by Anton Kudriavtsev /@TheDiesel
For some inexplicable reason, the Raptors still try to win games, getting a victory over the Wizards thanks to Andrea Bargnani (33 points) and DeMar DeRobbedAtTheDunkContest (30 points). Trevor Booker had a career-high 26 points and 13 rebounds as Washington suffered their 13th loss in 14 games. Outside of Wall (21 points, 7 assists), is the Wizards’ starting five the lowest basketball IQ as a unit? As bad as Flip Saunders has been, it must be hard to create sets if the players make up their own offense on the fly. Washington went on a 9-0 run before Toronto closed out the game with a layup by Bargnani and some free throws to put the game out of reach. Would JaVale McGee (11 points, 12 boards) put the team on his back if a triple double was at stake?
Despite giving up 10 points per game less and registering 3 more assists as a team after their reality TV trade, the Nuggets still don’t have a designated go-to player in close games. While the Magic shot just 37% from the field, they had the game under control in the 4th quarter but decided to donate their free throw line bricks (20-of-31) to charity and letting Denver back in the game. Wilson Chandler (20 points) hit a triple to bring the Nuggets within two points while Howard (16 points, 18 rebounds) split a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three. A Denver turnover and more missed free throws by the Magic later, the last play came down to Jameer Nelson (13 points) isolated with 5.7 seconds to shoot on the top of the key, as he released and swished a three-pointer to give Orlando the win. Another victory for short people across the world!
Elsewhere around the league the Bulls had trouble keeping up with a Pacers squad desperately trying to return to the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. Derrick Rose did everything for his team; tying his career-high with 42 points including 19 in the 4th quarter alone as his three free throws tied the game with 1.2 seconds to play. While the highlight was this spin move by Rose, he even made an obvious foul on Danny Granger look like a block to send the game into overtime but the Pacers were too much on this night. After dunking on Amar’e, Tyler Hansbrough kept riding his wave of swag to the tune of 29 points and 12 rebounds while Granger (19 points) hit a key triple to stretch the Indiana lead to 7 with under a minute to play. Rose sliced his way to the bucket to pull his team within three but fouled out on the next play. Chicago remain a half-game ahead of Boston on the top of the East mountain.
LeBron James soaked in the usual negativity on the road and dropped 43 points in 31 minutes of action as his Heat decimated the Hawks. Without forcing the issue, James went 16-of-21 from the field (including hitting 5 of 7 from distance) while Atlanta struggled to keep up by taking ill-advised jumpers. After the lead ballooned to 32, the game was over and the 4th quarter only served as a formality. The Heat take on the Nuggets tonight.
If there was anyone still fearing the Knicks in the post-season, their minds have changed as New York collapsed against the Pistons. After Detroit trailed by 11 points, Charlie Villanueva scored 11 of his 14 points in the 4th quarter while Chris Wilcox (13 points, 12 rebounds) added to the momentum with an emphatic put-back dunk to give his team the lead for good. Stoudemire had 20 points and 12 rebounds but Melo was limited to 6 points as Detroit ran him off his sweet spots while he missed all 5 of his shots in the closing period.
The Thunder won their 6th straight game as they showcased their new defensive mindset against the Bobcats. OKC frustrated the ‘Cats along the perimeter (and we all know cats hate being trapped) while Ibaka (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Perkins (9 rebounds, 6 scowls) took care of the paint. The Thunder forced 15 Charlotte turnovers and took advantage with 19 fast break points, the scoring led by Durant (25 points) and James Harden (21 points) off the bench. Stephen Jackson scored 18 points but his team routinely couldn’t finish over OKC’s newfound length while Westbrook (18 points, 7 assists) added the exclamation point with an inbounds steal-and-dunk as well as a windmill in the open floor. Forget the deer, the West needs to fear the Thunder.
On a rare day that the Spurs’ marquee players are all clicking, they’re tougher to beat than the water temple level in Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Tony Parker scored 33 points while Ginobili added 25, with Duncan (22 points, 8 rebounds) rounding out top contribution as they beat the Mavs. Initially starting the game with Boozer-like defense, the Spurs never trailed after an 0-2 start as Popovich immediately called a time out to berate his players in the most loving way. San Antonio led an 18-point lead slide in the 2nd half and went through a 6 minute scoring drought while Jason Terry (19 points) and the Mavs crawled within 2 points. Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points but the Spurs lived with the result as no other starter scored in double figures. Parker banked in a deciding three-pointer while San Antonio held on for win number 55.
The Nets and Bucks were locked in a battle of zzz… Unless you enjoy watching Carlos Delfino shoot (he hit 8 three’s), there was nothing exciting about the Bucks’ victory over the Nets. Delfino finished with 26 points and 8 rebounds but the contributions were as widespread as J.R. Smith’s shot selection, as all five Milwaukee starters scored in double figures to ride their 57% shooting momentum. Brook Lopez scored 25 points while Deron Williams struggled through another bad shooting game (4-of-13) to finish with 18 points and 9 assists. How much more abuse can Bogut’s elbow take? Adding to last season’s horrific injury, he smashed into Lopez’ grill last night, causing a 1.6 level earthquake and unquestionable soreness for Bogut. Either give the man some padding or have him talk to Bron’s elbow, it seems to heal quickly.
The Suns completed their season sweep of the Warriors, led by Steve Nash’s 17 points and 10 assists. Phoenix’s bench provided 41 critical points while Dorell Wright led the Warriors with 30 points but Golden State squandered all momentum with their 21 turnovers leading to 24 points.
Jrue Holiday scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds as his Sixers cruised past the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 12 rebounds the Kings committed 22 turnovers and gave up trying about midway through the 2nd quarter. Philadelphia added to their stellar first half by stretching their lead to 26 and coasting from there. It cannot be stated enough: the team started 1-10, and are now 23-12 since Jan 3rd and moved to the 6th seed in the East.
The Celtics began to switch to their annual “mailing it in until the playoffs” mode in a blowout loss to the Rockets. Kevin Martin scored 25 while rookie Patrick Patterson had 18 points and 12 rebounds as Houston pulled away in the 2nd quarter while outscoring Boston 34-18. Jeff Green had 17 off the bench but the team is either losing their poise or lulling potential playoff teams. Judging from last year’s “surprise” run to the Finals, I’m guessing it’s the latter so don’t count out the Celtics just yet.
The Lakers continued their playoff-level basketball with a win over the playoff-watching Wolves. Pau Gasol led the way with 25 points while Andrew Bynum held down the defensive fort with 10 point and 14 rebounds. Do Laker fans knock on wood each time Bynum checks into a game? Drew ended his night early after a flagrant foul that sent Beasley (18 points) crashing to the floor after a drive. Wes Johnson broke out with 29 points as the Wolves led for most of the first three quarters before falling to a 13-3 L.A. run. I hope someone was able to extract the audio from the Artest/Beasley trash talking, their conversation would make Charlie Sheen sound reasonable.
“Check My $tats” of the night: Derrick Rose – 442 points (at least that’s what the telecast said). Screenshots don’t lie.
I’m out like Bogut’s pain meds.