by Alex Shultz / @AlexShultz
Houston Rockets 97 (30-17), San Antonio Spurs 90 (33-12)
In a battle of Western Conference contenders lacking some serious firepower, the Rockets were able to pick up a much-needed home victory. Houston was without James Harden, who sat out with a bruised thumb, while San Antonio played sans Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well—the Rockets won the game but finished at 44 percent overall and just 5-18 from beyond the arc. The Spurs were even worse, shooting 42 percent overall and a putrid 6-23 from three-point range.
San Antonio got 22 points and 11 rebounds from big man Boris Diaw, but he was the only bright spot in an otherwise uncharacteristically poor shooting night. Houston head coach Kevin McHale didn’t hesitate to give point guard Jeremy Lin a bigger role in Harden’s absence, as Lin put up 18 points and 8 assists in 44 minutes of action. Houston center Dwight Howard had 23 points and 16 rebounds but did most of his damage at the free throw line, going 16-25 from the charity stripe.
The Rockets came back from a 46-39 halftime deficit to outscore their opponents 33-18 in the third quarter, which proved to be the difference in the game.
New York Knicks 114 (18-27), Boston Celtics 88 (15-32)
Since the start of 2014, the Knicks are on a hot-and-cold streak unrivaled by any other squad in the League. They won six of their first seven contests, then lost five in a row, and now have won three straight. This time they did it in blowout fashion, speeding off to a 31-15 first quarter advantage. In fact, New York led for all 48 minutes, and did so thanks to an unusually strong performance from its bench. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 24 points in 28 minutes, but was aided by J.R. Smith (17 points), Jeremy Tyler (a career-high 17 points) and Tim Hardaway (16 points).
Boston guard Rajon Rondo is still struggling in his return to action, scoring 7 points on 3-13 shooting. The Celtics shot under 40 percent as a team, and their leading scorer, Jeff Green, had just 14.
Detroit Pistons 103 (18-27), Orlando Magic 87 (12-34)
The Pistons landed a home game against the Magic at just the right time, ending a four-game losing streak with a decisive win. Brandon Jennings put together the type of performance Detroit GM Joe Dumars probably envisioned when he signed the former Milwaukee Buck to a three-year, 24 million dollar contract, as Jennings put up 20 points and 8 assists. Andre Drummond (13 points, 17 rebounds) was too much for a helpless group of Orlando defenders who are still without center Nikola Vucevic (out due to a concussion).
Rookie guard Victor Oladipo did what he could off the bench with 19 points, but Orlando’s starters combined for just 49. The Magic are 2-14 in their last 16 games, with their only two wins coming at home against the Celtics and Lakers.
New Orleans Pelicans 100 (19-25), Cleveland Cavaliers 89 (16-29)
If you had Anthony Davis on your fantasy team, chances are you were fairly satisfied with his performance on Tuesday night. The 20-year-old power forward had 30 points, 7 rebounds and 8 blocks in 39 minutes, pacing the Pelicans to an easy win. Eric Gordon also had a nice game in Jrue Holiday’s absence with 20 points and a season-high 9 assists.
Davis’s monster statline might’ve been overshadowed by the play of Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett, who eclipsed 10 points for the first time in his career. The first overall pick in the 2013 draft had 15 points and 8 rebounds in what has otherwise been a disastrous rookie season. His backcourt mates, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, pitched in with 44 points combined, but Luol Deng and Tristan Thompson flatlined with five total buckets.
Memphis Grizzlies 98 (23-20), Portland Trail Blazers 81 (33-13)
Don’t look now, but the Grizzlies are arguably the hottest team in the NBA and slowly creeping back into playoff contention in the Western Conference. They went into Portland (now 18-5 at home) and held the Trail Blazers to their lowest scoring output of the season. Memphis is now 8-1 in its last nine games, in no small part thanks to the return of Marc Gasol, who had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Frontcourt mate Zach Randolph was equally as effective with 23 points and 10 boards.
Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was as good as ever even in defeat, scoring 27 points to go with his 16 rebounds. The rest of Portland’s starters, however, were uncharacteristically off, and the bench combined for a measly 6 points.
Washington Wizards 88 (22-22), Golden State Warriors 85 (27-19)
The Warriors have knocked down plenty of game-tying and game-winning shots this season, but Steph Curry couldn’t get the job done on Tuesday as a last second heave at the buzzer was off the mark.
Since Jan. 15, the Wizards have defeated the Heat, 76ers, Suns and Warriors but lost to the Celtics, Pistons and Jazz. Despite a 22-22 record, that’s not exactly the type of consistency a team would look for against some of the League’s bottom feeders.
Still, Washington clamped down on defense in a surprisingly ugly game against one of the most entertaining offenses in the League. Bradley Beal poured in 18 of his 20 points in the second half and got some help from Nene (16 points, 7 rebounds) and John Wall (15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals).
Steph Curry had a game-high 23 points, but it came on 8-23 shooting, including 2-7 from three-point range. Both teams shot under 40 percent for the game.
Indiana Pacers 104 (35-9), Los Angeles Lakers 92 (16-30)
For one half, the Lakers looked like they could keep up with the NBA’s toughest defense. The score was tied at 49 apiece heading into the third quarter, but the Pacers adjusted accordingly en route to a double-digit road win.
All five Indiana starters scored in double-figures, led by David West’s 19 points and 8 rebounds. Paul George was just 4-21 from the floor, but Lance Stephenson picked up the slack with a complete statline—15 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists.
Kendall Marshall continues dishing dimes, going for 11 points and 13 assists, but the rest of his Laker counterparts other than Pau Gasol (21 points and 13 rebounds) failed to show up. Los Angeles was just 2-5 on its annual Grammy roadtrip and was certainly hoping to get off to a fresh start back at the Staples Center. The Lakers will have a chance to get back on track against the Bobcats on Friday.