by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Rockets (6-4) 109, Knicks (3-5) 106
The Rockets got the weirdest win of the season in Madison Square Garden, eking this one out over the Knicks. Houston did everything they could to give this away late, coughing the ball up twice on shot clock violations, but managed to hold on. They withstood Carmelo Anthony (45 points, 17-30 shooting, 10 rebounds) flipping the switch into NBA Jam mode.
The Knicks came thisclose to tying it up in the waning seconds. After getting burned by not fouling when up 3 twice already this season, Houston elected to give a foul right after the ball was inbounded to Melo. Anthony, knowing the foul was coming, flipped it up toward the rim from deep, only to have the foul called as on the floor as the ball ripped through the net.
Dwight Howard (7 points, 1-5 shooting, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks, 5 turnovers) was largely ineffective, shut down by some tough defense from Andrea Bargnani (not a sentence you’ll read often). But just about everyone else was hitting for the Rockets.
Bargs, on top of helping bottle up Howard, had yet another strong game for the Knicks, netting 24 points on 9-12 shooting (3-3 from three). James Harden nearly matched Melo’s output, with 36 points, although most of his damage came at the line. Jeremy Lin dropped 21 in the arena where he burst onto the scene, while Chandler Parsons had 22 for Houston.
Both teams looked very much like they’d played road games the night before – which, of course, they had – as things got off to a choppy start. The first quarter was marked by fouls and missed shotsleast. Anthony was one of the few Knicks to come out ready to play, going 5-7 in the first quarter.
The Rockets got rolling in the second quarter, getting into the paint with ease and either scoring at the rim or kicking out to open shooters. At one point, Chandler Parsons had 11 straight points for the Rockets, including a nasty stuff on…no one, because the Knicks don’t have anyone to guard the rim (despite Bargnani’s impression of a post defender).
Meanwhile, the Knicks outside of Melo were barely factors in the first half. Anthony, though, was going nuts, enough to keep the Knicks in it until they went on a 13-2 run to end the half down 53-52. Melo had 26 points on 11-15 shooting, while the rest of the New York roster was 9-27 for their other 26.
Anthony cooled off significantly in the third quarter, scoring just 4 points as Houston reestablished their lead. That was okay, though, as Bargnani and JR Smith (15 points, 4-16 shooting) hit some jumpers to keep Houston from pulling away. In the fourth, Lin helped pushed the Rockets’ lead as high as 8 points before Carmelo went back to abusing Houston’s defense. Dude was so hot that he couldn’t even miss a free throw intentionally to try to extend the game, letting the Rockets escape victorious.
Warriors (6-3) 116, Thunder (5-3) 115
I take back what I said yesterday: Warriors-Thunder is the Playoff series we all deserve to see. The Dubs pulled out a buzzer-beating victory over Oklahoma City, thanks to Andre Iguodala’s heroics. With the clock running down, Dre (14 points on 5-6 shooting, 9 assists) calmly drilled a baseline turnaround to give Golden State the win, sending fans at the Roaracle home euphoric.
These two Western Conference contenders went back and forth at each other all night, totally immune to the cold streaks that plague normal basketball teams. The game was close pretty much throughout, with the lead changing hands 16 times, including twice in the final seconds. The Thunder, led by Reggie Jackson’s aggression in the fourth, shot their way back into it after going down by as many as 12 early the in quarter. Jackson (12 points) scored 8 of the Thunder’s first 12 points of the fourth, and a couple of timely threes by Kevin Durant (20 points on just 13 shots, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Thabo Sefolosha got OKC within striking distance. With the clock running down under 5 seconds, the Thunder gave the ball to Russell Westbrook (31 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists), and he delivered what appeared to be a back-breaking three pointer from way behind the arc, putting OKC up one. The 2.3 seconds left on the clock were just enough for the Warriors, who inbounded the ball to Iguodala for his clutch jumper.
The first half was just as fun as you could have hoped for, with both teams unable to miss. The two teams combined to hit their first 8 three-pointers, and the pace barely slowed from there. First half three-point shooting? 15-22! That’s from the NBA three-point line, by the way. Both teams were over 50 percent from the field, and went into half with the score tied 62-62. Russ and KD combined for 29 first half points, while Klay Thompson had 14 and Steph Curry had 12 and 6 assists. There were all sorts of beautiful offensive moves, but KD going Dirk 2.0 had to be the nicest.
Golden State looked to be pulling away after halftime. Thompson (27 points, 10-15 shooting and 6-9 from three) drained two quick threes, followed by Curry (9 points in the third, 22 on 4-8 from three and 9 assists for the game) making magic for himself and his teammates. When the Thunder drew within two, it was Iguodala and Harrison Barnes (16 points) who responded. Those two combined to close the third quarter on an 11-4 run for Golden State.
The final box score shows some gaudy numbers. OKC assisted on just under 50 percent of their made field goals, while that number was nearly 58 percent for Golden State. The Warriors also shot a ridiculous 14-23 (60.9 percent) from deep. The Thunder weren’t too bad themselves, knocking down over 40 percent of their triples. Serge Ibaka, a night after getting tossed from the Clippers game, bounced back strong, going for 27 points, 13 boards and 3 blocks.