by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Long weekends are the best, aren’t they? Sadly, they have to end. Good thing we have 11 games worth of NBA action to discuss from last night, with plenty of storylines, from the Knicks and Wizards taking Ls again to returns for Perkins and Odom to the opposite streaks of the Thunder and Celtics to the Grizz getting revenge on the Bulls to the late-night Mavs-Lakers drama. No time to waste this morning, so get to reading.
Orlando hit a ridiculous 17 three-pointers, tying the record for most-ever against the Knicks, and Ryan Anderson had an NBA season-high 7 of those 3s (30 points in all) as Orlando took the lead late and New York dropped to 6-7 on the year and 3-3 at Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony returned after missing a game with a sprained ankle, and he scored 20 points in the first half to give the Knicks a 6-point halftime lead, but he shot just 9-of-27 for the game (33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals overall). Orlando is 9-3 after finishing off a 4-0 road trip with this win against the Knicks. Dwight Howard took just 6 shots, as he drew double and triple teams on most of his touches, but he passed out of the post effectively, and finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks, while JJ Redick scored 21 off the bench. Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas scored 12 apiece and Amar’e Stoudemire scored 8 of his 10 in the fourth quarter (after battling foul trouble) for the Knicks, who have now lost three in a row. New York actually led 85-83 with just over 7 minutes to go in the game, but the Magic just wouldn’t stop hitting threes, and they won the fourth quarter 29-18.
Can we get John Wall some help, please? After struggling to start the season, Wall finally had his breakout game, with a career-high 38 points (13-22 shooting), 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals, but the rest of the 1-12 Wizards did little to help him out. Both teams scored the most points they’ve scored all season, and the Rockets got 25 points from Kevin Martin and 20 from Samuel Dalembert—who dominated the Wizards’ front line in the fourth quarter to seal the win for Houston. With Rashard Lewis sitting out due to a knee injury, Andray Blatche returned after missing three games with a shoulder issue and posted 11 points and 12 boards, but hardly made an impact worthy of his 34 minutes. Nick Young was 3-for-12 (13 points) and Trevor Booker was 1-for-6 (3 points), but the Wiz did get 37 fast break points, mostly from Wall and Jordan Crawford, who scored 17 points. The Rockets improved to 6-7, and two of Chandler Parsons’ 8 points came on this junk-in-your-face dunk over Javale McGee, who had a highlight reel dunk of his own, though coach Flip Saunders criticized him for showing off in his post-game comments.
On New Year’s Day, the Bulls smacked the Grizzlies by 40. Yesterday, Memphis got revenge, punching Chicago in the mouth from the get-go, as Rudy Gay scored 24 points and Mike Conley racked up 20 points and 8 assists. The Bulls were without MVP Derrick Rose for the second time in their last four games due to a lingering toe injury. The Grizz shot 54 percent from the field as a team and led the entire game (by as many as 27 at one point) to get back to .500 at 6-6 on the year. Memphis got big games from starting big men Marc Gasol (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Mareese Speights (16 and 12, plus this), and Gay had SportsCenter-worthy highlights not once, but twice. Luol Deng led the Bulls with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, while CJ Watson and Taj Gibson scored 17 and 16 off the bench, respectively. But the Bulls starting backcourt of Ronnie Brewer and John Lucas is obviously not as dynamic as DRose and Rip Hamilton, and Chicago dropped to 12-3. Luckily, the Bulls upcoming schedule is as follows: Phoenix, at Charlotte, Cleveland, New Jersey.
Jrue Holiday scored a season-high 24 points (plus 5 assists and 5 steals), and the Sixers moved to 10-3 on the year. Philly has won three straight, and nine of the last 10 games. The Sixers sit just 1 game back of the Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference, and they showed why on Monday, getting contributions up and down the roster—Andre Iguodala had 21, Lou Williams had 17, and Spencer Hawes notched yet another double-double, with 11 points and 10 boards. Philadelphia totaled 22 assists for the game as a team, and the Sixers have six players averaging double-digit points this season. Meanwhile, Milwaukee got 20 and 11 from Andrew Bogut, but the next-highest scorer was Tobias Harris, with 12 off the bench. Brandon Jennings scored just 7 points on 3-for-11 shooting (0-for-3 from three) and was completely outplayed by Holiday. The teams combined for just 11 fast break points, and the Sixers turned it over just 9 times, for only 2 Bucks points. Philly faces their Western Conference twin, the Denver Nuggets, on Wednesday, in what should be a fun one.
It’s early, but damn if Kyrie Irving doesn’t look like the real deal. Yesterday, he scored 25 points (9-16 FGs) and racked up 7 assists and 4 rebounds to help the Cavs improve to 6-6 against the lowly Bobcats, who are now just 3-11 on the year. On one occasion, Irving blew past fellow rookie Kemba Walker, drew the contact, and finished an acrobatic layup. Most importantly, of course, he led his team to a comeback win—the Cavs trailed at one point by 14. Charlotte held a 94-93 advantage with less than two minutes to play, but allowed Cleveland to score the final 9 points of the game and take home the win. Anderson Varejao (14 points, 12 boards) provided two key buckets in the waning moments of the game. The Bobcats got 19 points and 6 assists from DJ Augustin in the first half, and shot 60 percent as a team, but in the second half, Augustin had just 5 points, and Charlotte shot 29.5 percent from the field. Walker had a particularly frustrating night, scoring 14 points, but on 6-for-21 shooting (yikes). Antawn Jamison scored 20, and Omri Casspi had 14 and 7, including a big third quarter to get the Cavs going. Unfortunately, Cleveland’s on-going flirtation with a .500 record may come to an end over the next week, as they face the Warriors, Bulls, Hawks and Heat.
Neither team could get much offense going in the first half, and the Blazers led 37-35 after two quarters, before LaMarcus Aldridge took it upon himself to will Portland to their 8th win of the season, snapping a three-game losing streak. Aldridge scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, and sparked a 17-2 third-quarter run by the Blazers, during which he shot 5-for-5. Nicolas Batum scored 19 points off the bench and Ray Felton had 12 assists in Portland’s win, despite being outrebounded 40-37 and outscored from the free throw line, 21 to 10. The ageless Kurt Thomas started his second straight game in place of an injured Marcus Camby. The Hornets got 21 points from Jarret Jack and 12 each from Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman, but New Orleans couldn’t make a single three-pointer in 9 attempts, and starters DaJuan Summers, Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith combined for just 12 points on 5-of-21 shooting. The awkward starting lineup came as a result of the continued absences of Eric Gordon (knee) and Trevor Ariza (groin).
With Chris Paul sidelined with a hamstring injury, Chauncey Billups stepped into the starting point guard spot and guided the Clippers to a ten-point win, despite blowing an 18-point lead. Billups scored 9 of his 20 points in the final 4:23 of the game, and he facilitated the offense to the tune of a 23-point, 14-board game from Blake Griffin (and he made the rim say ouch). The Nets made things interesting with a 15-2 fourth-quarter run to tie the game at 81, but the Clips turned it on down the stretch and escaped with the victory. For once, New Jersey protected the basketball, with only 8 turnovers, and Deron Williams scored 14 points (on 14 shots) and had 6 assists. MarShon Brooks led the way for the Nets, with 19 points and 8 boards, while guards DeShawn Stevenson and Jordan Farmar combined to shoot 3 for 15 from the field, for 9 points. Woof. Kris Humphries had 14 points and 7 boards, but had a rough day at the office, as you’ll see below.
The Hawks are now 3-0 since Al Horford was ruled out for 3-4 months. Sure, the wins have come against Charlotte, Minnesota and Toronto, but still, give credit to Atlanta for not completely falling apart. They continue to beat the teams they should beat. Last night, the win came courtesy of Andrea Bargnani’s absence, which left room for Josh Smith to go for 28 points (13-19 FGs) and 15 rebounds. Joe Johnson also scored 27, and the Hawks scored 22 points off the Raptors’ 17 turnovers. Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to lead Toronto in scoring, with 22 points, Jose Calderon finished with 13 points and 11 assists and Amir Johnson turned in a double-double (13 points, 10 boards), but the Raptors scored just 13 points total in the fourth quarter. The Hawks will face two straight tough opponents this week, which should reveal more about how Atlanta will cope with the loss of Horford—they host Portland on Wednesday and travel to Philadelphia on Friday.
Whoa. Talk about two teams headed in different directions. The Celtics lost their fifth straight, while Oklahoma City won its seventh in a row. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were as advertised, teaming up in the halfcourt and on the fast break while posting nearly identical lines:
Durant: 41 minutes, 28 points (9-20), 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Westbrook: 40 minutes, 26 points (9-18), 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Early on it was Durant, and late it was Westbrook, who canned a pair of game-clinching threes in the final two minutes to lead OKC to an NBA-best 12-2 record. The Celtics tied the game at 57 in the third quarter, then the Thunder took a ten-point advantage going into the fourth. But Boston again stormed back, cutting the deficit to two with 5 minutes to play. OKC simply couldn’t miss from deep in the fourth quarter, and Westbrook, when not shooting it himself, found Thabo Sefolosha open for treys (he, too, hit 2 big ones in the final two minutes). The five-game skid for the Celtics is the longest since the beginning of the Big Three era (2007-08). The C’s loss came despite 24 points from Paul Pierce, double-doubles from Kevin Garnett (12 x 12) and Jermaine O’Neal (12 x 11) and 12 points and 9 assists from Rajon Rondo, including one classic Rondo moment. But the Celtics turned the ball over 18 times and shot 39 percent from the field. Thankfully for Boston, the bleeding should stop over the next three games: home for Toronto and Phoenix, then at Washington.
Kevin Love had 33 points and 11 boards, Luke Ridnour chipped in 25 points on 10-14 shooting (except the Wolves announcers think one of his misses was really a pass?) and Ricky Rubio made a run at a triple-double (9 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) as the Wolves used a 32-point fourth-quarter to beat the Kings. No Sacramento player scored more than 12 points. Marcus Thornton, Francisco Garcia and Jason Thompson each had a dozen, and Tyreke Evans was right there with Rubio in the 3×2 race, with 9 points, 10 assists and 8 boards, but he shot just 3-for-11. Evans and DeMarcus Cousins (10 points, 3 rebounds) were both hampered by foul trouble, and the pair combined for 9 of the team’s 16 turnovers on the night. What more is there to say about Love? Consider this nugget, from the AP: “He is the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1992 to start the season with 13 straight double-doubles and has topped 30 points in three straight games for the first time in his career.” And lastly, your nightly Rubio highlights: here and here.
I don’t care if Derek Fisher’s rainbow three-pointer with less than 4 seconds to play was cool as hell, that was one ugly game! Can I interest you in a 16-7 third quarter? Yes, the Mavs scored 16 points and the Lakers scored 7. Literally 7 points in one quarter. And they were still in the game. Heck, they WON the game. In all seriousness, kudos to DFish for nailing the game-winner, and perhaps more importantly, to Kobe Bryant for making the game-winning pass. The Lakers went on a 17-4 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead, and after a Jason Terry runner from the foul line tied things up with less than 10 seconds left, Fisher rained in the three-ball for Los Angeles’ 10th win on the year. The Mavericks shot 35 percent (15 percent from three) and the Lakers shot 38 percent (10 percent from three), and after four consecutive 40+ point nights, Kobe scored 14 points on 7-of-22 shooting. Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and Derek Fisher was the third (and last) Laker in double figures, with 13. Give credit to the Lakers big guys for some great passing throughout this game: McBob to Bynum, Pau to Bynum, World Peace to McBob. For Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points, and Lamar Odom scored 10 in his return to L.A.—nice ovation from the Laker fans—but even after holding the Lakers to 7 points in the third, the Mavs couldn’t close out the contest. Craziness, utter craziness.
Line of the Night: Tie, John Wall (38) and Ryan Anderson (30), who each notched new career highs, with honorable mentions to Josh Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the Thunder Bros.
Quote of the Night: “Apparently if you get a fast break and throw it off the backboard in the third quarter and you’re 1-11, you’re not supposed to do stuff like that.” —Javale McGee, Washington Wizards
Moment of the Night: The Fish that saved L.A.
Funny of the Night: Insert Kris Humphries joke here. Twice.
Dunk of the Night: Jason Thompson, have mercy!
Tonight: Seven games going on, highlighted by San Antonio at Miami (NBATV, 7:30) and Clippers at Jazz (9:30), plus DRose vs. Nash in Chicago. Meet you back here in 24 to discuss.