by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
After all the Dwight Howard drame (the “Dwightmare,” if you will) yesterday, it was nice to finally watch some basketball decided on the court. (By the way, it’s entirely possible that by the time you read this, it will already be out of date. Cut a guy a break, it’s not my fault Dwight is a flip-flopping night owl.) And the dozen games on deck did not disappoint, from a second straight overtime win for the Lakers to Chicago’s dominance over Miami even without DRose to one night’s worth of revolution in New York. Let’s get it started.
For a second night in a row, Indiana got huge performances from its bench, led by 17 points from George Hill and 14 from Tyler Hansbrough. The Pacers’ bench outscored Philadelphia’s 47-20, and Indy shot a season-high 57 percent from the field as a team to improve to 25-16 on the year. Prior to the win, Indiana had dropped 8 straight games to teams with winning records. Danny Granger led the Pacers with 20 points and David West chipped in 18—he and Roy Hibbert (14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) dominated the Sixers in the paint, even with Spencer Hawes back on the court for Philly. The Sixers, who trailed by as many as 19 at one point despite shooting 53 percent, once again got a monster game from Evan Turner, who racked up 21 points on 9-11 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in his 38 minutes.
With no Deron Williams (again), the Nets turned to unlikely go-to guys Kris Humphries and Gerald Green to beat the Raptors for perhaps the last time before the New Jersey is turned completely upside down. Humphries snagged a career-high 21 rebounds to go with his 16 points (plus 3 each assists, steals and blocks) and Green scored 20 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to beat the Raptors. As a team, the Nets shot 48 percent from the field, while Toronto shot just 38 percent, including 1-10 from the 3-point line. The Raps were led in scoring by Jerryd Bayless and James Johnson, who scored 16 apiece and DeMar Derozan threw down a nasty alley-oop. Unfortunately, Toronto elected to play only token defense and Andrea Bargnani scored just 10 points on 4-13 shooting.
Jeez, either the Knicks really hated Mike D’Antoni or the Blazers are completely falling apart. Either way, after last night’s game, Nate McMillan might be joining Mike D on the coaching free agent list. His team trailed by as many as 42 (!) while shooting 37 percent from the field and looking generally, well, terrible. Ray Felton shot 2-10 with 5 turnovers to just 3 assists and LaMarcus Aldridge was thoroughly outplayed by Amar’e Stoudemire, who looked like his old self—he finished with 17 easy points (8-10 shooting) and 8 rebounds to LMA’s 15 and 7 on 5-15 field goals. Jeremy Lin took just 4 shots (6 points) while racking up 6 assists and 6 turnovers, but Carmelo Anthony had 16, Baron Davis had 10 dimes and bench warriors JR Smith (23 points, 7 threes) and Steve Novak (20 points, 6 threes) finished things off for New York in a much-needed victory, snapping a 6-game skid.
Keeping tabs on every basketball game on every weeknight of an entire NBA season, I knew I’d see and learn things that would surprise me. But if you told me I’d be writing about a Drew Gooden triple-double, I would have laughed in your face. Well, here we are. Gooden posted a 15-10-13—yes, 13 assists—and led the suddenly surging Bucks to a win over Kyrie Irving (28 points) and the Cavaliers. What’s even crazier: DG completed the task in the third quarter, then sat out the fourth. What’s even crazier than that: it’s not his first triple-double, he notched one last year. Against these same Cavs. Okay, Drew Gooden shock notwithstanding, the Bucks have won 4 straight despite 10 fourth-quarter points from Irving, and now await the on-court debut of new addition Monta Ellis, who was not in uniform last night.
With 1:07 to go in the first half, the Hornets held a 17-point lead. Then, the wheels fell off. The Lakers outscored New Orleans 53-39 in the second half, and rookie Gustavo Ayon fouled Kobe Bryant on a 3-point attempt with less than 20 seconds to play, sending the Masked Man to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game at 93. He calmly cashed all three free tosses, and after potential game-winners didn’t go down for either team in the final seconds, we headed for overtime—the second straight OT night for Los Angeles. In the extra frame, Metta World Peace picked Jarret Jack’s pocket with 40 seconds to play and went in for a layup to give the Lakers a 3-point lead. From there, the Lake Show held on to get to 27-16 on the year. Jack scored a season-high 30 points to lead the Hornets, but Kobe (33 points), Andrew Bynum (25 points, 18 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (18 and 10) all had monster games for L.A. in the victory. The Lakers are now 4-1 in overtime games this year, while the Hornets are losers of 8 of their last 10 games.
Houston took a 10-point lead into halftime, then exploded to outscore Charlotte 36-17 in the third quarter, and the Rockets pounded the hapless Bobcats, who are now 3-20 on the road this season. Luis Scola scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in that third quarter, repeatedly taking advantage of the ‘Cats soft frontline. Houston outrebounded Charlotte 46-30, outshot them 54 percent to 41 percent, and led by as many as 29. Even without the services of Kyle Lowry or Kevin Martin, the Rockets had no problem dispatching of the Bobcats, who were led in scoring by reserve forward Derrick Brown, who had 15 points. Rookie Kemba Walker shot 3-13 (0-4 on threes) and scored just 6 points, bu did have 8 assists in 28 minutes.
If come this afternoon Dwight Howard is on a new NBA team, he will have ended his runin Orlando with a loss, as the Spurs fought off his 22 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots to overcome a double-digit Magic lead and improve to 28-13 on the season. Both teams shot 52 percent from the field, but Tony Parker led the Spurs with 31 points and 12 assists, and was so good down the stretch that the home crowd in San Antonio chanted “MVP!” for the veteran point guard. And since he saw his buddy doing so well, Tim Duncan put up 21 points and 13 rebounds of his own. Also, did Jameer Nelson suddenly realize that Dwight’s on the verge of making his exit? He played extremely well for the second straight game, scoring a team-high 25 points and added 7 assists and 5 boards.
For the first time since teaming up in Miami, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James each scored 35+ points in the same game. And Derrick Rose, reigning MVP and Chicago’s best player, took the night off to nurse a sore groin. So, the Heat won going away right? Nope. The Bulls had 6 players score in double figures, taking an 11-point lead into halftime and opening up a 17-point lead in the second half before holding off Miami in the waning moments to steal a win over their rival atop the Eastern Conference. Chicago (36-9) now has a 3.5 game lead over the Heat in the East, after riding 24 points off the bench from John Lucas III in DRose’s absence and surviving 36 from DWade and 35 from LeBron. The lead was never safe, as James Jones hit a pair of desperation threes with less than 10 seconds left to keep the Heat alive. But in the end, the Bulls walked away with the win—due in large part to shutting down Chris Bosh, who shot just 3-15 (12 points) and had more turnovers than rebounds (4 to 3). No other Heat player scored more than 6 points.
Coming in, Detroit had lost 17 straight road tilts against Western Conference opponents. 35 points from Rodney Stuckey and 32 form Greg Monroe helped squash that ugly streak, as the Pistons shot 58 percent from the floor and scored 40 points in the third quarter to beat the Kings. Last time these two teams hooked up, Monroe scored just 3 points. This time he scorched DeMarcus Cousins for a 32-11-3 line, while holding DMC to 14 and 7 on 5-15 shooting. Jason Thompson was the Kings’ best big, finishing with 21 points and 15 boards, and Tyreke Evans led Sacramento with 23 points, but rolled his ankle late and limped off the court. For the Pistons, Tayshaun Prince eclipsed the 9,000 career point mark with 28 on the night.
Amazingly enough, Phoenix is still in the hunt for the last Playoff spot in the Western Conference, and with last night’s win over the Jazz, they pulled even with Utah at 20-22 on the year, just 3 games back of Houston for that 8-seed. Jared Dudley scored 11 straight points for the Suns in a critical third-quarter stretch and PHX pulled out to a double-digit lead, one they used to hold off a late Utah surge. Channing Frye scored a season-high 26 points, including 5 three-pointers, as Paul Millsap (18 points, 10 rebounds) struggled to keep up with him on the perimeter, and the Suns have now won 6 straight against the Jazz and 6 of their last 7 home games. Steve Nash had 12 points and 16 assists—more than a few to Marcin Gortat, who scored 25 points. Phoenix outscored Utah 23-12 from the free throw line.
Lob Angeles snapped a 3-game home losing streak behind 25 points off the bench from Mo Williams and 54 percent shooting as a team. Chris Paul scored 13 points and handed out 9 dimes sans mask, Eric Bledsoe scored 14 and Blake Griffin delivered a 12-10-4 line as the Clippers. Zaza Pachulia matched Blake with 12 and 10, and Joe Johnson and Josh Smith led the Hawks with 19 and 18 points respectively, but Atlanta never led in this one—a game that featured two uptempo teams but that produced only 15 fast break points combined from both sides. DeAndre Jordan’s minutes continue to be limited, but he did shoot 4-4 with 8 points, 2 blocks and 6 rebounds in his 22 minutes, plus one big-time throwdown.
Nate Robinson scored driving layups on consecutive possessions in the final minute to tie the game at 103-103, but Kevin Garnett stroked a long jumper with 5.1 seconds remaining in regulation and the Celtics escaped Golden State with a win to improve to 23-19. Both teams shot lights out from the field (the Warriors 53 percent, Boston 51 percent) and the Celtics nearly took an L to the Dubs without Stephen Curry (hurt) and Monta Ellis (traded) due to 8 fourth-quarter turnovers. But behind a throwback performance from Garnett—who finished with 24 points, 7 boards and 5 assists—and 14 assists from Rajon Rondo, the Cs held off Golden State. The Warriors were led in scoring by Klay Thompson’s 26 points and got a huge late spark from NateRob, who put up 20 and 11 assists, but they made just 5 of 23 three-pointers in this game.
Line of the Night: The most unlikely of triple-doubles by Drew Gooden, who went for 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists. Yes, Drew Gooden, people. Simply perplexing.
Moment of the Night: Kevin Garnett beats the Warriors with a game-winning jumper.
Dunk of the Night: Will we ever see Dwight finish an oop in these colors again? And Joakim Noah puts his man-dunk on the Heat after swatting DWade at the other end.
Tonight: A 5-spot of post-deadline games kicks off at 8 with Wizards-Hornets, plus Thunder-Nuggets and a blowout alert in Dallas as the defending Champs host the Bobcats.