by Anton Kudriavtsev /@TheDiesel
Fresh from a confidence-instilling win against the Lakers, the Heat took the opportunity to play defense and blow out the Grizzlies in the process. Wade set the defensive tone early, with 4 blocks in the first quarter alone and also handled the scoring load with LeBron (28 and 27 points, respectively). O.J. Mayo led Memphis with 19 points off the bench but the Heat blew the game open in the 2nd quarter and coasted from that point, helped by the Bibster’s 5 made triples off the bench (18 points).
The point guard king returns. Chris Paul came back from a concussion and scored a season-high 33 points and dished 15 assists to go with 7 rebounds and 5 steals as his Hornets beat the Kings. The bees shot 52% in their highest-scoring game of the season, helped by David West’s 25 points. Paul made his impact felt early, with 6 quick points and 5 assists in the first quarter as he expertly set up his teammates and forced New Orleans into the penalty early. The Kings, led by Samuel Dalembert’s 16 points and 8 rebounds, kept the game competitive before missing 12 of their last 19 shots in the final period while Paul took over, scoring 13 in the same stretch.
Jeff Teague brought his defense as the Hawks lulled the Blazers into a bad shooting night and took advantage. In addition to his 5 steals, Teague poured in a career-high 24 points to help the Hawks stay in front of the Blazers. Considering Portland is 7-18 when LaMarcus Aldridge scores less than 20 points this season, his 22 point night was not enough to overcome the athletic Hawks. Leading by 7 in the 3rd quarter, the Hawks finished the game on a 44-19 scoring stretch and limited Portland to just 35% shooting on the night.
The Clippers were on the rare winning side of a blowout as they cruised past the Wizards. Blake Griffin scored his 26 points in the first half while John Wall finished with 25 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Wall pushed the tempo, showcasing his speed by beating the 1st quarter buzzer in 3 seconds from half court to lay it in but not all plays were highlights. Griffin blocked the franchise saviour so hard in the 2nd quarter that Wall was sent flying back to high school. Closing in within 3 points after halftime, Eric Bledsoe scored a career-high 23 points and helped the Clippers edge out the Wizards as he led the 29-8 late game run. Sign number 45 that the league is in trouble: Griffin posted up and drilled a fade away jumper like his Subway endorsement was riding on it. Whether he was planning to bank it is no matter, professor Griff is looking to take the NBA to school.
As the Utah Jazz become the requisite blowout team, the Bulls were next in line to take advantage. Luol Deng and Derrick Rose scored 26 points each as the Bulls won their 13th win in 15 games. Chicago jumped out to an early lead led by Rose’s 17 points and hit 18 three-pointers in the game to erase any chance of a Jazz comeback. Al Jefferson had 33 points and 18 rebounds for Utah.
A night after beating the top of the East, the Sixers fell apart against the Bucks. Despite being the worst-shooting and lowest-scoring team in the NBA, Milwaukee scored in triple digits for the first time since the “fear the deer” campaign was a public warning about deer crossings. Andrew Bogut scored 17 points while Lou Williams led Philadelphia with 16 off the bench. The Sixers went anaemic on the offensive end after the 1st quarter and couldn’t combat the Bucks’ sudden scoring will as they shot 53% on the night.
The Spurs keep winning close games, earning their 3rd straight win as they hold off the Rockets. Eight Spurs scored in double figures, led by Tony Parker (21 points, 6 assists) while Kevin Martin dropped 28 points for Houston. The Rockets stormed back after trailing by as many as 13 to pull within 5 points but the San Antonio always had answers down the stretch, with the bench contributing 42 points.
The Dallas Mavericks are a lot like Amar’e Stoudemire – they’re tall, talented, and always questioned how far they can go. In a game against the Lakers with playoff implications, the Mavs didn’t have enough plays down the stretch to combat L.A. Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion both scored 25 points but Dallas had trouble overcoming a Laker lead down the stretch. Kobe injured his ankle in the 3rd quarter but came back to finish with 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting. Bryant might not have been efficient, but he still managed to score 6 points and make a key assist in a 9-0 run that put L.A. ahead before halftime. Andrew Bynum had a strong game with 22 points and 15 rebounds while Ron Artest was in the right place at the right time, muscling in a lay-up that extended the Laker lead to six with less than 14 seconds to play. After Kobe hit a clutch jumper, a Jason Terry floater rimmed out and the Lakers are just a half game behind the Mavs in the race for the 2nd seed. Can the Mavs forget their recent playoff baggage and give the Lakers a series in the West?
The newly formed Nuggets have 99 problems but scoring isn’t one. J.R. Smith dropped a season-high 31 points (9-of-15 from distance) in the 2nd half alone as Denver beat the Pistons. Chris Wilcox scored 21 points for the Pistons, who tied the game at 72 before succumbing to an incredible 21-2 run by the Nuggets and fell behind 19 points. When J.R. begins to get on a hot streak, it’s best to step aside and let him raise the opposing team.
“Check My $tats” of the day: Chris Paul – 33 points, 15 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 steals.
I’m out like Wall’s layup swag.