Post Up: Close Calls

Russ and the Thunder held on to beat the Nets, the Spurs took down LeBron, Kuz handled the Celtics and more.
by January 24, 2018
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Kyle Kuzma

Kings 105 (14-33), Magic 99 (14-33)

When De’Aaron Fox left the Kings’ game early on Tuesday with an abdominal injury, Garrett Temple was forced to step up. He did that and more, dropping a career-high 34 points (on 14-of-17 shooting) to lead Sacramento to a much-needed W. Willie Cauley-Stein was dominant down low, posting 21 points and nine rebounds to go with five blocks. George Hill — who has been involved in trade rumors lately — was a DNP-CD.

Evan Fournier led the Magic with 22 points, followed closely behind by Elfrid Payton (21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists). Orlando’s biggest issue was turnovers, as the Magic committed 17 of them. Aaron Gordon (16 points, 12 rebounds) struggled with his shot and accounted for seven of those Orlando miscues.

Thunder 109 (27-20), Nets 108 (18-30)

Brooklyn used a big second quarter to build a double-digit lead over Oklahoma City, but the trio of Russ (32 points), Paul George (28 points, 9 rebounds) and Raymond Felton (14 points in 17 minutes) helped the Thunder fight back and take a late lead. Then, with the shot clock off and the Nets down 107-106, Spencer Dinwiddie (13 points, 7 assists) took it right at Carmelo Anthony for a go-ahead layup. However, he left almost seven seconds on the clock which was more than enough for Russ.

There was still some time left for Brooklyn to tie and win it, though, but Dinwiddie was locked up by Andre Roberson and his game-winning three fell short. OKC has now won five in a row. Joe Harris (19 points on 5-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc) paced the Nets while Jarrett Allen posted a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double.

Spurs 114 (31-18), Cavaliers 102 (27-19)

On a night when a lot of the attention was (deservedly) given to LeBron for reaching the 30,000-point milestone, the Cavaliers’ defense was porous yet again as the Spurs shot 50 percent from the field and were able to stay at arm’s length away from Cleveland all game. LaMarcus Aldridge — fresh off being named to his sixth All-Star team — was unstoppable, scoring a game-high 30 points on an efficient 18 shots. In fact, all five of San Antonio’s starters reached double figures.

Dejounte Murray, the Spurs’ new starting point guard, also had a big night. The sophomore is taking over for Tony Parker at the helm of Gregg Popovich’s offensive attack and just might be the next incredible San Antonio find. LeBron (28 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) was his usual self but committed five turnovers and wasn’t too efficient. Cleveland’s 18 turnovers allowed the Spurs to take 24 more field goal attempts.

Warriors 123 (38-10), Knicks 110 (21-27)

The good news for the Knicks is that they played really well for around the first 21 minutes of Tuesday’s game. The bad news is they played the Warriors so when they let up toward the end of the first half and beginning of the second, the Dubs took advantage and never looked back.

Golden State scored 74 points combined in the second and third quarters to grab control of this one from a Knicks team without both Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle O’Quinn. Steph Curry (32 points, 7 assists) overcame a slow start to have a big game while Kevin Durant (14 points, 14 assists) took on more of a distributor role as the night went on. The 14 dimes were a career-high for KD. GSW’s passing was also incredible — the Warriors assisted a remarkable 40 of their 46 made shots.

Michael Beasley, continuing to take advantage of any playing time he gets, scored 21 points on 15 shots while Courtney Lee (20 points) was locked in from the perimeter. But the defensive lapses New York had against a lethal Warriors team were just too debilitating to recover from.

Lakers 108 (18-29), Celtics 107 (34-14)

Kyle Kuzma might be breaking out of his shooting slump. The rookie led LA’s huge third quarter comeback effort, scoring 28 points in 27 minutes off the bench on 10-of-16 shooting (with 5 threes). It was a well-rounded game for him too, with some slick passes and key rebounds and, most importantly, 0 turnovers.

But it wasn’t a one-man show, as Julius Randle (14 points, 14 rebounds) outplayed All-Star Al Horford down the stretch and made some huge plays in the paint. Jordan Clarkson (22 points) was equally impactful. With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum struggling, Kyrie Irving (33 points) had to shoulder much of the offensive load.

With that said, this was a one-point game in the final seconds after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a pair of free throws — the Lakers went just 21-for-36 at the line, allowing Boston to hang around down the stretch. Instead of Kyrie trying to make a play, though, Marcus Smart (22 points, 8 assists) took a three for the win which hit the front rim and backboard before harmlessly bouncing out. The loss was Boston’s fourth in a row (and LA’s third-straight win).