by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Bobcats (19-25) 95, Clippers (29-15) 91
Charlotte hung on for a tight win over the Clippers, riding Al Jefferson down the stretch. Big Al knocked down two big jumpers down the stretch and finished with 24 points (12-23 shooting) and 10 boards for the Bobcats. Both teams went at it without their starting point guards, and Charlotte was able to go to 2-0 without Kemba Walker. Gerald Henderson scored 13, giving the Bobcats their final lead of the night on a putback dunk.
Blake Griffin (27 points, seven rebounds, six assists) was hot early, but shrank down the stretch, going 0-4 in the fourth quarter and hitting just two of his final eight attempts, even missing an alley oop attempt in there. Jamal Crawford scored 20 (8-21 from the field) off the bench for the Clips. DeAndre Jordan had just four points, but pulled down 20 rebounds (five offensive) and picked up two blocks and two steals. Charlotte got 10 and eight assists from Ramon Sessions, starting at PG in place of Walker.
Bulls (21-20) 98, Cavaliers (15-27) 87
Meeting up with a former teammate, especially one that had been a part of a franchise for years and years, can be a weird experience. For Luol Deng and the Cavaliers, it didn’t turn out so hot. Deng (11 points) struggled through a 2-11 shooting night against his former teammates as the Bulls beat up on Cleveland. Taj Gibson went off for a career-high tying 26 points on 11-15 shooting. Joakim Noah, who expressed a keen interest in giving it to his “brother,” Deng, pulled down 18 boards, along with nine points and two blocks. D.J. Augustin, a recent pick up, recorded his second straight game of 27 points.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 26 points and five assists, but got little help. Cleveland shot just 37.5 percent, falling victim to the Bulls’ smothering defense. Dion Waiters lent some support with 15 points off the bench, but Cleveland’s starters outside of Irving scored just 35 points.
Hawks (22-19) 112, Magic (11-32) 109
Atlanta seemed to do everything they could to give away a late lead, but managed to hang on against the Magic. The Hawks were up by 19 points late in the third, but the young trio of Victor Oladipo (24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists), Tobias Harris (19 points, 12 boards) and Doron Lamb (13 points, 3-4 shooting from long range) pulled the Magic into the lead midway through the fourth. Atlanta shook off long stretches where they were unable to knock down a shot by getting to the line repeatedly, winning the game from there with their final seven points.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 24 points, while Jeff Teague slashed and shot his way to 23 points. The Hawks were able to limit Orlando to just 12 attempts from beyond the arc, nearly 10 fewer than their average. They held sharpshooter Arron Afflalo to just six points on 3-9 shooting, shutting him out from long range.
Raptors (21-20) 93, Mavericks (25-19) 85
Toronto looked like they were totally unprepared to play on a night with two former Raptor stalwarts on the opposing side. After a rough start, they got it together and came storming back to beat the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks. DeMar DeRozan had a career-high 40 points, carrying the Raptors when they struggled early and turning on the jets late.
The Raps fell behind by 21 in the first quarter, but flipped the script and won the second quarter 31-17 to make it respectable at halftime. It was in the fourth quarter where Toronto pulled away, holding Dallas to just 12 points to complete the comeback. Kyle Lowry (three points, 0-10 from the field) got off the schneid with three free throws to pull it close and Amir Johnson hit a crucial 3-pointer to put the Raps up four, all sandwiched between an array of DeRozan jumpers and drives to the basket. DeRozan (15-22 shooting) drilled the dagger, too, knocking down a triple to put Toronto up seven.
Monta Ellis led Dallas with 21 in Dirk’s absence, who got the night off amidst a heavy stretch of the schedule, while Jose Calderon 13 and five assists in his return to his old stomping grounds. Vince Carter struggled coming back to the T-Dot with just eight points off the bench, but on the bright side heard more cheers than boos from the Raptors fans for the first time in a decade.
Celtics (15-29) 113, Wizards (20-21) 111 (OT)
The Celtics eked out an overtime win over the Wizards on a layup by Gerald Wallace (nine points, nine assists, six rebounds) with two seconds left after letting a big lead slip away in the second half. Boston was able to overcome a triple double by John Wall (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) thanks to a massive effort from Jeff Green (39 points, 14-26 shooting, 8-16 from deep), who drilled a ridiculous and crucial triple late. Phil Pressey, an unheralded rookie from Missouri, went for a career-high 20 points in place of Rajon Rondo, who sat for rest purposes as he comes back from his torn ACL.
Despite the Celtics missing a host of players and leaning on two guys just signed to 10-day deals, the Wizards came out firing blanks and fell behind by double digits in a flash. Washington gave up endless open 3-pointers, allowing Pressey alone to hit four in the first half. Of note: Pressey came in having hit just six triples all season. The Wizards came back in the third thanks to Bradley Beal (14 points) and Wall scoring the ball, getting within three points. After tying the game up late, Washington had a chance to win it in regulation but somehow ended up with a 20-footer from Nene (17 points, nine rebounds) in the final seconds.
76ers (14-28) 110, Knicks (15-27) 106
Evan Turner set a new career high with 34 points, tacking on 11 rebounds as the Sixers outworked the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. The Sixers led nearly the whole way, taking advantage of the Knicks’ failing switching scheme on defense to get plenty of open looks. New York rolled off 10 straight points to take a lead early in the fourth, but promptly went into a shooting slump and couldn’t make their way back.
Michael Carter-Williams managed to turn garbage into gold (shouts to Marc Zumoff), finding ways to contribute despite a rough shooting night (5-18 from the field). He worked his way to 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, six on the offensive end, and dished out seven assists.
The Knicks shot well on the night – over 45 percent from the field and 15-33 from deep – but their defense was their undoing. They allowed one of the worst offensive teams in the league to shoot 47 percent from the field and knock down 9-14 triples, many of them wide open. Carmelo Anthony had 28 for the Knicks, while Andrea Bargnani pitched in 20 and Iman Shumpert registered 19.
Rockets (29-15) 119, Kings (15-26) 98
Houston got to relax in the fourth quarter, as its stars got an early rest in a rout of the Kings. Dwight Howard (26 points, 13 rebounds, 10-13 shooting) and James Harden (24 points, nine assists) did the heavy lifting and let the bench coast to an easy win. The Kings suffered more than a blowout, as both Rudy Gay (left Achilles) and DeMarcus Cousins (left ankle) left the game with injuries in the first half, sending the Kings’ offense into the tank.
Derrick Williams did what he could to pick up the slack, going for 22 points and 11 boards in the two stars’ absences, while Isaiah Thomas put up 20. They couldn’t do anything to slow down the Rockets, who did just about everything well. Houston dominated on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 55-42, shot 47.8 percent and assisted on 29 of their 43 field goals. Omri Casspi (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Chandler Parsons (19 points, 10 rebounds) posted double doubles for the Rockets.
Bucks (8-33) 104, Pistons (17-25) 101
Caron Butler was the star of show on Wednesday, coming back from some painful dental work to put up 30 points to lead the Bucks on a night where the crowd received bobbleheads in his (kind of) likeness. Butler (12-21 shooting) scored eight of his points in the final quarter, helping the Bucks eliminate what remained of the Pistons’ lead.
Brandon Jennings tortured his former team early, scoring 28 of his 30 points in the first three quarters as the Pistons occasionally held double-digit leads. Detroit’s defensive issues came back to haunt them in the fourth quarter, as they allowed the Bucks to shoot 9-17 from the field (48.8 percent overall) to complete the comeback, while the Pistons hit just 4-19 shots in the fourth. Brandon Knight, the other half of the point guard swap these teams executed in the offseason, had 16 points (5-17 shooting), nine assists and seven rebounds for the Bucks, while phenom Andre Drummond had 11 points, 12 boards and three blocks and even knocked down 3-4 free throws for Detroit.
Thunder (33-10) 111, Spurs (32-10) 105
It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, Kevin Durant is burying everyone in the fourth quarter these days. The unstoppable KD scored nine of his 36 points in the final 3:11, including two backbreaking 3-pointers, to notch his ninth straight game with 30 or more points. Durant (12-22 shooting, 2-4 from long range, 10-11 at the line) was able to catch a rest easy early on in the fourth quarter, as Reggie Jackson (27 points, 12-17 shooting, eight assists) continued his ascendancy and went toe-to-toe with Tony Parker, scoring 11 straight points for OKC to build a five-point lead before Durant re-entered the game.
Parker had one of his best games of the year, scoring 37 points and doing some work in the fourth quarter (12 points). He’ll be required to maintain an even higher level of play than usual over the next few weeks, as the Spurs lost swingman Kawhi Leonard to a broken finger in the second quarter. Leonard’s injury made him the third Spurs starter to go down recently, as San Antonio was already without Danny Green and Tiago Splitter. Things got heated between the two sides late, as physical play both ways resulted in some shoving in the final minute, leading to double techs for Patty Mills and Derek Fisher, of all people. Serge Ibaka had 14 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for the Thunder, while Parker got support from Tim Duncan (14 points, 13 boards) and Marco Belinelli (13 points in the start).
Suns (24-17) 124, Pacers (33-8) 100
Phoenix may have fallen back to earth over the past few weeks, but they’re not done proving people wrong. The Suns got up and down with ease against the best team in the League, blistering the Pacers’ top defense to the tune of 54.2 percent shooting from the floor and 11-16 shooting from deep while turning the ball over just nine times. Gerald Green scored 23 to lead the Suns against one of his many former teams and the Suns got double-digit scoring from six players.
Indiana got out to a rough start, allowing the Suns to race out to 62 points in the first half, the most they’ve given up in one half all season. The final margin wasn’t padded by garbage time scoring, either; Indiana trailed by 26 before pulling the plug midway through the fourth quarter. Paul George scored 26 (10-19 shooting) for the Pacers, while David West returned quickly from a hand injury and posted 13 points. For the Suns, Goran Dragic continued his push for the All-Star Game with 21 points on a neat 8-10 shooting, while Markieff Morris put up 20 off the bench. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak by the Pacers, while the Suns have won three of four after a three-game skid.