by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
13 games to cover, let’s get right to it…
With last night’s win over the Raptors, the Spurs have now won nine in a row; and with Ginobili working his way back into the rotation, this team will only get better. Tony Parker, who is putting together a very nice season, continued his strong play with a 34 point, 14 assist effort–he also went 12-12 from the line. Toronto was able to tie the game at 66 in the third thanks to a 17-7 run but couldn’t capitalize on their play and looked like they had tired legs in the fourth. DeMar DeRozan led his team with 29 points (including this dunk) but was charged with an offensive foul late in the fourth that ended all hopes of a comeback.
Ryan Anderson has been shooting the lights out this season. The third year pro has hit 80 three’s this year, 19 more than anyone else in the league; he is also one of the few (only?) players to hit more three-point field goals than two-point field goals. The guy is an assassin and in my opinion, for what it’s worth, he should have been an All-Star. Last night Anderson continued his hot shooting with 7 three-pointers (on 10 attempts) against one of the best defensive teams in the L. He finished with 27 points and was one of six Magic players to score in double-figures. Dwight Howard had another double-double with 17 points and 14 boards while Jason Richardson had 14 points, including four 3′s. When the Magic are shooting well from beyond the arc, they are damn near unbeatable with Dwight snatching boards down low. The Sixers never looked comfortable; they fell behind 23-6 in the first quarter and didn’t lead once in the contest. Lou Williams continued his bid for Sixth Man of the Year with 21 points and 7 assists but besides that, no other Sixer had any stats worth noting.
The Celtics are one of the tougher teams to figure out this season. One day they’re beating the Eastern Conference leading Bulls, the next their losing by double-digits to teams like the Pistons and Raptors. Their inconsistency may be attributed to playing to the level of their competition but if I recall correctly, the C’s played a similar regular season a few seasons ago before making a deep playoff run. With Garnett looking on from the sideline with a sore hip, Greg Monroe had himself a 22 point, 9 rebound performance continuing his strong season. Frank Lawrence decided to tweak his lineup and bring Ben Gordon off the bench and the move paid great dividends; Gordon finished with 22 points off the pine. Rajon Rondo had another fantastic game, this time going for 35 points and 6 assists while teaching rookie Brandon Knight a thing or two. After winning five-straight, Boston has now lost three out of their last four and it doesn’t get any easier; 14 out of their next 19 games are on the road.
The Grizz and Nets must have known SLAMily was in the crowd because they put on one of the better shows The Rock has seen in a while. Leading by one with under three minutes to go, the Nets looked like they had a chance to put it away until Tony Allen hit a 3 to take the lead. New Jersey then turned the ball over three straight times which led to their demise–they finished with 20 on the evening. Gucci was taunted by the crowd but brushed it aside and answered with a stat line of 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals. He was also responsible for a handful of those 20 Net turnovers. Along with Allen’s 21, Rudy Gay finished with 25 and 6 assists while Marreese Speights finished with 20 points and a whopping 18 boards. Deron Williams paced the Nets with 26 points but had 0 in the fourth–a big problem considering the next highest Net scorer was Anthony Morrow with 17.
The Kings figured out how to keep Jeremy Lin off the floor–get blown out. Lin had 10 points and 13 assists in 26 minutes of play as the Knicks had one of the most balanced box scores I have ever seen. Landry Fields led the Knicks with 15 and 10 and Steve Novak had 14 while channeling his inner Larry Johnson with a 4-point play. The game was never close and the Knicks led by 20+ points throughout the third quarter as New York now awaits the return of Carmelo Anthony which should come at the end of the week against New Orleans. The Kings looked discombobulated and never got it together at the Garden. Sacramento shot 38 percent from the field and only had 15 team assits compared to New York’s 25. ‘Reke Evans led their scoring charge with 19 and Isaiah Thomas had 14 off the bench–the 2011 Draft’s “Mr. Irrelevant” is giving the Kings great minutes and has worked his way into the everyday rotation. Sacramento has now lost three straight and four of their last five.
Trouble in Indy? One night after getting beat up on by Miami, the Pacers traveled to Cleveland for their second game of a back-to-back-to-back and lost by double digits to the Cavaliers. Indy has now lost 6 of their last 8 and looked gassed against the Cavs. The Pacers simply had no answer for Kyrie Irving who was playing in his first game since February 7th after being sidelined with a concussion. Irving torched the Pacers with 22 points and 5 assists showing his wide array of skills as he got to the lane with ease and stretched the floor with a few 3-pointers. Cleveland led by 18 to start the fourth quarter, but with Irving on the bench they fell apart offensively and didn’t score for the first 5 minutes of the quarter. The Pacers were playing without Danny Granger who warmed up but sat due to a sprained ankle and no one on Indiana picked up the slack offensively. Darren Collison led Indy with 18 points but he only had 3 assists. The Pacers will look to turn it around against the Nets tonight.
The Bucks capped off their homestand with their third straight loss and this time it came against one of the worst teams in the league. After Milwaukee cut the lead to one in the fourth quarter, the Hornets scored 6 straight to put them up 78-73 and stalling Milwaukee’s momentum. Marco Belinelli hit 6 out of 7 threes and led the Hornets with 22 points. Gustavo Ayon had a nice game with 12 points and 12 rebounds and helped the Hornets win their first road game since January 9. The Bucks were led by Ersan Ilyasova who scored 23 off the bunch but that came on 9-21 shooting. Brandon Jennings’ shooting woes continue; he scored 18 points but went 7-21 from the field and 2-6 from behind the arc.
Houston remains one of the toughest teams to beat at home and not even the Thunder could overcome the home-court advantage last night. In a game that saw nine ties and twelve lead changes, the Rockets were able to stifle the Thunder in the fourth quarter of play. After Kevin Durant (33 and 8 boards) and Russell Westbrook (26 and 8 boards) absolutely lit up the Rockets in the third quarter to the tune of 24 points, Houston put the clamps down and held the duo to 5-16 shooting and forced them to commit two turnovers in the final quarter of play. Houston held OKC scoreless in the final 2:45 of regulation and were able to pull out a victory even though the Thunder had four chances to win the game. Kevin Martin led Houston with 32 points (including 15 of his own during a great third quarter) and hit a few clutch free throws down the stretch to propel his team to victory. Kyle Lowry finished with 11 and 9 assists and Chandler Parsons filled up the stat sheet with 14 points, 7 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals.
The Bobcats continue to bring the suck every night and have now lost 16 straight. Charlotte actually led for most of the first half but gave up a 14-5 run in the third quarter and were down by double digits heading into the fourth. Nikola Pekovic may be the perfect complement to Kevin Love in the Timberwolves frontcourt. Last night, Pekovic had a double-double with 21 points and 11 boards and now has seven double-doubles over the last 11 games–compared to just one for his career heading into the season. KLove had himself his 10th 30-10 game of the season with 30 points and 18 boards’ the next closest player to Love in 30-10 games only has five. Minny shot 50 percent for the game, forced 16 turnovers and had 9 steals in a great team dub. Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 21 points and 6 boards while Corey Maggette had 18 and 0 assists.
After a rocky start, it looks like the defending champs are starting to hit their stride. With last night’s easy dub over the Nugs, Dallas has now won five straight and held one of the most explosive offenses in the league to 84 points. After being on the wrong end of a 12-1 run in the second quarter, the Nuggets never threatened and trailed by 16 late in the quarter. Shawn Marion had 16 points, 10 boards and 6 assists while Lamar Odom and Jason Kidd chipped in with 14 and 13 respectively. The Nuggets, who have been decimated by the injury bug, shot 36 percent from the field and their 39 first half points were a season low.
After leading for three quarters, the Suns couldn’t crack the Hawks zone defense in the fourth quarter and were held to 22 points in the quarter. Trailing 98-95 with 12 seconds to go, Channing Frye got a great look at a game tying 3 but couldn’t get his legs under him and his shot fell short. With last night’s loss the Suns fell to 0-3 during their back-to-back-to-back stretch and now sit at 12-18. Josh Smith continues to play with a chip on his shoulder after not being selected to the All-Star team; last night he went for 30 points, a season-high 17 boards and 7 dimes–dude has been beastin’ lately. With Tracy McGrady injured, Willie Green stepped up and added 20 points off the bench and Jeff Teague had 16 points and 5 assists. The ageless Steve Nash had 22 points and 16 dimes and Grant Hill added 18 in the losing effort.
With LaMarcus Aldridge sidelined due to an ankle injury, the Blazers were able to pull off a tough road victory behind Gerald Wallace’s 24 points and 6 rebounds. In a back and forth game that was close throughout, Jamal Crawford proved to be the deciding factor off the bench for Portland. The always exciting swingman knocked down a huge 3-pointer with 1:03 left to take a 91-90 lead. After Nate Robinson (21 points) hit one of two from the strip to tie it at 91, Crawford drew a foul and hit the final two points of the game to give Portland a 93-91 lead. Nicolas Batum continued his strong play with 17 points and Marcus Camby had a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards. David Lee led the Warriors wth 29 points and 11 boards but Golden State made a number of boneheaded plays late in the game to let this one slip away at home.
The Wizards hung around until the fourth quarter but they had no answer for Randy Foye in the final period of play. With the Clippers only up three with ten minutes to go, Foye scored 10 points in a three minute span to help stretch the lead to 12 as Lob City won their seventh straight over the Wizards. Five Clippers scored in double-figures including Blake Griffin who had 23 points and 15 boards, Caron Butler who chipped in with 21 and Chris Paul who finished with 16 points and 9 dimes. For the Wiz, Javale McGee and John Wall each had 18 and one night after scoring 35, Nick Young scored 14 points on a woeful 5-18 shooting.
Play of the Night: Jamal Crawford with the clutch 3.
Dunks of the Night: Rudy Gay catches it off the glass.
“He just Mozgov’d somebody!”
Alonzo Gee on the break.
DeMar with the reverse alley.
Obligatory Blake Griffin highlight.
Throwback Moment: LJ with the 4-point play–shouts to Steve Novak for reminding me of this.
Tonight: Abe is back like Jordan wearing the 4-5. Three games on deck: Nets-Pacers, C’s-Bulls and Lob City-Blazers. Catch y’all Saturday.