by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Wow. Big night. Let’s hit it.
Marcin Gortat scored the first 10 points of the game all by himself, and the Suns led from start to finish in a drubbing of the Cavaliers. Phoenix led by as many as 28 and was buoyed by Gortat’s 22 points. The old vs. new point guard battle could be called a draw, since Kyrie Irving came up with a team-high 16 points to go with 6 rebounds and 4 assists, but the rookie also had 5 turnovers, while savvy vet Steve Nash dropped 13 dimes and needed to shoot just 2-2 from the field (4 points) to lead his team to a blowout win—oh, and he had just 1 turnover. The Cavs have lost 6 of their last 7, and Byron Scott flatly assessed his team after the latest loss with this nugget: “We’re not a very good team right now.”
One game after putting up 51 points, Kevin Love poured in 30 and grabbed 21 rebounds—his third 30-20 game of the season and No. 7 for his career, which leads all active players (the rest of the NBA has two this season, total)—and the Wolves used a huge first-half run to build a big lead against Denver. The Nuggets found themselves down by 28 in the first half, thanks in part to a 39-9 run at one point. Luke Ridnour chipped in 25 points for Minnesota, which took home the W despite being outscored 64 to 38 on points in the paint and being outshot 51 percent to 46 percent. Denver, which was led by Kenneth Faried’s 17 points and Javale McGee’s 13×11 double-double, is now 2-6 in its last 8 road games.
With missing pieces on both sides, including Ray Allen (ankle), Mickael Pietrus (head) and Nene (back), second-year guard Avery Bradley scored a career-high 23 points as the Celtics beat down the Wizards. In the first quarter, Bradley scored 15 points—Washington had 12. The Wiz shot 35 percent from the field and made just 3 of 14 three-point attempts, while Boston never trailed and assisted on 24 of their 34 field goals. Kevin Garnett scored 21 points and while Rajon Rondo finished with more turnovers (6) than points (4), he ran the Celtics’ offense with ease even without Allen’s shooting, and he had 11 of those assists. Jordan Crawford led the Wizards in scoring with 20, but shot 8-18 from the floor. John Wall struggled with his shot, too, going 5-17 with 12 points and 9 assists.
You know what’s probably not fun on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back? Playing 4 overtimes. And yet the Hawks did just that, and eventually outlasted the Jazz for the epic win. It was the first 4-OT game in 15 years and ties the third-longest game in NBA history. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin apparently didn’t care about that—he played all five of his starters 50+ minutes. The crazy box score is worth the click. Seven players on each side scored in double figures, with Joe Johnson’s 37 topping the list. Josh Smith added 22 points and 10 rebounds and Zaza Pachulia grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds to go with his 15 points as the Hawks won their fourth straight game. Al Jefferson (28 points, 17 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (25 and 13) both had big games for Utah before inevitably fouling out in the extended overtime periods. Perhaps the wildest part about this game’s result is that the Jazz had the final possession four straight times and yet couldn’t put the ball in the basket on any one of those occasions, dropping to 26-23 on the year.
Gregg Popovich is an evil genius. On the third night of a back-to-back-to-back, with Tim Duncan resting in street clothes, the Spurs whooped up on the Sixers—with a starting lineup of Parker-Blair-Leonard-Bonner-Green. Tony Parker scored 21 points, DeJuan Blair had 19 and San Antonio benefitted from 21 Philly turnovers. The Sixers made just 1 of 9 three-pointers and struggled to generate offense from anywhere on the court. Elton Brand’s 14 points were tops on the team, and Philly scored only 27 points in the entire second half, including a pitiful 11-point fourth quarter effort. Oh, and I found this bit from the AP recap of the game hilarious: The Spurs’ statisticians at the AT&T Center poked some fun at Duncan, listing his line in the official box score with a “DND — OLD.”
The most popular NBA Finals pick finally has a reference point, as Oklahoma City took care of business on its home court in the first meeting with the Heat this season, riding 53 percent shooting and a near triple-double from Kevin Durant, who finished his night with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. The Thunder had a season-high 13 steals and forced Miami into 21 turnovers, which led directly to 28 OKC points. On an off-night for Russ Westbrook (4-16, 13 points) Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins provided the beef up front for the Thunder—Ibaka had 19 points on 8-10 shooting (and 10 boards) and Perkins scored a season-high 16. Miami’s Big 3 was headlined by Dwyane Wade’s 22 points, while Chris Bosh put up 18 points and LeBron James struggled his way to 17 points on 8-18 shooting to go with 7 assists and 4 turnovers. The Heat (35-12) pulled to within 8 midway through the fourth quarter before OKC made a final push, improving to 37-12 on the year.
After a David Lee tip-in put the Warriors up 87-86 with 1:30 to play, LaMarcus Aldrige hit a turnaround 12-footer from the baseline with 40 seconds remaining to put Portland back in front, and Golden State’s offense sputtered on the game’s final two possessions. The Blazers—losers of 10 of 14 post-All-Star break—got the win behind 24 points and 7 assists from Raymond Felton and 18 points and 8 rebounds from Aldridge. Portland shot just 37 percent from the field (Jamal Crawford was 1-10 himself), but also had only 7 turnovers. David Lee racked up 16 points and 16 rebounds for GSW in the loss, and one night after rookie Klay Thompson dropped a career-high 31 points, a fellow rookie did the same. This time, it was Charles Jenkins, who scored 27 in a career-high 39 minutes—just his second career game in double figures.
The intrigue of a Gasol Bros. battle was quickly replaced with Laker drama, as L.A. fell victim to a revitalized Grizzlies team. Memphis snapped a 3-game losing streak on the last game of a four-game toad trip, handing the Lakers just their 4th loss at Staples Center despite 30 points from Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol’s 16 and 14. Even with the Laker bigs going crazy, the Grizz scored 52 points in the paint to just 36 for Los Angeles. Seven players scored in double figures for Memphis, led by Rudy Gay (18 points) and OJ Mayo (16 off the bench). In the final period, Kobe Bryant (7-15 shooting, 18 points) went hero mode, but Memphis held tough. With 5:45 left in the fourth quarter and the Lakers trailing 93-79, Mike Brown did the unthinkable—he pulled Kobe off the floor. Bryant was, shall we say, not pleased. He re-entered with 1:51 left and the Lakers down 98-91 after a pair of Pau Gasol free throws. Sadly for Los Angeles fans, he made a minimal impact, scoring zero points from there on out. To say Kobe was frustrated would be putting it lightly. The Lakers are at Golden State next before hosting the Thunder on TNT Thursday night.
Line of the Night: It’s crazy that Kevin Love’s 30 points and 21 rebounds will get overlooked because it’s become routine for him. KLove has been putting in work this year—he’s averaging 26 and 14 a game.
Moment of the Night: Joe Johnson didn’t care that it was a school night. He wanted to hoop.
Dunks of the Night: Kendrick Perkins dunks, sticks foot in DWade’s face. Consider it a metaphor for the game as a whole, as the Thunder got a big win over the Heat in OKC. Also, somebody should probably guard Shannon Brown.
Tonight: Nine games in all, highlighted by Nuggets-Bulls, Heat-Pacers and CP3′s second go-round against his former Hornets. Enjoy.