by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Heat 112 (43-14), Magic 98 (18-44)
He might not have had his black mask on, but clear mask LeBron James (20 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals) was just as dominant against Tobias Harris (20 points, 7-7 on free throws) and the Magic. James and Dwyane Wade (24 points) combined to shoot 18-26 (69.2) percent from the field. Wade played very well, faking out Magic defenders throughout the night. Nikola Vucevic (18 points, 10 rebounds) posted a double-double, but without Arron Afflalo (ankle/illness), the Magic didn’t have enough offense in the 2nd half. As a team, the Heat shot 58.1 percent from the field, gaining control as the game moved along. Orlando only trailed 61-53 at halftime before Miami went on a 22-9 run in the 3rd quarter, taking hold of an 89-69 lead. Even though they put up 112 points, Miami won this game through its defense, as the team held its fourth straight opponent under 100 points. Greg Oden (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3-3 from the field) had one of his best games since joining the Heat, showing slim signs of his former college self. The Heat have now won seven games in a row and trail the Pacers by two games for the top spot in the East.
Wizards 122 (31-28), 76ers 103 (15-44)
On the night that Allen Iverson’s jersey was retired in front of Wells Fargo Center, Trevor Ariza (career-high 40 points, 8-12 on 3-pointers) didn’t let that stop him from pouring it on. Ariza put up 24 of his 40 points in the first 12 minutes, as the Wizards took a 41-28 lead going into the 2nd quarter. They won wire-to-wire with six of their players scoring in double-figures. By scoring 74 points in the 1st half, Washington set a Wells Fargo Center record for points in a half. John Wall (17 points, career-high-tying 16 assists) and Marcin Gortat (13 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks) have really started to find a groove during their recent hot streak. These two are becoming walking double-doubles every time they step on the floor. Led by Tony Wroten (19 points) and Thaddeus Young (17 points, 5 assists, 3 steals), the Sixers had five players in double-figures, but as has been the case almost every game this season, they didn’t play enough defense for a full 48 minutes. These two teams are headed in opposite directions as the Sixers have lost 13 in a row and the Wizards have won six straight.
Rockets 118 (40-19), Pistons 110 (23-36)
The Rockets didn’t wait very long to put this game out of reach, jumping out to a 24-8 lead before six minutes had even passed in the game. Dwight Howard (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Terrence Jones (22 points, 10 rebounds) had their shot going all night, combining to shoot 15-22 (68.2 percent) from the field. The Pistons big frontcourt that should be playing solid defense couldn’t control the Rockets down low. James Harden (20 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals) passed the ball well on the night, as Detroit doesn’t have any strong wing defenders on the roster. In fact, they don’t seem to have any strong defenders besides Andre Drummond (16 points, 17 rebounds, 2 blocks) occasionally. Greg Monroe (10 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks) also had a double-double while Rodney Stuckey (23 points) had a strong performance off the bench. The Rockets, though, had six players with at least 13 points, scoring at ease and leading by double-digits for 45 minutes of this game. The Rockets have now won 11 of their last 13 games.
Pacers 102 (45-13), Celtics 97 (20-40)
The Celtics did a good job of keeping this one close for most of the game, only trailing by double-digits at two points late in the 2nd quarter. Paul George (25 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) led the Pacers on the night while Evan Turner (17 points) looked like the player Indiana hoped they would receive when they traded for him. Turner even acted as the ball handler late in this game, controlling the offense, while George took care of the scoring. PG24 scored eight of the final 12 points for the Pacers as they closed on a 14-7 run. Jeff Green (27 points, 5 rebounds) played well in the 1st half while Rajon Rondo (12 points, 11 assists) and Kris Humphries (18 points, 10 rebounds) picked up double-doubles. Roy Hibbert (15 points, 5 rebounds) really caused problems for Jared Sullinger (10 points, 6 rebounds, 4-12 from the field), as the Celtics center was undersized and outmatched. As a team, Boston only managed 30 points in the paint. Lance Stephenson (16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) flirted with a triple-double yet again, showing he is one of the best rebounding guards in the League. The Pacers had to fight Saturday night but they have now won four straight games
Nets 107 (28-29), Bucks 98 (11-47)
The Nets haven’t had a .500 record since early November, and with Saturday’s win, they now only need one more win to get back there. Brooklyn established its offense early on by pounding the ball down low, scoring 20 points in the paint in the first 15 minutes. Andray Blatche (19 points, 13 rebounds, 9-9 on free throws) was the main Nets force down low while Marcus Thornton (game-high 25 points) proved his worth coming off the bench. Kidd kept Thornton in the entire 4th quarter, during which he scored 12 of his 25 points. Early on this season, the Nets didn’t have many players willing to do do the dirty work. Now they have a lot of guys doing the little things that help teams win games. Ramon Sessions (16 points, 11-11 from the field) got to the line all night while Jeff Adrien (5 points, 10 rebounds) has had at least 10 rebounds in three of the last four games. Even though the Bucks are still losing, these two have played well since joining the team. Milwaukee kept this one close most of the game before Thornton and Paul Pierce (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) knocked in some late 3-pointers to take control for good.
Grizzlies 110 (33-25), Cavaliers 96 (24-37)
Zach Randolph (23 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals) and Marc Gasol (22 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) were up to their normal antics Saturday night. Randolph pounded the boards while Gasol did a little bit of everything and anchored the defense. Early on, the Cavs played really well by pushing the pace, taking quick shots and not standing around on offense. Tristan Thompson (18 points, 8 rebounds) had 14 of his 18 points in the 1st half as Cleveland took a 65-54 lead into halftime. Kyrie Irving (28 points, 3 assists, 3 steals) played well for the most part but stopped distributing the ball as the game moved along. The 3rd quarter is when it all fell apart for the Cavs as the Grizzlies went on a 26-6 run to take control. Memphis locked down against the Cavaliers’ pick-and-roll offense, holding Cleveland scoreless from 9:38 to 2:52 during the quarter. The Cavs kept the deficit single-digits the rest of the way, only trailing 95-94 with 4:03 left after Irving knocked in two free throws. With Mike Conley (22 points, 7 assists, 2 steals) leading way, Memphis responded by scoring nine straight points. Courtney Lee (19 points, 5-8 on 3-pointers) made a career-high five 3-pointers on the night as his Grizzlies have now earned their seventh win in the last 10 games and are closing in on the eight seed.
Blazers 102 (41-18), Nuggets 96 (25-33)
LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points, 7 rebounds) returned in a respectable fashion after missing the previous five games (groin). The Blazers frontcourt completely dominated the Nuggets frontcourt, as Aldridge, Robin Lopez (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Nicolas Batum (9 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists) all played well. After Wilson Chandler (14 points), who returned from a knee injury, made a layup a few minutes into the 1st quarter, the Nuggets held a 7-4 lead. Led by Damian Lillard (17 points, 5 rebounds), the Blazers responded by going on a 18-5 run and never giving up the lead the rest of the way. Portland went on a 13-5 run in the 3rd quarter to take a 73-60 lead. The Nuggets used a 9-2 run in the final minutes to make the game look more respectable than it was. The Blazers outrebounded the Nuggets 52-40 and outscored them in the paint 54-38. The difference in Saturday’s game came at the fee throw line. Both teams made 23 free throws—but the Blazers shot 24 while the Nuggets attempted 35. Kenneth Faried (16 points, 10 rebounds) had a double-double while Darrell Arthur (12 points, 6-7 from the field, 15 minutes) returned from his hip injury in an efficient way. Evan Fournier (16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) and Randy Foye (16 points, 4-8 on 3-pointers) played well in the loss. The Blazers currently have the fifth best record in the NBA.
Timberwolves 108 (29-29), Kings 97 (20-39)
The Timberwolves are slowly but surely crawling their way back into the West playoff hunt, winning five of their last six games. Saturday night, Kevin Martin (26 points) and Nikola Pekovic (20 points, 9 rebounds) both made their return after missing time due to injuries. Kevin Love (22 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 4-12 from the field) couldn’t find his touch on the night but knocked down his free throws. Love continued to score and rebound at will but has recently added passing to his repertoire. Love has dished out 7 assists in three of the last five games. Minnesota outscored Sacramento 31-14 in the 3rd quarter, putting this game out of reach. The Kings would make a late run in the 4th quarter, but they couldn’t get over the hump and take the lead. Ricky Rubio (8 points, 8 assists) hit a clutch 3-pointer that put the game out of reach. Their big 3—Isaiah Thomas (22 points, 8 assists), Rudy Gay (24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and DeMarcus Cousins (21 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks)—led the way on the night but didn’t get much help from their teammates. Other than these three Kings players, the rest of the team shot 10-34 (29.4 percent) from the field. Rookie Ray McCallum (career-high 9 points, career-high 5 assists, 3-11 from the field) had a career night despite struggling with his shot. The Wolves did a good job of taking care of the ball, only turning the ball over 10 times.
Clippers 108 (41-20), Pelicans 76 (23-36)
This one wasn’t going to be a contest from the very start as the Clippers jumped out to a 25-8 lead eight minutes into the game. Anthony Davis (8 points, 4 rebounds, 1-6 from the field) quickly picked up 3 fouls during the run, leading to one of his worst games of the year. Los Angeles would eventually lead by 35 points and find a way to get under Davis’ skin, forcing him to pick up his fifth technical of the season. With Davis being in foul trouble and struggling to find his rhythm, Tyreke Evans (22 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) shouldered most of the scoring load and Alexis Ajinca (11 points, 10 rebounds) posted a double-double despite fouling out. For the Clippers, Chris Paul (21 points, 8 assists, 2 steals), Blake Griffin (20 points) and DeAndre Jordan (7 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks) all played their respective role while Reggie Bullock (11 points, 10 minutes) took advantage of the garbage time. Los Angeles held the Pelicans to only 32.9 percent shooting from the field and 13.6 percent from deep. Currently riding a four-game winning streak, the Clippers extended their Pacific Division lead on the Warriors to four games. The Pelicans, on the other hand, have lost seven in a row.