by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Bulls 89 (22-21), Bobcats 87 (19-27)
D.J. Augustin (28 points, 6-12 on 3-pointers) and Joakim Noah (11 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) continued to lead the way for the Rose-less and Deng-less Bulls. Noah has now grabbed 10 boards in 16 straight games—the longest such streak in his career. Al Jefferson (32 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) looked good in the losing effort, as Charlotte has lost its last two games. After Augustin made a 3-pointer with 8:42 left in the game, the Bulls extended their lead to 67-57, doing a good job of keeping everyone not named Al Jefferson at bay. Every time Charlotte started to get within striking distance, Augustin stepped up, having 15 points in the 4th quarter. Jefferson finished the game by making the fourth 3-pointer of his career.
Clippers 126 (31-15), Raptors 118 (22-21)
Jamal Crawford (37 points, 11 assists, 5-11 on 3-pointers) and Blake Griffin (30 points, 5 rebounds) might have looked good as the Clippers won their eighth game in the last ten, but this night belonged to Terrence Ross (51 points, 9 rebounds, 10-17 on 3-pointers). Ross came out of nowhere and became the first person averaging less than 10 ppg to score 50 points in League history. He also tied Vince Carter for the Raptors’ franchise-high scoring performance and came one point away from doubling his previous career high (26). He got to this record by scoring in different ways, making plenty of dunks and 3-pointers for Toronto fans to always remember. However, Toronto was unable to play any sort of defense, allowing the Clippers to shoot 54.8 percent (46-84) from the field and 54.5 percent (12-22) on 3-pointers. The Clippers got what they wanted all night long. After these two teams went back and forth early in the 4th quarter, J.J. Redick (18 points) came up big, scoring 10 of his 18 points in the final 6:22. DeMar DeRozan (10 points, 3 assists) left the game in the 3rd quarter with a left ankle sprain and did not return.
Thunder 103 (35-10), 76ers 91 (14-30)
Kevin Durant (32 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals) has scored 30 points in ten straight games as the Thunder have won seven straight games. Durant is one of only six players to have such a streak since 1990. Serge Ibaka (25 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks) played extremely well, being the defensive force he has grown accustomed to being. Ibaka had three of his blocks in the first four minutes of the game. The Thunder would go on to outscore the Thunder 27-18 in the 2nd quarter and be in control the rest of the way. After James Anderson (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) made two free throws with 5:18 left in the 3rd quarter, though, the Sixers cut the deficit to 69-65. The Thunder responded by going on a 14-6 run to close out the quarter. The Thunder finished the game shooting 52.6 percent while the Sixers only shot 37.8 percent. Philadelphia was able to stay in this game due to OKC’s 20 turnovers. But no matter what they threw at Durant defensively, the League’s current scoring champ tore their schemes apart.
Grizzlies 99 (22-20), Rockets 81 (29-17)
Memphis has now won two straight games against the Rockets and pulled within a game and a half of the eighth seed in the West. They pulled out the win Saturday by means of a balanced attack (six players in double-digits) and solid team defense. Dwight Howard (10 points, 12 rebounds) managed to get a double-double but the Grizzlies held him to only four made field goals. As Mike Conley (17 points, 4 assists) and Zach Randolph (15 points, 17 rebounds) led the way per usual, James Johnson (12 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals) had another solid performance. Since being called up by the Grizzlies in mid-December, Johnson has been a nice surprise and scored double-digits in eight of 19 games. The Grizzlies held the Rockets to only 54 points through the first three quarters, putting up 71 of their own. This is only the second time this season the Rockets have been held below 100 points in back-to-back games. Memphis controlled the paint, outscoring Houston 56-32 in the paint and outrebounding them 52-38.
Hawks 112 (23-20), Bucks 87 (8-35)
With each successive game, the Bucks look more and more like the worst team in the NBA, being the only team that hasn’t reached double-digit wins or five home wins. The Hawks were without Jeff Teague (ankle) but Lou Williams (18 points, 5 assists) filled in nicely as Paul Millsap (20 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) led the way. Brandon Knight (27 points, 5 assists, 11-15 from the field, 5-7 on 3-pointers) looked good offensively but didn’t get much help from his teammates. John Henson (10 points, 10 rebounds) had a double-double. After Knight made a 3-pointer with 6:10 left in the 1st quarter, the Bucks led 14-10—their largest lead of the game. Atlanta responded by going on a 11-2 run, capped off by a Kyle Korver (12 points, 3-4 on 3-pointers) 3-pointer. Korver has now made at least one 3-pointer in 112 straight games. The Hawks never game up the lead the rest of the way, shooting 52.6 percent from the field. The Bucks finished with 20 turnovers, many of them simply coming from lazy passes. Adding insult to injury, Larry Sanders (1 point, 4 rebounds, 0-5 from the field) just recently signed a 4-year, $44-million contract this past summer…and still has nothing to show for it.
Nuggets 109 (21-21), Pacers 96 (34-9)
The Pacers let the Nuggets get too much from inside as Kenneth Faried (13 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks), Timofey Mozgov (15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) and J.J. Hickson (14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals) collectively outplayed Roy Hibbert (5 points, 3 rebounds), David West (16 points, 6 rebounds) and Luis Scola (6 points, 7 rebounds). Nate Robinson (15 points) and Ty Lawson (12 points, 10 assists) incessantly ran the pick-and-roll, exploiting a weakness in the Pacers defense. Lance Stephenson (23 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists) made more of a case to be an All-Star. Wilson Chandler (season-high 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) had one of his best games of the season on both ends of the floor, holding Paul George (18 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists) to 6-18 shooting from the field. Seven of nine Denver players scored in double-digits. The Nuggets held a 55-36 lead at halftime, before Indiana went on their usual run in the 3rd quarter. However, Denver held their own, making enough stops to pull away in the final quarter. Randy Foye (12 points, 5 rebounds) is known for his long-range shooting but made some big defensive plays in the second half that kept the Pacers from getting within reaching distance. The Nuggets could have pulled away much quicker and easier if they had made their free throws (21-37).
Jazz 104 (15-29), Wizards 101 (21-22)
Washington has now lost their last 10 games when trying to get above .500. They couldn’t seem to stop Enes Kanter (24 points, 11-13 from the field), who had one of his most efficient games of the season. Trey Burke (12 points, 8 assists) and the Jazz made a concerted effort to keep feeding Kanter the ball down low. Fellow big man Derrick Favors (11 points, 14 rebounds) also had a solid game, recording his 14th double-double of the season. With the departure of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, Jazz ownership expected more of these type of performances from these two. Alec Burks (15 points) continued to be a scoring punch off the bench. Trevor Ariza (23 points, 5 rebounds, 6-10 on 3-pointers) was shooting the ball very well and Marcin Gortat (14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) had a double-double. The Jazz seemed to be in control going into the finals quarter. However, John Wall (13 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) kept leading rallies that made this game have a close finish. Gordon Hayward (16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) sealed the deal by making 2-2 free throws with 2.6 seconds left. After losing eight in a row, six in a row and four in a row in the first 23 games, Utah hasn’t lost three games in a row over their last 21 games.
Blazers 115 (33-11), Timberwolves 104 (21-22)
Speaking of teams struggling to get above .500, the Timberwolves might be becoming less and less desirable as a future destination for their All-Star starter. Thanks to solid play from their starting lineup and sixth man Mo Williams (16 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds), the Blazers have now already matched the amount of wins they had all of last season. Big men LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points, 6 rebounds) and Robin Lopez (15 points, 10 rebounds) battled Kevin Love (15 points, 13 rebounds) and Nikola Pekovic (23 points, 11 rebounds) all night. Portland outscored Minnesota 60-46 in the paint. Kevin Martin (30 points, 6-10 on 3-pointers) had his shot going while Ricky Rubio (10 points, 11 assists) played the role of distributor. The Blazers just had too much offense from too many places on the floor, using a 16-4 run in the 2nd quarter to take control of this game. Their starting lineup is collectively able to score from down low, midrange, penetration and 3-point shooting. After Pekovic made a hookshot with 8:29 left in the game, Minnesota only trailed 93-86. But the Blazers would then go on a 12-2 run to put this one out of reach for good.