by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
I was in the building last night for the Knicks’ blowout win over the Pistons, 113-86, as was CC Sabathia (no, we didn’t sit together sadly), so we might as well start there on a night with seven NBA games on tap. Madison Square Garden is the most famous basketball arena on the planet. So it’s sad when a crap basketball game is played there. Okay, okay, the Knicks looked pretty darn decent, led by a rejuvenated Landry Fields and sparked by the return of Carmelo Anthony, but the Pistons are a super-bad team, and I don’t mean that in the cool way. By mid-third quarter, this game was borderline unwatchable—but give credit to the Knicks for shooting 60 percent from the field and solving their offensive woes for one night, at least. Melo scored 25 points and had 6 assists, heating up the Knicks’ offense early on. Fields was hotter than anyone, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the first half and hitting 4 of 6 three-pointers. In the first half, New York made 6 threes and shot 66 percent, opening up a 57-45 halftime edge. In the third, Detroit scored only 12 points. In the fourth, it was borderline torturous hoops for a neutral observer. Hateration aside, the Knicks will have a second chance to impress us all on Thursday against the Bulls. This was only the Knicks’ second win in the past 11 games, and snapped a three-game slide. Detroit’s Greg Monroe scored 11 in the first quarter, but only two points the rest of the game (plus 12 boards and 4 steals). The Pistons played selfish, confused, and like a team with very little talent. Probably because those are all true. Don’t be fooled by Jonas Jerebko’s 15 points, most of that came in garbage time against the Steve Novaks and Jeremy Lins of the world. On to the rest of the night’s games:
It was almost dejà vu for the Celtics last night, as they saw a comfortable lead shrink down the stretch thanks to the playmaking ability of Kyrie Irving, the man who snatched defeat from Boston just two nights prior, as this time he scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. But the C’s held on—barely—and improved to .500 at 10-10, behind 20 points from Paul Pierce. At one point, Cleveland trailed by 22, and at the end of three quarters, Boston was up by 16 points. The Celtics, still without Rajon Rondo, shot 51 percent from the field, but nearly crumbled in the fourth, when the Cavs outscored them 32-17. Anderson Varejao had a huge game, with 20 points and 20 rebounds (including a crazy 10 offensive boards), Irving finished with 21 points and 6 assists, and Alonzo Gee got jiggy with it for 2 of his 11. The Cavs got to within 2 points with 1:18 left on an Irving driving layup, but Kevin Garnett (13 points) responded with a short jumper and Cleveland fumbled its next possession, allowing Boston to escape with its fifth win over the last six games.
Injuries, turnovers and Paul George vs. Deron Williams. Those were the themes from this game. From the injury department, the short-handed Nets played without Mehmet Okur, MarShon Brooks and DeShawn Stevenson, while Indiana’s George Hill suffered an extremely painful-sounding “chip fracture” in his ankle in the third quarter and did not return. Turnovers: each team had 19 (DWill had 6 for New Jersey, while Roy Hibbert and David West had 5 apiece for the Pacers). As for Williams and George, while they rarely matched up against one another (duh), they were the two big factors scoring-wise for their respective teams—DWill dropped 34 on 10-20 shooting to go with 7 assists, while PG scored a career-high 24 points. And more highlight-y, each player threw down dunks that will immediately be in the discussion for jam of the year. See below for video evidence. Indiana led by as much as 18 in the fourth quarter, and while the Nets came within 3 twice in the last 2 minutes, the Pacers got to the free throw line and held off New Jersey from there to move to 14-6 on the year.
Joe Johnson likes playing against Toronto—in his last four games versus the Raptors, he’s averaging 30 points, which is exactly how many he scored last night. Oh, and he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, as the Hawks dismantled the Raps, taking a 56-37 lead by halftime and riding to their 16th win on the season. Atlanta was hot, shooting 51 percent from the field, while Toronto couldn’t get anything going offensively without Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors shot just 37 percent and were led in scoring by Jerryd Bayless, who scored 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting. No other Toronto starter scored in double figures, while ex-Raptor star Tracy McGrady dropped 15 (and 1 memorable assist) on his former team in 21 minutes off the bench. With the win, Atlanta finished 4-1 on their longest road trip of the season. Unfortunately, their next such trip won’t be quite as easy, as they travel to play the Lakers, Suns, Blazers, Bulls and Knicks in consecutive games after a four-game homestand.
Memphis was down by 13 in the second half, and by 10 with just over 6 minutes to play, but roared back to get a much-needed win after losing four straight games, thanks to clutch performances from, well, everyone, but mostly OJ Mayo (18 points, including the go-ahead three-ball with 35 seconds to go in OT) and Rudy Gay, who did it on both ends of the floor. Gay racked up a crazy 20-13-5 line and had a critical block during overtime to keep the Grizzlies in the game. Memphis won despite shooting just 38 percent, which was negated by 24 helpful turnovers from Denver. The Nuggets got big-time games off the bench from Al Harrington (23 points, 10 boards) and Andre Miller (20, 6 and 6), but fell to 14-7 after letting the Grizz creep back into the game, and tie it with under ten seconds left in regulation on a Tony Allen dunk. An Andre Miller runner rimmed out at the buzzer, and then Memphis staged yet another comeback in the OT. The Tams Grizzlies move to 11-10 on the year, and if they can sustain this kind of play until Z-Bo comes back, then look out. Allen scored 17 and Marc Gasol had 20 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. Grizzly!
The Kings led by 1 heading into the fourth quarter, but Brandon Rush sparked a crunch time rally for the Warriors, scoring 15 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth, and Golden State beat former coach Keith Smart. Rush and a lineup of reserves led GSW down the stretch, not the team’s two studs, Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. In fact, the starting backcourt duo was planted to the bench for most of the fourth quarter. Curry had 8 assists, but scored just 3 points on 1-of-7 shooting, and Monta Ellis scored 12 points but made only 5 of 17 shots—together, they were 0-for-6 from the three-point line. With the pair struggling, the bench picked it up, and the Warriors protected the basketball (only 8 turnovers). Tyreke Evans had a monster, almost-triple-double-ish game, with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists in 44 minutes, and DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 14 rebounds, but Sacramento lost its fifth straight. Lastly, kudos to the fan who stole Rush’s towel after his post-game interview. Nice hands!
For the Lakers, 3-5 in their last eight, Charlotte was just what the doctor ordered. In each of the first two quarters, Los Angeles outscored the Bobcats 30-18. Kobe Bryant scored 24 points (only 1 assist) in 28 minutes and Andrew Bynum cashed in for 20 points and 11 rebounds before the starters gave way to the bench—which scored 48 points (Charlotte’s scored 30). In boosted minutes, Troy Murphy and Andrew Goudelock scored 12 points each. For the ‘Cats, Gerald Henderson had 14 and Kemba Walker chipped in 12 points and 6 dimes, but there was nothing to smile about for head coach Paul Silas. The weird part is, as unsurprising as this massive blowout was for the Lake Show, Charlotte had won 8 of the previous 11 meetings between these two teams. Also, what does Eduardo Najera have to do to get some playing time around here? He was the lone DNP-CD for CHA.
Line of the Night: Joe Johnson scored 30 points…in three quarters. Then, he chilled on the bench.
Moment of the Night: OJ Mayo finds Tony Allen and the Grizz send things to OT. In the extra period, Rudy Gay makes a monster play on D to keep Memphis in the game. Mayo then hit the go-ahead trey to lead Memphis to the W.
Dunks of the Night: The two best throwdowns from last night came from the same game—first watch as first Deron Williams sons Roy Hibbert, and then see Paul George go with a reverse pump on the fast break.
Tonight: 11 games on Wednesday, highlighted by an ESPN doubleheader of Thunder-Mavs and Clippers-Jazz, plus the Rockets visit the Spurs and the Bucks host the Heat—last time they met, Milwaukee took home the win in Miami, 91-82. Also, the struggling Magic get a chance to right the ship against my Wizards. Dwight always dominates Javale McGee, so an early congratulations to Orlando. Until tomorrow, peace.