by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Clippers 103 (9-5), Kings 102 (4-8)
DeMarcus Cousins (23 points, 19 rebounds, 7 assists) might not have liked the outcome of this game or Chris Paul (22 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds) for that matter, but with a Paul free throw and more DeAndre Jordan (17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6-6 from the field) defense, as has been showcased frequently this season, the Clippers pulled out a tight one at Staples Center. For this first time this season, CP3 failed to obtain a double-double, ending his NBA record of double-doubles to start a season at 13. Part of Cousins’ frustration might have come from the fact that this team fought back from an early 20-point deficit to actually take a 5-point lead with just over 3 minutes left in the game. This was in large part due to the energy from bench players Isaiah Thomas (22 points, 5 assists, 11-13 on free throws), who should clearly be starting, and Patrick Patterson (21 points, 7 rebounds). But with more hot shooting from J.J. Redick (15 points) with Paul leading the way, the Clippers closed this one out. Other than Cousins and these two, Mike Malone didn’t get much else from his team. Is this Sacramento franchise on its way to firing its sixth coach in the past 8 years?
Pacers 106 (12-1), 76ers 98 (6-9)
This game showed us nothing new: Michael Carter-Williams (29 points, 6 rebounds, 7 steals) played at an all-star level, Roy Hibbert (27 points, 13 rebounds, 6 blocks) dominated the interior and Paul George (19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) came through when his team needed him most. Even though the Pacers continue to beat up on bad teams, they are winning in commanding fashion and winning as a team. They revamped their bench, but the Pacers should still be concerned with their team’s play when their starters are off the court. When the fourth quarter began, Evan Turner (21 points, 11 rebounds) and the Sixers went on a 19-4 run to take an 85-81 lead while the Pacers starters watched from the sideline. Once they reentered, David West (17 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks), who finally looked like the stable force from last year’s playoffs, and the rest of the starters went on a 17-3 run and regained control of the game for good. It is still unknown which bench players will make their 8-man rotation once playoff time rolls around.
Wizards 98 (5-8), Knicks 89 (3-9)
After John Wall’s (31 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds) dazzling performance against the Knicks, the third-year guard is now averaging 34 points, 4.5 assists and 5 rebounds in the past two games. Marcin Gortat (16 points, 17 rebounds) pounded the Knicks’ weak Chandler-less interior defense all night. Coming out of halftime, Washington went on a 13-4 run while New York seemed to lack any sort of ball movement. Carmelo Anthony (23 points, 12 rebounds) got his statistics, but he got them while yet again shooting below 50 percent. Out of 12 games so far, Melo has shot above 50 percent only 3 times and shot below 40 percent 6 times. However, this season, with Chandler currently being out and Andrea Bargnani (11 points, 4 rebounds) being worthless on the glass, Anthony is far and away averaging a career-high in rebounds per game (9.5). If there was a bright spot for the Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire (12 points, 5-5 from the field, 21 minutes) had a couple nice stretches of play in which he almost looked like the STAT of yesteryear. Then again, he is probably just teasing Knicks fans. New York’s current road trip doesn’t get any easier as they now have to travel and play the Blazers, Clippers and Nuggets.
Celtics 94 (5-10), Hawks 87 (8-6)
After losing their last six games, Boston finally picked up a win against a Hawks team that can’t seem to string together a winning streak. However, in the East, the Hawks might not need to ever win 3 games in a row in order to get home court advantage in the first round of the postseason. Six Celtics scored in double figures as they used this balanced attack and superior interior play (40-26 advantage on defensive rebounds) to outlast a scrappy Hawks team that lost all bite in the fourth quarter. The Celtics outscored the Hawks 30-13 in the fourth quarter as Atlanta shot 5-23 from the field. Even though Al Horford (18 points, 7 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (12 points, 5 rebounds) continue to play well down low, this team goes as Jeff Teague (13 points, 10 assists, 3-15 shooting from the field) goes. And Teague did distribute the ball, but he never seemed to get his shot going, shooting 0-4 in the final quarter. Jared Sullinger (15 points, 9 rebounds) has quietly been having a much-improved offensive season, more than doubling his ppg from a year ago. If the Celtics have a respectable record when Rondo comes back, they could make a push for the playoffs.
Heat 101 (10-3), Magic 99 (4-8)
As has often happened since the Heat became “the Heat,” Miami seemed to be toying with the Magic until they realized they needed to tighten the screws and win this game. At halftime, Aaron Afflalo (18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and the Magic led 55-39. The Heat couldn’t seem to be able to make a shot in front of their own crowd. But by outscoring the Magic 32-22 in the third quarter, LeBron James (22 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals) and the Heat got right back in this game. And by continually pounding the paint (46-30 points in the paint advantage), the Heat made this a 99-99 game with 37 seconds left in the game. Even though Dwyane Wade (27 points) had the hot hand on the night, the King took and made the game-winning shot, giving his team their sixth straight victory. For the Magic, Glen Davis (20 points) had a fantastic game off the bench, reminding Orlando that he does still exist. Victor Oladipo (17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) had another strong outing and Jameer Nelson (12 points, 6 assists) still seems like a player that doesn’t fit with this team’s direction.
Rockets 112 (9-5), Timberwolves 101 (8-7)
This game featured two teams looking to make big jumps in comparison to what they accomplished last season. And even though Houston had 24 turnovers compared to Minnesota’s 10, their offense (51.9 percent from the field, 54.8 percent on 3-pointers) made up for the sloppiness. And Aaron Brooks (26 points, 6-7 on 3-pointers) had a large part to do with this offense as he looked like Houston’s Aaron Brooks that won the Most Improved Player Award just 3 years ago. Even without James Harden, Jeremy Lin (19 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) and Patrick Beverley (17 points) controlled the pace of the game as the Rockets never gave up their lead. Terrence Jones (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) has looked like a completely different player of late, averaging 18.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 55.4 percent shooting the past 4 games. Even though starters Kevin Love (27 points, 15 rebounds), Corey Brewer (22 points, 5 steals), Nikola Pekovic (14 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Martin (19 points) played decent, no other Wolves player brought much to the table Saturday night. (The fact that Shabazz Muhammad has been nonexistent but no one drafted under him has been much better shows the weakness of this last draft.) If Minnesota wants to make the playoffs, Ricky Rubio (7 points, 8 assists) has to play at a higher level.
Bobcats 96 (7-7), Bucks 72 (2-10)
Al Jefferson (19 points, 7 rebounds) and his new squad have been playing like a playoff team of late and currently hold the fifth best record in the abysmal East because of it. (On a sidenote, where would this Bobcats team be right now if they had drafted Nikola Vucevic instead of Bismack Biyombo in the 2011 NBA Draft? Or maybe anyone other than Bismack Biyombo?) The Bobcats had a 48-28 points in the paint advantage, 18-2 fast break points advantage and 52-36 rebound advantage. The Bucks never stood a chance in this game, especially in the third quarter when they only put up 12 points. Gerald Henderson (17 points, 4 rebounds, 7-12 shooting from the field) has been making the game look easy this season. He has looked good since he came into the League, but has been ignored because, well, you know. Bobcats. If Kemba Walker (11 points, 4 turnovers) can try and cut down on his turnovers and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (7 points, 6 rebounds) can continue trying to become a glue guy, the playoffs aren’t out of the question for this team. (Honestly, they’re not out of the question for most teams in the East). Currently holding the longest losing streak in the NBA, Milwaukee has nothing going for them right now. John Henson (10 points, 3-9 shooting from the field) hasn’t made that “jump” yet. Brandon Knight (3 points, 7 assists, 4 turnovers, 1-8 shooting from the field) has no rhythm whatsoever. And Gary Neal (9 points, 4-11 shooting from the field), who is shooting 39 percent on the season, is as up-and-down as he’s ever been. Hey, at least Giannis Antetokounmpo—the Greek Freak—has a fun name to try and say, right?
Spurs 126 (12-1), Cavaliers 96 (4-10)
The Spurs have now tied their best start in franchise history and the Cavaliers made it easy on them. To make it clear just how much of a blowout this game was, San Antonio led by 35 points before halftime. They didn’t stop there, eventually leading by 43 points in the second half. They finished the game with 16 3-pointers. This team showcased extreme depth, having all 13 players that entered the game score at least 6 points and 11 of them score at least 8 points. No one scored over 20 points as Danny Green (17 points, 5-7 on 3-pointers) led the team in scoring. The Spurs looked to be in midseason form Saturday night while the Cavs didn’t have a recognizable form. Kyrie Irving (15 points, 4 assists, 7-17 from the field) was expected by many to have an MVP-caliber season, leading his team into the playoffs. He hasn’t come close. Rookie Matthew Dellavedova (14 points, 4 steals) started his second straight game, scoring in double-figures for the first time in his young career and Andrew Bynum (season-high 16 points, season-high 6 rebounds) seemed to come alive in the blowout. The Cavaliers have now lost 6 of their last 7 and look like one of the worst teams in the League.
Nuggets 102 (6-6), Mavericks 100 (9-5)
A Rick Carlisle ejection almost gave Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 9 rebounds), Monta Ellis (25 points) and this Mavs team enough of a spark to erase a 15+ point deficit for the second straight game, but the Nuggets clamped down defensively down the stretch. With six players in double figures, Denver was led by the ever-so-quick Ty Lawson (20 points, 9 assists) and ever-so-rugged Kenneth Faried (18 points, 14 rebounds). Randy Foye (17 points, 5-12 on 3-pointers) hit timely 3-pointers all night long, including one to give his team a 101-100 lead with 1:11 to go. The Nuggets went on to force the Mavs to miss their final five shots. After their rocky 0-3 start, Denver has since gone 6-3 and seems to be buying into Brian Shaw’s system—or Brian Shaw seems to be figuring out how to utilize his fast-paced personnel. Dallas stuck around for most of this game and showed resolve throughout. After an Ellis midrange jumpshot with 7:30 left in the game, Dallas took the lead (89-88) for the first time since 16-15 early on in the first quarter. Vince Carter (16 points) played a large part in the comeback, making 4 3-pointers in the second half alone. Carter and his teammates just seemed to run out of gas, as most team’s do when traveling to the Pepsi Center. Offensively, Dallas has their offense flowing, but they struggle to get big stops when necessary. Lately, Samuel Dalembert (3 points, 3 rebounds) has been losing crunch time minutes to undersized DeJuan Blair (8 points, 10 rebounds, 5 fouls), who seems to have more fight on the defensive end of the floor.
Blazers 113 (12-2), Warriors 101 (8-6)
While Golden State has dropped three in a row, Portland is tied with the Spurs for the longest current winning streak in the League (10). And that winning streak got to double-digits in large part due to a monster game by the underrated LaMarcus Aldridge (30 points, 21 rebounds, 3 blocks), who might be on his way to a third straight All-Star appearance. If he goes, though, he might be joined by co-star Damian Lillard (20 points, 9 assists), who is maturing as a player very quickly. Wesley Matthews (23 points, 8-9 shooting from the field) continued to be one of the purest shooters in the League, shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 50.0 percent on 3-pointers this season. Even though this game looks as if it lacked defense, Terry Stotts’ Blazers held the Warriors scoreless for almost six straight minutes, allowing them to put this game out of reach. This team is moving the ball well and playing timely defense, making them an extremely fun team to watch. Klay Thompson (30 points) had a big game, but due to Mark Jackson mishandling his minutes when he was in foul trouble, Thompson fouled out with 5 minutes left in the game. Earlier in the game, a “tussle” occurred in which Draymond Green (4 points, 3 rebounds) was ejected instead of Andrew Bogut (4 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks) for some odd reason. Stephen Curry (22 points, 11 assists) came back strong, but with Andre Iguodala injured and the Jarrett Jack/Carl Landry bench duo long gone, the Warriors have no depth. None. Until Iggy gets back, someone off this bench will need to surprise us all or else this might become the 2012-13 Blazers 2.0.