by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Cavaliers(11-21) 87, Magic (10-22) 81 (OT)
Cleveland came back from a big deficit in the final minute of regulation, tying the game with less than a second to go when Dion Waiters (17 points) bull rushed the rim for an easy layup. In the OT period, Anderson Varejao (18 points, 25 rebounds) dominated, adding six points and three boards to his impressive totals, which featured a career-high (and team record) in rebounds.
The Cavaliers trailed 79-70 with under a minute to go, but Waiters and Jarrett Jack worked their way to the line, including a foul on a three-point attempt for Jack, and Waiters hit two driving layups to tie things up. The Magic certainly didn’t do much to win the game, missing two field goal attempts, two free throws and turning the ball over once during that hectic final minute. Big Baby Davis led the magic with 16 points and 13 boards, while Arron Afflalo was harrassed into a 5-15 shooting night on the way to 12 points. The win for the Cavs snapped a season-high six game losing streak, even though Kyrie Irving sat the game with an injured knee.
Warriors (21-13) 123, Heat (24-8) 114
When Steph Curry gets hot, there’s not much an opponent can do but watch in awe. The world champion Heat mustered a fight, but were helpless as Curry went supernova on them, going bonkers in a third quarter run that staked the Warriors to a big lead. Steph finished with 36 points on 13-22 shooting, making 8-15 from long range, while dishing out 12 assists. David Lee was brilliant as well, going for 32 points and 14 boards in support of Steph. Seriously, though – good luck stopping this:
Curry had 10 points and an assist in the first five minutes of the third quarter, helping Golden State grow their lead to 14 points. While the Heat mounted several rallies throughout the second half, they were never able to get over the hump. LeBron James put up a 25-5-5 line for the Heat, but turned the ball over eight times and left skid marks on the floor as he careened off his tracks and into the lane.
Dwyane Wade chipped in 22 on 9-18 shooting, keeping up his career-best shooting year.
While Miami’s defense has a tendency to be less than attentive in some regular season games, they were especially lax in this one. Golden State shot 51.7 percent (15-29) from deep, getting plenty of open looks (Curry doesn’t need to be open, but that’s besides the point). The Warriors are the hottest team in the league right now, winners of six straight.
Bulls (13-18) 94, Celtics (13-19) 82
Joakim Noah nearly got himself a triple double in leading the Bulls to an ugly win over the Celtics. Noah posted 17 points and 11 boards, but fell one assist shy of reaching double figures in assists, finishing with nine.
This game had all the bricks you would expect between these two teams, as neither squad shot well at all. The Bulls shot 41.7 percent in victory, barely better than the Celtics’ 39.5 percent shooting performance. The two teams combined to shoot 4-27 from three. Jordan Crawford led the Celtics with 22, while Carlos Boozer contributed 16 for Chicago.
Nets (11-21) 95, Thunder (25-7) 93
They looked like they were done several times, but the floundering Nets hung in and rallied for a big comeback win in OKC. Joe Johnson (nine points), master of the last second shot, nailed a jumper over Serge Ibaka as time expired, sending Brooklyn to the win. Johnson is now 6-6 on shots in the final 10 seconds of regulation/OT and the score within three points since joining the Nets, per Tim Bontemps of the New York Post.
The Nets trailed by 16 early in the third quarter and by 12 to start the fourth, but the beleaguered squad steadily climbed back into the game. Johnson scored seven of his points in the final quarter, while Deron Williams (29 points, 10-17 shooting, five steals) drilled a three and a turnaround out of the post to stake the Nets to a late lead. Kevin Durant (24 points, just 13 field goal attempts) made a layup and picked up an assist off a tipped pass to Serge Ibaka (10 and 11 boards) to tie it back up before Johnson’s winner.
This marks the second straight game where OKC has blown a big lead at home after they allowed Portland to come back on them on New Year’s Eve. For Brooklyn, this snapped a two-game skid and was the Nets’ second win in their past eight games.
Knicks (10-21) 105, Spurs (25-8) 101
Carmelo Anthony scored 27 in his return from a sprained ankle, but Iman Shumpert was the one who put the Knicks on his back to get them their first win against a Western Conference opponent this season. Shump hit for 27 as well, setting a new career high, and made several huge plays down the stretch. He recovered a ball in the backcourt and then knocked down a triple to give New York a 101-98 lead with 39 seconds to go, then moments later hustled into position to get a putback layup that gave the Knicks the lead for good.
Marco Belinelli did everything he could to carry the Spurs on a night where their stars struggled, scoring 32 points on 12-16 shooting, including 6-9 from deep. The Spurs’ Big Three combined for just 32 points, while Kawhi Leonard managed just eight on 1-5 shooting.
Grizzlies (14-17) 99, Suns (19-12) 91
Memphis rode a big fourth quarter from Jerryd Bayless, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the period, to overcome Goran Dragic’s career night. Memphis was able to shake off a huge third quarter by the Suns, who reeled off an 18-0 run that put them ahead 62-57. Dragic scored eight of his 33 points during the run and had 15 total points in the quarter.
Memphis got a big effort from Zach Randolph, who went for 20 and 15 rebounds. He’s now hit the 20-10 mark in four of Memphis’ last six games. Phoenix was playing without half of its starting backcourt, as Eric Bledsoe sat out after injuring his knee against the Clippers.
Jazz (11-24) 96, Milwaukee (7-25) 87
The Jazz got big efforts from two of their young stars, pulling away from Milwaukee as the game wore on. Derrick Favors went for 21 points and 11 boards, and Gordon Hayward snapped out of a mini-funk to put up 22 as the Jazz won their second game in a row. The Jazz offense, improving since Trey Burke (11 points, four assists) made his season debut six weeks ago, featured a heavy dose of Favors on Thursday, as the big man took 16 shots, six above his season average, and got plenty of looks in the paint.
Milwaukee got a nice game from Larry Sanders, who went 7-7 from the field for 16 points to lead the team. The Bucks actually outshot the Jazz from the field, but lost the battle at the three-point and foul lines.
76ers (11-21) 113, Kings (10-21) 104
Michael Carter-Williams can have a few more laughs on Twitter, as the “tanking” Sixers stayed undefeated in 2014 and won their third straight game on the road. Thaddeus Young was all over the court for the Sixers, getting to the basket at will for 28 points and swiping away six steals against a sloppy Kings team that committed 22 turnovers. Backup point guard Tony Wroten stepped up to score 21 points off the bench as MCW (seven points, 3-11 shooting, three blocks) struggled offensively. Evan Turner put up another nice stat line for the Sixers, notching a 24 point, 10 rebound double double and throwing in six assists.
DeMarcus Cousins threw up a massive offensive game despite being in foul trouble for much of the evening, going for 33 and 14, fouling out Sixers starting center Spencer Hawes (not the most popular dude in Sacto, thanks to his campaigning for a Seattle franchise) in just 17 minutes of playing time. Jimmer Fredette nearly dragged the Kings back into the game, scoring 12 of his 15 points in a fourth quarter run, but Sacramento fell short in the end.
Trail Blazers (26-7) 134, Bobcats (14-20) 104
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Portland set fire to the scoreboard, hitting 20 shots from downtown (21-33, actually) for the second time this season. This time, they lit up the sixth-ranked defense in the league, raining in jumper after jumper to torch the Bobcats. Damian Lillard led the parade, hitting 6-6 from deep on the way to 24 points, and Wesley Matthews knocked in 5-6 triples and 8-13 overall to score 25 for Portland. When the Blazers’ offense is humming like this, with the ball swinging from side to side until someone comes open behind the arc, it makes any defensive issues seem pretty irrelevant.
Chris Douglas-Roberts led Charlotte with 20 points off the bench, but Kemba Walker struggled mightily, scoring just six points. The Bobcats, perhaps knowing they didn’t have the firepower to keep up, attempted five fewer threes than the Blazers made.