by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
Waddup, SLAM fam? Our man Abe had some business to handle last night and unfortunately isn’t with us this morning, but I’ll try to fill the void as best as I can. Thirteen solid games, with some buzzer-beaters, blowouts and everything in between. So let’s get right to it…
Led by Jose Calderon’s 15 dimes and DeMar DeRozan’s 23 points—his fifth 20-point outing in the last seven games—Toronto snapped its four-game losing streak and left Detroit salty heading into the All-Star break. Aaron Gray chipped in with season highs in points and rebounds (12 and 12), Leandro Barbosa dropped a casual 17 and James Johnson contributed 15 for the Raps, who won’t play their next home game until March 2nd. Greg Monroe abused, going for 30 points and 14 rebounds, but that type of effort wasn’t exerted by Detroit’s other “playmakers”, most notably Rodney Stuckey, who came in averaging 23.5 over his last five games yet dropped a goose egg in this one. Monroe had 30 and 14, while Detroit’s four other starters combined for only 42 points and 14 rebounds. No bueno.
Also, free agent Wilson Chandler, who recently returned home from his duties in China and was mile high two days ago, was in Toronto with his agent Wednesday, meeting with Raptors management. Could be something brewing there…
The Wizards (4-13 at home) scored 68 points in the first half only to get beat 55-39 in the final two quarters to fall to the Kings, who are now a stunning 4-17 on the road. Sacramento snapped its six-game losing skid, but did so in rather unorthodox fashion. Tyreke Evans poured in 22 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, and DeMarcus Cousins had a solid 16 points and 16 boards, but neither played in the 4th quarter. Instead, Isaiah Thomas (18 points, 16 in the second half) and Marcus Thornton (18 of 22 in second half) took over. Sacramento led 104-103 with 3:44 to play, when Thomas scored the next basket to ignite a game-ending 11-4 run as the Kings notched their highest point total of the season. Crazy how Thomas—who was this year’s Mr. Irrelevant—has scored 78 points since taking the starting point guard spot four games ago, tying Otis Birdsong (1977) for the most points scored by a Kings rookie in his first four starts. John Wall was in freak mode (21 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds and 3 steals) and Jordan Crawford scored a smooth 32, but it was to no avail. Wizards coach Randy Wittman was irate after the game, saying his team played with “style over substance” (like, here) and that his guards need to “introduce themselves to some of the bigs that they never throw the ball to.” Ouch. The Wizards end the first half of the season with a four-game losing streak, and hold the League’s second worst record.
“Our team has no ceiling, I’ve said that from day one. I know we can play with the best in the League.”
Aight, Frank Vogel. I see you.
This doesn’t mean much, er, anything, but the Pacers (21-12) notched their fourth consecutive win with an easy dispatching of the Bobcats. Still, Indiana continues to beat the teams its supposed to, and there’s certainly value in that. The Pacers defeated the Bobcats for the ninth straight time, including the second time this week.
It wasn’t quite like Sunday, when Indiana jumped out to a 21-2 lead and won 108-73(!), but the Pacers led by as much as 21 in this one. Tyler Hansbrough came off the bench to score a season-high 22 points and 9 rebounds, Danny Granger scored 12, and Darren Collison and Paul George contributed 10 each. The Bobcats have now lost 18 of their last 19 games(!), and are chillin in the NBA’s basement at 4-21. One silver lining for Charlotte: Rookie Bismack Biyombo came through with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks in 33 minutes.
Chris Kaman scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and rookie Gustavo Ayon hauled in a career-high 19 boards as NOLA finally got a win in its third game of a back-to-back-to-back. Marco Belinelli added 19 points and Jarrett Jack chipped in 16 off the bench, as the Hornets never trailed in this one. On the other side, after beating Sacramento and Detroit earlier this week, the Cavs missed a chance to win three straight games for the first time this season. Kyrie Irving was held to a career low 6 points, as the Cavaliers’ starting backcourt of Irving and Boobie (Booby?) Gibson combined to go 3-for-22 from the floor, including 1-for-11 on 3-pointers. Irving missed 11 of his first 12 shots, and finished 2-13. Tough night for the rook, to say the least. The game was within reach late in the 4th quarter, when the Hornets were up 76-74 with 2:08 remaining, but a Kaman dunk and Belinelli 3-pointer put NOLA ahead 81-74 with just over 60 seconds left, and that was all she wrote. Antawn Jamison led the Cavaliers with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
The Celtics lost their 5th straight in a game that was never really that close. Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and Kevin Durant added 28 to propel OKC to its 11th straight home victory. The Thunder missed nine of their first 10 shots and fell behind 15-5, but soon after went on a 30-3 run to create some serious breathing room. Boston, who was sans Rajon Rondo (serving second game of his two-game suspension, but traveled with the team and was treated to a birthday party at former teammate Kendrick Perkins’ house on Tuesday night), trailed by as much as 27 in the third quarter, but Kevin Garnett (23 points and 13 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (23 points) helped Boston cut the deficit in half with a 16-4 run to finish the third. Boston got within six in the final period, but the Thunder got it back together to finish it out, and they now stand with Miami atop the NBA standings at 26-7. All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, but their shorthanded bench (no Chris Wilcox, Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass) contributed an abysmal 9 points.
A few other things: Rondo was selected to replace Joe Johnson (tendinitis in his left knee) on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, which marks his third overall (and third consecutive) All-Star appearance. Durant will replace Johnson in the 3-point shooting contest, competing for the first time. And Durant’s teammate, Kendrick Perkins, was hit with his 11th technical of the season, which means he’s two away from a one-game suspension.
Dwight Howard scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead Orlando, who’s now won 8 of 11. The Magic jumped to an early 34-17 lead and never looked back, shooting 62.5% in the first quarter and hitting four of their 14 3-pointers in the opening frame. And by the end of the first, Nets fans threw in the towel and began planning ahead, as they brought out the “We Want Dwight!” chants.
“I may not re-sign because of that,” Deron Williams jokingly said. Williams saw his streak of consecutive 25-point games end at six, but still contributed 23 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds to lead New Jersey, which heads to the All-Star break losing 8 of 11. Glen Davis, who made his first six shots, finished with 16 points for Orlando, and MarShon Brooks had a career-high 24 for the Nets, but the focus in the building was 150% on Dwight and his potential landing in New Brooklyn. Prepping for their special guest, the Nets proudly put posters of their new arena in the hall leading to the Magic locker room, and fans rained down an excess of chants, er, pleas, and also sported tons of placards in an effort to recruit Superman. Did it work? Only time will tell…
On the one-year anniversary of New York’s acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, it was a good day to be a Knick fan and a not-so-good day to be a Hawks fan. With a primetime matchup with Miami looming, the Knicks did not overlook Atlanta. After trailing 16-14 in the first quarter, New York finished the period on a 16-0 run to take a 30-16 lead. They then outscored the Hawks 30-19 in the second to go up 60-35 at halftime, and they never looked back. Jeremy Lin scored 19 points and dished 9 assists, and Melo contributed 15 points in his second game back from injury. Steve Novak hit five 3′s, Landry Fields added 16, JR Smith finished with 12 and Baron Davis distributed 6 assists in 14 minutes to help the Knicks get their 9th win in 11 games. Jeff Teague scored a relatively meaningless 18 points for the Hawks, who’ve lost three straight and five of six.
Chicago got its 7th straight W vs. Milwaukee in a game that was one-sided throughout, with the Bulls shooting 54% and out-rebounding the Bucks 49-29. The Bulls were led by Joakim Noah, who impressed with a triple-double (13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists), the first Bulls center to accomplish such a feat since Artis Gilmore in 1977. Carlos Boozer scored 20 points, DRose and Luol Deng dropped 16 each, and Ronnie Brewer scored 15 as all five Chicago starters scored in double figures. Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 20 points, while the team was without Andrew Bogut, Stephen Jackson, Tobias Harris and Drew Gooden because of injuries.
After spraining his right ankle early in the first quarter, Kyle Lowry returned to lead the Rockets to a gritty win, as the lead changed between the two teams five times in the final five minutes. Down 84-83 with under two minutes remaining, Lowry—who finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists—drove the ball into Nikola Vucevic for an And-1. After a Lou Williams turnover on the subsequent possession, Lowry went back to work, converting on another And-1, this time on Thaddeus Young, to put Houston up 89-84 and seal the win. Luis Scola chipped in 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Kevin Martin scored 16 points, 14 of which came in the final stanza, to help hand Philly its 5th straight L. The rookie Vucevic came off the bench to score a career high 18 points and Young added 15, but Philly was held without a 3-pointer for the first time all season, which didn’t help their cause. The Rockets have now won 24 consecutive games when holding their opponent to less than 90 points.
Alright, fine. Luke Ridnour isn’t the most exciting player in the L, but credit is given where credit is due. The TWolves overcame a 16-point 4th quarter deficit to beat the Jazz at the buzzer and enter the All-Star break at .500 (17-17) for the first time since 2005. Here’s how it happened.
With 9:36 left in the game, Minnesota trailed by 16. But JJ Barea—who finished with a season-high 22 points—went 3-for-3 from downtown in the 4th quarter to ignite a 30-13 run over the final eight minutes. After the Wolves gained the lead on two Derrick Williams free throws, Al Jefferson, smothered by Kevin Love, sank a jumper right in Love’s grill with seven seconds left. After a timeout, Ridnour took a pass from Barea, drove left, sliced into into the lane and threw up a high-arching runner… POOF.
Ridnour finished with 17 points and Nikola Pekovic added 15 points and 12 rebounds. For the Jazz, Paul Millsap scored 25 points and Josh Howard added a season-high 19 points.
Monta Ellis came through in the clutch, hitting a 20-foot fadeaway jumper with 1 second remaining to lift Golden State over Phoenix. Channing Frye’s rebuttal at the buzzer was off, and just like that the Warriors left the desert with a W. Ellis had a game-high 26 points, while Dorell Wright added 20 for Golden State. Stephen Curry exited the game with a strained tendon in his right foot, but returned to the bench. Frye led Phoenix with 22 points, and Marcin Gorat contributed with 21 in a losing effort.
With all the fuss surrounding the Lakers lack of a point guard, veteran Derek Fisher sealed the win in a game that featured 11 ties and eight lead changes. With Kobe Bryant struggling (15 points on 4-15 shooting, 7 turnovers), Fisher stepped up big time. He sank a 3-pointer and short jumper on back to back possessions, capping a 9-0 run that gave the Lakers the lead for good at 89-82 with 3:43 remaining. Pau Gasol scored 24 points and Andrew Bynum added 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Lakers. For the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Vince Carter poured in 20 points, 18 of which came in the first half. The Mavericks are done until after the All-Star break, while Kobe and Co. travel to OKC to take on the Thunder later tonight.
The Nuggets led 54-52 at the half, but Denver failed to make a field goal over the final 7:27 and ended up with a fat L. Chris Paul scored a season-high 36 points and dished 9 assists, and Blake Griffin added 27 points and 12 rebounds to help the Clips snap a two-game skid and improve to 20-11, which is the franchise’s best start since 1974-75. Arron Afflalo scored 20 points for the Nugs and rookie Jordan Hamilton had a career-high 18, but it wasn’t enough as the Nugs lost their fifth straight road game.
Line of the Night: Chris Paul’s 36 points, 9 assists and 2 steals.
Dunk of the Night:
Moments of the Night:
Tonight: Four (pretty amazing) games to lead us into All-Star weekend. TNT’s got us with Knicks-Heat at 7 followed by Lakers-Thunder at 9:30. We’ve also got Magic-Hawks at 7:30 and Spurs-Nuggets at 9. Enjoy, everybody. Peace!