A handful of games weren’t decided until the final moments last night, making it a wild slate of hoops. Let’s start in New Orleans…
Blazers 108, Pelicans 110
This was an outstanding game from the get-go, and NOLA led by seven at the break. The two teams matched each other in the third quarter, and a quick 7-0 spurt to open the fourth by Portland evened the score. They were neck-and-neck from there, with the Pelicans usually holding a one- or two-possession lead.
New Orleans held a three-point lead in the final minute after a Jrue Holiday bucket (originally ruled a three then questionably overturned to a deuce) when Damian Lillard sank a trey from about 62 feet out with 10 seconds left.
But the Pelicans answered behind Tyreke Evans, who sank a go-ahead jumper with a second left to put the Pelicans up for good.
Evans finished with 20 points, while Jrue (31, 13 and 7) and Anthony Davis (27 and 13) were huge as well.
Portland’s key guys were nearly as solid—Lillard scored 29, LaMarcus Aldridge dropped 28 and 8 (but missed a game-tying try at the buzzer) and Wes Matthews scored 18 with 6 rebounds.
Heat 97, Nuggets 94
This battle went right down to the wire. Michael Beasley knocked down a three with 30 seconds left to put Miami up four, but a rare split at the line by Ray Allen a little later on gave Denver a pulse. But Ty Lawson was off the mark with a trey with a couple of seconds left, and Miami hung on for its second thrilling road W in three nights.
LeBron led Miami with 26 points and 10 dimes on his birthday. Chris Bosh scored 17 and Beasley finished with 9. Dwyane Wade scored 12 points in 18 minutes before leaving with back spasms and did not return.
Denver’s high-man was Lawson with 26. JJ Hickson double-doubled with 12 and 11, but couldn’t get an inbounds pass in with 1.8 seconds left after Lawson’s missed three went out of bounds off of Miami.
Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 98
Dallas led by 19 at the break before surrendering the entire lead in the third quarter. They bounced back in the fourth, though, and snagged a two-point lead in the final minute.
Kevin Love had a chance to win it for the T-Wolves with a three as the clock expired, but he couldn’t convert (partially thanks to a shooting foul on Shawn Marion that went uncalled).
Marion turned back the clock in the winning effort, hitting 14/19 shots for 32 points to go along with 6 boards and 3 assists. Dirk chipped in 16 and 5 and Brandan Wright scored 14 off the bench.
Love dropped 36 with 11 boards, but it still wasn’t enough. He’s averaging 26 and 14 on a small-market, sub-.500 team and hits free agency in 18 months. Kevin Martin (19), Nikola Pekovic (18 and 10) and Corey Brewer (16) had solid shooting nights, while Ricky Rubio handed out 13 assists with 9 boards. His scoring (1/3, 4 points last night) is becoming a pretty serious problem, though.
Bulls 95, Grizzlies 91
Neither offense could do much damage last night until late in the game, when Chicago went on an extended 11-4 run to put it away.
It wasn’t the most fun game to watch, but Jimmy Butler managed 26 points (12/14 free throws) and Carlos Boozer added 21 and 10. DJ Augustin scored 10 points with 9 assists and 4 steals, and was key down the stretch for Chicago.
Mike Conley led Memphis with 26, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 6 steals. Unfortunately, nobody else did much for the Grizz. Zach Randolph and James Johnson combined for 23 points and 20 boards, but shot just 8/28 from the field. Kosta Koufos hit 6/8 shots but managed just 3 boards in 30 minutes.
Bobcats 80, Jazz 83
Utah led by three in the final minute last night, and a big defensive stop in the waning seconds iced the game.
Trey Burke led all scorers with 21 points. He tallied 5 assists and 3 rebounds, and has been really solid in his rookie campaign. Alec Burks scored 14, and Marvin Williams (10 rebounds) and Derrick Favors both added 13.
Al Jefferson posted 18 and 10 in his return to Utah, but was off the mark with a desperation triple that would have tied the game late. He did connect on a full-court heave as the clock expired, for what it’s worth. Kemba Walker also scored 18, but it was Gerald Henderson who led the team in scoring, with 19.
Wizards 106, Pistons 99
Detroit led by ten at the break, but got outscored 28-12 in the fourth. Washington was paced by John Wall’s 29—he hit 14/15 free throws with 7 assists. Trevor Ariza (15 & 11), Brad Beal, Nene and Martell Webster joined Wall in double-figures.
The Pistons got at least 15 from each starter, including 22 and 10 from Greg Monroe, 16 and 16 from Andre Drummond and 15 and 14 from Brandon Jennings. But they left 14 points on the line (21/35) and allowed Washington to connect on half of its shots.
Suns 107, Clippers 88
Lob City forgot to show up last night, and Phoenix took advantage. This one was over at halftime, as the surprise Suns (18-11) held a 17-point lead at the break.
Goran Dragic led the way with 26 points and 8 dimes, doing most of his damage in the first half. Gerald Green came off the bench for a big 21, and Markieff Morris double-doubled with 11 and 12.
The Clippers shot 36 percent from the floor. Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin each scored a team-high 15.
Bonus: Vintage Show Of The Day
This season, I’ll be posting a semi-random highlight video of a former baller at the bottom of my Post Ups. Today, Hakeem Olajuwon gets the honor.
Three semi-spoilers: (1) No. 10 might be my favorite because of the ground Olajuwon makes up in a split second. (2) In No. 7, Dream looks like he leapt from a special spot on the floor where the wood is really a trampoline. (3) No. 5 is a real ‘holy shit’ type rejection. Enjoy & Happy New Year!