by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Raptors 106 (7-12), Lakers 94 (10-10)
Even though the Raptors were playing without three of their players due to the package deal sending Rudy Gay to the Kings, this game was all about Kobe Bryant’s return, in which he had 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 8 turnovers on 2-9 shooting from the field. He was rusty offensively—as should be expected—but also seemed to be in facilitator mode for the majority of the 28 minutes he played. It will take some time, but Kobe should in due time be the Black Mamba once again. For the short-handed Raptors, Amir Johnson (career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, 14-17 from the field) had a monster performance as DeMar DeRozan (26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) continued to perform at a high level. DeRozan is currently one of only 19 NBA players averaging 20+ points this season (21.3 ppg). The normally potent Lakers bench was potent as ever, but the starters held the team back, only accounting for 23 of the team’s 94 points. Pau Gasol (7 points, 8 rebounds, 3-11 from the field) never seemed to find his touch on the night. The Raptors obliterated the Lakers down low, claiming a 62-32 points in the paint advantage.
Celtics 114 (10-12), Knicks 73 (5-14)
Right when the Knicks were starting to show signs of life, they looked dead in front of their home crowd. Losing by a total of 41 points, this was the third-worst New York home loss in franchise history. For the Celtics, this was the largest victory ever for their franchise at Madison Square Garden. From the moment Brandon Bass (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) drew a foul and made two free throws 18 seconds into the game, the Knicks looked flat on their feet. No energy. No hustle. No effort. The Celtics scored the first 12 points of the game, and after an easy Jeff Green (16 points, 6 rebounds, 6-9 from the field) dunk with 3:24 to go in the first quarter, his team led 25-3. All five Celtics starters were in double figures and each had a +/- above 30. Jordan Crawford (23 points, 7 assists, 0 turnovers, 6-12 on 3-pointers) led the offense, Avery Bradley (13 points, 10 rebounds) had his first career double-double and Jared Sullinger (21 points, 9-13 from the field) had a +43, which is the third highest this season. Carmelo Anthony (19 points, 5 rebounds, 5-15 from the field) was the only Knicks starter in double-figures and Metta World Peace (12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals) was the only Knick in the positives in terms of +/- on the day. Since Halloween, the Knicks have won 1 game at home. Mike Woodson’s seat couldn’t be any hotter. (Just watch this video…there’s no resistance whatsoever.)
Heat 110 (16-5), Pistons 95 (10-11)
The Heat jumped out to a quick 12-2 lead after six straight points from Ray Allen (18 points) and they just continued to build the lead from there. LeBron James (24 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 6 turnovers, 10-15 from the field) did his normal thing, except now has averaged 6.5 turnovers in his last 2 games. He might be getting a little too loose with the ball. The Pistons had 7 players in double figures, led by Andre Drummond (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Brandon Jennings (19 points, 6 assists, 6 turnovers), but this team just let the Heat get whatever they wanted. Pushing the ball all night, Miami had a 26-11 fast break points advantage. Detroit can play very good defense when they decide to work at it but will sporadically have games in which it is nonexistent. Even though they’re only averaging 99.3 points against, the Pistons have given up more than 110 points five times this season. Until Josh Smith (13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 6-14 from the field, 1-4 on 3-pointers) settles into somewhat of a defined role, this team will continue to have these sporadic no-shows.
Rockets 98 (15-7), Magic 88 (6-14)
Dwight Howard (20 points, 22 rebounds, 3 blocks) celebrated his 28th birthday in style by dominating his former team and teammate. The 6-9 Glen Davis (18 points, 6 rebounds) started for the injured Nikola Vucevic and never stood a chance against Howard. James Harden (27 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) flirted with his second career triple-double as Terrence Jones (16 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks) continues to shine at the power forward position. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Jones has looked like a completely different player than when the season first started. Aaron Afflalo (16 points, 9 rebounds) and the Magic were outscored 83-61 over the first three quarters before trash time in the fourth quarter made this game look closer than it actually was. Houston overcame its 18 turnovers by outrebounding the Magic 60-43 and attempting 18 more free throws than their opponent. However, both teams shot a dreadful 57.1 percent from the line. With Howard being a constant force down low, the Rockets are currently second in the League in rebounds per game (46.7). (I’ve said this since the season started—Jameer Nelson has to be on his way out of Orlando as he doesn’t seem to fit with the current makeup and/or future of this Magic franchise.)
Thunder 118 (15-4), Pacers 94 (18-3)
Paul George (32 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 0 assists) has been the talk of the NBA town for the majority of this season. Kevin Durant (36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) had enough of that, putting on a show for his home crowd. KD hit six of his first seven shots, putting up 14 early points. As Kendrick Perkins (6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) put it, “he’s getting tired of hearing about Paul George.” Durant, Russell Westbrook (26 points, 13 assists) and the Thunder brought the Pacers—who just beat the Spurs—back down to earth as they never trailed in this game. OKC shot a blistering 61 percent on Indiana, who came in allowing a League-best 39.8 percent shooting from the field. The 118 points was also an opponent high for the Pacers this season. When Westbrook focuses on being a distributor—which he can be—instead of trying to outshoot his co-star, this offense flows so much better. Serge Ibaka (13 points, 3 rebounds) had his second-worst game of the season rebounding-wise, as his team’s defense continued to have their third quarter struggles in giving up 32 points. But thanks to sixth man spark plug Reggie Jackson (15 points) and this high-powered offense, they continued to put the pressure on Indiana throughout the game. Other than George, Roy Hibbert (12 points, 9 rebounds) and David West (11 points), no other Pacer scored in double figures.