by Alex Shultz / @AlexShultz
Oklahoma City Thunder 105 (32-10), Portland Trail Blazers 97 (31-11)
After Michael Jordan dropped 63 points in a playoff game against the Boston Celtics in 1986, Larry Bird famously declared that he thought God was disguised as the future Hall of Fame shooting guard.
Tuesday night’s matchup between the Thunder and the Trail Blazers was only a regular-season affair, but Portland guard Mo Williams offered up some similar religious imagery after Kevin Durant torched one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
“The way he was playing, he could’ve scored on Jesus,” Williams told Blazers beat writer Joe Freeman.
Durant scored 46 points on 17-25 shooting, his eighth straight game with at least 30 points. He knocked down three triples in the last three minutes, including two daggers with less than 60 seconds remaining, as the Thunder improved to 19-3 at home.
Blazers big man LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds, but was just 1-8 in the fourth quarter. Portland ended a brutal four-game road trip against the Spurs, Mavs, Rockets and Thunder with a respectable 2-2 record.
Miami Heat 93 (30-12), Boston Celtics 86 (14-29)
LeBron James lived up to the “King James” moniker on the back of his jersey, as the Heat grabbed a much-needed victory while donning their special nickname uniforms.
James had 29 points and 8 rebounds and got some help from Miami big man Chris Anderson, who chipped in with 13 points and 7 boards on a perfect 5-5 shooting night.
Boston was able to hang with the champs in the second half, even taking an 86-84 lead with 3:08 left in the contest. Rajon Rondo struggled in his second game back though, missing a pair of free throws with less than a minute left to help seal the deal for the Heat. Rondo was 0-8 from the floor in 26 minutes of action.
Brooklyn Nets 101 (18-22), Orlando Magic 90 (11-31)
The Nets improved to 8-1 since the New Year with a relatively easy win over the lowly Magic, holding Orlando to 14 points in the third quarter en route to the victory.
Brooklyn got remarkably consistent performances from its starters and reserves—nine players logged at least 20 minutes, and that number doesn’t even include power forward Kevin Garnett, who had eight points in 18 minutes. Andray Blatche led the way with 18 points and a nasty jam on Orlando center Kyle O’Quinn, who had a nice game himself (15 points and 8 rebounds). Upon further review of the Brooklyn big man’s dunk, TNT commentator Chris Webber broke out a rendition of “Blatche, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” a not-quite-as-catchy remix of Kendrick Lamar’s hit song.
If the Nets keep up this hot streak, they might start singing along with Webber. Brooklyn now sits just three games back of third place in the Eastern Conference, even with center Brook Lopez out for the season.
Sacramento Kings 114 (15-25), New Orleans Pelicans 97 (16-25)
If not for Kevin Durant’s monster performance, Tuesday night’s runaway MVP would’ve been Rudy Gay, who scorched the Pelicans in New Orleans to the tune of 41 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Though the Raptors have stabilized to a 20-20 record since Gay was shipped off to Sacramento, it’s tough to complain about his play for the Kings. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the floor in 20 games with his new squad.
The Kings jumped out to a 38-20 lead after the first quarter, which was too much for the Pelicans to recover from. New Orleans continues to freefall without point guard Jrue Holiday and big man Ryan Anderson, falling to 2-10 since the start of 2014. Center Jeff Withey scored a career-high 14 points and power forward Anthony Davis stuffed the stat sheet as usual, though on just 4-12 shooting (16 points, six rebounds, two steals, four blocks).
Minnesota Timberwolves 112 (20-21), Utah Jazz 97 (14-29)
The Timberwolves led for the latter 46 minutes of a blowout win against the Jazz, and all five Minnesota starters finished in double figures.
Kevin Love nearly put up a triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Ricky Rubio had one of his better games this season, finishing with 11 points, 13 assists, 5 steals and an adorable back-and-forth with a young basketball fan during a timeout.
Despite the blowout loss, the Jazz did get some good news with the return of Gordon Hayward, who had missed five games with a hip flexor injury. Hayward led all scorers with 27 points, but the rest of the Utah’s starters failed to show up, combining for just 21. Power forward Derrick Favors was a gametime decision entering the contest and ended up sitting out with a hip injury of his own.