by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Thunder (24-5) 89, Bobcats (14-16) 85
Life for the Thunder isn’t going to be easy without Russell Westbrook, who had knee surgery Friday and will be out until after the All-Star break. Luckily for OKC, they have a 7-foot freak named Kevin Durant. When things got dicey in Charlotte, KD put an end to the Bobcats’ threat more or less on his own. Durant (34 points, 12 rebounds, six assists) scored 14 in the fourth, including 10 straight, to will the Thunder to the win.
OKC’s percentages were not pretty, even with Durant’s dazzling fourth. They shot 41.3 percent from the field, 32 percent from three and just 62.5 percent from the line – odd for one of the best free throw shooting teams in the League. Still, their stifling defense helped them hold the lead for much of the game. The Bobcats closed in with a 12-0 run late in the third quarter, and hung around despite the haymakers Durant was landing. Josh McRoberts (13 points, six rebounds, seven assists) hit and assisted on several big shots, as did Kemba Walker (18 points, seven assists). McBob bricked a wide-open three that would have given the Cats the lead, though, and OKC sealed it at the line.
Magic (9-20) 109, Pistons (14-17) 92
Orlando cruised to an easy win over Detroit behind a balanced scoring effort, led by Arron Afflalo’s 23 points on an exceptionally sharp 9-11 shooting performance. The game was never particularly close after halftime, with the Magic lead ballooning as high as 22 points in the fourth quarter. Nik Vucevic posted a 20-11 double double, his 16th of the season, and Victor Oladipo had 16 points and 11 assists in 37 minutes off the bench.
The Pistons suffered through a tough shooting night , with no starter hitting on even 45 percent of their shots. Will Bynum came off the bench to score 18 points on 8-13 shooting, but there aren’t many other bright spots to report on for Detroit, who saw their three-game road winning streak stopped.
Nets (10-19) 104, Bucks (6-23) 93
Brooklyn strung together a full-game effort for the first time in what feels like forever, wiping out the Bucks to bounce back from their Christmas embarrassment. Shaun Livingston was the best point guard on the floor, leading Brooklyn with 20 points and six assists. The Nets came out hot, hitting all six of their tries from long range in the first half and nine of their first 10 attempts from deep. Mirza Teletovic was the chief assassin, hitting 5-9 from three for his career-high 19 points.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had the best game of his young career, setting a new scoring high with 16 points, recording his first double double with 10 rebounds and swatting away three shots for good measure. The Bucks shot just 37.5 percent as a team as they dropped their seventh game out of their past eight. Larry Sanders returned from a thumb injury and posted 10 points in short minutes off the bench for the Bucks.
Raptors (12-15) 95, Knicks (9-20) 83
Things just keep getting worse for the Knicks, as they fell from being ahead by double digits to lose by a dozen to Toronto. Jonas Valanciunas helped lead the comeback, scoring seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as New York collapsed, shooting just 5-19 from the field in the final frame.
The Knicks looked strong at the start; they were up by nine at halftime, and Andrea Bargnani (18 points, 12 boards) had 14 and nine at half after not recording a double double even once last season playing for the Raptors. He slowed down significantly in the second half, as did the rest of the team. Four Knicks had to play 37 or more minutes due to injuries to Carmelo Anthony, Ray Felton and Pablo Prigioni. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 15 off the bench, and J.R. Smith had 17, seven boards and six assists.
The Raptors have been on fire (for the Atlantic Division, at least) after dealing Rudy Gay, going 6-3 since the trade. DeMar DeRozan kept up his excellent play, pouring in 25 points, while Terrence Ross (11 points) scored in double figures for the sixth time since the deal went down.
Timberwolves (14-15) 120, Wizards (12-14) 98
Minnesota blitzed the Wizards in the second quarter and Washington never recovered as the Wolves ran away with a win. Having their three-game winning streak on the road snapped wasn’t the worst news for the Wizards, as Bradley Beal (14 points) went down in the fourth quarter with a knee injury that looked pretty serious. X-rays after the game came back negative and he’ll undergo further testing, but this is really unfortunate for a rising star who just returned from injury.
The Wolves won the second quarter 39-24, pushing their lead to 14 at intermission. Washington never got it back to single digits. Kevin Love led Minny with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Nikola Pekovic also put up a double double with 18 and 10. Ricky Rubio came close to a triple double with 11 points, eight rebounds and nine assists along with three steals. John Wall was the only real bright spot for the Wiz, posting 26 and seven assists.
Pelicans (13-14) 105, Nuggets (14-14) 89
New Orleans’ new backcourt members sealed a victory for them over a fellow playoff contender, ending a comeback bid by the Nuggets. After trailing big, Denver cut the lead to 93-87 with under three minutes to go. But Jrue Holiday (17 points, eight assists, four steals) sandwiched a layup in between three assists and Tyreke Evans (19 points, 10 assists, seven boards) scored or assisted on the Pellies’ last six points to seal the win. Since returning from a two-game absence, Reke has averaged 19 points, 9.5 assists and eight rebounds over the last four games. Anthony Davis created plenty of havoc as well in this one, scoring six points down the stretch to finish with 17, as well as seven boards and four blocks.
Denver trailed by 15 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Quincy Miller scored 11 points in less than five minutes to cut it down to six before Jrue sparked the Pelicans. Wilson Chandler put up season highs for the Nugs with 22 points and nine boards.
Jazz (9-23) 105, Lakers (13-17) 103
Utah snatched a last-second win from the short-handed Lakers, as Derrick Favors (18 points, 14 boards) slammed home a missed layup with 2.1 seconds to go for the win. Jodie Meeks left a three-point try short at the buzzer as the Jazz escaped. The Lakers played without Pau Gasol in this one, as the Spaniard stayed home with a chest cold. LA lost Nick Young (21 points) in the fourth, as Swaggy fouled out with under six minutes to go, depriving the Lakers of their only real shot creator (sad sentence there).
The game was close throughout, as neither team was up by more than eight at any point. Jordan Hill (16 points, nine boards) kept LA in it during the fourth quarter, rolling up 13 of his points in the frame. Gordon Hayward (24 points, 9-17 shooting, nine assists) had the answers for Utah, scoring eight points over the final 6:18 and getting the Kobe assist on Favors’ winning basket.
Kings (9-19) 108, Heat (22-7) 103
Not many people expected the Kings to be the team to end Miami’s 19-game winning streak against the West, but DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay made it so. Boogie (27 points, 17 boards) had six points and six boards in the final 5:30 of regulation and Gay hit a jumper to send it to OT. In the extra frame, Gay (26 points, 11-19 shooting) hit a triple to open up the scoring and the Kings never relinquished their lead. LeBron James did everything he could to pull the Heat back into at the last moment, hitting three straight shots from long range to bring Miami within three after falling behind by eight. It was too little too late though, as Sacto pulled off the upset.
James (33 points, eight boards, eight assists) was hot to start, scoring 19 first half points, but had just three points in the third and fourth quarters combined. Early on, fans got the closest they’ll ever see to a dunk contest performance from Bron after he caught a silly pass from Mario Chalmers wide open at the Kings’ end of the court. LeBron also moved up two spots on the all-time scoring list, passing Larry Bird and Gary Payton to move into 29th place.
The Kings made their big move in the third, outscoring Miami by 11 in the frame behind Gay, Cousins and Isaiah Thomas (22 points, 11 assists). In the fourth, Miami leaned on Chris Bosh (18 points), who hit three jumpers to stake Miami to a tenuous lead that they couldn’t hold. Obviously, it’s worth noting that the Heat played without three key players – Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen – as they prepare to face Portland on Saturday. Things got a little chippy in the fourth, as Cousins took a hard foul from LeBron that looked like it was about to lead to blows, followed by Chalmers delivering a flagrant foul to Cousins. Luckily, Boogie kept his composure throughout, leading to a fun finish.
Warriors (18-13) 115, Suns (17-11) 86
It might have been a blowout, but this game sure looked fun. Stephen Curry (14 points, 16 assists, 13 rebounds) recorded his third career triple double just a few minutes into the third quarter, posting career highs in assists and boards along the way. The Warriors looked like the team fans expected them to be coming into the season (they came into the game ranked just 14th in points per 100 possessions), shooting 52.9 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and racking up 32 assists. Klay Thompson popped in 21 on 9-11 shooting for the Dubs and David Lee tossed in another 17.
The upstart Suns suffered through one of their worst nights of the season, shooting just 36 percent from the floor. Their excellent point guard pair, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, combined for just 15 points on 6-18 shooting, and they turned the ball over seven times combined. P.J. Tucker was the only Sun in double figures with 11 points.