by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
One week from today, we’ll be getting giddy for All-Star Weekend 2012. Crazy, huh? This season’s been jam-packed from day one. So having only three games on the docket last night was a welcome breather. But don’t get too excited, we’re right back to double-digit game days starting tonight. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s do last night…
Deron Williams scored 29 points and Kris Humphries added 24 points and 10 rebounds, but the Nets once again struggled with turnovers, and gave up 32 points to Danny Granger even on a bum ankle, and the Pacers improved to 18-12 on the season. A Paul George (11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals) jumper gave the Pacers the lead for good with 8:15 to play, and the win snapped a five-game losing streak for Indiana (their longest of the year). Roy Hibbert had 13 and 11, and David West 16 and 6, as the Nets never really got quite to within striking distance down the stretch. New Jersey was competitive all the way, behind a big first quarter from Humphries, who hit his first six shots, and Williams’ ability to create shots for himself. But for the second straight night, the Nets finished with 20 turnovers and lost a game in which they won outshot their opponent from the field—this time 47 percent to the Pacers’ 37—falling to 8-23.
Chicago keeps on trucking without the MVP in the lineup, as the Bulls got 23 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists from Carlos Baldzer Boozer and 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists from All-Star Luol Deng en route to beating Boston and improving to 11-1 at home (25-7 overall). The Bulls built a 16-point lead in the third quarter before seeing the Celtics storm back and take a 1-point lead early in the fourth on a Rondo-to-Wilcox alley-oop, but Chicago went on a 12-0 run soon after to pull away. Rondo had 17, 8 and 7, and looked for Wilcox alot (exhibits one and two), but it was Kevin Garnett who led the Cs with 18 points and 10 boards. Both teams shot worse than 40 percent from the field for the game, but the Bulls made 10 three-pointers to just 3 for Boston. The L is the fourth in five games for the boys from Beantown, and their next four games are on the road. Meanwhile, the Bulls’ rode three players with double-doubles (Booz, Deng and Joakim Noah’s 15×16) and are now 7-2 without DRose in the lineup.
TNT’s Steve Kerr called this “a lockout game” and “a boxing match.” I have a hard time disagreeing. Both teams had quarters in which they scored fewer than 13 points, and both shot sub-39 percent from the field. The fourth quarter featured little offense but a whole lot of hustle—most of which came from the Clippers, who erased an 18-point deficit from earlier in the game to come all the way back for their 19th win of the year. And they did it even without Chris Paul scoring his first point until the fourth quarter. Luckily, CP3 turned it on in the final period, and finished with 13 points. Poor Portland. On the third night of a grueling back-to-back-to-back, the Blazers held tough, even leading by two at 66-64 with five minutes left in the contest. But Mo Williams (15 points) and Paul hit consecutive three-pointers to put the Clips up by four, and they held off PDX (16-15) from there on out. Nicolas Batum scored 15 points on 6-7 shooting in the first quarter, but scored only 4 points the rest of the way, and had to leave the floor in the final minute after being hit in the face. Blake Griffin had 21 points and 14 boards, helping Lob City outrebound Portland 47-35 in the win—also the Blazers’ fourth straight loss at home.
Line of the Night: Carlos Boozer’s 23/15/5.
Moment of the Night: Doing my best to resists a “they shot the lights out” joke…
Dunk of the Night: Meet this year’s Dunk Contest favorite, Paul George.
Tonight: Pete’s back for Friday, then me again for Saturday—confusing, I know! Tonight he’s got 11 games, of which most of you will probably be most intrigued by ESPN’s Mavs-Sixers/Suns-Lakers doubleheader. Meanwhile, I’ll be kicking back with a tall adult beverage and drinking in Wizards-Jazz. Oh, and some guy named “Jeremy Lin” leads the Knicks against the Hornets, but I doubt anyone will be tracking that one.