by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Cavaliers (6-12) 98, Nuggets (11-7) 88
So much for Western Conference dominance. The Nuggets rode into Cleveland on a seven-game winning streak, starting to look like a team that climbed to a three seed in last season’s playoffs. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, came in ranked 28th in the league in points per 100 possessions and 26th in points allowed. They didn’t look like it on Wednesday, though, rolling to an easy W over Denver. Tristan Thompson put up a career night with 17 points and 21 boards – nine of them offensive – as the Cavs used their interior advantage for the win.
Even though the two teams were basically even in shots attempted, field goal percentage and turnovers, the Cavs earned 11 more trips to the free throw line. Anderson Varejão also had himself a double-double with 18 and 13 to go along with five combined blocks and steals. Ty Lawson, who has been as reliable as it gets for the Nuggets this year, scoring double figures in every game coming in, put up just four points and went 1-13 from the field, although he did tally 11 assists. Kyrie Irving put up 23 points for the Cavs on 9-20 shooting, but was scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Hawks (10-10) 107, Clippers (12-7) 97
Another East-West matchup dominated by the Eastern team? Huh? The Hawks, who came in at 9-10, yet still sat third in the East standings, took advantage of the Clippers interior defense all night to grab the win. Al Horford and Paul Millsap ate up the Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan frontline, going for 21 and 25 points respectively and each grabbing nine rebounds.
The Clippers, playing their first game of a seven-stop trip east, trailed for nearly the entire game. The Hawks took the lead for good with 7:35 to go in the first, stretching it as high as 16. Blake put up 24 and 7 for the Clippers, while Chris Paul racked up 19 and 11 assists in the loss. Kyle Korver consistently drained open threes for ATL, knocking down 6-9 en route to 23 points. Korver tied Dana Barros for the longest streak of consecutive games with a made three at 89, with a chance to set the record when the Hawks play Cleveland on Friday.
Suns (10-9) 97, Rockets (13-7) 88
The surprising Suns took advantage of a rare off night from Houston, the most efficient offensive team in the league, to get a road win. The point guard tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic took control for Phoenix, scoring 20 and 19 points, respectively, to lead the Suns.
James Harden had an ugly line in his worst game of the season. The Beard shot 3-17 from the field and 0-8 from long range. He still managed 14 points thanks to a perfect 8-8 night from the line. The Rockets were short-handed, with four regulars missing this game due to injury.
Houston got it within a point midway through the fourth quarter, but the Suns answered with a 13-0 run to all but end it. Dwight Howard putting up a 15 and 18, while Aaron Brooks netted 17 off the bench for H-Town. PJ Tucker was big for the Suns, posting a line of 18-6-4.
Pistons (9-10) 105, Bucks (3-15) 98
With Anthony Davis on the shelf, Andre Drummond is taking up the mantle of “second year big man making a gigantic leap.” Drummond put up his fifth straight double-double (and third straight with 18 or more boards), going for 24 and 19, tacking on three blocks and two steals as well. Detroit pulled away with a 14-0 run in the third quarter, with Greg Monroe (18 points, 17 rebounds) scoring eight of those points.
In his return to Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings made just 4-16 shots, managing 17 points thanks to two made triples and 7-8 shooting from the free throw line. Josh Smith (17 points, three blocks) continued his quest to frustrate everyone who has ever watched basketball, shooting 6-19 from the floor. He was 1-8 on shots outside of the paint, including 1-6 from long range. An update on his shot chart:
(Via NBA Stats)
For the Bucks, Ersan Ilyasova notched 22 and 10 off the bench. Giannis Antetokounmpo tied his season high by playing 28 minutes, and the Greek Freak put up a tantalizing line of six points, six rebounds, four assists and three blocks. When you’re 3-15, you’ve gotta have something to get excited about, right?
Mavericks (12-8) 100, Pelicans (9-9) 97
New Orleans couldn’t keep its post-Anthony Davis run going, falling short in the final minutes against the Mavericks. Eric Gordon (15 points, 6-14 shooting) had a runner blocked by Dirk Nowitzki with under 10 seconds to go, and Ryan Anderson (18 points, 1-5 from three, 13 boards), coming off back-to-back 30-point efforts, showed he’s not superhuman, missing a game-tying triple with time running out. Dirk led the way for Dallas, scoring 21 points (7-17 shooting), grabbing seven boards and rejecting four shots.
The teams traded runs early in the second half, with the Mavs answering an 8-0 run by the Pellies with a 10-2 tear of their own. Dirk closed things out for Dallas, scoring their final five points.
Al-Farouq Aminu had his best game of the season, scoring 16 while grabbing a career-best 21 boards. Jrue Holiday set a season high in points with 26 while dishing out nine assists. Dallas had six players score in double figures, with Vince Carter popping in 15 off the bench and Monta Ellis putting up a well-rounded 14-6-10 line.
Pacers (17-2) 95, Jazz (4-16) 86
With three upsets already in the books, this one would have been too much. The Jazz got out to an early lead, but the Pacers chipped away at it and pulled away at the end. Paul George scored 19 for Indy, including nine in the fourth quarter to help the Pacers seal it. After allowing 100 points in back-to-back games, the Pacers’ league-best defense got back on their grind and held the Jazz to 41 percent shooting and just 38 points in the second half.
Derrick Favors flashed his talent with 22 and 13, finishing as the only Utah player with a positive plus/minus rating. Trey Burke continued the strong start to his career with 13 points and nine assists.
Indy’s starters all scored in double figures; Roy Hibbert put up 13 and nine, while David West netted 10 and dished out eight assists.
A very weird situation played out in Mexico City, as the arena the Spurs and Wolves were set to square off in experienced some smoky conditions after what was called a generator malfunction. The arena was evacuated about 45 minutes before the scheduled tip off. The game will be played at a later date in Minneapolis.
Trail Blazers (16-3) 111, Thunder (13-4) 104
Yes, it’s still pretty early in the season, but the Trail Blazers are proving they’re for real. If they keep knocking off upper-echelon teams, they won’t have to do much more to convince folks. Rip City was out in full force as the Blazers rallied back from an 11-point halftime hole to top the Thunder in Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge was out of his mind, going for 38 points (16 in the fourth), 13 rebounds and five assists and outdueling Kevin Durant (33 points, seven boards) to lead the Blazers to the win.
The Blazers took every punch the Thunder threw down the stretch, answering just about every Thunder make with points of their own to hold onto the lead. On the game’s most pivotal possession, with Portland clinging to a 105-104 lead and less than a minute left on the clock, Kendrick Perkins (what was he even doing on the floor?) was called for an illegal screen as he tried to free Russell Westbrook (21 points, 7-17 shooting). Nicolas Batum (14 points, 6-10 from the field) drained a trey down at the other end, as Durant fell asleep guarding him, to give the Blazers a big enough cushion to coast to victory.
While Portland’s defense is going to be the question going forward – they were okay in this one, holding OKC to 43.8 shooting from the floor, but only forcing the turnover-happy Thunder into 13 giveaways – Terry Stotts’ offense is really humming. All five starters scored 10 or more, and his “Flow” offense is generating all kind of good looks. While the Blazers hit just 8-23 from long range, several of their misses were of the wide-open variety. Aldridge (17-28 from the field) gave everyone who tried to guard him fits, hitting a Nowitzkian array of mid-range jumpers and fadeaways, and even doing more damage than usual inside. Aldridge’s 17 made field goals are tied for most in the League in a game this season. It’s gotten to the point where it’s shocking when this dude misses a jumper.
OKC can be encouraged by the play of their young’ns in this one. Jeremy Lamb was on the floor for long stretches of the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points overall, while Reggie Jackson (12 points) continues to make a mini-leap.