by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
On a weekend highlighted by some amazing outdoor hooping-type weather in New York City, here’s hoping you made it inside to watch some of the key battles on Sunday. Starting—where else—in the Big Apple.
LeBron James dropped 29 points and 10 rebounds, and running mate Dwyane Wade added 28 and 9 as Miami overcame a 42-point effort from Carmelo Anthony—but it was James’ defense, not offense, that won this game for the Heat. Over the last 8 minutes of the game, with Bron Bron pretty much exclusively on ‘Melo, Anthony could muster just 3 points on 1-5 shooting, marginalizing an otherwise monster performance. Then again, Anthony played 43 minutes and was the Knicks’ only source for offense—the only other New York player in double figures was JR Smith (16), while Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis shot a combined 4-18 from the field. Davis looked especially old and slow on Sunday, finishing with more turnovers (5) than assists (4). Chris Bosh led an improved Heat rebounding resolve, with 14 boards to complement his 16 points. Enjoy this one? You might be in for more, since these teams could hook up for a first-round Playoff matchup.
The Lakers won a fourth straight game without the services of Kobe Bryant, this time outlasting the defending champions behind 23 points and 16 rebounds from Andrew Bynum and a pair of big 3-pointers in overtime from Pau Gasol—although he may have goten a controversial helping hand from Matt Barnes on the first one. Gasol finished his day with 20 and 10, Barnes posted 11, 11 and 8 dimes while Ramon Sessions scored 22 points and the Lake Show held a 50-32 advantage on points in the paint. Los Angeles fought back from a fourth quarter deficit and completed the 4-game season series sweep of the Mavs, who ousted the Purple & Gold in the Playoffs last year, lest you forget. Jason Terry (21 points) sent the game into overtime on a 20-footer with 55 seconds to go in regulation, but missed what would have been the game-tying bucket at the rim with 5 seconds left in OT after avoiding Barnes mid-air. Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 24 points (plus 14 boards) but needed 28 shots to get there.
Even with Josh Smith scoring 12 of his game-high 26 points in the first quarter, and even with a 15-6 run to open the second half, the Hawks could never manage to grab the lead in this one—Atlanta trailed by 14 at halftime and never got closer than 7 points from midway through the third quarter on. Toronto shot 55 percent from the field, led by 23 points from DeMar Derozan (8-15 shooting) and a rag-tag crew of D-Leaguers, 10-day contract guys and injury fill-ins. Among the 6 Raptors in double figures scoring-wise were Alan Anderson (16 points), Ben Uzoh and Justin Dentmon (10 points each). Atlanta starters not named Josh Smith combined for just 12 points—Joe Johnson accounted for 7 of those while shooting 2-12. ATL’s hopes of snagging the 3-seed in the East took a serious hit in a game they probably shouldn’t have lost. Thanks Joe!
With Dwight Howard and Kyrie Irving both on the shelf, it wasn’t exactly the star-powered game it might have been a few months back—and the Magic got more bad news on the injury front, losing Glen Davis to a sprained knee midway through this one—but Orlando led from start to finish to officially clinch a Playoff berth. Cleveland shot just 32 percent from the field and turned the ball over 18 times, while Orlando protected the ball (only 6 turnovers) and had 5 players in double figures. Jameer Nelson and Antawn Jamison each led their squads with 21 points.
It’s clear that Derrick Rose is still in the midst of shaking the rust off his game, but even on a night when the MVP turned the ball over 7 times and shot 9-22, he was ready when called upon, drilling the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds to go in the fourth quarter against Detroit and leading the Bulls to the overtime victory. Rose finished with 24 points and 9 dimes, but it was Joakim Noah who was the driving force for Chicago—he man-handled the Pistons down low, racking up 20 points and 17 rebounds, plus 2 blocked shots. Other than Rose, Noah and Carlos Boozer (15×9), the Bulls can thank Rodney Stuckey for helping produce the W, since Stuck missed two free throws in the final 16 seconds of regulation—if he’d made just one of them, the game likely would never have gone to OT. Then again, Stuckey’s 32 points kept Detroit in the game on a night when the Pistons shot 39 percent from the field.
First things first, guys—Hasheem Thabeet sighting! The former No. 2 overall pick turned trade throw-in played 13 minutes, grabbed 3 rebounds, blocked a shot and scored 2 points on a surprisingly nice oop jam. Despite the matchup of a pair of Lottery teams, this was a low-key super entertaining game. After utterly dominating for most of the night, DeMarcus Cousins (23 points, 7 rebounds) put the Kings up by 2 on a driving bucket with under a minute to play. Portland’s Wesley Matthews answered back with a corner three with under 10 seconds left to put the Blazers back in front. Then, with the game hanging in the balance, Marcus Thornton caught an inbounds pass, took one dribble and pulled up at the elbow for a game-winning jumpshot, part of his 20-point performance. If not for Thornton’s clutch bucket, we’d be talking about Matthews’ huge game (and what was almost a game-winner)—he had 19 of his 31 points in the third quarter, including 5 threes.
How do we even talk about Charlotte these days? Like, if they don’t get the No. 1 pick this year, where do they go from here? Before I digress into philosophical questions that rank right up there with the mysteries of the universe, let’s talk about their latest destruction, this time at the hands of the Celtics’ B-team. Doc Rivers was so confident against the Bobcats that he told his Big Three to stay home—that’s right: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett didn’t even make the trip to North Carolina. And why would they? In their absence, Boston still had a relatively easy time disposing of the ‘Cats. Rajon Rondo had 20 points, 16 assists and 6 rebounds and Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass each scored 22 points.
With brand-new owner Tom Benson in attendance, the Hornets improved to 2-0 under his “new direction” on the strength of 18 points on 9 shots from Eric Gordon and 16 points and 11 rebounds from Carl Landry. New Orleans is now 5-2 on the year when Gordon plays, but just 18-42 overall. For Memphis, it was a forgettable night to say the least—the Grizz shot 36 percent, blew an 11-point lead and saw Marc Gasol (11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) leave in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. If he’s out for any extended period of time, that could be trouble for the Grizzlies (obvious alert). Rudy Gay scored 24 points on 9-17 shooting to pace Memphis, but the road boys were outscored 40 to 22 in the paint.
In what was a crucial game for Playoff positioning, the Nuggets used a big third period and domination down low to jump out to a double-digit lead and finish off the Rockets. Denver outscored Houston 60 to 26 on points in the paint and 37-19 in the third quarter. Arron Afflalo scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half and Ty Lawson matched his 20 as the Nuggs won a season-high 5th straight home game—they currently are the 7-seed in the West, just a half-game back of Dallas for the No. 6 spot. Houston, meanwhile, had a 4-game road winning streak snapped and lost their 3rd straight overall, dropping down to the 8-seed, with Phoenix only 1 game behind. Not only that, but the oft-banged up Marcus Camby left at halftime with a back injury.
Line of the Night: I know the Knicks took the L, but ‘Melo’s 42 was still the best line of the day.
Moments of the Night: Marcus Thornton wins it for the Kings, and DRose drills a 3 to take Detroit to OT.
Dunk of the Night: DMC down the lane for the dunk.
Tonight: 11 games on deck, highlighted by a late-night showdown between the Thunder and Clippers.