by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
The NBA had a big Friday night with 13 games on the schedule and the stars came to play. Dwyane Wade returned for the Heat and had a competition with LeBron James for who could finish with the more ridiculous dunk against the Knicks. Rookie Kyrie Irving matched up against old head Deron Williams and learned a thing or two and Joe Johnson played the hero for ATL. Catch up on all the action below…
After losing two out of their last three, including a bad loss to New Jersey on Wednesday, Illadelph got back on track with a blowout win against Charlotte. The Sixers, who are now 13-6, took advantage of a run down Bobcats team and were up by as many as 30 points in the 2nd half. Lou Williams paced his team with 17 points and 5 rebounds off the bench while the starting backcourt of Jodie Meeks and Jrue Holiday combined for 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. After jumping out to a 23-10 lead in the first quarter, the Sixers continued to pour it on and the frustration built up for Charlotte. Coach Paul Silas couldn’t contain his anger and was ejected in the second quarter after kicking the ball and jawing with the referees. The Sixers are off tomorrow then have a three game home stand against Detroit, Orlando and Chicago next week.
Playing for the third time already this season, the Celtics finally upended the Pacers in Boston thanks to Paul Pierce’s 28 points (17 of which came in the third quarter), 10 boards and 8 assists. The C’s were once again without Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal, but Doc Rivers’ bunch kept fighting and with last night’s win are now playing .500 basketball. Tied at 46 with 8:44 left in the third quarter, Paul Pierce hit a 3 to break the tie and from that moment on, the TD Garden became the Truth’s theater. During the next 2 and a half minutes, Pierce found Avery Bradley for a layup and connected on a layup of his own. Then, after a KG jumper, drove to the basket for a pretty layup to help push the lead to 11. With O’Neal on the bench, the Celtics were thin up front but reserve forward Chris Wilcox stepped up big with 14 points and 16 rebounds, which was crucial considering how strong Indiana’s frontcourt has been. Garnett, who is the only Celtic to have played in every game this season, finished with 13 points and 8 boards. For Indy, Danny Granger led the charge with 21 points (7-16 shooting) and 6 rebounds while Paul George finished with 16 and 9. The Pacers had a scary moment when Roy Hibbert went down with an ankle injury. Fortunately for them, he returned to action but that injury is definitely something to keep an eye on–Hibbert’s improved play has been a catalyst for Indy’s hot start. Just a short week ago it seemed as if everybody, including the front office, had given up on the Celtics. But credit Doc Rivers for keeping his team focused and realizing that the NBA regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. The C’s are now playing much better basketball and if everyone can come back healthy and contribute, they may sneak up on the rest of the East.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Joe Johnson came through when it mattered most and finished with 30 points. Johnson, who shot 11-23, scored 10 points in the fourth and nailed a huge 3 pointer with under two seconds left to force overtime. The Pistons, who can’t seem to catch a break this season, missed 25 shots at the rim–inexcusable for a professional basketball team. Detroit led 87-81 with under 40 seconds left, but left Marvin Williams (22 points) wide open for a 3 in the corner then turned the ball over setting the stage for Johnson’s heroics. Josh Smith had himself a near triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists and a triplet of big blocks. Detroit, who was missing 5 players including Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon, got a glimpse into their potential future. The inside-outside combo of Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight combined for 42 points with Monroe grabbing 11 rebounds and Knight dropping 8 dimes. This season may be a lost cause but the development of these two should excite Motor City fans.
Kyrie Irving may only be a rookie but his game is definitely mature beyond his years. Irving, who squared off against one of the games best point guards in Deron Williams, held his own and set a career high in points with 32. The rook may have won the scoring battle, but it was the vet who gave the overall better performance and helped his team win the war. Williams scored 27 points (9-18) and dropped a game high 10 assists to build on his four game double-double streak. Thanks to Williams’ improved play, the Nets are now 3-1 in their last 4 and DWill is averaging 24 points and 10 assists per. With Mehmet Okur, Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks all watching from the sideline, Anthony Morrow and Kris Humphries picked up the slack. Morrow scored 22 points and grabbed 6 boards while Humphries scored his eighth double-double of the season with 18 and 11. Say what you will about the Nets but now that Williams has began attacking the basket, they are at least a much more competitive team and are playing well on the road. After starting 6-6, the Cavs have dropped five of their last six and Byron Scott has to find an answer–quick. Let’s not forget that this team lost 26 straight last season. Just so Cavs fans don’t feel too bad, here’s a beautiful dunk from Alonzo Gee.
Dwayne Wade returned to the starting lineup after missing the last six games with an ankle injury and certainly made his presence felt in a surprisingly close game. Playing against a Melo-less Knicks squad, Wade scored 28 points and was seemingly all over the floor, evidenced by his 5 steals and 2 blocks. Despite hanging around until midway through the fourth quarter, New York had no answer for LeBron (game high 31 points) and DWade, who looked like they were trying to best each other for highlight of the night. The Knicks were able to hang around thanks to a ridiculous 18 three pointers, 7 of which came from Bill Walker, who had a team high 21 off the bench. For New York it was either feast or famine with their perimeter shooting, and after their outside shots began to rattle out they had no other options–the Heat outscored them 42-14 in the paint. With a chance to shoulder much of the scoring load with Melo designated to the bench, STAT once again had a disappointing evening with 12 points and 6 boards. New York is now 1-8 in their last nine games. They suck.
Earlier this week, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings said he was looking forward to last night’s matchup against the Bulls and reigning MVP Derrick Rose. Despite being bothered with a toe injury, DRose certainly didn’t disappoint his competition. Rose finished with a game and season high 34 points (14-24) and looked much healthier following a five game stint on the bench thanks to that toe. The Bucks did not just roll over though. The first half saw 11 lead changes and after falling behind by 13, Milwaukee battled back to get within 5 but could not get over the hump. Chicago was able to capitalize on Andrew Bogut’s absence as both Joakim Noah (15 and 16) and Carlos Boozer (20 and 13) finished with double-doubles. Even though his matchup got the upper hand, Jennings was no slouch finishing with 25 points, 7 boards, and 3 assists but also had 4 turnovers. Teammate Drew Gooden, who started at center in place of Bogut, finished with a strong stat line of 23 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. Both teams are banged up and it doesn’t get any easier as Chicago travels to Miami tomorrow while Milwaukee hosts the Lakers tonight.
What’s up with the Magic? After getting off to a hot start, Orlando has sputtered this week. They scored a franchise low 56 points on Monday against Boston, blew a 31 point lead Thursday night, and last night only tallied 64 points against a terrible Hornets team who hadn’t won since January 9. Howard dropped his usual 28 points and 16 rebounds but only got a combined 11 points (11!) from the other four Magic starters. Perhaps all the trade talk is starting to affect the rest of his teammates. For the Hornets, Carl Landry had 17 points and 6 rebounds off the bench while Jarrett Jack finished with 11 points, 9 assists and only 1 turnover. Chris Kaman was held out of the game–and will continue to be held out. It was released yesterday that the Hornets will be shopping Kaman after acquiring him in the CP3 deal.
Houston has had a number of players step up for them this season. On any given night, the Rockets can beat you with a big game from either Kevin Martin, Sam Dalembert or Kyle Lowry and solid contributions from role players like Goran Dragic. But, last night against Washington it was the little used Chase Budinger who stepped up and provided a spark. Budinger, who had not played in the previous three games, filled the scoring void left by the injured Kevin Martin finishing with a season high 21 points (8-14 shooting) as Houston improved to 8-2 at the Toyota Center. The Wizards have been awful on the road, falling to 0-8 away from D.C. and losing by an average of 19.6 points per contest. Last night it was turnovers that absolutely killed Washington. The Wiz committed a season high 24 turnovers which Houston took complete advantage of by scoring 41 points off their opponents mistakes. John Wall had 17 points, 8 boards, and 6 dimes but also had a team high 5 turnovers. The Wizards only trailed by two midway through the third, but allowed Houston to finish the quarter on a 21-7 run; scoring 10 of those points off of Washington turnovers. With Jan Vesely playing extended minutes, Luis Scola took advantage of the rookie’s inexperience and dropped an extremely efficient 19 points (8-13), 8 boards and 3 dimes. Better luck next time, rook.
Is it a changing of the guard out West? The youthful T’Wolves have now defeated the elder Spurs twice this season. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love once again paced the Timberwolves with 18 points apiece. Rubio also finished with 10 assists and only 2 turnovers while Love snatched 16 boards. Minnesota absolutely owned the Spurs in the paint, outscoring them 50-26 and outrebounding San Antonio 46-34. Rubio had his usual slew of highlight worthy assists while fellow rookie Derrick Williams finished with 12 points off the bench. The game was close throughout and the Spurs only trailed by a point with a little under 6 minutes to play before Rick Adelman reinserted his starters. With the starting lineup in, Minnesota allowed San Antonio to score one field goal and went on a 12-5 run to finish the game. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points but got outplayed by Rubio in the final period of play. Parker took 7 of the Spurs 18 fourth quarter shot attempts, hitting only 3 of them. Tim Duncan was held to single digits for the second game in a row, scoring only 9 points on 2-12 shooting.
The Jazz have been one of the biggest surprises of the early season but last night proved they might not be ready to play with the big boys just yet. Playing without three starters due to injury, the Mavs got season best efforts from Rodrique Beaubois (22 points, 7 assists) and Lamar Odom (19-5). Pair those efforts with Shawn Marion’s 16 and Jason Terry’s 18 off the bench and the defending champs used a late game 28-9 run to end any hopes of a Utah win. The Jazz did get a great effort from their starting frontcourt of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson who combined for 39 points and 13 rebounds, but a 7-20 fourth quarter shooting performance killed them. Millsap and Jefferson are quietly becoming one of the most formidable starting frontcourts in the league. Combine their play with strong performances from rookie Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors and the Jazz are developing a nice, young big man rotation. The Mavs shot 55 percent for the game and were lights out from deep, hitting eleven 3′s on 19 attempts.
The Denver Nuggets cruised to their sixth straight dub thanks to a season high 23 points from Rudy Fernandez. Four Nugs scored in double figures including a double-double effort from Nene (20 and 10) and 21 and 7 from the very rich Danilo Gallinari. Toronto’s starting backcourt provided no help to the struggling Raptors as they combined to shoot a putrid 6-25 and dish out a lowly 5 assists. The Raptors dug themselves into an early hole by missing 12 shots in a row in the first and trailed 16-2 until James Johnson’s runner with a little over 3 minutes to go. Reserve guards Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa did their best to keep the Raps in it by scoring 18 and 19 respectively but without Bargnani Toronto lacks the scoring punch they desperately need.
After getting blown out by the Suns earlier this season, it looked like the Blazers had revenge on the mind. The Suns led 24-21 after the first, but Portland bounced back and outscored Phoenix 57-21 over the next two quarters. Portland dominated the paint thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge’s 23 point, 7 rebound effort and Marcus Camby’s 2o boards. The Rose Center remains one of the best atmospheres in the NBA and Portland has now won 9 out of 10 on their home court. Portland’s D held the Suns to 37 percent shooting from the field and allowed only 9 field goals over the second and third quarters. Wesley Matthews bounced back from a scoreless first half to finish with 16 points including 4 three pointers on 5 attempts.
Russell Westbrook had 28, James Harden had 19 and Kevin Durant had 37 points in Oklahoma City’s offensive explosion. OKC owned the paint all night scoring 58 points in the key and grabbing 53 boards including 14 from Durant and 12 from Serge Ibaka. Golden State cut the lead to 86-83 early in the fourth but after Brandon Rush found nothing but iron on a failed dunk attempt, the Thunder continued their onslaught with a 14-3 run and put away the Warriors for good. Dorell Wright had a team high 23 points but the Warriors couldn’t compensate for a poor shooting night from Monta Ellis and Steph Curry. Ellis, who has been in a scoring funk and Curry combined to shoot 11-33 from the field. Durant did what superstars do last night–he owned the fourth quarter. After scoring 22 through the first three periods, Durant turned it up in the fourth with a huge 3-pointer and an alley-oop dunk to put his team up 97-86 with 5:08 left to play.
Stat Lines of the Night: The Truth with 28 points, 10 boards and 8 assists.
Moment of the Night: Joe Johnson sends the game to overtime.
Dunk(s) of the Night: Really could have taken your pick from the Heat-Knicks game but I’m going with LeBron’s facial on Billy Walker.
Nene goes hard in the paint.
Ankle Check: Nate Robinson puts his man on skates.
Just Because: Andre Miller from 45 feet.
Tonight: Six games on deck, but no riveting matchups. Philly takes on Detroit, the Knicks travel to Houston and the Lakers play in Milwaukee. You never know in the NBA though, especially this season–let’s hope for some great basketball. See you tomorrow.