by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to do with myself on Monday night, with no games to track. I took the opportunity to go to sleep prior to midnight for the first time in a long time. But enough about me…the second half of the season is officially underway. Just think—a few months ago we still didn’t know if this thing would ever start. And now we’ve got night after night of jam-packed hoops action to talk about. So with that, let’s get right to it. Feel free to start doing the math on Playoff seedings from here on out. I think the Wizards might finish in that No. 13 spot if we’re lucky!
A win’s a win, right? Well, maybe not for Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who said after this one, “It was a good way to end the losing streak, but we have to be better than that. That was awful.” Sheesh, Doc, take it easy! The win snapped a five-game losing streak for Boston, despite nearly blowing a 16-point second-half lead. Kyrie Irving put on yet another show, dropping 19 of his 24 points in the second half, even after leaving momentarily earlier in the game with an elbow contusion. Irving hit a pair of free throws to give Cleveland an 81-80 lead with 1:21 to play, but turned the ball over on the next possession and the Cs took the lead for good on a Ray Allen dunk with under 50 seconds remaining. Allen led Boston with 22 points and Kevin Garnett had 18, while Rajon Rondo had 11 assists but shot 0-6 with zero points. Also of note was rookie Tristan Thompson’s nice night off the bench for the Cavs (13 points, 10 boards in 27 minutes).
Indiana used a balanced attack (6 players in double figures) to put away Golden State early and improve to 22-12 on the year. The Pacers held the Warriors to 35 percent field goal shooting in the first half and took a 52-38 lead into the break. Danny Granger poured in 15 of his 25 points in the second half, as Indiana broke the game open with a 33-16 third quarter. With Stephen Curry sidelined due to a sprained right foot (will dude ever be fully, truly healthy?), rookie Charles Jenkins got the start alongside Monta Ellis in the Warriors backcourt, scoring just 2 points on 0-5 field goals in his 18 minutes. Ellis and Brandon Rush scored 14 points apiece to lead Golden State, but David Lee was the only other GSW player in double figures, with 12. For the Pacers, who went 13-deep on the night and racked up a nice little highlight reel, it was their fifth straight win. Roy Hibbert celebrated with this dunk.
Philly came in looking to snap a five-game losing streak, and didn’t take long to blow the Pistons out of their own building, on the way to improving to 21-14 on the season. The Sixers stifled Detroit all night long—Philly finished with 17 steals, 8 blocks and held the Pistons to 32 percent field goal shooting (20 percent on threes) while forcing 23 turnovers. Oh, and if you didn’t read the score, Detroit scored all of 68 points, tying the team’s season low. Yuck. The Sixers are now 3-0 against the Pistons this year after outscoring the Motor City’s bench 47 to 15, including 20 points for Thaddeus Young, Philly’s leading scorer on the night. Lou Williams chipped in 13 points and 7 dimes, and 6 players scored in double figures. Detroit got double-digit scoring nights from only Greg Monroe (20) and Rodney Stuckey (17).
New Orleans scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter to take a 4-point lead with 1:26 to play, before Derrick Rose went into MVP mode to right the ship for Chicago and get the Bulls going on the right foot for the second half of the season. Rose scored 6 of his 32 points in the key late run for Chicago, including a jumper with 19 seconds to play that gave the Bulls the last lead of the game. He added 9 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks (only 2 turnovers), while Joakim Noah hauled in 16 rebounds to go with his 15 points, and Luol Deng had 14 and 11. Rip Hamilton, who hadn’t played since late January, returned to the staring lineup and scored 5 points in his 17 minutes of action. The Bulls made just 3 of 18 shots from beyond the arc, but held New Orleans to 40 percent shooting. Chris Kaman (17 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) and Trevor Ariza (16/8/4) led the hapless Hornets, who are now 8-26.
Don’t look now, but the red-hot Rockets are winners of four straight and five of their last six, and now sit at No. 5 in the West at 21-14. Last night, Kyle Lowry dropped 26 and Luis Scola finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, as Houston beat Toronto despite shooting just 39 percent from the field. Kevin Martin was cold yet again (3-14 shooting) but played 32 minutes and hustled his way to 14 points. Then again, it was KMart who opened the door for the Raptors by missing a free throw with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a 3-point game. Luckily for Houston, Linas Kleiza bricked a last-second three-pointer and the Raptors fell to 10-24 on the year. DeMar Derozan scored 17 points and James Johnson had 16 for Toronto.
I refuse to make Ersan Ilyasova’s game-winning tip-in the “Moment of the Night” and I think you know why. I personally avoided this game—seriously, didn’t watch—and I think that was the right choice. Sure, the Wizards stormed all the way back from down 22 points at one point to take a 1-point advantage in the waning moments of the game, thanks to a John Wall runner with 6.8 ticks to play. But the Wiz Kids always find a way to lose. This time, it was on Ilyasova’s follow of a Brandon Jennings missed runner with 2.2 seconds left. On Washington’s next and final possession, Roger Mason Jr. traveled. Which is a sentence I never want to write again, for so many reasons. Let’s talk stats and move on: Mike Dunleavy led 7 Bucks in double figures with 28 points, while Jennings (14 points, 11 assists), Ilyasova (13 and 11 boards) and Drew Gooden (15 and 10) turned in double-doubles. Meanwhile, John Wall had 19 points and 15 assists and Trevor Booker went for 20 and 11 boards, while Javale McGee and Nick Young sat nailed to the bench for the second half.
Brook Lopez back? Brook Lopez back. 38 points in 36 minutes (season-highs) from the 7-footer in just his third game this season helped New Jersey pull the upset over the defending champions in Dallas. Lopez cashed a couple of free throws to give the Nets the lead with 42 seconds to play, and Dallas failed to get a good look on the game’s final possession. The Mavericks dropped to 21-14, thanks in large part to 36 percent field goal shooting and a general inability to stop Lopez down low. Deron Williams had just 12 points on 3-15 shooting, but handed out 12 assists (and called Lopez a “monster” in the game), and Kris Humphries had a double-double of his own with 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Nets, who move to 11-25 this season. Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points to go with 10 rebounds, but when Brendan Haywood is Dallas’ next-highest point man with 18 (and 10 boards), the Mavs will almost certainly be in trouble. And they were, as the Nets were better in almost every statistical category. But hey, at least for all you Kris Humphries haters, Ian Mahinmi went ahead and delivered this facial.
For at least one more night, the Kings’ three-guard lineup was a success. All five Sacramento starters scored in double figures, including 21 for Marcus Thornton, 18 for Isaiah Thomas and 13 for Tyreke Evans. But the dominant force all night for the Kings was DeMarcus Cousins, who racked up 22 points and 18 rebounds. Behind DMC, SacTown finished with 60 points in the paint (just 46 for the Jazz). Devin Harris had 18 points and 7 dimes, Josh Howard finished with 15 points and Gordon Hayward had 11 but missed two open threes in the last few minutes of the game as the Kings pulled away. On Utah’s last chance, down 4 points with under 20 seconds to play, Cousins took a charge on Josh Howard, and Sacramento iced the game at the charity stripe to take home their second straight win.
Man, that was fun. If you missed this one, figure out where you can watch a a replay of the fourth quarter. Just make sure you’re not a Clippers fan. For three quarters, things looked great for Lob Angeles, as Blake Griffin was in the midst of a monster 30-point performance and the Clips led by 3 heading into the fourth. That’s when reserve forwards Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley went absolutely nuts for the Timberwolves, with 13 apiece—first Williams rattled off 10 in a row, then Beaz took over and poured in a double-digit run of his own. They both scored 27 in the game. How hot were they? Kevin Love needed to score just 10 points, and took the entire final quarter off to rest some sore ribs after taking a shot to the gut in the third quarter. Before JJ Barea missed a 3-pointer with 1:30 left and Minnesota leading by 14, the Wolves were a perfect 10-10 from the field in the fourth. Minnesota got an NBA season-high 72 points from their bench as a whole, and used a crazy 34-11 run through the final quarter to pull away. The wild finish ruined a 27-point, 6-dime night from Chris Paul, and 14 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks by DeAndre Jordan. But the Wolves shot better than 51 percent on the night, and Caron Butler had a forgettable night for the Clippers, not helping much with his 1-10 shooting. His only 2 points came with 3:30 to play in the game.
Lines of the Night: With all due respect to Brook Lopez’s 38 points in New Jersey’s win over Dallas, what I witnessed in the fourth quarter of the Wolves-Clips game gives this award to Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley, with 27 each on a combined 20-25 shooting from the field, including 7-7 from the 3-point line. And that fourth was just insane. Ridiculous.
Dunks of the Night: Paul George off an inbounds pass, the Nets double-oop on the break, DeMar Derozan bangs it home hard and one from Javale McGee that I’m not sure even counts as a dunk, but that looked pretty cool.
Funny of the Night: The Sixers play a prank on their rookies. Those young guys, so eager!
Tonight: A dozen games on Wednesday, starting with Thunder at Sixers (and for Wiz-Magic for torture-seekers) and wrapping up with some great matchups later in the night. They include Mavs-Grizzlies, Bulls-Spurs, Blazers-Nuggets and the inevitably entertaining Wolves vs. Lakers game to wrap things up out West. Should be a late night, but a good one. Catch you guys in the A.M.