by Jay Wallis / @jaywallis11
Raptors 115, Jazz 91
Leading 30-16 after the first quarter, 62-36 at halftime and 100-62 a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the Raptors never let the Jazz even think about winning this game. Toronto took the lead after 14 seconds of play on an easy Jonas Valanciunas (14 points, 6-8 from the field) hook shot and never looked back. Tyler Hansbrough (23 points, 7 rebounds, 11-13 on free throws) had one of the best games of his NBA career as 9 Raptors had 7 or more points on the night. Amir Johnson (7 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks) has been a force on the boards of late, collecting 21 in his past 2 games. As Derrick Favors (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Enes Kanter (14 points) continue to try and find their chemistry down low, Gordon Hayward (24 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) and sixth man Alec Burks (17 points) remain the lone bright spots for this 0-7 start for the Jazz. Utah fans can at least look forward to watching Tuesday’s Duke-Kansas matchup and seeing some stars their team might end up drafting.
Hawks 104, Magic 94
Atlanta went on an 18-2 run to start the second half, making the score 64-47 and giving them the largest lead of the game. However, Arron Afflalo (game-high 21 points, 7 assists) and the Magic wouldn’t go down easy, countering with a 24-6 run. Orlando eventually held a one-point lead with 3:50 to go in the fourth quarter, even with Nikola Vucevic (season-low 7 point, season-low 6 rebounds, 3-10 from the field) having his worst game of the young season. Al Horford (15 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks) played a large part in containing Vucevic. Jeff Teague (19 points, 13 assists) decided to take control at the end of this game, scoring or assisting on four of the Hawks’ final five baskets. If Teague, Horford, Paul Millsap (18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals) and Kyle Korver (14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) can find a way to play more consistent team defense (this was only the second game Atlanta gave up less than 100 points) and Mike Scott (17 points) and Cartier Martin (7 points, 2 steals) are a force for the second unit, the Hawks could very well make the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
Pacers 96, Nets 91
The League’s only unbeaten team kept a 0 in the loss column by doing the same thing they have done all year—play defense. Frank Vogel showed off his coaching prowess, helping his Pacers jump out to a 17-8 lead to begin this rugged game and go on a 15-5 run to start the second half. Through 7 games, Indiana has outscored its opponent in 5 of 7 first quarters and all 7 third quarters. With just over a minute to go, the Nets had multiple chances to tie this game up but ended up with a Deron Williams (17 points, 10 assists) turnover a Kevin Garnett (6 points, 8 rebounds) missed hook shot and a Joe Johnson (17 points) missed three. After these three missed opportunities and 9 seconds on the clock, David West (18 points, 8 rebounds) finally pushed this to a two-possession game with two made throws. In every game this year, Paul George (24 points, 6 rebounds) has scored 20 or more points, Roy Hibbert (15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) has blocked at least 2 shots and the team has given up no more than 91 points. Lance Stephenson (15 points, 7 assists) is also becoming a solid “glue guy.” The Nets, on the other hand, have been anything but consistent. Other than an impressive win against the Heat, they beat the hapless Jazz and lost their other four games. Whether this is a problem of chemistry or motivation, Williams, Johnson and Paul Pierce (15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) will need to pick up the pace if they plan on making Prokhorov’s championship dreams come true.
Cavaliers 127, 76ers 125 (2OT)
If Kyrie Irving should be considered a top 10 player in the NBA, his first six games gave no indication that he was ready to join this VIP club (scored under 20 points in five of the first six games and failed to reach double-digit assists in all of them). Saturday night was a different story. After battling through a game in which neither team led by more than 10 points, Irving made a driving layup to give his team a double-overtime win. Even though he shot the ball 33 times and failed to hit a game-winner at the end of regulation and the first overtime, his overall performance and the team’s end result made the bigger impression. Irving finished the game with 39 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds and a huge confidence boost. Michael Carter-Williams (21 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) did continue to show that his hot start isn’t a fluke, but there’s no question—this game was all about Uncle Drew and his assertive take-over game to start the season. Jarrett Jack also came alive and reminded Cleveland why he was so valuable during the Warriors most recent playoff run. He set season-highs in points (20), assists (5), rebounds (4), steals (3) and blocks (3).
Celtics 111, Heat 110
(Who says the Heat-Celtics rivalry is dead?) On a lesser scale than Irving, Jeff Green is also expected to make a jump in production this season. And similar to what Irving did Saturday night, Green stepped into the spotlight and hit a big shot in crunch time. The Heat came close to playing a perfect game offensively: They shot 57.7 percent, had a season-low 10 turnovers and held a 110-106 lead with 3.6 seconds left in the game. Michael Beasley (10 points in 8 minutes) even showed up to play. Just as the Spurs seemed to have Game 6 of the NBA Finals within their grasp, the Heat looked to be a few seconds from their fifth victory. After a quick layup from Gerald Wallace (6 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (18 points, 7 assists) was put on the line with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. Wade went on to miss the first, and in an attempt to purposefully miss the second, missed the rim as well. After a beautifully drawn up inbounds play from Brad Stevens, Green (team-high 24 points, 10 points in the fourth quarter, 5-8 on 3-pointers) caught the ball in the corner and gave his team a third straight win. This will most likely go down as one of the best shots and plays of the year. LeBron James (25 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) and the Heat shouldn’t have let this one slip away, but give Stevens credit for earning his first statement NBA win.
Clippers 107, Rockets 94
The Rockets are undefeated this season…against teams not from Los Angeles. For the second time in less than a week, these two championship-aspring teams faced off. And for the second time, the Clippers ended up with a double-digit victory. Dwight Howard (21 points, 8 rebounds) and the Rockets had a great first half, taking a 55-46 lead to the locker room. Once Los Angeles stopped the Harden-Howard pick-and-roll, though, this game quickly became out of reach. Down 71-60 midway through the third quarter, the Clippers forced four turnovers in five straight Rockets’ possessions. This led to an 18-0 spurt by the Clippers as James Harden (12 points, 4-15 from the field) never seemed to find his rhythm. Chris Paul (14 points, 13 assists) has had a double-double in all seven games this season while J.J. Redick (22 points, 3-7 on 3-pointers) has been on the receiving end of many of Paul’s assists. DeAndre Jordan (12 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocks) still lacks certain dimensions to his game but has refined the dimensions he excels at. He is second in the League in rebounds per game (13.7), only trailing Kevin Love. At one point in the fourth quarter, hack-a-Howard and hack-a-Jordan happened in consecutive possessions before Doc Rivers ended the shenanigans by taking Jordan out of the game. The Rockets had a great 3-0 start to the season but have since gone 1-3.
Grizzlies 108, Warriors 90
Memphis handed the Warriors their second straight loss by playing tough, Grizz defense and pounding the ball in the paint. Zach Randolph (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (18 points, 7 rebounds) controlled the inside while Mike Conley (20 points, 6 assists, 3 steals) orchestrated this dominance. Stephen Curry (team-high 22 points, 4-10 on 3-pointers) did his part offensively but couldn’t contain Conley. And none of the Warriors could contain any of the Grizzlies in the third quarter as Memphis scored 36 points on 68.4 percent shooting. Klay Thompson (12 points) has come back down to earth recently after having a scorching start. In these last two losses, Thompson is averaging 11.5 points on 10-29 shooting from the field. For a team that has all five returning starters from last season, it seemed odd that Memphis got off to such a rocky start through the first five games. With this blowout win, the Grizzlies finally looked like the team that just went to the Western Conference Finals. This could be the momentum necessary to get the grind going once again.
Mavericks 91, Bucks 83
It may have been an ugly win, but the Mavs finally held an opponent to under 25 points in all four quarters, something that hasn’t happened this season. Throughout the entire night, Monta Ellis (18 points, 5 assists) drove into the lane against his former team. Carlisle is making a concerted effort to get Ellis in the habit of making penetrating a habit. DeJuan Blair (7 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals) continues to be a spark plug off the bench night in and night out. Even though O.J. Mayo (game-high 28 points, 4-7 on 3-pointers) had a nice, statistical revenge game against his former team, Mayo had a total of five turnovers in the fourth quarter after only having one in the first three quarters. This tendency to play at his worst when his team needs him the most is one of the main reasons the Mavs decided to let Mayo walk. Fellow former-Maverick Caron Butler (19 points, 13 rebounds) also played well but was the only other Bucks player in double-digits. Shawn Marion (14 points, 10 rebounds) posted his second double-double this season and Dirk Nowitzki (16 points) hit a crucial mid-range jump shot with 1:40 to go that put this game out of reach. After playing 4 games in 5 nights, Dallas will get a chance to rest, only playing 2 games in the next 6 days.
Blazers 96, Kings 85
The Blazers outscored the Kings in the first three quarters of this game and eventually led 80-58 early in the fourth quarter before trash minutes were divvied out. While the Kings leading scorer, DeMarcus Cousins (33 points, 12 rebounds), scored in the 30s for the second straight game, the Blazers leading scorer, Damian Lillard, looked nothing like his normal self. Lillard shot 1-15 from the field and ended with only 4 points on the night. The rest of the starting lineup picked up the slack. Nicolas Batum (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) had a nice all-around game, LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points, 14 rebounds) and Robin Lopez (12 points, 10 rebounds) were forces down low and Wesley Matthews (21 points) had a game-high 3 threes. If the Blazers hope to snag one of the bottom two playoff spots in the West, they are going to need much more production out of their—yet again—weak bench.