by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
First off, I have to say a big congratulations to the Kentucky Wildcats for winning the 2012 NCAA Basketball Championship, or whatever the official title is. Crossing my fingers that at least one of the stars from last night’s big game will end up in a Wizards uniform. I’m assuming you all followed along with Ben’s Live Blog, so I’ll forgive you for not keeping tabs on the six-pack of NBA games from Monday. That’s why I’m here…
Brandon Jennings scored 17 of his 19 points in the third quarter, opening up what was at one point a 23-point lead for the Bucks en route to an easy win over the Wizards. Milwaukee (now 25-28) pulled to within 2 games of the Knicks for the 8-seed in the East after dismantling Washington, a team they are now 3-0 against this season. Shaun Livingston scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, Monta Ellis had 17 points and 6 dimes, Ersan Ilyasova had a 16-11 double-double and Ekpe Udoh chipped in 15 points, 8 rebounds and an out-of-nowhere career-high 5 assists for the Bucks—winners of 10 of their last 14 games. The Wiz cut Milwaukee’s lead to 7 early in the fourth quarter on a Roger Mason 3-pointer but couldn’t muster much more of a comeback. Washington was without Nene and Trevor Booker yet again, and John Wall shot just 4-13 for 14 points (though he did have 9 assists).
With just under 2 minutes to go in the first half, the Rockets trailed 49-34. Eary in the second half, they were down by 13. But a 14-1 run in the third quarter tied the game at 62 all, and another 17-2 sprint saw Houston take an 84-72 lead in the fourth. Chicago made its own mad dash in the final few minutes, but a Courtney Lee jumper with just under a minute remaining gave the Rocks a 6-point lead—enough to hand the Bulls back-to-back losses for the first time since early February 2011. No, I did not make that up. Chicago hadn’t lose 2 straight in 86 games, even without Derrick Rose for much of this season (including last night). The Bulls’ frontline did all they could, as Luol Deng scored a game-high 24 points, Carlos Boozer turned in a 16-point, 13-rebound, 7-assist night and the Bulls scored 48 points in the paint to just 36 for Houston. Without DRose, though, Goran Dragic scored 21 points and the Rockets took care of the ball (only 8 turnovers) to improve to 29-25 on the year.
OJ Mayo buried a three-pointer from the weak side off a Marc Gasol pass after a broken play led to a mad scramble with just under 20 seconds to play, helping the Grizzlies avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Thunder and getting Memphis to 29-22—now a half-game up on Dallas for the No. 5 slot in the West. Mayo’s monster shot came moments after the Grizz saw a 9-point lead become just a 1-point advantage, but the road team held on, dealing Oklahoma City just its 5th home loss of the season. The Grizzlies shot sub-40 percent from the field and were without Mike Conley, so how did they win? The Thunder’s 18 turnovers led to 23 points for Memphis (led in scoring overall by Mayo’s 22), OKC scored just 2 fast break points and Tony Allen took turns locking down Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The dynamic duo scored “only” 40 points—Westbrook was held to just 7 until the fourth quarter, when he broke out for 12 more points, while Durant shot 8-20 from the field (21 points). Kudos to Memphis for starting off a back-to-back-to-back on the right note—Western Conference contenders, beware.
With all the big names now associated with Lob City, Randy Foye isn’t one you hear often. But the veteran shooting guard poured in a season-high 28 points—he hit a career-best 8 three-pointers—to lead the Clippers to their 6th straight win, which ties the franchise’s longest winning streak since…wait for it: 1992. To put that in perspective, Blake Griffin was all of 3 years old the last time LAC won 6 in a row. Griffin had 15 points and 16 rebounds, Chris Paul had 10 assists and 8 points and the Clippers got another first, winning in Dallas for the first time since 2006. The Mavericks, meanwhile, continue their hot and cold season, last night getting a pair of DNPs from Lamar Odom (illness) and Jason Kidd (groin) while shooting 5 of 23 from 3-point range as a team and 39 percent from the field overall. Dirk Nowitzki finished with 19 points, but the only other Mavs player to score in double figures was Jason Terry, who had 15 in the loss.
Tyreke Evans racked up 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, DeMarcus Cousins added 20 points and 9 boards and the Kings upended Minnesota in what some deemed the “Brad Miller Bowl.” Miller—for whom it was likely his last game in Sacramento, ever—started, played 22 minutes and had 11 points and 6 assists, but even with he and frontcourt mates Kevin Love (23 points, 7 rebounds) and Nikola Pekovic (17 points) having efficient nights, the Wolves were outscored 60-42 on points in the paint and outrebounded 46-35. The Kings shot 51 percent from the field, and even when Marcus Thornton went down 8 minutes in with a calf injury, rookie guards Isaiah Thomas (17 points) and Jimmer Fredette (19) filled in admirably when called upon for extra minutes. The biggest stats from this game: DMC scored 20+ for the 7th time in 8 games, while KLove has now failed to notch a double-double in consecutive games. Minny and Sacramento split the season series 2-2, with the home team winning all 4 matchups this year.
With ball in hand and a 1-point lead with 1:27 left to play, Portland looked to be in good shape to stay (mathematically) alive in the Western Conference Playoff hunt. Instead, the Blazers twice turned the ball over—Raymond Felton the main culprit on both counts—and twice saw ensuing Jazz possessions result in Paul Millsap dunks, allowing Utah to steal a win in the waning moments. Portland jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but the Jazz cut it to 3 by halftime and had a 5-point advantage by the end of three quarters, slowly imposing their will on the Blazers. Millsap’s pair of late slams were the finishing touches on his 31-point evening, which also included 11 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews teamed up to score 60 of the Blazers’ 97 points—Matthews the game-high scorer with 33, including 5-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
Lines of the Night: Four prime candidates, as Booz and Tyreke each came up 3 dimes shy of a triple-double, while Millsap and Matthews each went for 30+ out West.
Moment of the Night: OJ Mayo silences the Thunder with a game-sealing 3-pointer.
Dunk of the Night: With respect to “similar” follow jams by JJ Hickson and Nick Collison on the same night, they really are in no way similar to what Blake Griffin did on this rebound. BG located a rare Randy Foye missed three and pounded it home with authority.
Tonight: Eight games in all, highlighted by Sixers-Heat and Knicks-Pacers. Catch you all tomorrow.