by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Pacers (29-7) 93, Wizards (16-18) 66
The League’s best defense was in no mood to mess around on Friday, as the Pacers battered the Wizards’ offense. Indiana allowed the fewest points anyone in the Association has given up all season, holding Washington to 32.1 percent shooting in the process. It was the 10th time this year that Indy has held an opponent under 80 points. Thanks to that defense, the Pacers were able to overcome a 2-14 shooting night from Paul George, who scored just eight points but found other ways to contribute as he grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out six assists. David West led the Pacers with 20 points and Lance Stephenson returned from injury to notch a double double with 11 points and 10 boards.
The Wizards trailed 67-57 with a little under 10 minutes to go in the game and proceeded to get bludgeoned the rest of the way, getting shut out for nearly five minutes down the stretch. Bradley Beal was Washington’s top scorer with 17 points.
Pistons (15-22) 114, 76ers (12-24) 104
Detroit was undeterred by a scorching start by the Sixers, fighting back to take a lead after halftime and sprinting to the finish for a win in Philadelphia. Josh Smith fell one steal short of a 5×5 game, but still had a ridiculous stat line: 22 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and four steals. Even in having one of his best games as a Piston, Smith jacked up an astounding eight 3-pointers, hitting two of them. Brandon Jennings came alive after scoring just one point in the first half, hitting four second-half 3-pointers on his way to 19 points. The Pistons thrived with lineups that featured just two of their three big men (Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe being the other two), perhaps a sign of how things will shake out for Mo Cheeks’ team going forward.
Thaddeus Young bounced back from being shut out in the Sixers’ previous game to lead the team with 22, while Michael Carter-Williams had 21 points, seven boards and four steals. The Sixers shot over 60 percent in the first quarter, but fell to 43.2 percent by game’s end. They allowed Detroit to grab 25 offensive rebounds and had 14 of their shots blocked.
Hawks (20-17) 83, Rockets (23-14) 80
Atlanta trailed late after using a third quarter run to take the lead, but hung in and held off Houston. The Rockets had a few chances to tie it back up late, but Jeremy Lin (11 points) stepped on the 3-point line as he knocked down a jumper from the corner and the Rockets couldn’t get off a shot on their final possession. Kyle Korver (20 points) hit a huge triple and sank four free throws down the stretch and Paul Millsap scored 20 as well for the Hawks.
The Rockets, one of the most efficient teams in the League, struggled shooting the ball all night, converting just 41.3 percent of their field goal attempts and hitting just 6-19 from deep. They also attempted just 22 free throws, nearly 10 fewer than their average. James Harden was the game’s high scorer with 25, while Dwight Howard posted a double double with 15 and 11.
Grizzlies (16-19) 104, Suns (21-14) 99
Mike Conley tied his career high in scoring as the Grizzlies completed a comeback win over the Suns. Memphis trailed by seven points midway through the third quarter, but clamped down on the Suns and got their offense going as well. Conley drilled two jumpers and sank four free throws as things tightened up late, finishing with 31 points and seven assists. Zach Randolph was a beast on the block, going for 20 and 13 and even handing out seven assists.
Goran Dragic did all he could to pull out a win for the Suns, going for 21 and eight assists. He scored the final five points for Phoenix after Memphis started to pull away, but it was too late to help Phoenix get back in it. The Suns had just six turnovers, but the Grizzlies held them to 41.3 shooting.
Timberwolves (18-18) 119, Bobcats (15-22) 92
It appears the best way for the Timberwolves to avoid last-second losses is to have the game wrapped up at halftime. Minnesota was up by 20 on the Bobcats at half, and Charlotte never mounted a comeback. Nikola Pekovic dominated on the front line, scoring 26 points in just 27 minutes on the court, while Kevin Love had a 19 -14 double double in 32 minutes. Minny used a 20-6 run keyed by the bench to pull away in the second quarter, which they won 39-20.
For the Bobcats, Anthony Tolliver came off the bench to score 21 points on 5-5 shooting from long range. Charlotte got destroyed in the rebounding battle, as the Timberwolves bested them 54-33 on the glass. The Bobcats have now dropped seven of eight games, yet still hold onto the eighth spot in the Eastern conference.
Mavericks (21-16) 107, Pelicans (15-20) 90
Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis propelled the Mavericks to an easy win over the short-handed Pelicans. Both stars topped 20 points, just the 10th time they’ve done that in the same game this season, scoring 24 and 23, respectively. Dirk was active all over, picking up three blocks, two steals and five assists. Dallas never trailed, shooting 50 percent (14-28) from long range and dishing out 32 assists.
Eric Gordon was sizzling, leading the Pellies with 27 points on 9-13 shooting. Anthony Davis did his usual long-armed terror thing, going for 21 points, 13 boards and five blocks, but those two didn’t get much help from their injury-plagued team. Tyreke Evans played nine scoreless minutes and New Orleans was forced to rely on Austin Rivers, who scored 12 points on 6-11 shooting. Missing two of their best shooters in Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson, New Orleans somehow took just seven 3-pointers, knocking down three of them.
Nets (15-21) 104, Heat (27-10) 95 (2OT)
Rocking the much-hyped nickname jerseys, Brooklyn outlasted the Heat in double overtime, withstanding a furious LeBron James-led comeback and pulling away after King James fouled out. Joe Johnson scored 32 points, 22 of them in a ridiculous first quarter, but it was Shaun Livingston that was the guiding hand down the stretch for the Nets. The journeyman point guard, who’s come back from a horrific knee injury to finally establish himself as a solid veteran, played 51 minutes and went for 19 points and 11 assists. He scored four points in the second OT period as the Nets outscored Miami 11-2.
LeBron (36 points on 12-21 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists) fouled out toward the end of the first OT, the first time he’s done that in a regular season game in nearly five years, but not before he carried the Heat back into the game after a very lackluster effort early on from the champs. The Heat were playing without Dwyane Wade, as well as Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier. Miami trailed by 14 at the tail end of the third quarter, but stormed back to take lead late in the fourth. LeBron went into Hulk mode after taking a flagrant foul from Mirza Teletovic, scoring nine points to close the fourth after the cheap shot. After Bron fouled out, Norris Cole (18 points) drained an elbow jumper to send it to another OT.
Paul Pierce chipped in 23 for the Nets, while Kevin Garnett continued his kind-of resurgence with 12 and 10, although he missed several jumpers late for the Nets. Brooklyn has now won five straight, putting them smack in the middle of the Playoff chase. If they keep playing like this, they’re going to be a real pain come spring time.
Bulls (16-18) 81, Bucks (7-28) 72
Chicago got a boost from Carlos Boozer’s return from injury, besting the Bucks in a game that left bruises all over the rim. Tom Thibodeau probably loved this brick-fest, as neither team topped 40 percent shooting. The Bucks missed their last 11 shots from the field, allowing the Bulls to get out with a win despite not doing much offensively themselves. After missing two games with a knee injury, Boozer came back to score 19 points and grab 13 rebounds in the win. Chicago got another 18 from Mike Dunleavy, who went 3-3 from long range.
Milwaukee, the worst team in the League, shot just 31.8 percent on the night. They had a few chances to tie it late, as Brandon Knight (12 points) and O.J. Mayo (16 points) got good looks from three, but both bricked it. The Bucks didn’t make a field goal for the final 5:09 of the game.
Cavaliers (13-23) 113, Jazz (12-26) 102
The Cavaliers got the Luol Deng era off to a good start in Salt Lake City. The freshly acquired swingman struggled in his debut, but Kyrie Irving took care of things for Cleveland. Irving scored 17 of his 25 points in the decisive third quarter, where the Cavs turned a three-point deficit into a 15 point lead. Irving filled up his box score line, tallying eight assists, six rebounds and five steals to go along with his scoring outburst. Deng had 10 points in his 21-minute debut, but turned the ball over four times in his short run. Tristan Thompson had 18 and 15 for Cleveland and Dion Waiters came off the bench to score 17.
Richard Jefferson, who somehow is still playing significant minutes in the League, led Utah with 18 points. Trey Burke kept up his belated push for Rookie of the Year, scoring 17 points (7-15 shooting, 2-5 from deep) and handing out six assists.
Kings (12-22) 103, Magic (10-26) 83
The Kings won their second straight home game, taking it to the undersized Magic. DeMarcus Cousins dominated inside with 24 points and 14 boards, even racking up six assists along the way. With Nikola Vucevic concussed and sidelined, Orlando’s tallest starter was the 6’9” Tobias Harris (16 points, six rebounds). That spelled trouble, as Orlando got out-rebounded 54-37. Rudy Gay, just as tall as Orlando’s “big” men, had a double double as well, going for 22 and 10 with five assists.
The Magic dropped their sixth straight and shot the ball miserably at just 33.3 percent. Arron Afflalo struggled mightily, shooting 3-12 and 1-6 on 3-pointers for his 15 points. Orlando’s shooting and scoring numbers were both their lowest of the season.
Warriors (25-14) 99, Celtics (13-24) 97
The Warriors looked fatigued in their first game back at Oracle after their East Coast swing. They didn’t have their legs all night, leaving jumper after jumper short (41.3 percent from the field, 30.8 percent on 3-pointers). But in crunch time, they had Stephen Curry. With 2.1 seconds left in a tie game, Curry splashed a go-ahead jumper to hand the Warriors a win before they get a few days of rest. Andre Iguodala stepped up while most of his teammates suffered through rough games, coming up with a phenomenal line of 22 points (9-14 shooting), seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Dre came up with a few big plays down the stretch, picking up six points, two assists and a steal down the stretch.
The Celtics refused to fade away, pushing back every time it appeared Golden State was ready to pull away. Jeff Green scored 24 points, including a clutch leaner to tie it up at 97 with 11 seconds to go, and pulled down 10 boards. Jared Sullinger came off the bench to net 21 for the Celtics, who out-shot and out-rebounded the Warriors in the loss.
Clippers (26-13) 123, Lakers (14-23) 87
Even without Chris Paul, the Clippers still had more than enough firepower to embarrass their co-tenants at the Staples Center. The Clips were up by as many as 42 points in the third, hammering the Lakers defensively to the tune of 34.5 shooting for the game. Blake Griffin was dominant once again, going for 33 points, 12 boards, four assists, four steals and two blocks in just 30 minutes on the court, shooting 12-15 in the process. The Clippers didn’t even shoot 50 percent in the romp, but won the turnover battle 21-8 and outrebounded the Lakers by nine.
Kendall Marshall was the lone bright spot offensively for the Lakers, putting up a double double with 16 points and 10 assists. His defense was lacking though, as his counterpart Darren Collison went for 20 points and seven assists, getting open for a variety of corner 3-pointers, layups and elbow jumpers. Basically, Marshall was a sieve.
The Clippers welcomed back J.J. Redick from his wrist injury and the sharpshooter picked up right where he left off. Redick scored 19 points on 8-15 shooting in his return, playing 23 minutes before things got out of hand. DeAndre Jordan had a double double with 13 and 10 for the Clips, who got to rest their starters late. The Clippers used two big runs – 10-0 and 14-0 – to distance themselves from the Lakers early on. A storyline to keep an eye on for the Clippers is Blake’s free throw shooting. He was 9-11 at the line on Friday, pushing his January percentage to 73.3 percent after shooting 76.7 percent in December. That’s a big deal for a career 62 percent shooter from the stripe, and will go a long way late in Playoff games this spring.