by Alex Shultz / @AlexShultz
Indiana Pacers 89 (38-10), Atlanta Hawks 85 (25-22)
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson might’ve converted the play of the night, throwing in an acrobatic layup while taking a hard fall onto the court. The and-one was a scary moment for Pacers fans, but it appears Stephenson isn’t seriously injured, telling Pacers reporter Candace Buckner he felt “good” after the game.
The Pacers nearly blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead, but two clutch free throws from Danny Granger (8 points and 4 rebounds) with three seconds left sealed the deal for the team with the best record in the NBA.
David West was as steady as ever for Indiana, scoring 22 points and adding 10 rebounds. The Hawks, meanwhile, didn’t have a single starter score in double figures. All-Star Paul Millsap had just 7 points on 2-11 shooting. Backup big man Mike Scott actually led the team with 15 points.
Indiana is off until Friday when it will take on the Portland Trail Blazers in a matchup of two of the best teams in the League.
Minnesota Timberwolves 109 (24-24), Los Angeles Lakers 99 (16-32)
Even with Pau Gasol’s groin injury set to keep him out indefinitely, the Lakers started Tuesday night on a relatively high note—Steve Nash and Steve Blake were back in the starting lineup after long absences. That feeling didn’t last long though. Jodie Meeks left the game one minute in with a sprained right ankle, Jordan Hill was knocked out with a cervical strain and a headache after getting hit in the head by Chris Kaman’s elbow, and Steve Blake played through a ruptured ear drum.
The Timberwolves were a two-man show offensively, as Kevin Love finished with 31 points and 17 rebounds and Kevin Martin added 32 of his own. Ricky Rubio had an interesting statline—just 4 points, but 13 assists and 6 rebounds in 31 minutes. Love went down hard in the fourth quarter and appeared to be in some pain, but stayed in the game until there was less than 30 seconds remaining.
Nick Young led Los Angeles with 24 points and Manny Harris chipped in 19 even though he had discovered before the game that he wasn’t going to be signed for the remainder of the season. Nash had 7 points and 9 assists in his return to the floor. The Lakers have dropped seven straight games and are 3-19 since Dec. 21.
Chicago Bulls 101 (24-24), Phoenix Suns 92 (29-19)
Chicago’s frontcourt tandem of Carlos Boozer (19 points and 12 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (14 points and 14 rebounds) proved to be too much for the Suns, who stumbled out of the gate with just 13 first quarter points.
The Bulls got 18 points apiece from D.J. Augustin and Jimmy Butler, and that balanced scoring helped propel them back to a .500 record.
Phoenix guard Goran Dragic had 24 points and 7 rebounds, but backcourt mate Gerald Green struggled mightily with 5 points on 2-13 shooting. The loss snapped a five-game winning steak for the Suns, who will quickly have to turn their attention to the Rockets in Houston on Wednesday.
Charlotte Bobcats 91 (22-28), Golden State Warriors 75 (29-20)
The Charlotte Bobcats—yes, the Charlotte Bobcats—held the Warriors to their second lowest scoring output of the season and finished up a four-game West Coast road trip with an impressive 3-1 record.
For the second time in three games, Al Jefferson carried Charlotte offensively, finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds. Gerald Henderson did his part with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Starting point guard Kemba Walker struggled in his return from a sprained ankle (3-11 shooting), but was still a welcome sight for Bobcats fans.
Not a single Warrior shot even 50 percent, unless you count MarShon Brooks making his only attempt in two minutes of action. In fact, Golden State shot 31.2 percent from the field as a team. Steph Curry put up 17 points and 11 assists but was just 1-7 from beyond the arc. He also provided this pregame moment with father Dell Curry:
The Warriors have dropped three straight games against Eastern Conference opponents, a surprising statistic considering the West’s dominance over the other conference thus far this season.