by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Another night of NCAA hoops kept me away from NBA action, and once again I’m just getting caught up with all pro news, scores and highlights at 2 A.M. Working an unexpected night shift will keep this version of the Post Up short, so please bear with me. Eleven games on the slate last night, get caught up below…
In a game that originally looked like it would be an easy road victory for the Heat, the Sixers came storming back and cut a 29-point lead to four thanks to strong performances from Evan Turner and Lou Williams. Coincidentally, it wasn’t until Will Smith entered the building that Philly began clawing back into the contest–that guy just brings out the best in people, I suppose. Turner, who has been playing very well since being promoted to the starting lineup, finished with 13 points, 8 boards and 5 assists while Sixth Man of the Year candidate Lou Will had 12 off the bench. Philly may have cut it close, but Miami’s bend don’t break approach proved to be successful. In the fourth quarter, LeBron answered with a pull-up jumper and a pair of free throws that gave the Heat some breathing room. James finished with 29 points, 7 boards, and 8 assists as he continues his quest for that elusive ring. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 22 points and 17 boards in the low-scoring affair. Miami is now 3-0 against the Sixers this season.
In another low-scoring game, six Magic players–led by Dwight’s 18–scored in double-figures as Orlando cruised to an easy home victory over a shorthanded New Jersey squad. The Magic jumped out to an early 20-point lead and were never threatened. Ryan Anderson had a double-double with 20 points 11 rebounds and Jameer Nelson chipped in with 13 points and 6 dimes. The Nets, who were playing without Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, shot a putrid 33.7 percent from the field and never had a chance in this one. Gerald Green scored 14 off the bench and it has been awesome having him back in the league.
The Knicks season of extreme highs and devastating lows continues as they have now won the first two games of the Mike Woodson era handily. Twelve of the thirteen Knicks who touched the hardwood scored and as a team New York shot 50 percent from the field. After Danny Granger declared that the next two games against the Knicks (they play a home and home series this weekend) were “winnable”, New York responded by pouring it on Indiana early and often. Steve Novak and J.R. Smith had 12 and 16 off the bench, respectively, and STAT had 16 points and 7 boards. New York led by as many as 32 in the blowout and the Pacers just never got it going on either side of the floor. Indy shot under 40 percent from the field and only scored 31 points in the first half.
Joe Johnson triggered an 11-0 fourth quarter run that helped the Hawks seal the deal against the Wizards last night in ATL. Johnson finished with a season-high 34 points while teammate Josh Smith put together a 23-point, 7-rebound, 8-assist stat line. Atlanta trailed at the half before putting together a 24-8 second half run that turned a 60-56 deficit into a 80-68 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the third. The Wizards, who were looking for their second straight road victory, hanged tough for the first two and half quarters but fell apart down the stretch. Trevor Booker led the Wizards with 18 points and 9 boards while John Wall had 14 points and 9 assists. The Hawks success the rest of the season lies on Joe Johnson’s play; when he scores 20 or more points, Atlanta is 14-2.
One day after firing head coach Nate McMillan and revamping their roster, the Blazers came out and beat one of the best teams in the league on the road. The Bulls certainly helped Portland’s cause by shooting 3-23 in the fourth quarter as they struggled to score late in the game with Derrick Rose looking on from the bench. The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 21 points and Wesley Matthews’ 18–Matthews was re-inserted into the starting lineup and responded nicely, making interim coach Caleb Kanales look smart in his first game at the helm. Carlos Boozer had a double-double with 22 points and 14 boards but didn’t get much help elsewhere as Chicago only shot 42 percent from the floor.
Jerryd Bayless scored five points of his 28 points in the overtime period and added nine dimes to lead the Raptors to a surprise victory over Memphis at the FedEx Center last night. Gary Forbes came off the bench and dropped 20 and Andrea Bargnani had 18 points and 7 boards in the victory. After two and a half months of sitting on the shelf with a knee injury, Zach Randolph showed no rust in his first game back; the big man scored 25 points and grabbed 9 boards in 25 minutes of play. If Z-Bo can come back and play at a high level, the Grizzlies will be a very tough opponent come playoff time. Marc Gasol had a season-high 28 points and 11 boards and Rudy Gay scored 26 points and snatched 11 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.
The Spurs led from wire-to-wire, and were up by as many as 27, but the Thunder didn’t go down without a fight. OKC eventually cut it to single digits, but Danny Green (21 points) stole an inbounds pass, drove the length of the floor and dunked it to take the wind out of the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 25 points, Dejuan Blair had a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds and frontcourt mate Tim Duncan had perhaps his best game of the year with 16 points, 19 boards and five blocks. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 36 points and Kevin Durant had 25, but they dug themselves in too deep of a hole and couldn’t dig themselves out for the win.
The Suns are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the league and after last night’s win they now find themselves at .500 for the first time in two months. Phoenix has now won 10 out of their last 13 and their third game in three nights and are now on the cusp of playoff contention. In a close game, Shannon Brown and Channing Frye hit a few big shots in the fourth quarter pushing the lead to five and finishing off the Pistons. Steve Nash had 17 assists, Jared Dudley had a team-high 23-points and Channing Frye had a game-high 13 boards. The Suns are getting contributions from everyone and are definitely a team to keep an eye on in home stretch of the regular season.
Perhaps Danny Ainge is regretting not making a move on Thursday’s trade deadline because it’s becoming more and more apparent that the C’s can’t hang with young legs. Leading 52-51 in the third quarter, the Kings went on an 11-0 run en route to a 41 point quarter, and took a 93-74 lead into the final period of play. Marcus Thornton torched Boston to the tune of 36 points and Jason Thompson had a double-double with 21 points and 15 boards. Ray Allen had 26 for the Celtics and Paul Pierce had 19 before leaving the game with a sprained ankle.
Ramon Sessions made his Laker debut last night and helped Los Angeles build a 16-point lead in the third quarter. In 19 minutes of play, Sessions finished with 7 points, 5 dimes and 4 boards–a promising start. The T’Wolves eventually cut the lead to six points with five minutes remaining, but the new-look Lakers offense looked better than it has all season and L.A. was able to finish off Minnesota. Kobe Bryant had a game-high 28 points and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum each had double-doubles. Kevin Love led the T’Wolves with 27 points and 15 boards and Luke Ridnour had 11 assists.
A few days after being traded, Monta Ellis returned to Golden State and helped the Bucks cruise to an easy road win. Ellis finished with 18 points, 4 assists and 4 dimes while backcourt mate Brandon Jennings had 13 and 7 dimes. Mike Dunleavy led all scorers with 24 points and Luc Mbah Moute had a monster double-double with 22 points and 17 boards. Milwaukee scored the final 13 points of the first quarter to take a 31-12 lead into the second. After that, the Warriors had no chance.