by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Pacers 106 (22-5), Celtics 79 (12-17)
The Pacers have three consistent forces in Paul George (24 points, 5 rebounds), Lance Stephenson (12 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) and Roy Hibbert (15 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) that have allowed them to sprint through the first part of this season. Stephenson had his League-leading 3rd triple-double of the season on the night, continuing to look like a different player compared to previous years. The Celtics jumped out to a quick 15-10 lead, as Avery Bradley (13 points, 6 rebounds) scored 9 of the these 15 points. However, no one else really came to play, with Jeff Green (11 points, 6 rebounds) and Courtney Lee (11 points, 3 assists) being the only other Celtics players that scored in double-digits. Indiana used a 24-5 run in the 2nd quarter to extend their lead to 47-28 with 3 minutes to go in the 1st half. At this point, with Boston’s lack of offense and Indiana’s elite defense, the outcome had been all but decided. The Pacers outscored the Celtics 50-22 in the paint. In his second game back, Danny Granger (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4-5 on 3-pointers) looked much more comfortable and showed the shooting touch he possessed before his lingering injuries. If Granger can find a way to even just be a threat from deep as the season moves along, he can help an Indiana bench that ranks 26th in the League in points per game (24.5).
Raptors 104 (11-14), Thunder 98 (22-5)
The Raptors handed the Thunder their first home loss of the season, have now won four of their last five games and lead the Atlantic Division. (Someone has to win this division, right?) These winning ways are in large part due to the play of Kyle Lowry (22 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals), who has excelled since his trade rumors sprouted up. Russell Westbrook (27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers) and Kevin Durant (24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 turnovers) didn’t take very good care of the ball but were the only OKC players in double-digit scoring, as this team looked a step slow and worn out from their emotional 113-100 victory over the Spurs the previous night. Reggie Jackson (6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1-11 from the field, 0-5 on 3-pointers) looked the worst, struggling to find his shot all night long. Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field. Amir Johnson (17 points, 13 rebounds) had his 3rd double-double in these 5 games and John Salmons (14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) is doing his odd routine by playing well after a mid-season trade. After coming back from a 19-point deficit against Dallas in Saturday night’s 109-108 overtime win, the Raptors came back from a double-digit deficit again, trailing 82-71 late in the 3rd quarter. Toronto locked down and locked in defensively in the final quarter, allowing Oklahoma City only 14 points on 5-25 shooting.
Clippers 120 (20-9), Timberwolves 116 (13-15) OT
All the points in this game may not show it, but the Clippers had to fight for this gritty win and extend their League-leading winning streak to 5 games. Jared Dudley (15 points, 4 steals) knocked in a huge go-ahead 3-pointer with 38 seconds to go in overtime while Chris Paul (19 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) made 5 free throws in the final 19 seconds to close this one out. Paul grabbed his 22nd double-double of the year, twice as many as any other guard in the League. After Paul missed a free throw and Kevin Love grabbed his 16th rebound, the Wolves were only down 2 points and had a chance to tie this up again. Nikola Pekovic (34 points, 14 rebounds) had a good look on a baseline hook shot but couldn’t convert. He also missed two shots at the end of regulation that would have given Minnesota the lead. The starting power forwards from each team—Blake Griffin (32 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals) and Kevin Love (45 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists)—put on a thrilling duel for the Staples Center. Love is the first player with 45-19-6 since Hakeen Olajuwon (46-19-8) in 1996. I think he might have been a little upset that All-Star voters currently have his opposing power forward ahead of him. Now if only his team can start doing their part in bringing home some wins. Jamal Crawford (22 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) seemed to be making shots from outside the gym at times Sunday night. The sixth man made a 3-pointer to end the 3rd quarter and scored the final 4 points of the 4th quarter to send this one into overtime. As clutch as Damian Lillard has been for Portland, Crawford has been playing a similar role for the Clippers. Kevin Martin (16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 turnovers) has been anything but clutch this season, having a bad turnover with 8 seconds to go in regulation that allowed Los Angeles to tie the game. Being up 2 (again) with 3 minutes left in overtime, Martin threw the ball away to Darren Collison (18 points, 8-12 from the field), who took it in for a breakaway dunk. Matt Barnes (3 points, 11 minutes) was ejected at the end of the 3rd quarter for a hard foul on Love, but it looked as if he was making a play on the ball. Even though he dished out 12 assists, Ricky Rubio had 0 points on 4 shot attempts in 38 minutes. If the Timberwolves want to start winning close games and vying for a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference, they need their starting point guard to be much more of a scoring threat.