by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
After next week, Sundays are for basketball, not football. (Or hockey, in Drake’s case.) And yesterday we got a sneak preview of what that’s going to be like. In a word: awesome. Miami and Chicago battle down to the wire, Kyrie Irving beats Boston, an epic game between old reliables Dallas and San Antonio and more. Without further ado, let’s recap.
Chicago never led in this game, and Derrick Rose clanked a pair of free throws that would have tied it with 22 seconds left, then missed a jumper with 3 seconds to play that also would have tied the game, helping Miami escape with a win over their top competition in the East and improve to 15-5 (9-2 at home). Before yesterday, DRose had yet to miss a fourth-quarter free throw. The MVP played 45 minutes and scored 34 points, but couldn’t hit the clutch foul shots, and the Bulls dropped to 17-5. LeBron James put up a 35/11/5 line, Chris Bosh had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Dwyane Wade chipped in 15 points and 7 dimes. The remaining non-Big 3 Heat players combined for 23 points. And yes, The King & Co. had a slew of highlights. Take your pick: Bosh, LeBron, Wade, Wade again, LeBron again.
Ladies and gentlemen, Kyrie Irving. Kid is legit, and he proved it again last night, with 23 points (10-14 FGs) including the game-winner with 2 seconds left to down the Celtics on a pretty spin-move through the paint. Irving scored 8 points in the fourth, and the Cavs ended the game on a 12-0 run to move to 8-11 on the year—only a game worse than the 9-10 Celts. Boston lost despite a team-high 22 points from Ray Allen in his first game back from an ankle injury and 52 percent shooting as a team. Paul Pierce scored 18 points, had 6 boards and 5 assists, but also had 7 turnovers and couldn’t beat the buzzer on the Celtics’ final possession. This game was so much fun, the two teams will do it again on Tuesday, only next time in Cleveland.
The Raptors shot 52 percent from the field, while New Jersey shot 37 percent, and DeMar Derozan scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half as Toronto cruised to a win without Andrea Bargnani, and both teams now sit at 7-14. The Nets are now 2-6 at home, and got only 6 points from MarShon Brooks and 8-of-20 shooting from Deron Williams, who finished with 24. The only other New Jersey player to score in double figures was Anthony Morrow, who finished with 14 points. The other three-fifths of the Nets’ starting lineup—DeShawn Stevenson, Shelden Williams and Kris Humphries—scored 5 points between them. Jerryd Bayless was inserted into the Raptors’ starting lineup to guard DWill, and played 34 minutes while scoring 17 points (two here off a Jose Calderon lob). The Nets could only muster 15 and 14 points in the second and third quarters.
Any more wins away from home and we’ll have to rename them the Indiana Road Warriors. The Pacers are now 8-5 on the road and 13-6 overall after riding a big second half and a 51 percent field goal percentage to an impressive win over the Magic. Dwight Howard had 24 points (one poster) and 13 rebounds, but shot 4-for-15 from the free throw line and the Magic were outscored 56-36 on points in the paint. Danny Granger finished with 24 points, David West and George Hill had 16 apiece and Darren Collison racked up 10 dimes as the Pacers did away with the Magic’s three-point halftime lead. Indiana won the second half, 58-34, and won despite only shooting 11 free throws—three less than Dwight himself. Last notes: Big Baby hustles hard, and hey, Larry Hughes played 16 minutes.
On paper, I wouldn’t argue if you would have wanted to peg this game as boring prior to tip-off. Two older teams, with coaches not afraid to rest their stars in the lockout-shortened year, and none of the “sexy” intrigue of hot teams like the Thunder, Heat, Bulls, Clippers etc etc. But this game was flat-out awesome. Even with Coach Pop electing to play his reserves for all of the fourth quarter and overtime—the Spurs’ lineup for most of post-halftime was Gary Neal (who led the team with 19 points), Matt Bonner, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and James Anderson. Green (12 points) hit a would-be game-winning shot at the end of regulation, but upon further review the shot was waved off and we headed for OT. Jason Terry scored the final 4 points of the extra period, and scored 26 of his season-high 34 points in the second half and overtime to lead the Mavs, who also got 21 from Vince Carter and a 10-point, 13-rebound night from Dirk Nowitzki. The Spurs had one last shot at winning the game, but Green heaved up a three that was off the mark.
If I told you Emeka Okafor led the Hornets in scoring (with 13) and that New Orleans shot 38 percent from the field, you’d probably assume they got thrashed. And you’d be right. NOLA never led at any point, as Atlanta got a career-high 24 points from Jeff Teague and 16 points off the bench from Willie Green, who beat the third-quarter buzzer with a trey, to improve to 15-6. The Hornets have gone 2-16 (and 1-10 in their last 11) since starting off the year at 2-0, and the hits keep coming, as their next game is at Miami. Atlanta used a 23-4 run in the third to go up big while at the same time New Orleans missed 12 straight field goals and had 6 turnovers, and the Hawks led by as many as 29 in the fourth. Consider this nugget of futility: the Hornets were 5-19 in the first quarter and 5-20 in the third quarter.
Minnesota came back from down 18 to take a 1-point lead with 3:19 to play, but Kobe Bryant slammed the door shut on the Wolves down the stretch and the Lakers got just their second road win of the season (now 12-9). Kobe had 35 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 28 and Andrew Bynum finished with 21 as the Lake Show shot better than 50 percent for the game. Kevin Love continued to be Kevin Love (33 points, 13 boards) and Michael Beasley had a nice game with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but the Wolves shot sub-40 percent and Ricky Rubio shot 2-of-13 from the field, with just 5 points. Although, per usual, Ricky gave us some tasty highlights, in the form of assists to Love, Anthony Randolph and Martell Webster. But in the end, it was too much Kobe—yesterday, he broke yet another record, becoming the Lakers’ all-time franchise leader in field goals made on a reverse layup in the second quarter.
I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned. Denver lost with Tim Tebow sitting courtside. No way! Chauncey Billups scored 32 points in his first game at the Pepsi Center since being dealt with Carmelo Anthony last year, Chris Paul added 25 and Blake Griffin had 17 and 13 as the Clips rode a huge fourth quarter to a win over the Nuggs. L.A. outscored Denver 32-22 in the fourth and overcame a 21-11 disadvantage in fast break points to get to 11-6 this season. The teams traded highlight-reel dunks, first from DeAndre Jordan and then Nene, who had 18 points. Danilo Gallinari also had 17, Andre Miller had 16 (plus 10 assists) and Al Harrington had 16 off the bench for the Nuggets, who dropped the first of a brutal stretch in their schedule despite getting 62 points in the paint. Denver’s next 6: Memphis, Lob City again, the Lakers, Portland, Houston and Dallas.
Lines of the Night: Three guys scored 30+ to lead their teams to narrow victories: LeBron with 35 Pts, 11 Reb, 5 Ast, Kobe with 33 Pts, 13 Reb and the JET with 34 Pts, 4 Ast.
Moment of the Night: Kyrie Irving beats the Celtics with a nasty spinning layup in the final seconds.
Dunk of the Night: LBJ over John Lucas. Like, literally, over him.
Funny of the Night: Carlos Boozer’s kids cheer for the Miami Heat. For real.
Tonight: A 9-pack of games tonight, starting with Magic-Sixers and Wizards-Bulls at 7, and rounding out with three massive matchups out West: Grizzlies-Spurs, Blazers-Jazz and Thunder-Clippers. Enjoy, and I’ll catch you all back here in the A.M.