by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Spurs 104 (37-14), Bobcats 100 (22-29)
Even though Tony Parker (9 points, 5 assists) and Tim Duncan (16 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks) returned from injury Saturday night, Patty Mills (32 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) stole the show from the two veterans. Mills scored 18 of San Antonio’s 35 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 5-5 during these final 12 minutes. He took over by using his floaters and jumpers to keep Bobcat defenders on their toes. Duncan had his 22nd double-double of the season while Al Jefferson (26 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 4 steals) continued his hot streak of play. Gerald Henderson (23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Kemba Walker (18 points, 8 assists) played well in the loss. Charlotte jumped out to a quick 18-6 lead in the first quarter, behind Jefferson’s strong play down low. But the Spurs quickly got back in this game and took the lead. Later, the Bobcats had a great chance to cut a 99-95 deficit to single digits with 26 seconds remaining when Josh McRoberts (7 points, 4 rebounds) stole the ball from Duncan. However, attempting to pass the ball to a leaked out Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (4 points, 12 rebounds), McRoberts threw the ball away.
Grizzlies 79 (27-22), Hawks 76 (25-24)
The Grizzlies are quickly looking more and more like the team that has scared so many playoff teams the past few seasons. And they’re doing it by means of their elite defense, holding the Hawks to only 25 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Hawks’ 76 points is a season low as they have now tied a season-worst three-game losing streak. Offensively, Zach Randolph (20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) led the way while Marc Gasol (8 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block) did a little bit of everything. Paul Millsap (20 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals) had a great first half and was active on both ends of the floor while DeMarre Carroll (13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) was the only other Hawk that played somewhat well on the night. The Grizzlies forced 21 Hawks turnovers and also only shot and made a single free throw. This is the record for fewest free throws attempted in an NBA game during the shot-clock era. But their defense was the catalyst for the win. After Marc Gasol missed a jump shot with 15 seconds left in the game, the Hawks had one more chance to tie the game. After a timeout, Lou Williams (6 points, 5 rebounds) hoisted up a potential game-tying 3-pointer that clanked off the rim.
Pistons 126 (21-29), Nuggets 109 (24-25)
With both teams on the second night of a back-to-back and both lacking consistent defense on the year, it was clear this would be a shootout early on. The Nuggets played three more players than the Pistons did, but Detroit had some great offensive play from their starters and Rodney Stuckey (19 points, 4 rebounds). Brandon Jennings (season-high 35 points, 12 assists, 2 turnovers, 6-11 on 3-pointers) and Josh Smith (30 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals) had phenomenal performances while Andre Drummond (18 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) had his 38th double-double in 50 games played. The Pistons are 6-3 when Jennings has 12 or more assists. Randy Foye (25 points, 5 rebounds) led the Nuggets in scoring as Ty Lawson (6 points, 7 assists) suffered a broken rib late in the first half and did not return. Evan Fournier (12 points, 3 rebounds) tried his best to fill in for Lawson in the second half. The Pistons did a good job of taking care of the ball on the night, with only 10 turnovers compared to the Nuggets’ 20 turnovers. Detroit almost let another big lead get away from them, but Jennings knocked down key 3-pointers late to close this one out. Will Bynum still hasn’t played since arguing with Mo Cheeks during Wednesday’s 112-98 loss to the Magic.
Blazers 117 (36-15), Timberwolves 110 (24-27)
Rookie C.J. McCollum (season-high 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 3-6 on 3-pointers) had his best game of the season, showing flashes of what he could be off the bench in the near future. He got the chance with Mo Williams still being gone due to family reasons. When Williams returns, Stotts should find a way to start splitting up the minutes between McCollum and Williams. Rookie Shabazz Muhammad (season-high 12 points, 2 rebounds) also had his best game of the year. LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) scored 16 of his 26 points in the 2nd half, being a force down the stretch. His high release point makes his jump shot very difficult to guard. Wesley Matthews (21 points, 6 assists) matched McCollum with three 3-pointers of his own. Corey Brewer (26 points, 7 rebounds) and Ricky Rubio (25 points, 9 assists) led a gritty Timberwolves team that was without Kevin Martin (broken thumb), Kevin Love (quadricep) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle)—their top three scorers. The Timberwolves surprisingly stuck around for most of this game and only trailed 83-83 going into the fourth quarter. However, behind six points from Aldridge, Portland would go on a decisive 13-1 run that Minnesota couldn’t come back from. The Timberwolves actually outscored the Blazers 52-28 in the paint but couldn’t overcome Portland’s hot shooting (48.8 percent from the field) and eight 3-pointers. If the Blazers want to make a legitimate run in the postseason, they will need to start playing much better defense. They are giving up 103.4 opponent ppg—which is the worst of all current playoff teams.
Rockets 101 (34-17), Bucks 95 (9-41)
There was nothing out of the ordinary from the Rockets on the night, as Dwight Howard (27 points, 13 rebounds) controlled the interior, James Harden (22 points, 4 steals) got into the paint and Jeremy Lin (18 points, 4 assists, 2 steals) provided a change of pace off the bench. The lowly Bucks—who were without Luke Ridnour (back), Ekpe Udoh (ankle), Ersan Ilyasova (back), O.J. Mayo (sickness) and Caron Butler (ankle)—found a way to compete in this game with five of their players scoring in double-figures. Brandon Knight (23 points, 5 assists) led the way again as Khris Middleton (20 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds) played well. John Henson (14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Zaza Pachulia (12 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) each had a double-double but struggled to contain D12, especially with Larry Sanders leaving in the first quarter due to an elbow to the eye. The Rockets outscored the Bucks 27-19 in the 2nd quarter to take a 56-45 lead going into halftime. But the Bucks wouldn’t lay down easily, going on a quick 12-2 run to start the third quarter. After a James Harden layup toward the end of the quarter, Houston held a 81-67 lead. But the Bucks chipped away at the deficit, eventually trailing only 98-95 with 46 seconds left after Middleton made three free throws. However, Howard would make three free throws of his own to close this one out. Omer Asik (5 rebounds) played for the first time in 31 games. The Rockets are currently riding a League-best five-game winning streak.
Suns 122 (30-20), Warriors 109 (30-21)
Six players from each playoff-hunting team scored in double-figures but Goran Dragic (career-high 34 points, 10 assists, 2 steals, 10-13 from the field, 6-7 on 3-pointers) had the top performance on the night. The Warriors were without Andrew Bogut (shoulder) and David Lee (shoulder and hip). With 7:33 left in the fourth quarter, the Warriors only trailed 104-100, behind strong play from Stephen Curry (28 points, 9 assists) and Harrison Barnes (23 points, 6 rebounds). But then Dragic went on to score 13 of the Suns final 18 points, during which the Suns outscored the Warriors 18-9. (All-Star snub anyone?) Gerald Green (25 points, 5 rebounds) continued to look as if he’s finally found a role with Phoenix and P.J. Tucker (16 points, career-high 15 rebounds, 4 steals) crashed the boards all night. The Suns shot well from all over the floor, shooting 53.8 percent from the field (43-80), 52.4 percent on 3-pointers (11-21) and 83.3 percent on free throws (25-30). Golden State has won back-to-back games only once since January 7.
Jazz 94 (17-33), Heat 89 (35-14)
Utah might be tied for the worst record in the West but they used their youth and always passionate fans to take down the more experienced Heat. Trey Burke (13 points, 3 assists) made a clutch 19-foot jump shot with 24 seconds left in the game to seal the team’s 17th victory of the season. So far, this has to be Burke’s defining shot of his rookie season, coming up big when his team needed him to most. Dwyane Wade (19 points, 6 rebounds) played best for the Heat, who are now four games back of the Pacers for the best record in the East. The Jazz came out of the gates firing. After Chris Bosh (13 points, 7 rebounds) tied the game with 6:51 left in the first quarter, the Jazz went on an 18-6 run to close the quarter, led by Derrick Favors (8 points, 7 rebounds) and Marvin Williams (23 points, 5-8 on 3-pointers). LeBron James (13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers) played well during the second quarter when his team outscored the Jazz 30-20, but for the full 48 minutes, the Jazz kept James from looking anything close to the player he’s been since joining the Heat. James only scored 2 points in the fourth quarter, coming from two free throws on two separate occasions. There were times in this game when James simply looked uninterested. Gordon Hayward (9 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, +11) came one point and one rebound away from getting his first career triple-double and made the final free throw on the night. The Jazz were outhustling the Heat to most loose balls and outrebounded them 41-32. Utah had an 11-2 advantage in terms of second-chance points. EnergySolutions Arena hasn’t had much to root for this season but defeating the two-time defending champs behind a big shot from Rookie of the Year candidate Trey Burke will be remembered for a while.