by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Bulls (18-19) 128, Magic (10-29) 125 (3OT)
This game was a veritable basketball marathon, with an extra 15 minutes of hoops played as neither team could pull away. The Bulls eventually were the last men standing in this battle of attrition, hanging on for the win when the Magic couldn’t score for the final 2:39 of the game. Tom Thibodeau’s wildest dreams came true, as he was able to play four players for 40 or more minutes, including a mind-boggling, team-record 60 for Jimmy Butler (21 points, seven rebounds, six assists) in his second game after returning from injury. Joakim Noah led the way with 26 points and 19 boards, while D.J. Augustin came off the scrap heap to score 19 in 40 minutes off the bench.
Jameer Nelson (31 points, 10 assists) sent the game to OT with a long jumper, dropping the Sam Cassell dance after knocking it down. After the game went to a second OT, Big Baby Davis (17 and nine rebounds) brought the Magic back from the dead with a long 3-pointer. In the end, Orlando simply ran out of gas. You can’t blame Victor Oladipo, though. The rookie had a career-high 35 points (15-24 shooting) and eight assists, making play after play in regulation before tailing off in the overtimes. One downside is the turnovers, which he had eight of, although that can be expected of a rookie pressed into playmaking duty.
76ers (13-25) 95, Bobcats (16-24) 92
Thaddeus Young (11 points) drilled a 3-pointer with three seconds left, breaking a tie and preventing the Sixers from dropping their fifth straight game in a back-and-forth win. The Sixers led by as many as nine in the second half, but Charlotte fought back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Al Jefferson (24 and eight boards) and Kemba Walker (26 points and eight assists) were both cooking all night for the Bobcats and turned in strong fourth quarter efforts: eight points for Big Al, five points and three assists for Kemba.
Spencer Hawes had a beauty of line with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, while Michael Carter-Williams posted 20, eight boards and seven assists. Tony Wroten was the Sixers spark of the bench, leading the reserves with nine points and throwing down one of the meanest dunks of the night.
Wizards (18-19) 114, Heat (27-11) 97
LeBron James told everyone to watch him go off on Wednesday, but it was the Wizards who exploded at the Verizon Center. Washington hit Miami with a 20-0 run in the first quarter en route to 43 points, putting the game out of reach pretty quickly. Miami eventually made it respectable, getting the deficit down to nine points in the fourth quarter before the Wiz pulled away. John Wall had 25 points and nine assists for Washington, Nene scored 19 and also dished out nine assists (a career high) and Bradley Beal pitched in 19. LeBron’s version of turning it on looked a lot like his everyday effort, minus the fact that he didn’t seem to play hard until nearly halftime. He posted a line of 25 point, eight rebound, seven assist on 8-18 shooting, playing 41 minutes in the blowout.
The biggest, and really only news from this game was the return of Greg Oden. After not having played a regular season game in over four years, Oden stepped back onto the court late in the first half for Miami, hammering home a putback dunk on his first possession. Oden finished with six points and two boards in eight minutes and looked effective in deterring shots at the paint. No matter how the season winds up for Oden, basketball fans everywhere have to be thrilled he made it back onto the floor.
Celtics (14-26) 88, Raptors (19-18) 83
Playing shorthanded after trading away Jordan Crawford earlier in the day, the Celtics squeezed out a home win over Toronto. The Raptors made a late run after getting blown out by a combined 19 points in the second and third quarters, cutting it down as close as 86-83 in the final minute. Boston got a massive effort from Jared Sullinger, whose 25 points and 20 rebounds made up the first 20-20 game for the Celtics since Kevin Garnett’s first game in Celtics green.
The Raptors had a rough night from the field, shooting just 38.5 percent. DeMar DeRozan was the only Raptor who had anything going offensively, shooting 9-22 for 23 points, along with eight rebounds. Kyle Lowry had a double double with 18 and 12 assists but shot just 6-17 on his way there. Lowry turned it on late, scoring Toronto’s final six points, but the Raptors couldn’t overcome the whole they had dug themselves.
Memphis (19-19) 82, Milwaukee (7-31) 77
The Grizzlies had to grit their teeth, but they withstood a late run by the Bucks to claw their way to a .500 record, winning their fourth straight. Mike Conley and James Johnson both scored 15 to lead the Grizz, who nearly blew a big fourth quarter lead. Up 78-67 with under four minutes to go, Memphis watched the Bucks reel off an 8-0 run led by Brandon Knight (27 points). Memphis temporarily reasserted control, but missed four straight shots to keep Milwaukee in it. Luckily for Dave Joerger’s crew, the Bucks couldn’t take advantage. Memphis got nothing from reigning DPOY Marc Gasol in his second game back from injury, as the center didn’t score in 14 minutes. Larry Sanders had 10 points and 12 boards for the Bucks.
Kings (14-23) 111, Timberwolves (18-20) 108
It got too close for comfort at the end, but the Kings pulled out a win over the Timberwolves in crunch time. After a 3-pointer by Isaiah Thomas (26 points, seven assists) put the Kings up 11 with 3:17 to go, it seemed like they’d cruise to a win. The Wolves kept fighting, getting two triples from Kevin Love (27 points, 11 boards) and an and-one from J.J. Barea (14 off the bench) to get it within a point before losing the free throw game.
Rudy Gay had another efficient game (words you never thought you’d see in print) for the Kings, scoring 33 points, including a crucial late 3-pointer, on 12-19 shooting. The Kings shot 54.9 percent as a team overall and got a double double from DeMarcus Cousins, who had 20 and 11. Sacto led by double digits for much of the second half before Minnesota’s late run, using a big rebounding advantage – 45-35 – and their hot shooting to carry them.
Rockets (26-14) 103, Pelicans (15-23) 100
Houston didn’t lead for long, but they were up when it counts. James Harden (26 points, seven assists, 10-11 from the line) helped drag the Rockets back into it after trailing the Pelicans by as many as 12 points in the second half and nine in the fourth quarter. The Beard broke and 100-all tie with a nasty step-back jumper, sending Austin Rivers flying the wrong way, to give the Rockets the lead for good. Terrence Jones had 25 for Houston while Dwight Howard had a 12 and 10 double double.
After taking advantage of some lax Houston defense early on, the Pelicans couldn’t keep their grasp on the lead as they didn’t hit a field goal for the final four minutes and finished the game shooting 45.5 percent. They wasted a season-high 35 points from the white-hot Eric Gordon (11-17 from the field, 6-9 on 3-pointers). The Pellies got 24 and seven boards from Anthony Davis, his sixth straight game over 20. While they’re playing without three of their five best players, the Pelicans are going to have to start finding ways to pull out games like this. They’ve now dropped a season-high seven striaght games.
Spurs (31-8) 109, Jazz (13-27) 105
The Spurs held off a furious Jazz rally late, pulling out a closer-than-expected win over the West’s cellar dwellers. Utah closed the game the game on a 19-7 run powered by Trey Burke, who scored 11 points in the final 1:05 and finished with 17 points and 11 assists. The Spurs were led by Tony Parker’s 25 points and nine assists. Kawhi Leonard was a full-court terror: 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, two blocks and one coast-to-coast steal and dunk.
Manu Ginobili actually got a start for the Spurs, his first at home this season, and scored 13 points. Tim Duncan played just 24 minutes for San Antonio, but still managed 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Enes Kanter was a beast off the bench for the Jazz, going for 25 points and 11 rebounds on 12-15 shooting, while Alec Burks chipped in 20. The Jazz were without top scorer Gordon Hayward, who couldn’t go with a hip injury.
Suns (22-16) 121, Lakers (14-25) 114
The Gerald Green Renaissance continued in Phoenix, as the journeyman guard paced the Suns to a victory with his 28 points. Known as a highlight factory earlier in his career, Green has turned into more of a shooter than anything, hitting 12-18 shots and 2-5 3-pointers in this one. While he was judicious from downtown, where he’s averaging a crazy 8.7 attempts per 36 minutes, Green destroyed the Lakers from mid-range all night. He got support from Goran Dragic, who had 18 and 10 assists, and Markieff Morris, who scored 24 off the bench. Channing Frye warrants a mention as well, as the big man popped in 20.
In what classifies as an NBA fight, Nick Young and Alex Len got into and both got tossed early after Young took exception to a hard but clean foul from Len. It was a net win for Phoenix, as the ejections left the Lakers without their only player who can create for himself. Kendall Marshall had a double double with 10 points and 13 assists, although he shot 4-16. The Lakers shot 47.3 percent, but couldn’t keep up with the Suns frenetic pace; they allowed Phoenix to get up an even 100 shots on the night.
Trail Blazers (29-9) 108, Cavaliers (14-25) 96
LaMarcus Aldridge must be looking for some MVP love, as he single-handedly carried the Blazers to the win down the stretch. In a two-minute span, LMA scored nine straight points for Portland, turning a 94-93 deficit into a six-point lead. The mid-range specialist even stepped out to knock down his first trey of the season in that run and finished with 32 points and 18 rebounds. He wasn’t without help, with Damian Lillard slashing and shooting his way to 28 points (10-20 from the field, 5-10 on 3-pointers).
Dion Waiters (18 points off the bench) hit a few shots in the fourth quarter to keep Cleveland in the game, but the Cavs were shut out over the final 2:54. Luol Deng scored 25 for his new team, while Kyrie Irving went for 21. Cleveland dropped to 3-6 on the second night of back-to-backs and is still on the outside of the Playoff picture in the East.
Nuggets (20-18) 123, Warriors (25-15) 116
Four days of rest couldn’t help the Warriors keep the Nuggets from pulling away in the final minute. With the Warriors up a point with 1:13 on the clock, J.J. Hickson capped off his monster night (13 points, 24 rebounds) with two close-range shots to put the Nuggets up for good. Denver had four players score more than 20 points, led by Nate Robinson’s 28 (9-12 shooting) off the bench. Ty Lawson put up 22 and 11 assists for the Nugs, who shot 54.2 percent, including 12-24 from long range, against the typically very stingy Warriors defense. Golden State came in ranked fourth in points allowed per 100 possessions, but let Denver get whatever they wanted all night.
Steph Curry’s odd shooting funk continued for the Warriors, despite his 24 points. Steph shot just 7-19 from the field and 4-13 from deep. He’s been below 40 percent shooting in four of the last five games for the Dubs, and he’s hitting just 30 percent of his 3-pointers in January. David Lee led the Warriors with 28 points and 11 boards.
Clippers (27-13) 129, Mavericks (23-17) 127
Los Angeles staged a massive comeback in the final 4:30, making up a 16-point hole to stun the Mavericks. Four different Clippers hit 3-pointers down the stretch, capped off by J.J. Redick’s seventh triple of the night to pull them within a point. Redick led all scorers with 33 points, hitting 7-9 shots from deep and 10-14 overall, while Matt Barnes scored 25 coming off the bench. The Clippers moved to 4-1 since Chris Paul injured his shoulder against Dallas two weeks ago.
The Mavs allowed the Clippers to shoot 17-34 from long range on the night, a major reason they weren’t able to hold their lead. They outshot L.A. on the whole – 52.6 to 50.6 percent – but those threes and the Clippers’ 16 extra attempts from the free throw line contributed to the loss. Dirk Nowitzki started hot and finished with 27 points on 8-22 shooting.
Blake Griffin continues to be a vastly improved all-around player. He put up a well-rounded line of 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and he hit 13-16 from the line. If there was ever a question about Blake’s status among the League elite, it’s been put to rest in the CP3-less stretch. Griffin did get into one of the dustups we’ve become familiar with, engaging in some tough guy posturing with Sam Dalembert after a hard foul.