed to be in complete control, leading 85-66 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Behind 12 4th quarter points from Kyrie Irving (32 points, 3 assists, 4-6 on 3-pointers), who became the first player to score 30 points against the Celtics this season, and Anthony Bennett (5 points, 5 rebounds, 19 minutes) scoring all 5 of his points in the span of the first four minutes of this quarter, Cleveland rallied all the way back in this one. For the game, Cleveland actually outscored Boston in the paint 40-28 and shot better from the field and 3-point arc. The Cavaliers just couldn’t climb out of the huge hole they put themselves in. Jeff Green (19 points, 8 rebounds) and Jordan Crawford (19 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) both played well throughout this game. The Cavaliers have now lost 6 of their last 7 games and are 2-13 on the road. (This might not have been a high-profile matchup, but Kris Humphries almost made this game a memorable one.)
Pacers 105 (24-5), Nets 91 (10-20)
As much attention Paul George (24 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals) and his teammates have been given due to their hot start, Frank Vogel deserves just as much credit. This team has made a habit of making adjustments at halftime and coming out firing in the 3rd quarter. Indiana won Saturday night’s 3rd quarter 28-20, and in its three victories over Brooklyn, the Pacers have outscored the Nets 88-60 in the 3rd quarter. Deron Williams (14 points, 6 assists), Paul Pierce (18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) and Mirza Teletovic (17 points, 3-8 on 3-pointers) did their best to keep their team in the game, but with Kevin Garnett (2 points, 7 rebounds, 1-5 from the field) and Joe Johnson (9 points, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, 4-12 from the field) misfiring for most of the night, they couldn’t keep up with a game that got out of hand by the 4th quarter. Another usual occurrence took place as Lance Stephenson (23 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) flirted with a triple-double. George Hill (21 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds) had one of his better games this season. The Pacers shot 53.5 percent from the field, outrebounded the Nets 41-28 and had a 28-13 assist advantage. They now have a League-best 24-5 overall record and 14-1 home record. Other than their 3-game winning streak over the Bucks, Celtics and Clippers in early December, the Nets haven’t been able to put together 2 wins in a row this season.
Raptors 115 (13-15), Knicks 100 (9-21)
The Raptors won 95-83 Friday night in New York and won Saturday night back in Toronto. Even with Tyson Chandler (16 points, 2 rebounds) back, the Melo-less Knicks have continued playing horrid defense. Kyle Lowry (season-high 32 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 1 turnover) looked fantastic the entire night, almost getting his fourth career triple-double. He took control of this game. DeMar DeRozan (20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) and Terrence Ross (23 points, 4 rebounds, 7-11 on 3-pointers) balanced each other out very well as DeRozan penetrated into the paint and Ross hit many corner 3-pointers. The Raptors used a 25-5 run in the 2nd quarter to take a double-digit lead into halftime; the Knicks would never really get back in this game. Returning to Toronto, Andrea Bargnani (12 points, 3 rebounds) didn’t do much to make his former team miss him while Amare Stoudemire (23 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 9-12 from the field) had his second 20-point output in the last 3 games, showing flashes of his former self. Until he can play like this consistently, though, the Knicks shouldn’t expect this to be the norm for STAT. Similar to the Nets, other than back-to-back wins against the Nets and Magic in early December, the Knicks haven’t won back-to-back games at any other point this season.
Wizards 106 (13-14), Pistons 82 (14-18)
All five Wizards starters scored in double-figures, with John Wall (20 points, 11 assists, 2 turnovers) leading the way in a wire-to-wire victory. Washington put up 31 points in both the 1st and 2nd quarter, while Brandon Jennings (13, 6 assists, 7 turnovers, 4-13 from the field) and the Pistons could only muster 41 total points by halftime. Out of 30 games played this season, Jennings has shot below 40 percent in 14. He is currently shooting the exact same field-goal percentage (39.9 percent) as he did last season, which has been his biggest criticism since coming into the NBA. Thankfully for the Wizards, after Bradley Beal (15 points, 3-4 from the field) injured his knee Friday night, he looked good in his return. After a five-point performance in Friday’s 109-92 loss against the Magic, Josh Smith (4 points, 4 rebounds, 17 minutes) didn’t look much better against the Wizards. Mo Cheeks decided to keep J-Smoove on the bench the entire second half. Jan Vesely (4 points, 6 fouls, 8 minutes) almost had the odd stat line of having more fouls than minutes played. Washington seemed to feed off Wall’s great passing, leading to 34 team assists on the night. Even though their 13-14 record isn’t anything to get excited about, it is the Wizards’ best start since 2007-08—a season they finished 43-39.
Hawks 118 (17-13), Bobcats 116 (14-17) OT
This game was an outright battle. In the Hawks’ third straight overtime game, Paul Millsap (33 points, 13 rebounds) had his best performance this season while Lou Williams (28 points, 10-12 from the free throw line) made 10 straight free throws to end overtime. Jeff Teague (20 points, 9 assists, 4-7 on 3-pointers) and the Hawks have now won 5 of their last 6, and even though they’ll be without Al Horford indefinitely, they should be able to stick around the top of a dreadful Eastern Conference. Al Jefferson (24 points, season-high 23 rebounds) took advantage of Horford’s absence while Gerald Henderson (22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) played well. Josh McRoberts (5 points, 5 rebounds, team-high 9 assists) passed the ball exceptionally well, as has been the case for most of his career. His career stats don’t show it, but McRoberts is one of the most underrated passing big men currently in the NBA. Pero Antic (3 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks) was the unexpected hero of regulation play, hitting his only shot (and an awkward one at that) of the night and 10th 3-pointer of the season to tie this game with 3.1 seconds left in the 4th quarter. The Hawks will have a good chance to extend their winning streak as they play the Magic (9-20) on Sunday and the Celtics (13-17) on Tuesday.
Rockets 107 (21-11), Pelicans 98 (13-15)
Dwight Howard (24 points, 18 rebounds) continued his tear in the paint of late as all five Rockets starters scored in double-figures. Other than Jeremy Lin (10 points, 5 assists), the 4 other starters all got to the line at least 6 times, while the entire Pelicans team only shot 8 free throws on the night. Ryan Anderson (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Anthony Davis (18 points, 16 rebounds) had big double-doubles while Tyreke Evans (16 points, 9 assists) was one assist away from joining them. The Rockets had a 58-40 points in the paint advantage. They currently rank 3rd in team points in the paint per game (49.9) behind the Sixers (50.6) and the Pistons (51.9). The Pelicans couldn’t really find their pace, only having 4 fast break points on the night. After an Anthony Davis jump shot with 4 minutes to go in the game, though, the Pelicans led by 3. By means of 3-pointers and layups, Houston then went on a 16-4 run to close this one out. Lin got it started with a difficult baseline 3-pointer.
Mavericks 105 (17-13), Bulls 83 (11-17)
This game was over before it even had the chance to get started. With Monta Ellis (22 points, 5 assists) leading the way and sixth man Vince Carter (18 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 21 minutes) making jump shot after jump shot, Dallas took a double-digit lead into the second quarter and led 61-34 at the half. Without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, the Bulls just don’t have any sort of offensive firepower on the active roster. After his great start with the Bulls, D.J. Augustin (11 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers) is now starting to look as though he’s forcing the issue. Dirk Nowitzki (18 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) only made 2 2-point field goals but made all 4 of his 3-point attempts. Shawn Marion (14 points, 13 rebounds, 7-11 from the field) put together a solid double-double. Joakim Noah (20 points, 10 rebounds) played the best for the Bulls, as was often the case last season while Jimmy Butler (11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 turnovers, 45 minutes) tried to fill in as a playmaker but turned the ball over far too often. It looked as though his toe was bothering him after the game. The Mavs bench had 40 points on the night, and since Brandan Wright (6 points, 2 rebounds, 3-3 from the field) returned, the team has been averaging 37 bench points over the last 7 games.
Grizzlies 120 (13-16) Nuggets 99 (14-15)
After losing 7 of 8 games, the Grizzlies have now won 3 of their last 4. They can thank their bench for Saturday night’s win, as they produced over half (62) of their season-high 120 points. Ty Lawson (20 points, 8 assists, 6 turnovers) and the Nuggets have now lost a League-worse 6 games in a row. James Johnson (14 points, 7 rebounds, 6 rebounds) has played well since being called up by Memphis, having his 2nd straight double-digit scoring performance. This level of play may not keep up, but he has looked like the wing player this team has been missing since they replaced Rudy Gay with a washed-up Tayshaun Prince (9 points, 5 rebounds). The Nuggets could only grab 25 boards compared to the Grizzlies’ 46, as they were led by former-Nugget Kosta Koufos (9 points, 12 rebounds). Memphis also had a 54-30 points in the paint advantage since J.J. Hickson (10 points, 6 rebounds) and the Nuggets frontcourt gave very little resistance.
Timberwolves 117 (15-15), Bucks 95 (6-24)
A night after putting up 120 points on the Wizards, the Timberwolves put up 117 on the abysmal Bucks. Kevin Love (33 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists) continued to play on another level, making his case as the best power forward in the League. If he can find a way to push his team into the playoffs this season, he would gain a lot more recognition. Nikola Pekovic (19 points, 11 rebounds) helped Love dominate Larry Sanders (9 points, 10 rebounds) in his second game back. Kevin Martin (20 points) played well offensively while Ersan Ilyasova (4 points, 2-10 from the field) was anything but. Ilyasova is now shooting 10-for-56 in his last 6 games. Khris Middleton (23 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) has been making some noise this season, but no one is really listening. The Bucks kept this game respectable for 24 minutes, only trailing by 9 at the half. However, the Timberwolves blitzed out of the locker room, going on a 14-0 run to start the 3rd quarter and putting this one away for good. The Timberwolves will get a chance to go above .500 against the Mavs on Monday.
Suns 115 (18-11), 76ers 101 (8-21)
Two teams that people thought would be headed in the same direction this season are on two separate paths. The Sixers have lost 9 of their last 10 games while the Suns have won 9 of their last 11, and those 2 losses came against a good Spurs team and a sporadically good Warriors team. Miles Plumlee (career-high 22 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) continued to flourish on his new team while Eric Bledsoe (20 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) and Goran Dragic (21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) are making things work in their small backcourt. Thaddeus Young (30 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals), Michael Carter-Williams (27 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) and Tony Wroten (22 points) all played very well. However, as has become the norm, Philadelphia just didn’t really show up defensively. This young Sixers squad does have a solid identity that has a fast pace but they lacks any sort of defensive presence. Marcus Morris (18 points, 25 minutes) gave Phoenix good minutes off the bench, as it seems that at least one of the Morris twins always plays well each game. The Suns have now scored over 115 points in 5 of their last 9 games, giving more reason to consider Jeff Hornacek as Coach of the Year.
Heat 108 (23-7), Blazers 107 (24-6)
Even though they were without LeBron James (groin injury), the Heat still took down a hot Blazers team in Moda Center. He did it against the Spurs last season and did it against the Blazers Saturday night—Chris Bosh (seaosn-high 37 points, 10 rebounds) hit a go-ahead 3-pointer. This time, it was with 0.5 seconds left in the game. Bosh also hit 2 other 3-pointers in the 4th quarter, one tying the game at 96 and the other giving the Heat a 101-98 lead with 2:03 to go. Since the 2003-04 NBA season, Bosh has hit the 3rd-most game-tying/go-ahead 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter/overtime (7). Vince Carter has the most during this time (12) while Kobe Bryant is just ahead of Bosh (8). Using these same parameters, Bosh is leading the League in 3-point field goal percentage (70 percent). LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points, 7 rebounds) and Wesley Matthews (23 points, 5-8 on 3-pointers) led Portland in scoring, as all 5 starters scored in double-figures. However, anyone the Blazers put on Bosh just couldn’t guard him. Along with his 3-3 shooting from deep, Bosh also had 9 field goals in the restricted area, which ties his personal best since joining the Heat. Mario Chalmers (9 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds) held his own and played a very well-rounded game while Dwyane Wade (16 points, 7 assists) played the role of sidekick but this time to Bosh. Miami had a commanding 60-32 points in the paint advantage. Neither team led by double-digits at any point, as this was a great fight between two of the League’s best teams. This was the first game this season the Blazers lost when leading after the third quarter.
Clippers 98 (21-11), Jazz 90 (9-24)
Blake Griffin (40 points, 10 rebounds) reached the 40-point plateau for the 3rd time in his career and for the first time since his rookie season. He made Enes Kanter’s (17 points, 12 rebounds) double-double look like a joke, as he made him look on the court as well. Chris Paul (21 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) had his first points-rebounds double-double, and DeAndre Jordan (4 points, 12 rebounds) had his 5th straight game with at least 12 rebounds. Trey Burke (12 points, 6 assists, 6 turnovers) had his second straight game with as many turnovers as assists. Since he started playing for the Jazz, Burke has shot below 30 percent in 8 of 21 games and on the season, has the same field goal percentage as Brandon Jennings (39.9 percent). The Clippers had a 48-28 points in the paint advantage along with a 25-8 fast break points advantage. After Marvin Williams (15 points, 8 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer with 10:23 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Jazz led 46-45. The Clippers would then go on a 20-10 run that Utah couldn’t come back from.