by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz
Joe Johnson hit some big shots in Brooklyn, the Cs came up flat on national TV and the Lakers picked up a win they had to have last night. Let’s get to it.
Raptors (5-19) 95, Mavericks (11-12) 74
The team Andrea Bargnani called the worst in the NBA dominated this one throughout. Toronto led by one point after the first quarter, but held a 15-point halftime lead.
The team as a whole shot 40.5 percent, but hit 12-of-36 threes. In a game where Dallas went goose egg on 13 three-point tries, that was the difference.
Linas Kleiza came off the bench to knock down 5-of-11 threes on his way to a team-high 20 points for the Raptors. Terrence Ross, Kleiza’s benchmate, dropped 18.
Shawn Marion double-doubled with 13 points and 12 boards. Chris Kaman added 15 and 5 but OJ Mayo connected on just 2-of-8 shots for Dallas.
Lakers (10-14) 102, Wizards (3-17) 96
Following Thursday’s embarrassment in Madison Square Garden, the Lakers desperately needed to beat the Wizards last night. Yes, it’s December and yes, they have Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, but make no mistake about it—they needed this one.
It was close for the first half, but the Lakers erupted in the third. They led by 14 after three, but let Washington make a fourth quarter run. The lead was cut to six with three and a half minutes left, but LA iced it from there.
Kobe Bryant led the way with 30 points, though he only made 9-of-29 shots from the floor including just 1/8 threes. He did have 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Dwight Howard added 12 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Washington had some good and some bad. First the good. Cartier Martin led the way with 21 points on 5 threes. He added 8 boards in 32 minutes. Nene (17 & 8 reb) and Kevin Seraphin (16 & 8 reb) were very solid off the bench.
Now the bad. Jordan Crawford was his usual inefficient self, scoring 11 points on 17 shots. Bradley Beal was a -19 on the floor, and connected on only 2 of his 7 shots from the field.
Magic (9-13) 99, Warriors (15-8) 85
The Warriors just didn’t have it last night. They hit just 37 percent of their shots, and got a combined 14 points on 5-of-21 shots from Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Stephen Curry and David Lee (15 boards) were great, though, scoring 25 and 24 points, respectively.
Orlando dominated the whole way. They got double-digit points out of six guys. The big stories were Nikola Vucevic, who scored 12 points and grabbed 17 boards, and rookie Andrew Nicholson, who added 15 points, 9 boards and 4 blocks Jameer Nelson scored ten points and handed out 11 dimes. Another rookie, Mo Harkless, also blocked 4 shots, and added a pair of steals and 7 boards.
Pacers (12-11) 95, 76ers (12-11) 85
You’d be hard-pressed to find two teams more similar than Philly and Indiana. Neither team has a real go-to guy, but they do both have a bunch of interesting young players and good coaches. Last night, Indiana took over in the second half.
The Sixers led by two at the break, but the Pacers were in front by five points after three quarters. The fourth quarter was close, but Indy basically led by five the entire time before expanding the lead late.
George Hill was amazing, triple-doubling with 15 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. He hit 6-of-13 shots and also tallied 2 blocks and 2 steals. Quite a performance.
Paul George is really coming on, and led the game with 28 points. He tacked on 8 boards, 5 threes, 3 blocks and a steal. Entering the game, he had scored 32, 22, 22, 17 and 27 points in his last five. Let’s hope he can keep it up.
Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert scored 19 points with 13 rebounds. Six of the boards came on the offensive glass. Overall, the Pacers won the rebounding battle, 48-36.
Evan Turner led Philadelphia with 22 points with 10 boards and 5 dimes. He committed five turnovers, but has been playing well lately. Entering the night, he was averaging 17 points, 7 boards and 4.5 assists in six December games. His season stats are pretty close to those. He’s a versatile player who is being forced into a star role, which is unfair. He’d be a very interesting second- or third-best player (take your pick between him and Jrue Holiday) if Andrew Bynum ever comes back.
Bucks (12-9) 90, Cavaliers (5-19) 86
Monta Ellis delivered in a big way last night. He knocked down 12-of-24 shots on his way to 33 points. He added 6 boards, 4 dimes and 2 steals. The Bucks needed the big effort to cancel out Brandon Jennings’ 5-of-20 performance.
Milwaukee led by four points with just under two minutes left, but the Cavs weren’t able to get any closer from there. Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 26 points, though he totaled just 3 assists and turned the ball over 6 times. Anderson Varejao continued to dominate the glass, as he pulled in 18 boards and scored 8 points.
The Cavs are now 14 games under .500, and Varejao will be a very interesting trade piece for them moving forward. A team in need of another big man (San Antonio for Stephen Jackson’s expiring deal and two first-round picks? The Rockets for 13 of their 561 rookies and/or picks?) could, and most definitely should, target him. Meanwhile, Cleveland would be wise to move him while his trade value is sky-high.
Larry Sanders, who has turned into a blocks machine this season for Milwaukee, posted 10 points, 10 boards and 3 rejections.
Timberwolves (11-9) 113, Hornets (5-17) 102
Kevin Love has made some comments that don’t paint him as a guy interested in staying in Minnesota for too long. There’s growing hype around his relationship with the team, and it’s fair to wonder if it’s gotten to his head. In last night’s win, he made just 4-of-18 shots from the floor and grabbed 9 rebounds—a very low total for Love.
His slack was picked up by Andrei Kirilenko (10/16, 21 points and 11 boards) and Nikola Pekovic (14/18, 31 points and 5 boards). Additionally, Luke Ridnour (10 dimes), Alexey Shved and JJ Barea each scored at least 12 points.
Minnesota controlled the entire second half, as well as the glass. They outscored New Orleans by 11 in the final two quarters. They also beat them, 40-30, in rebounds.
Amazingly, each team shot over 53 percent from the field. New Orleans got 27 points from rookie Austin Rivers in a breakout game, as well as 20 and 7 boards from Ryan Anderson. Greivis Vasquez exploded with 15 points and a huge 17 dimes. He’s having an incredible season for the Hornets. Anthony Davis was solid off the bench, scoring 11 points with 7 boards and 3 blocks as he gets eased back from an injury. He played 28 minutes.
The Hornets offense was great, but they just couldn’t buy a stop. Minnesota absolutely demolished them in the paint, where they scored a whopping 70 points.
Nets (13-9) 107, Pistons (7-18) 105
After starting the season 11-4, Brooklyn had dropped five straight games before Wednesday’s win in Toronto. They needed another one last night at home against a bad team, but nearly didn’t get it.
The Nets led by 12 points at halftime, but, as they’ve been prone to do this season, played a miserable third quarter. They scored just 14 points in the third, and trailed by four entering the final period.
The Pistons led 90-88 with 20 seconds remaining, when a Gerald Wallace offensive board and bucket tied the game. Each team missed a shot before regulation ended, sending it into overtime.
In OT, Detroit led again by two with 18 seconds remaining, when Joe Johnson knotted the game with a jumper. Rodney Stuckey missed a J that would have won it, forcing the game to double overtime.
In the sixth period, the Pistons led again. With 1:06 remaining, Wallace cut a three-point deficit down to one. Brooklyn held a one-point lead with 17 seconds left, when Greg Monroe shockingly missed a pair of free throws. Johnson then split his free throws, keeping the game wide open.
Brandon Knight missed a shot that would have tied the game with 7 seconds left, but Kyle Singler grabbed the board and scored, tying the game once more. But triple-OT was avoided when Johnson knocked down another clutch jumper—this one coming from 23-feet at the buzzer to win the game after an absolutely nasty crossover on Tayshaun Prince.
That’s what I’d call a doozy, and a game that Brooklyn probably didn’t deserve to win. Johnson led the game with 28 points on 22 shots. Wallace was the Nets’ best player, though, as he dropped 25 (9/15 shooting) with 10 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 50 minutes. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez combined to convert just 11-of-27 attempts from the field. Andray Blatche continued his excellent bounce-back season, scoring 16 points on 12 shots.
For Detroit, five players were in double-figures. Knight led the way with 22 points, 5 boards, 5 assists and 5 threes. Rodney Stuckey came off the bench for 19 points and 6 boards. Prince double-doubled with 12 points and 10 boards, and added 6 dimes.
Thunder (19-4) 113, Kings (7-13) 103
Give the Kings some credit for hanging with OKC in a shootout last night. This one could have been much uglier. The Thunder got 31 points from Kevin Durant and shot 9/21 from downtown and a perfect 22/22 from the stripe, but Sacramento made it close in the end. Unfortunately, the final score made the game seem much closer than it really was.
The Thunder led by more than 20 in the second half, but a 25-12 Kings run to close narrowed the margin.
Isaiah Thomas played a strong game for Sacramento, hitting 10/13 shots on his way to 26 points. Strangely, he didn’t record an assist and grabbed just one rebound. That’s what I like to call “Kings Basketball.” Tyreke Evans scored 21 points on 8/12 shooting. DeMarcus Cousins made just 3-of-12 shots while grabbing 7 rebounds. He’s making a disappointing 43.4 percent of his shots from the floor this season.
For the Thunder, Russell Westbrook posted a double-double with 13 points, 13 assists and 3 steals. Serge Ibaka recorded 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Rockets (11-11) 101, Celtics (12-10) 89
These two teams are very different. Houston is young and inconsistent. It’s anybody’s guess if they’ll show up on a given night, but when they do, you know it. Meanwhile, the Celtics more-or-less put the same product on the court every night. The problem with Boston is, simply, that that product isn’t very good. Last night, the Rockets were clearly the better team.
Boston led by three at halftime, but Houston pulled away in the second half. They outscored Boston by seven in both the third and fourth quarters.
James Harden led Houston with 21 points, though he made just 6-of-17 shots. He salvaged his night with a 7-8 performance from the stripe. Greg Smith was excellent off the bench, scoring 20 points with 6 boards and 3 blocks. He made 8 of his 9 field goal attempts. Omer Asik posted his usual: 9 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks.
Rajon Rondo scored 15 points, handed out 13 assists and plucked 4 steals, but committed 7 turnovers. Paul Pierce connected on just 5-of-18 attempts from the floor. Kevin Garnett was solid, scoring 14 points on 6/12 shooting, but they needed a whole lot more. Jeff Green and Jason Terry combined for just 21 points on 21 shots off the bench. That’s not a terrible mark, but in a game like last night’s, Boston needed those guys to come through and they fell short.
Suns (9-15) 99, Jazz (13-11) 84
Utah’s struggles on the road are a real shame. They’re a great home team (9-1 in Utah), but road woes have put a mediocre ceiling on their season. The offense stalled last night against a bad defensive team. Getting the offense going away from home has been a problem all season. The team shot just 40.2 percent from the floor and 3-of-11 from deep. Al Jefferson and Randy Foye were the main culprits, combining to shoot 9-for-29. Mo Williams’ 2-for-5 effort didn’t help matters.
For the Suns, Jared Dudley led the way with 22 points. Marcin Gortat scored 12 points, grabbed 14 boards and blocked a pair of shots. Goran Dragic posted 17 points, 5 assists and just one turnover. He’s remarkably efficient.
Nuggets (11-12) 99, Grizzlies (14-5) 94
This was a tight one the whole way through. Denver led by three possessions with just over a minute remaining, but Memphis managed to cut the lead to one with 30 seconds remaining. The Grizzlies got the ball, but Rudy Gay was stripped and Denver grabbed the loose ball. The Grizz fouled Andre Miller, who knocked down a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game.
With eight seconds left, Gay released a three which went halfway down before rattling out. The Nuggets got the board and iced the game at the line.
Gay finished with 21 points on 21 shots. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for only 20 points—very rare from those two. Jeryd Bayless recorded 11 assists in only 17 minutes off the Memphis bench.
For Denver, Andre Iguodala was strong with 20 points on 8/11 shooting. JaVale McGee posted 9 points, 6 boards and 4 blocks. Starting center Kosta Koufos also recorded 4 blocked shots. Miller finished with 18.