by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
The Sixers season continues to slip away after last night’s loss to the recently improved, but still beatable, Raptors in an ugly game. The loss was their fifth straight. While both teams shot a respectable percentage from the floor for the game (Philly at 39.8% and T.Dot at 48.8%) both were absolutely putrid from behind the stripe. Philly shot an even 20% while the Raps shot a laughable 9.1 %–these guys are pros, right? Anyway, the Raptors were up by two at the half and went on to pull away in the second half as Philly only scored 32 total points over the last two quarters. Toronto went on a 10-1 run to end the third thanks to the strong play of Jose Calderon (14 points, 11 dimes, 0 turnovers) who scored 10 points while dishing out 3 assists in the quarter. The Raps were up double-digits heading into the fourth but the Sixers crept close and cut the lead to six with under seven minutes to go. From there, Toronto put their foot on the gas and blew the Sixers out to give them an 18-point win. Jrue Holiday and Thad Young each scored 16 for Philly. All five Toronto starters scored in double-figures and they were led by Amir Johnson’s 19 and 12 and DeMar DeRozan’s 19.
While the Raps and Sixers put on a terrible performance from three last night, it was the exact opposite in this one. The Jazz went 10-22 from three, hitting six more threes than the Bobcats, and blew the game open in the second quarter thanks to that solid outside shooting. With six minutes to go in the second, Ben Gordon (20 points off the bench) hit a bucket to pull Charlotte within a point. On the next possession, Gordon Hayward (14 off the bench) nailed a long three to open up a 20-4 run–a stretch that saw Hayward hit two more triples. The Jazz shot 7-10 during the streak and forced three Bobcat turnovers. When it was all said and done, Utah was up 17 and led by double-digits the rest of the game. Al Jefferson beat up Charlotte inside with 26 and 8 while Paul Millsap scored 19. Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions each scored 14 off the bench and Kemba Walker scored 14 while dropping 6 dimes.
A surprising 16-point victory against the Hawks was triggered by Kyrie Irving’s huge third quarter. The second-year point guard dropped 18 of his 33 in the third and proved to be too much for the ATL backcourt to handle. Irving was the main proponent of a 26-12 third quarter run (Irving scored 16 of the 26) that turned a tie ball game into a rout. Tristan Thompson chipped in with 11 points and 14 boards while Tyler Zeller grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds. The Hawks were led by Josh Smith’s 17 points, 8 boards and season-high 6 blocks. The loss was Atlanta’s fourth straight.
The improvement of rookie Jared Sullinger and the return of Avery Bradley from injury has dove wonders for Boston. I was quick to write t them off already, but if these two can continue to give Doc Rivers solid minutes, it might not be the curtain call many were expecting. Sullinger’s 12 points, career-high 16 boards and Bradley’s (2 steals, 4-9 shooting in 18 mintues) tough defense were instrumental to the Celtics grind-it-out home win over Phoenix. The Celtics were going through the motions in the second half when Doc Rivers decided to go with his bench. Rivers looked prophetic as his reserves, along with KG (10 points, 5 boards, 2 blocks), ripped off a 13-2 run to put them up by 12. The Suns were held at bay as the C’s waltzed down the stretch. Jeff Green, who one year ago yesterday had open heart surgery, scored a team-high 14 points off the bench. Luis Scola scored 16 points and Marcin Gortat notched a 12-point, 16-rebound double-double in the loss.
The Bulls were up 15 in the second quarter and Nate Robinson was understandably feeling giddy–the Bulls looked prime to roll over the visiting Bucks en route to their 20th win of the season. Nate Rob decided to start talking a little smack to Brandon Jennings to try and get in his head–bad move. Doo-Be-Doo came out in the third quarter on fire, hitting four three-pointers as he went on to drop 25 of his 35 points in the second half. The Bucks built a nine-point lead in the third and only continued their hot shooting in the fourth as the hit nine of their fourth quarter 14 shots to secure the dub. The Bulls cut the lead to one with just under four and a half minutes to go when Mike Dunleavy (16 points off the bench) hit a dagger three-pointer to push the lead to four. Milwaukee’s record under new coach Jim Boylan is 2-0. Chicago is finally starting to get it’s money’s worth from Carlos Boozer who had another strong performance last night with 22 points and 11 boards.
The Hornets were down ten but used a huge fourth quarter explosion to end Houston’s five-game winning streak. The Hornets faced their double-digit deficit in the third quarter when coach Monty Williams decided to insert reserve Roger Mason Jr. into the lineup. Mason Jr. promptly went off in the fourth, scoring 15 points in the quarter, to lead a 22-2 run that gave the Hornets their third straight win. Greivis Vasquez scored 17 points and dished 11 assists and Jason Smith came off the bench to give New Orleans 17 points and 10 boards. James Harden broke Moses Malone’s franchise record for most consecutive games with 25 or more points last night as he scored at least 25 for the 14th game in a row.
I can’t wait to see the look on Lakers fans’ faces when they miss the playoffs this season. It will be glorious. San Antonio was handling the Lakers through much of the first three quarters but they almost blew a 16-point fourth quarter lead. The Spurs were up by 16 with just over six minutes to go when they got careless with the ball. Gary Neal’s turnover triggered a Los Angeles run and within three minutes, LA had turned their 16-point deficit into a five-point deficit. Trailing 108-102, Earl Clark (22 points, 13 boards) nailed a three-pointer to get the Lakers within three and set up Kobe (27 points, 5 assists) for a chance to play the hero role once again. But Kobe’s three hit iron and a long rebound fell to Clark who also missed his desperation three and the Lakers lost their fifth game in a row. This is awesome. Tony Parker led the spurs with 24 points and 6 assists, Manu Ginobili scored 19 and grabbed 8 boards and Stephen Jackson scored 14 (4-6 from three) before being ejected.
The Thunder had no problem blowing out the Wolves last night at home. Minnesota hung around in the first half, but a 17-6 third quarter run by OKC pushed their lead lead to 14 and it was never closer than ten the rest of the way. Kevin Durant scored 26 and grabbed 8 boards while Russ Westbrook dropped 23, grabbed 8 boards and dished out 7 assists. Alexey Shved led Minny with 18 points. With Love out the next 8-10 weeks and the team banged up, this team has no realistic shot of winning a title. Do they tank or try to fight for a playoff spot to appease their fans?
The Magic dropped another heartbreaker to the improving-at-the-right-time Nuggets last night in Denver. The game was all tied up at 99 in the fourth quarter when Dre Iguodala (11 points, 5 dimes, 4 boards) missed two free throws. But Kenneith Faried (19 points, 19 boards) soared in for the rebound, missed the putback and called a timeout. George Karl drew up a play for Ty Lawson (19 points, 8 assists) in the huddle and the Carolina product knifed through the lane hit a tough layup and drew the foul. After Lawson converted the three-point play, the Nuggets never trailed again. The Magic have now lost ten-straight while the Nuggets have won eight of their last 12. Jameer Nelson scored 20 points and dished out 8 assists and J.J. Redick hit four three’s off the bench to finish with 17.
Dallas held a double-digit lead in the second half when MVP Candidate Chris Paul led a Clippers comeback. CP3 inished with 19 points and a season-high 16 assists. In the final quarter, with the Clips trailing, Paul came through on the defensive end with two huge steals to shift momentum and give the Clips a chance to win the game. Matt Barnes (19 points, 7 boards, 3 blocks) and Jamal Crawford (11 points) each hit three-pointers to cap off an 8-0 run that put LA up seven with under seven minutes to go. Dallas kept fighting and a tough fadeaway by Dirk Nowitzki (13 points, 6 boards, 4 assists) cut the deficit to two. On the following possession, Blake Griffin (15 points, 13 boards, 3 steals)–who showed a nice variety of moves during crunch time–got a lucky bounce to put the Clips up for good as Dallas went on to miss their next three shot attempts. Paul has been dominant in the Clippers’ last three outings. He scored 30 points and dished out 13 assists against the Lakers on Friday, dropped 27 the next day on the Warriors and led the charge last night against the Mavs. Wow.
The current SLAM cover boys rolled into Golden State last night and dominated in the paint to get a tough win out in the Bay. Rudy Gay scored 18 points, dropped 6 dimes and grabbed 5 boards, Zach Randolph scored 19 and grabbed 12 boards and Marc Gasol scored 12, grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 5 assists as Memphis’ frontline proved to be too much for the Warriors. Memphis led 84-82 Mike Conley (16 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers) stole the ball and took it the length of the floor before being fouled by Steph Curry (24 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 turnovers) to go to the stripe for two. Conley hit both to put his team up four. On the ensuing possession, Jerryd Bayless blocked Jarrett Jack’s mid-range shot and Conley was right there again to pick up the remains and finish a fast break with a layup to put the Grizz up for good.