by Anton Kudriavtsev/ @TheDiesel
The marquee Friday night blowout is a sacred tradition, carried out in this game by the Pacers as they dismantled the Nets. Helping break his team’s 6-game losing streak, Mike Dunleavy led Indiana with 30 points and 5 assists, including making 6-of-7 three’s. Brook Lopez had 28 for the Nets (1 rebound, seriously?!), but the rout was on after halftime as the Pacers went on a 12-6 run and cruised to their second-best offensive game (they dropped 144 on the Nuggets back in November). Danny Granger (18 points) provided the quotatious material on Dunleavy: “…he’s probably the best guy that we have that moves…” As opposed to your other players that don’t move?
League Pass rule #76: never tune away from a close Thunder game. A back-and-forth battle was settled in two overtimes as the Thunder kept the Wizards winless on the road. Washington put on their best road game, with Nick Young (32 points) and John Wall making timely shots late, but were out-played by the best 1-2 punch in the game. Durant missed a potential game-winning shot in regulation but scored 10 of his 40 points in the second overtime, including a run of 8 straight to give OKC the lead for good. One more thing about Durant’s 40: this was an off-game for him, as he shot poorly early on, going for 15-of-28 overall and started hitting the lights out late in the game. Russell Westbrook recorded his third triple-double of the season with 35 points, 13 assists, and 13 rebounds including two straight cost-to-coast lay-ups that kept the Thunder from slipping away in regulation. Check out his unreal block against Wall – he had to come from the paint on the close-out. Oklahoma City are now 17-5 in games decided in overtime. How do you know if you have the best combo in the league? Durant and Westbrook scored the last 31 points for the Thunder. I realize there’s a good 3 of you left in the league, but if I were a big man I’d want to play for OKC as soon as humanly possible.
Being down 21 points in the 3rd quarter, the Grizzlies had two options: unite and rally or use coach Hollins’ drawing board to get a tally of post-game meal ideas. They chose the former. Led by a 15-3 run by the bench mob, Memphis splurged on the Sixers late in the game with a 42-point 4th quarter led by Zach Randolph (22 points, 12 boards) and Rudy Gay (16 points). Philadelphia came apart in the quarter, committing 10 turnovers and putting a “free” sign on their defensive tollbooth, letting everyone through. While Andre Iguodala had an almost-mini triple-double with 12 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds, the Sixes’ late hail-Mary shots weren’t enough to stop the Grizz comeback machine. One sign spotted at the game: “Our bench doesn’t need DHEA to perform”. Trash talking coming from bottom-dwelling teams: the new drink made from one part irony and two parts sadness.
The Raptors fought hard but had nothing to show for it as they lost their 10th straight game, this time to the Bucks in overtime. Corey Maggette scored 29 points including a 3-poiner in the final minute of overtime that bounced around and won it for Milwaukee. For the Raps, everyone who could have did have off night with Amir Johnson’s 24 points and 12 rebounds leading the way. Andrew Bogut carried the other offensive load with 24 points as his Bucks creep back into the playoff picture. That’s right; a team that’s 10 games under .500 is battling for the 8th seed. Only in the East.
Will the real Williams please stand up? Joe Johnson led his Hawks with 34 points with a win over the Knicks and backed away slowly in a fight between the two teams. With 44 seconds to play, Marvin Williams pushed Shawne Williams against the back which led to both being ejected. It wasn’t anything spectacular, your typical shoving match while walking away, throwing punches only when enough teammates separate you from your target. The fight was ranked a “3” on the Artest scale, which ranges from “Jawing for no reason” to “Queensbridge, fists up!” Atlanta led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter before New York put on a late run, with Amare’s 27 points rallying his troops to within 5 with 4 minutes to play. Josh Smith had 24 points and hit a three-pointer to extend the lead to 8 and hold on for the win.
The NBA: where a close Cavs game happens. I promise, it was close…ish. Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points and Arron Afflalo backed him up with 23, sending Cleveland to their 19th straight loss. Living up to their New Year’s resolution of not winning, the Cavs featured the explosive scoring of JJ Hickson (24 points), the face-palming of Byron Scott, and the silent weeping of Mo Williams. Why stop now, Cavs? Go for the record of 24 straight losses! Which team do you think is more terrible – this year’s Cavs or last year’s Nets?
LeBronimus Maximus looked confused as he glanced at the starting line-up for his new team. He usually never gets to know his teammates, assuming he’ll make them better eventually and they’ll be thankful for it. “Who’s this Jones guy? And how did Big Z get in there?” Without the other two bananas (that’s not fair, Bosh is more of a peach at this point), LeBron had a Cleveland flashback and not the good one, where Cavs fans bow down to him as he strolls through malls. Carrying the offense (39 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) and ball-handling duties, James used the classic “more shots, more mindless dribbling” reason as he and the Heat stole a game against the feisty Pistons. A close game late, the Heat naturally went to Eddie House as the go-to guy and his free throws put Miami up one. After a foul to give and fewer than 3 seconds left, the lob thrown to Austin Daye for the game-winning lay-up…was missed. I’m telling you, when Bosh gets back into the starting line-up, Miami will find creative ways to ignore him in the 4th quarter. Even though Daye is playing well for a rookie (19 points, 9 boards in this game) and makes clutch shots for the rudderless Pistons, this kind of a miss against a good team is inexcusable (foul or not). His punishment, as noted in the “Courtney Lee Book of Missed Game-Winning Lay-Ups”, is immediate exile to New Jersey followed by the slow decline on another team. If the Pistons are always publicly praising Rodney Stuckey, they have a funny way of giving him the car keys. First he learned under Billups, and then began to break out despite AI sharing the backcourt, now Tracy “when healthy” McGrady is running the point? T-Mac did have a good game with 14 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks, but at some point the training wheels have to come off.
Get out your Visa and give some credit to Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard. Rose and Deng led the Bulls with 22 and 26 points, leading to the first win over the Magic since the time that T-Mac was a highly valued free agent. Chicago swung the momentum back their way with a 34-point third quarter and held off a late response by Orlando to earn their 9th win in 11 games. The Magic cut the lead to 93-90 but Deng worked in the post for a bucket while Rose converted four free throws to seal the victory. Give credit to Rose for even playing, as his two stomach ulcers would have sidelined Jay Cutler for 2 years if he had anything close to it. While you’re at it, respect Howard for putting up a season-high 40 points and 15 rebounds, albeit in a loss. His expanded offensive game is a sad time for me, as I can no longer joke about his offense but I give credit where it’s due. The Bulls didn’t mind Howard exploding, as they locked down the perimeter, took away the 3-pointers (Magic shot just 5-of-21 from deep), and out-rebounded Orlando 54-40 in the win.
The Jazz got back in tune as they snapped a 6-game losing streak with a win over the T-Wolves. Earl Watson started in place of Deron Williams and scored 10 points in addition to a career-high 13 assists, pushing the pace for Utah to keep Minnesota on their heels. Paul Millsap became option numero uno and produced with 30 points, 8 boards, and 6 steals while Kirilenko made his presence felt with a season-high 27 points. Kevin Love registered his 32nd consecutive double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds but his Wolves were pressured defensively and fell to 10-36.
When you say you’ll do anything to win, do you mean it? Would you punch a player where the Suns don’t shine to get the advantage? Kevin Garnett would. KG got ejected in the 4th quarter after a below-the-belt shot on Channing’s Frye and his Celtics unravelled after that point. Marcin Gortat (very nice!) contributed career highs in points (19) and rebounds (17) as Phoenix shot to an 18-point lead and sustained it throughout the game to snap a 3-game losing streak. The creaky C’s got dominated inside the paint while giving up lots of open looks to an opportunistic Suns team who took advantage.
Jax from Mortal Kombat has two metal arms; Jax from Charlotte has two brass cojones. Stephen Jackson (31 points, 7 boards, 4 assists) banked in a game-tying 3-pointer in regulation to send it to overtime while D.J. Augustin added to the damage with 27 points and 12 assists to win in overtime over the Warriors. In a broken play, Jackson scrambled and hoisted the game-changing shot, and hit clutch buckets in overtime while relishing in the boo’s that the Oracle Arena bestowed upon him. Steph Curry led Golden State with 27 points and 5 assists but the team blew a 16-point lead and fell in overtime to a hungry Charlotte squad. The Bobcats are now 11-6 under new coach Paul Silas and are clinging onto the 8th seed in the East.
Don’t get DeMarcus Cousins angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry. The big man went to work on L.A. inside with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Bynum and Gasol combined for just 21 points. After being down 20 points in the 3rd quarter, the Lakers relied on mid-2000 Kobe, who put up 38 points and 7 assists in an effort to keep the game somewhat close early on. Besides a few underwhelming Kobe dunks, Odom’s streetball pass to Gasol is a must-see in this game. Think the Lakers are disinterested and passive now? Imagine them without Phil Jackson. This is unrelated to this game, but research has shown that a Ron Artest quote brightens up the average person’s day by 37%. Ron on his poor rebounding: “Sometimes I don’t even want to go for a rebound. If I can get one more rebound and somebody else can get it, let them have it. What am I going to get, five rebounds? I’m still not going to the president with five rebounds”. Never change, Ron.
“Check My $tats” of the night: Russell Westbrook – 35 points, 13 assists, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks, no fear.
Kevin Love launches his All-Star campaign with a bang. I’d totally buy his fragrance.
I’m out like Byron Scott after this season.