By the end of this back-and-forth early game in MSG, the Knicks closed out the Pacers behind a series of clutch Amar’e Stoudemire (26 points, 8 boards) buckets and some relentless Ronny Turiaf (10 boards, 6 blocks) D. These two groups battled all four quarters, and as sloppy as things were (NY shot 38.5 percent, Indiana shot 42.5 percent), neither team could be fended off. Ultimately, the win was a big one for the Knicks, who were coming off a pair of tough losses and will have to take on the Spurs Tuesday night. Also: Danilo Gallinari went down in the last quarter, and we’ve since learned it was the result of a sprained knee. As I’m writing this, there’s no word on how long he’ll be out for, but my guess is he sits against the Spurs and hopes to get back in time for the Knicks’ West Coast road trip, which tips off Friday night in Phoenix.
The Clippers had a good hold on this game early, but as is often the case with young teams that aren’t too (or, um, at all) used to winning, they let the lead slowly slip away. Behind Joe Johnson (29 points) and Josh Smith (22 points, 10 rebounds), the Hawks charged back into it, jumping ahead with 65 second-half points. The Clips received 31 and 15 (oh, and this) from Blake Griffin, but…you know. This whole process is pretty much standard operating procedure at this point. Atlanta now has sole possession of the fifth spot in the East, but they’re creeping up on the Magic, who are only a half-game ahead of ’em.
Props to the Raps for staying with the Celts for so long, but in the end, the C’s just had too much talent and too many weapons. Paul Pierce scored 30 and grabbed 7, Ray Allen scored 23 and drilled 3 treys, and Glen Davis went for 15 and 11 in Kevin Garnett’s absence. Rajon Rondo also returned to the court, but he had some rust to shake off, as he finished with 4 points, 8 dimes and 5 turnovers in 34 minutes. DeMar DeRozan (27 points, 3 steals) was the only impressive Raptor, as his team fell to 11-22 with the loss.
The Mavericks are a lot better than the Cavs. Yeah, I wish I had a better way to put that one, too. Apologies. Even with Caron Butler out (for a long time, potentially), all five Mavs starters managed double figures, led by Shawn Marion’s 22. That’s important, because if Butler is indeed out for the season, the Matrix will need to step up in a major, major way. Antawn Jamison put up some solid fantasy stats—35 points, 10 boards, 1 steal—but to no avail. Cleveland has now dropped seven straight, a streak they’ll look to turn around Wednesday night when they host the Raptors.
Always a crapshoot as to which Trail Blazer swingman will get hot, and last night it was The Homie Nicolas Batum, who scored 21 points off 8-12 shooting. LaMarcus Aldridge also pitched in 25 points and 11 boards, and the Blazers jumped ahead in the third quarter and refused to look back. Both of these teams have been and will continue to battle for one of the last playoff spots in the West, so this is definitely a nice win for Portland. They’re now up a game and a half on the Rockets.
As much crap as DeMarcus Cousins gets for his off-the-court (or on-the-court, but not related to actual playing) behavior, the dude’s talent is undeniable. Sure, going against the Suns’ frontline helps, but a 26-point, 7-rebound, 6-assist night doesn’t happen for just anyone. Cousins’ strong play led the Kings over the Suns last night, as Sacto used a 29-16 fourth quarter advantage to jump ahead of Phoenix in the final period. A clutch Omri Casspi three put the Kings ahead in the final minute, and some strong D down the wire sealed things up. The Suns have lost five of six, and once again, we’re forced to ask: How long until Steve Nash (who had 20 points, 12 dimes, and shot 8-8 from the floor and 2-2 from the line) asks for a trade?
After a three-game losing streak, the Lakers won a pair of contests and appeared to be back on track. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they’ve reverted back to their losing ways, because it’s just a single game, but it is safe to say this doesn’t look anything like the World Champion Lakers team we saw last season and a couple months back. The Grizzlies completely dominated them, shooting better from both the field and the line and holding everyone not named Kobe to under 12 points. Again, I ask: What’s happening here?
Actual Stats: Blake Griffin: 31 points, 15 boards, 3 assists, 1 block
Moment of the Night: Forget what you’ve heard; Paul Pierce can still throw it down.