by Ryne Nelson / @slaman10
While the spotlight shifted to college hoops Saturday night, the NBA offered a relatively pedestrian slate of games, with a relatively pedestrian slate of results. Of course, at this time of the season, every game matters for the Playoff positioning. The Warriors, Jazz and Rockets have put their post-season hopes in jeopardy with the hard-charging Lakers fast on their heals. The Knicks are suffering through injuries, but still winning with good defense (yup). The Nets are playing like a solid 4-seed, which is more than they’ve confidently been able to say all season. And the Bucks’ undersized backcourt is on fire.
Let’s get to it!
Monta Ellis insisted it was “just another game,” but the Bucks guard proved otherwise, leading Milwaukee to a 103-93 victory. Returning to his old stomping grounds for the second time since the Warriors traded him a year ago, Ellis started off hot at Oracle Arena—dropping 10 points in the first stanza—and remained that way, finishing the game with a big 26 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
Ellis and backcourt mate Brandon Jennings certified the game as League Pass gold, as they lit it up from outside. Jennings made five of his first seven attempts from the land of plenty, and Ellis banked-in a trey late in the third to put the Bucks up nine.
Jennings, trying to show the full compliment of his game, earned his fourth-consecutive double-double with an impressive 31 and 10. With Jennings and Ellis taking so much attention, JJ Redick was free to show what he can bring off the bench, finishing with 15 points and 7 dimes and a couple big shots down the stretch.
The Bucks are now 3-0 against the Warriors since sending Bogut (4 points, 9 rebounds) to Oakland in March of last year (which already seems like an eternity ago), and this was the 7-footer’s first game facing the team that drafted him first overall in ’05.
Carl Landry was in classic form, filling in for an injured David Lee and cleaning up the offensive glass to the tune of an 18 and 10 double-double. Their two biggest offensive weapons, Steph Curry and Klay Thompason, combined to miss 21 of their 35 shots. Curry had 16 points and 10 assists, and Thompson finished with 18 points on the contest.
The Warriors have now dropped two in a row at home and are 2-2 on their seven-game homestead. The loss puts them in a precarious Playoff position—just a single game lead ahead of Houston and 2 1/2 ahead of Utah and L.A.
With Carmelo Anthony still out and Amar’e Stoudemire headed for surgery, JR Smith stepped up and led the Knicks in a 113-84 rout over the Jazz.
Smith continued his efficient play with 24 points off the bench, including four treys. Steve Novak found his rhythm from downtown, connecting on 5-10 for 20 points. The Knicks shot 50.7 percent from the field, and finished with 21 assists and only 12 turnovers.
The blowout was crucial for the Knicks’ psyche, as they embark on a brutal five-game Western swing. Anthony, still suffering from stiff and sore knees, could make his return on the road trip.
After sitting out the morning shootaround, Stoudemire had an MRI on his right knee, which revealed a burst cyst. He’ll require surgery and miss the rest of the regular season.
The Knicks already rank first the League in threes made per game (10.8), and Stoudemire’s absence may emphasize their reliance on outside shooting from here on out. Kenyon Martin took advantage of the extra playing time, finishing with 10 points and 6 rebounds.
Playing the second of a back-to-back, the Jazz completed a winless four-game road trip that dropped them into a tie with the Lakers for the eighth spot in the West. Alec Burks led the way with 14 points to join Gordon Hayward (13 points) and Enes Kanter (11 points) as the only Utah players in double-digits.
Kendall Marshall, Jared Dudley, PJ Tucker and Michael Beasley sparked a 16-0 run in the second quarter to put the Suns up 10. And despite James Harden’s 38 points and seven long-range bombs, Phoenix never looked back.
Goran Dragic led the way for the suddenly competitive Suns, dropping 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter against his former team. Filling in for Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O’Neal, Hamed Haddadi played a career-high 29 minutes off the bench, scoring 6 points with a career-high 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. A previously slumping Jared Dudley found his touch again with 22 points and 7 assists.
Despite being the No. 2 rebounding team in the L, the Rockets gave up 17 O-boards and 24 second-chance points. They allowed the Suns to turn their fast-break style on them, giving up 32 points in transition. Chandler Parsons was cold from the field on a 5-16 night. Harden complimented his 38 points with 8 assists and 5 rebounds and 8 turnovers.
The Rockets will have their chance to exact revenge, and many times over as a matter of fact. These teams will play each other four more times before the season ends.
Brooklyn overcame an early 10-point deficit to win their third straight. Andray Blatche (18 points, 4 steals) and Brook Lopez (18 points, 9 rebounds) took advantage of the Hawks’ weakened frontcourt. Al Horford led the Hawks with 15 points and 12 boards.
The Wiz never trailed, handing Charlotte its 10th straight loss. Trevor Ariza (26 points, 10 rebounds) and Nene (19 points, 8 rebounds) torched the hapless Bobcat defense. Kemba Walker dropped 29 and 6 assists in the loss.
Grizzlies’ 12th win in 13 games. Marc Gasol (22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) and Ed Davis (12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks) picked up the slack for the injured Darrell Arthur and Zach Randolph. Anthony Davis put up an impressive 20 points and 18 rebounds in the loss.
Ty Lawson hit 12-17 field goals for a season-high 32 points. Denver beat the injury-depleted L-Wolves to stretch their home winning streak to 13 games.