by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Knicks 115 (27-40), Bucks 94 (13-53)
The Knicks have suddenly won six games in a row after previously going on a seven-game losing streak. This team is starting to really pass the ball well as players are actually trusting their teammates. Carmelo Anthony (23 points, 7 rebounds) led the way just like he’s been doing all season while Tim Hardaway Jr. (20 points, 25 minutes) continued his recent hot streak. During the past three wins, Hardaway is averaging 23.3 ppg while shooting 24-36 (66.7 percent) from the field. With J.R. Smith (15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) now in the starting lineup, Hardaway Jr. has become a quality scoring punch off the bench. Bucks guards Brandon Knight (14 points) and Nate Wolters (15 points, 5-7 from the field) had decent games but their team’s defense couldn’t slow down a Knicks offense that is averaging 114.5 ppg during the six-game winning streak. New York set the tone early, leading by nine points late in the 1st quarter and by 18 at halftime. The Bucks never really got close the rest of the way. The Knicks ended the game shooting 55.3 percent from the field, almost 12 percent better than Milwaukee. New York’s winning streak might soon be coming to a close, though, as the team must take on the Pacers (49-17) Wednesday night.
Wizards 101 (35-31), Nets 94 (33-31)
John Wall (33 points, 6 assists) outplayed Deron Williams (14 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds) again to give his Wizards the 3-0 season sweep against the Nets. Drew Gooden (21 points, 9 rebounds, 8-11 from the field), who is currently on his second 10-day contract with Washington, has become one of the Wizards’ most reliable scorers off the bench. Gooden scored 11 of his 21 points in a big fourth quarter that changed the outcome of the game. Eleven seconds into the 4th quarter, Paul Pierce (15 points, 6 rebounds), Joe Johnson (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Williams had all already reached double-figured as their team led by double-digits. Their team had knocked down nine 3-pointers up to this point and looked to be in control. The Wizards, though, really started to lockdown on everyone not named Marcus Thornton (19 points, 5-6 on 3-pointers) to start the quarter as they went on a 19-9 run to tie the game 91-91 with 5:12 to go. After Pierce knocked down two free throws to give the Nets a 94-92 lead with 4:26 left, the Wizards would amp up their defensive play again and finish on a 9-0 run. During this run, Gooden had five points and four big defensive rebounds. It might be tough having to adjust without Nene (knee), but Gooden has quickly found a way to fit into coach Randy Wittman’s system.
Hawks 97 (29-35), Nuggets 92 (29-37)
Paul Millsap (24 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) and the Hawks used a big 1st quarter to take control of a game that they almost let slip away down the stretch. Behind 10 quick points from Millsap in the first eight minutes, Atlanta jumped out to a 24-11 lead as Ty Lawson (11 assists, 9 rebounds, 0-12 from the field) missed all four of his first shot attempts, which would become a theme the rest of the night. Behind long-range shooting from Kyle Korver (18 points, 4-4 on 3-pointers), DeMarre Carroll (11 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals) and Pero Antic (16 points, 3-8 on 3-pointers), the Hawks continued to pour it on, leading 53-37 going into halftime and 58-37 early in the 3rd quarter. Korver is now shooting 49.0 percent from deep on 5.5 3-point attempts per game…that is absurd. Then Kenneth Faried (25 points, 7 rebounds) suddenly found his touch around the rim and helped the Nuggets go on a 34-19 run over the course of the 3rd quarter to get within six points going into the final 12 minutes. Faried scored 11 of his 25 points during the 3rd quarter. Denver’s offense didn’t lose a beat to start the 4th quarter, extending their run and leading 87-84 after J.J. Hickson (11 points, 10 rebounds) knocked down two free throws with just under five minutes to play. After Faried tied the game 91-91 with 1:04 left, Antic made a tough jump shot with 41.8 seconds on the clock. After some bad shots and a turnover by the Nuggets, the Hawks would make enough free throws to close this one out. Even though the Hawks were dominated on the boards 54-38, they made enough 3-pointers (14) to snag the win. The eighth-seeded Hawks have now tied their season-best three-game winning streak and will face the seventh-seeded Bobcats (32-34), who have also won three straight games, Monday night.
Pacers 112 (49-17), Pistons 104 (25-41) OT
The Pacers showed true resolve as they came back from a 25-point 2nd quarter deficit to take down the defensively-incompetent Pistons. And they were led by none other than MVP-candidate Paul George (30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals), who said head coach Frank Vogel gave a motivating speech at halftime that fired the team up. This is the Pacers largest comeback victory on the season. They got off to another slow start, allowing Detroit to jump out to a 29-20 lead after one quarter of play. The Pistons scored 20 of their first 29 points in the paint, making some open layups early on. It only got worst during the next 12 minutes as the Pistons led 56-31 after a big Jonas Jerebko (4 points, 5 rebounds) putback dunk with 3:24 left in the 1st half. But Indiana would slowly chip away at the 25-point deficit, eventually getting it down to 77-64 with 2:19 to go in the 3rd quarter. Then behind seven points from George, the Pacers would close out the quarter on a 9-2 run to pull within six points. The Pacers got back into this game by pounding the boards against a team that is usually the one doing the pounding. Indiana ended the night having a 62-44 rebounding advantage. This might have been due to the fact that the Pistons lost their team-leading rebounder, Andre Drummond, to a neck injury in the 1st quarter. By the time the 4th quarter began, the momentum had completely swung, and Indiana took hold of a 86-85 lead after Evan Turner (20 points, 5 rebounds) completed an and-one. This might have been Turner’s best game since joining the Pacers, coming up big when his team needed him most. Roy Hibbert (12 points, 5 rebounds) would make two free throws followed by a jumper to turn a two-point deficit into a two-point lead with 33.6 seconds left in regulation. Josh Smith (23 points, 4 blocks) had an answer and would make a layup to tie the game 100-100, sending this one into overtime. During the five extra minutes of basketball, David West (15 points, 8 rebounds) provided three big jumpers while the entire Pacers team locked down defensively. The Pistons only managed four points and one field goal in overtime. Andrew Bynum (15 points, 9 rebounds, 20 minutes) played efficiently during his time on the court while Lance Stephenson (13 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) played well. Greg Monroe (17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals) and Brandon Jennings (10 points, 12 assists, 3-13 from the field) each finished with a double-double. Detroit let this one slip away because the team doesn’t know how to play consistent defense for 48 minutes, let alone 53 minutes. And without Drummond gobbling up rebounds down low, the Pacers grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and had plenty of second chances.
Grizzlies 103 (39-27), 76ers 77 (15-51)
The Sixers scored a season-low 77 points in route to tying a franchise-record 20th straight loss set in 1972-73. With Thaddeus Young (20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals) and Michael Carter-Williams (23 points, 8 rebounds, 10-16 from the field) scoring all but four of the Sixers’ 21 points in the 1st quarter, Philadelphia found a way to keep this one close early on. Even with Memphis extending its lead to double-digits midway through the 2nd quarter, the Sixers cut the deficit to 45-36 by halftime. As usually is the case, though, it all fell apart in the 3rd quarter. The Grizzlies came out of halftime hot, using a 17-6 run to extend their lead to 62-42. The Sixers never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way. Other than Tony Wroten (13 points), Philly just didn’t get any offensive production outside of Young and MCW. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, had a very balance attack led by Mike Conley (19 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds) and Zach Randolph (14 points). Of the 13 Memphis players that received playing time, 11 scored at least six points. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 54.3 percent from the field while the Sixers only shot 37.3 percent. This game became sloppy late as each team turned the ball over 22 times. Memphis will now get a three-day break before playing the Jazz (22-44) Wednesday night.
Bulls 94 (37-29), Kings 87 (23-43)
Joakim Noah (23 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks, 3 steals) has become the focal point of almost every aspect of the Bulls offensive and defensive system. Saturday night, he led the Bulls in points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. With neither team leading by double-digits throughout the game, the Bulls needed his production late to close this one out. After Isaiah Thomas (26 points, 5 assists) knocked down a jump shot midway through the 4th quarter, the game was tied 72-72. Behind three assists by Noah, the Bulls would suddenly find their offense and take hold of a 90-85 lead with 42.2 seconds to go. Thomas would make another jump shot to cut the deficit to single-digits before Chicago made enough free throws to put this game away. Taj Gibson (19 points, 9 rebounds) played very well in the final two minutes while Mike Dunleavy (16 points, 3-6 on 3-pointers) had his shot going all night. Demarcus Cousins (25 points, 14 rebounds) had a big double-double to help his point guard with the scoring load; however, their teammates didn’t give them much help. The Kings controlled the boards, outrebounding the Bulls 55-40. Sacramento, though, only made two of its 14 3-point attempts.