by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
Rise and shine, SLAM fam. Our man Abe had some business to handle last night, so it’s me—Eldon Adam Khorshidi—holding down TPU this morning. With 10 games and plenty of storylines to dissect, there’s no need for a cute intro, so let’s do this…
Holy Mike Woodson! A few hours after receiving word that Amar’e Stoudemire’s back was still intact, the Knicks continued their recent success, winning their eighth game in nine tries with a 108-86 thrashing of the Magic. Orlando won the first and fourth quarters with a combined +13 differential, but was outscored 65-30 in the middle two quarters, which obviously didn’t pan-out well for them. New York was sans Jeremy Lin (knee) and Stoudemire, but Carmelo Anthony, who was hampered by a groin injury of his own and played with a noticeable limp, put up 25 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists in only 26 minutes. Rookie Iman Shumpert poured in a career-high 25, Steve Novak had 16 and Baron Davis hit em’ with a smooth 11-7-6 line to propel NY to an easy dub. The turning, er, runaway point of the game came in the third quarter, when New York scored 21 straight points and went up by…39(!). Jameer Nelson led the Magic with 17 points, but honestly who cares about that when Dwight Howard scores 12 points on only seven shots. Seven shots!? You opted-in for seven shots? C’mon, fam! Arguably worse, however, was Dwight (and the Magic’s) rebounding effort, or lack thereof, as Howard grabbed only 5 boards and his team got killed on the glass, 49-34, by a very undersized Knicks squad (Melo started at power forward). With the win, the Knicks are above .500 (26-25) for the first time since mid-January, and are now within 2.5 games of Philly and Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? The Bobcats, that’s who!
The Wolf, formally known as Kevin Love, continued his March Abuse Tour, scoring 40 points and grabbing 19 rebounds, while Ricky Rubio Luke Ridnour dished out a season-high 14 assists and Anthony Toliver recorded his first double-double of the year (11 points, 11 rebounds) to help Minny (25-27) get within 2.5 games of the West’s final playoff spot.
With his team leading 68-65 entering the fourth, Love quickly stretched the lead to nine with back-to-back threes, and scored 14 in the final stanza to help the Wolves escape with the win. Corey Maggette led Charlotte with 22 points, and Kemba Walker chipped in 20 points off the bench. With starter DJ Augustin’s atrocious play of late (0-4, zero points in this one), it wouldn’t surprise me if Paul Silas makes the switch to Kemba in the near future. Meanwhile, Love is averaging an outrageous 31 points, 14 rebounds and 2 assists in March, while making 47.3 percent of his shots and 45.1 percent of his threes. He also recorded his league-leading 44th double-double, which means he has 43 more double-doubles than Toliver, and that he’s fallen short of a 2-x-2 only four times this season.
“I can’t remember the last time we won back-to-back games…” —Arron Afflalo
Well, Arron, your squad last won back-to-back games on March 5th, which is 24 days ago. No bueno.
A night after knocking off the league-leading Chicago Bulls, the Nuggets, paced by Ty Lawson’s 26 points and 9 assists, and the Raptors entered the fourth quarter tied at 85. But Toronto closed the game on a 17-2 run, holding Lawson scoreless in the final frame and the entire Nuggets team scoreless from the field for the last 8:26 of the game, to emerge with a nine-point victory. Andrea Bargnani led Toronto with 26 points, along the way surpassing the 6,000 point mark for his career, good for 4th all-time on the team’s scoring list. Jose Calderon scored 10 points and dished 10 assists—his fourth consecutive game with double-digit assists—and DeMar DeRozan returned from an ankle injury to contribute 17 points. The Nuggets were outscored (105-96), out-rebounded (49-43) and out-assisted (25-18), a formula that doesn’t equate to winning basketball games.
In a game when all eyes were focused on the Kyrie Irving/Brandon Knight rookie battle, it was 10-year veteran Tayshaun Prince who stole the show. Prince, who finished with a season-high 29 points (11-for-21, four threes) and grabbed 8 rebounds, was quick to shun every Cleveland comeback attempt, and Knight provided a 16-5-4 line to hand the Cavs their eighth loss in the last nine games and help Detroit win back-to-back road games for only the second time this season. Irving did his usual thing, posting 22 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, and Antawn Jamison scored 17 points, but it wasn’t enough to get by Detroit, who was playing sans Ben Gordon, and lost Rodney Stuckey to a hamstring injury in the first quarter. Irving tried to bring the Cavs back in the final frame, sinking a jumper to cut it to 76-71 with 4:08 left, but Knight countered with a 3-pointer, Jason Maxiell got a quick dunk and Prince dropped a short hook to secure the victory. Maxiell had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks, and young’n Greg Monroe had 8 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, extending his streak of games with at least five boards to a league-leading 76.
KG had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Brandon Bass scored 19 and Rajon Rondo distributed 14 assists to help Boston win for the fifth time in six games, in the process tying Philly atop the Atlantic Division. At one point the C’s were up by as much as 18, but the Jazz came out firing in the third quarter and eventually tied the game early in the fourth. That’s when Garnett scored seven straight, and Boston never relinquished the lead. For Utah, Al Jefferson (who was traded for KG back in 2007 to complete Boston’s “Big 3″) scored 18 points and grabbed 12 boards, Gordon Hayward scored 19 and Paul Millsap 16, but it wasn’t enough. Utah is now in a three-way tie with Denver and Houston for the last two Playoff spots out West.
One game after beating the Miami Heat, the Pacers, simply put, pooped the bed in this one. Word to Mr. Schwadron.
Deron Williams scored 30 points and dished 9 assists to give the Nets a 16-point win, the team’s largest margin of victory this season. MarShon Brooks added 17 and Gerald Green added 14 to help New Jersey avoid a 4-0 season sweep against Indiana. The Nets started the game with only 10 players, and their roster was soon trimmed to eight, as they lost Shelden and Jordan Williams to an eye injury and concussion, respectively. Shelden actually went to the hospital after game, which by default is kind of scary. Paul George had 22 points to lead the Pacers, who hold a half-game lead over the Hawks for the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta, playing its fifth game in six days, raced to a 13-5 lead but then the weary legs kicked in, as the DRose-less Bulls seized control and never relented. Chicago made its first seven treys (finished with nine) en route to a relatively easy “road” win. “Road” is in quotation marks because at one point in the fourth quarter, Phillips Arena began an overwhelming “Let’s Go Bulls!” chant. Behind Luol Deng’s 22 points (5 threes), Carlos Boozer’s 20 and Taj Gibson’s 19, Chicago improved to an NBA-best 21-6 away from home. Josh Smith led the Hawks with 19 points and 7 assists, but Atlanta didn’t get much from Joe Johnson, who scored only 12 points. The Hawks’ exhaustion coupled with Chicago’s suffocating defense made for a 40 percent shooting night for Atlanta.
While the Hawks were too tired to compete, the Spurs, who were also playing their fifth game in six nights, used 11 players to hold off the Kings for their sixth straight win. Gregg Popovich did a great job of keeping everyone fresh, as rookie Kawhi Leonard (19 points) was the only Spur to play over 30 minutes. That’s sound coaching, folks.
Rookie Isaiah Thomas posted a career-high 28 points and dished 10 assists for the Kings, and DeMarcus Cousins had a solid 25/11 game, but San Antonio’s reserves, led by Manu Ginobili (20 points), outscored Sacramento’s bench, 55-20. Timmy Duncan added 28, Gary Neal scored 13 and Tony Parker almost had the 3-x-2, posting 10 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds to hand Sacramento it’s fourth straight L.
The Hornets earned only their 13th victory of the season, cruising to a rare victory in an easy dispatching of the Warriors. Marco Belinelli scored 22 points and dished 6 assists, Jarrett Jack had 20 and 9, and Carl Landry scored 20 points and grabbed 8 boards to help defeat Golden State, who fell to 2-8 since trading Monta Ellis. The Hornets built a 69-49 lead halfway through the third quarter and never looked back, despite playing without Trevor Ariza (ankle), Chris Kaman (illness), Emeka Okafor (knee) and Eric Gordon (knee). After the game, Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez (6 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) had a message for the rest of the League. “Teams better watch out,” Vasquez said. “We might mess around and win a couple games.” Touché, Greivis. Touché.
Another classic case of the best (and only) remedy in sports: winning. After losing three straight last week, the Clips continued to erase their woes and cool Vinny Del Negro’s seat, earning their third consecutive victory. Blake Griffin led the way with 27 points and 14 rebounds (including a few sickening dunks), and the ever-consistent CP3 posted 15 points and 15 assists. Paul outplayed his superstar point guard counterpart, Steve Nash, who finished with 15 assists but scored only one point, which came on a free throw. Phoenix converted on only one field goal over the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, and LA took advantage with a 13-5 that put them up 97-60 and sealed the victory. For the Suns, Marcin Gortat scored an admirable 23 points and grabbed 7 boards.
Line of the Night: Kevin Love’s 40 points, 19 rebounds and 4 assists.
Plays of the Night: We’ve got 10, highlighted by Blake Griffin’s amazing aerial feats and Gordon Hayward’s block party.
Tonight: Only four games, but certainly nothing to sneeze at, as TNT’s got us with a Heat-Mavericks Finals rematch at 8 followed by Thunder-Lakers at 10:30. Dopeness on all fronts, if you ask me. Until next time, peace out.