by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Nets (16-22) 127, Hawks (20-19) 110
The Nets did their best to trick the British crowd at the O2 Arena into thinking that Eastern conference basketball can be aesthetically pleasing, outgunning the Hawks in London. Joe Johnson lit up his former team, scoring 26 of his 29 points in the first half. The Nets didn’t trail after the first quarter, stretching their lead as large as 33 points early in the fourth quarter.
Defense was not at a premium for either side; the Nets allowed Atlanta to shoot 49.4 percent from the field while sending them to the line 22 times, but Brooklyn shot 58.2 percent themselves, including 59.3 percent (16-27) from long range. Johnson hit 6-8 triples, Alan Anderson (15 points) made 4-6 and Mirza Teletovic came off the bench to hit 3-3 for his nine points. Andray Blatche posted a double double in his reserve role with 20 points and 14 boards. Only one player that played 10 or more minutes (Jason Terry) shot under 50 percent from the field.
The Hawks had a scare that lasted until the fourth quarter – Kyle Korver missed his first seven long-range attempts, putting his streak of games with a made 3-pointer in jeopardy. Despite the blowout, he managed to sink one with eight minutes to go for his only basket of the game, extending the streak to 108 games. Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack both came off the bench to score 17 for Atlanta, while Jeff Teague had 16.
The win took the Nets franchise to 3-0 in London games and extended their current hot streak, giving them their sixth win in seven games.
Pacers (31-7) 117, Knicks (15-24) 89
The Knicks came out swinging, but the Pacers responded quickly to that opening flurry and put New York in a submission hold the rest of the way. Lance Stephenson had a career-high 28 points, putting on a show at both ends for the Indiana fans against his hometown team. Stephenson chipped in four rebounds and four assists, making several highlight-worthy plays along the way. Lance was also a whopping plus-30 for the game, the highest of any Pacer, as they held the Knicks to 40 percent shooting.
Basically everything good that happened for the Knicks came in the first quarter, where they scored 31 points thanks to some crisp ball movement and a scoring outburst from Carmelo Anthony, who dropped 18 of his 28 in the first on 6-8 shooting.
Indiana apparently had enough of the idea of their opponent scoring and put New York on lock down in the second quarter, holding them to just 17 points as they pulled away. After going up by 10 with a minute to go in the first half, their lead never dipped back into single digits. Paul George was stellar for Indiana, scoring 25 on 8-17 shooting and knocking down four 3-pointers. Roy Hibbert was mostly quiet, scoring 11 points in just 27 minutes, but had one very loud play that gave Melo some flashbacks to last spring.
Thunder (29-10) 104, Rockets (26-15) 92
After the Rockets scorched the nets in the first half, Oklahoma City shut everything down over the final 24 minutes. Houston rang up 73 points and 12-20 shooting from behind the arc in the first two quarters, but the Thunder played some stifling defense and held them to 19 points and 19 percent shooting in the second half. That’s for the entire second half. That scoring gap, minus-54, is an NBA record for the largest negative point differential between halves in a game. Kevin Durant had 36 points to lead OKC to the win, getting to the line 20 times (and hitting 18) to power them through a tough start to the game in which the Thunder missed their first 14 shots from deep.
Everyone was knocking down 3-pointers for the Rockets early. Chandler Parsons (14 points), Aaron Brooks (11 points) and Donatas Montiejunas (15 points) all hit three of them in the first half, while James Harden continuously sliced to the rim against his former team. All that changed in the second half; Houston did not knock down a 3-pointer after halftime, and the looks the Rockets were getting early were nowhere near as open as the game wore on. Dwight Howard struggled for the Rockets, getting himself into foul trouble and putting up just 11 points and eight boards.
While Houston was hitting all of the long-range bombs early, OKC caught the fever down the stretch. After that 0-14 start from deep, the Thunder finished the game on a 6-11 tear from downtown. OKC’s spree was capped off by Reggie Jackson, who rebounded from a poor start to finish with 23 points and six steals and banked in a back-breaking 3. He put the exclamation point on the comeback with a breakaway windmill dunk. Serge Ibaka had a monster game as well, going for 21 and 15 on 10-13 shooting while playing his usual intimidating help-side defense, swatting away five shots, hitting Dwight and the Houston crowd with a Mutombo finger wave after one crucial block down the stretch.
The Rockets’ collapse will give critics of their strategy plenty of ammunition. Despite going ice cold in the second half, Houston’s shot chart looked the same as ever: tons of 3-pointers, tons of layup attempts, nothing in the middle. If this team wants to make noise in the Playoffs, they’ll have to get a little more flexible in their philosophy and adjust when the shots just won’t fall.