by Brett Weisband | @weisband

Bobcats (25-30) 116, Pistons (22-32) 98

Charlotte strengthened its hold on the eighth spot in the East, putting a beatdown on the Pistons to move 2.5 games ahead of Detroit in the Playoff chase. Al Jefferson banged his way to 29 points on 12-20 shooting, while Kemba Walker scored 24 and handed out a career-high 16 assists. The ‘Cats manhandled the Pistons, out-rebounding them 49-31 and blocking 11 shots while shooting 51 percent.

Brandon Jennings led Detroit with 20 points on a typically inefficient 7-18 shooting night, while Rodney Stuckey chipped in 15 points off the bench as the Pistons shot 42 percent on the night.

Cavaliers (22-33) 101, Magic (16-40) 93

The Magic recovered from a horrific start to make it a game, but they couldn’t get past the suddenly streaking Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving followed up his All-Star Game MVP with another solid effort, going for a 22-7-7 line and hitting 3-7 from deep. Cleveland has taken advantage of a soft spot in their schedule to win six straight, all but one against sub-.500 squads. Luol Deng had 17 points, while Tristan Thompson had 16 and 14 boards.

The Magic missed their first nine shots and hit just 3-22 in the first quarter, scoring 11 points in the frame. They battled their way back and avoided an embarrassing night, but still shot under 40 percent. Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and 12 boards, Arron Afflalo dropped 23 and Tobias Harris chipped in 19 for Orlando.  

Bulls (28-25) 94, Raptors (29-25) 92

The Bulls hung on after Toronto climbed back into the game, escaping the T-Dot with a win when Jimmy Butler (16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) blocked an attempt by DeMar DeRozan in the final seconds. After giving up an early double-digit lead, Chicago was able to hold off the hard-charging Raptors in the second half. Kirk Hinrich hit a big jumper late and finished with 19, D.J. Augustin scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and Joakim Noah had an unconventional line, notching 8 points and 13 assists, a new career high.

Despite being rejected on his potential game-winner, DeRozan kept up his All-Star play, scoring 32 points and helping pull Toronto back into it with 9 points in the fourth. Kyle Lowry pitched in 16, but no other Raptor hit double digits and the Raps shot just 42 percent and hit 3-17 from deep.

Wizards (26-28) 114, Hawks (25-28) 97

The Wizards took advantage of a short-handed Hawks squad to pick up their first win in the ATL since 2008. John Wall had 21 points and 12 assists to lead Washington as the Wiz moved back within two games of getting back to .500. Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza both hit for 19, including a shot from the far end of the court by Ariza to end the third, while Marcin Gortat 14 points, 12 boards and 2 blocks.

The reeling Hawks have now dropped seven straight games to fall a season-worst three game under .500. Atlanta played without starting center Pero Antic and had just nine players dressed for the game. Paul Millsap had 21 points and 11 boards and Elton Brand had 20 and 11 after being pressed into starting duties.

Timberwolves (26-28) 104, Pacers (41-13) 91

Kevin Love destroyed the vaunted Pacers defense, nearly singlehandedly beating the Eastern conference frontrunners. Love went for 42 points and 16 boards, going 14-22 from the field and 5-10 from 3-point range. Plenty of Love’s shots were wide open, several thanks to the deft passing of Ricky Rubio, who finished with a career-best 17 assists. Minnesota hit 48 percent from the field and managed to limit Indiana to a 40 percent shooting night.

Paul George still went off for Indy, going for 35 points and 11 boards while hitting 11-22 shots. The Pacers’ usually strong front court of Roy Hibbert and David West combined for just 8 points and 12 rebounds, shooting just 4-15 between them. The Pacers didn’t help their chances by turning the ball over 21 times.

Knicks (21-33) 98, Pelicans (23-30) 91

Carmelo Anthony threw the Knicks on his back, hitting clutch baskets down the stretch to carry the Knicks to a win over the Pelicans. Melo was on fire all night, going for 42 points on 16-29 shooting, and scored 13 straight points for New York in the fourth as they fought off a Pelicans comeback. The Knicks gave up a 13-point lead in the final quarter, falling behind by a point before Anthony’s heroics dragged them to a win. The win may have been a costly one, as the Knicks lost Iman Shumpert to a left knee injury, the same knee he tore the ACL in back in 2012. That could be a problem (or a blessing) for the Knicks as they look to make a panic trade at the deadline.

Eric Gordon had 28 for the Pellies, while Anthony Davis had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. The Pelicans shot better than the Knicks from the field, but allowed New York to drop 10 triples on them.

Suns (32-21) 100, Celtics (19-36) 94

Phoenix outlasted the Celtics at home, holding onto a slim lead for the whole fourth quarter before slamming the door shut late. The Suns got a crucial 3-pointer from Channing Frye (15 points, 7 rebounds, 4-6 from deep) and broke the Celtics’ press with a dunk by Markieff Morris (18 points, 7-12 shooting) to seal the win. Goran Dragic and Gerald Green both netted 17, while P.J. Tucker picked up his second straight double double with 10 points and 11 boards before fouling out in the final seconds.

The Celtics got a near-triple double from Rajon Rondo, who finished with 18 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds, while Brandon Bass dropped 18 and Jeff Green pitched in 17. Boston shot just 39 percent in its first game out of the break.

Nets (25-27) 105, Jazz (19-34) 99

After trailing for much of the game, the Nets came back and squeezed out a win in the fourth quarter against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. Joe Johnson had 27 points and Deron Williams put up 19 points and 7 assists, picking up his first win in Utah since being traded to the Nets back when they still played in Jersey. Brooklyn trailed by as many as 13 in the second half before taking the lead for good midway through the fourth quarter. The Nets shot an even 50 percent on the night and got 25 off the bench from Andray Blatche.

Enes Kanter powered his way to 18 points and 10 boards for the Jazz, while Trey Burke had a double double with 14 points and 11 assists. Utah out-rebounded Brooklyn 46-33, but turned the ball over 18 times, compared to just 6 TOs for the Nets.

Spurs (40-15) 111, Trail Blazers (36-18) 109

A lineup with no Parker or Duncan was no problem for San Antonio as they dispatched the similarly shorthanded Trail Blazers in Portland. Patty Mills filled in admirably, scoring 29 off the bench, including 24 points in the second half to power the Spurs. Marco Belinelli, the 3-Point Shootout champ from this past weekend, stayed hot with 20 points on 7-11 shooting, including 4-6 from beyond the arc.

Portland was without three frontcourt players, including LaMarcus Aldridge, whose absence led the first starting lineup change all season for Terry Stotts. Damian Lillard showed no ill effects of his busy All-Star Weekend, going for 31 on 13-21 shooting. Mo Williams chipped in 19 off the bench, but the normally sharp Wes Matthews struggled, hitting just 6-18 from the field for his 18 points. Portland is still humming along as the best offense in the League, but they’ve dropped three straight and four of five.

Warriors (32-22) 101, Kings (18-36) 92

Golden State shook off the trade of bench celebration phenom Kent Bazemore just before tipoff and put up a strong team effort, taking down the Kings on the road. David Lee led the way with a customary double double, putting up 23 points and 10 boards. Stephen Curry’s ASG shooting struggles carried over, as he hit just 6-14 from the floor and made 1-4 3-pointers on his way to 13 points, although he did hand out 8 assists. The Warriors prevailed even with a woeful 3-19 effort from 3-point range, partially thanks to limiting their giveaways; the Dubs coughed up just 7 TOs, less than half their average.

The Kings were without one of their top bench scorers in Marcus Thornton, who was traded to Brooklyn earlier in the day. Also missing in action was DeMarcus Cousins, who injured his hip before the break (Golden State was without their starting center, Andrew Bogut, as well). Isaiah Thomas put up 26 points and 7 assists, but it wasn’t enough to carry the Kings as they shot under 42 percent.

Rockets (37-17) 134, Lakers (18-36) 108

Dwight Howard made his return to Los Angeles, helping to lead the Rockets to a blowout win over his former team. Dwight went for 20 points and 13 boards, playing just 28 minutes as Houston coasted. James Harden was the high man with 29 points, also dishing out 11 assists, while Chandler Parsons had an efficient 18 points. Houston, winners of eight straight, shot 50 percent on a staggering 104 field goal attempts, grabbing 19 offensive boards to just 3 by L.A.

The injury-plagued Lakers once again played with a very short bench, with just eight guys in uniform after they dealt Steve Blake to the Warriors before the game. Kendall Marshall’s resurrection continued, as the second-year man registered 20 points and 16 assists. Wesley Johnson had 24 for the Lakers, who have lost four in a row and their last eight at home.