by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
It may be Super Bowl weekend, but please believe that the NBA is in full swing this weekend. Catch up on all of last night’s action below…Let’s go Giants.
The Wizards have been playing better basketball since the firing of coach Flip Saunders. But, last night the Wizards came out flat and got outplayed in every facet of the game. Leandro Barbosa, who was battling flulike symptoms, came off the bench and dropped 19 to lead Toronto in an easy victory. The Raptors killed D.C. in the paint, outrebounding them 61 (23 offensive) to 37 and outscoring them 68-38 around the basket. Amir Johnson, who has regressed this season compared to last, played his best game of the season, scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds–he also had this huge dunk. Jose Calderon, whose name has been floating around in trade rumors, had 17 assists (compared to D.C.’s 13) and Linas Kleiza had 15 points, all of which came in the second half. The Wizards shot 38 percent from the field and were led in scoring by Nick Young who had 21 but only 1 assist. Young is averaging 16.8 points per game this season but only 1.3 assists, that kind of play defines the term “chucker”.
The Heat and Sixers may have similar records but Miami has downright dominated the Sixers. The Heat defeated Philly for the ninth straight time last night. Philly hung around until the fourth, but Miami, led by Dwayne Wade’s 26 points, blew the doors open with a 15-0 run to cruise to a twenty point victory. The same day he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month, LeBron James finished 2 assists shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. As a team, the Heat shot 52 percent from the field and went 8-13 from behind the arc. Philly had it’s 4 game win streak snapped but finished its 7 game homestand 5-2. Thaddeus Young led the Sixers with 16 points while Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks had 13 each. Andre Iguodala only had 10 points, but 6 of them came on three big dunks. In an interesting piece of NBA history, LeBron has now tallied at least 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 25 straight games. The only other player in history to match that feat is Oscar Robertson.
In a game that the Magic led by as many as 21, it ended up coming down to free throws after the Cavs resorted to the hack-a-Howard strategy in the final quarter of play. Dwight shot all 16 of his free throws in the last six minutes of play, hitting 9 and ultimately ending any hopes of a Cleveland comeback. Howard finished 2 blocks shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 8 swats. After Ryan Anderson (17 points) and Jason Richardson (19 points) hit 3-pointers to kick off an 11-0 run in the 2nd quarter, Cleveland was forced to play catchup the rest of the way. For Cleveland, Alonzo Gee, who has been putting together a tremendous dunk highlight reel this season, scored a team high 2o points and hit three 3-pointers. Kyrie Irving, who may be running away with the Rookie of the Year Award, had another strong performance with 18 points (7-21), 6 assists and 5 rebounds (for more on Kyrie, check out Abe’s great piece in SLAM 156). Orlando has now beaten Cleveland seven straight times.
Just as everyone expected, Anthony Morrow came out and dropped 42 for the Nets and Nikola Pekovic had 27 and 11 for Minnesota in last night’s outing…Wait, what!? Morrow, who has been averaging 13.6 points per this season, shot 13-20 from the field, hit 8 3-pointers and went 8-8 from the line in one of the best scoring performances of the season. But, it wasn’t enough as the Nets had no answer inside for Pekovic who simply dominated Shelden Williams inside; Pekovic’s 27 points came on 11-14 shooting. The game was close throughout and after Anthony Morrow’s 4-point play late in the fourth, the Nets cut it to one with 22 seconds to go. But, the T’Wolves hit clutch free throws and Deron Williams couldn’t convert during the Nets’ last possession and Minnesota escaped Jersey with a victory. Okay, fine. One Ricky Rubio highlight.
Two days after beating one of the best teams in the league, Milwaukee dropped a game to one of the worst teams in the league. Rookie Brandon Knight, who is quietly putting together a solid rookie campaign, had a career high 26 points and 7 assists to get the best of Brandon Jennings (20 points, 1 assist) and the Bucks. Greg Monroe had another double-double, his sixth in seven games, with 18 points and 11 rebounds and held Drew Gooden to 4 points and 4 rebounds. The Bucks were able to cut the lead to 4 after an 11-0 run late in the third, but Monroe ignited an 8-1 lead to pull to a 80-69 lead, ending all hopes of a comeback. Bonus: Vanilla Ice performed at halftime.
In a physical game in Boston, Paul Pierce’s 30 points helped the Celtics overcome a 12-point halftime deficit to beat the Knicks who seem to find a new way to lose every night. After struggling offensively for 3 quarters, Ray Allen caught fire in the fourth and was really the X-Factor in the game. With under 5 minutes to go in the game, Allen scored 9 points, hitting two 3′s and the eventual game winning basket in a three minute span. Pierce may have been the team’s leading scorer and most effective player, but this win falls on Allen’s late game heroics and D’Antoni’s questionable coaching. In a strange decision, D’Antoni put in Steve Novak, who hadn’t played a second all night, for what ended up being the last play of the game. Novak caught the ball on the inbounds from Landry Fields, pump faked and hoisted a 3-pointer that missed badly. While I don’t think the play was specifically designed for Novak, it was bewildering to even see him in the game in the first place–don’t know what was going on there. Carmelo led the Knicks with 26 points (8-17 shooting) and 6 assists and Tyson Chandler had another double-double with 20 points and 11 boards. The Knicks played hard but they were abysmal in crunch time–a common theme for them in close games. With the Giants playing the Pats in the Super Bowl on Sunday, the Knicks officially have one more day (possibly more depending on the outcome of the big game) until the media really starts to have a field day with their shortcomings. Great. Also, big congratulations to Kevin Garnett on grabbing his 10,000th defensive rebound and becoming only the third player since 1973 (first year they began tallying defensive rebounds) to do so.
Seven Rockets scored in double figures last night as Houston dismantled the struggling Phoenix Suns at home. Kevin Martin scored 16 points in 18 minutes and Luis Scola had 14 points and 8 rebounds as Houston improved to 10-3 at the Toyota Center. For Phoenix, Marcin Gortat had his 13th double-double in 14 contests with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Gortat is making a strong case for All-Star consideration; in the last 4 games he has averaged 17 points on 52 percent shooting, 11.3 boards and 2.3 blocks. The Rockets have certainly enjoyed the spoils of home this season, but they are in for a test as their next 6 games are on the road. After that stretch we should have a more clarity as to whether or not McHale has this team ready to contend this season or if their hot start was just that: a hot start.
In a back and forth contest, Oklahoma City played a spectacular fourth quarter to pull away from a hungry Memphis team. Trailing by as many as 11 points, OKC outscored the Grizzlies 32-17 in the final quarter to pull out a victory. Kevin Durant had 36 points to lead the Thunder and stepped up big when his team needed him most. In the final 53 seconds of play, KD scored 7 points and grabbed 2 rebounds to put away the visiting Grizz. Durant didn’t do it all by his lonesome though, James Harden scored 24 points, including 4 treys and Russell Westbrook chipped in with 21 and 7 dimes. Serge Ibaka had a quiet night with only 7 points and 7 boards but did dunk all over Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies had a chance to tie it up late in the game but Tony Allen couldn’t handle a pass from Mike Conley on the baseline giving Durant the opportunity to come down and seal the game with a dagger from the top of the arc. Marc Gasol, who should be in the All-Star Game, scored 24 points and grabbed 8 boards while teammate Rudy Gay had 23 and 8 but it wasn’t enough. The Thunder switched to a small lineup in the fourth, playing Harden, Westbrook and Daequan Cook together and the move paid off. OKC was able to use their quickness to get open shots and luckily got hot, shooting just over 60 percent in the fourth. Oklahoma City now has the best record in the NBA improving to 18-4. Welcome to the Thunderdome indeed.
Paul George went HAM last night. The second year Pacer hit seven 3′s en route to a career high 30 point performance to help push Indiana’s current win streak to 4. What has impressed me most about Indiana’s fantastic start has been their ability to win away from home and close out games when they are leading late. Indy is now 10-5 on the road matching the Bulls for the best road record in the NBA. When taking a lead into the fourth quarter, the Pacers are now 13-1. This may be a young team, but that stat is very telling; they know how to finish off their opponents which is what winning teams do. David West had 20 points and 6 boards and Roy Hibbert (another player who should be in the All-Star Game) grabbed 14 rebounds. For the Mavs, Nowitzki did his best Paul George impression by going for 30 but didn’t get much help elsewhere. The only other Maverick to score over 10 points was Vince Carter who finished with 14. Paul George. Paul George. Paul George.
Slow your roll there Denver, the Lakers aren’t finished yet. One night after blowing out Lob City, the big brother Lakers came to town and did what the Clippers could not. The Lakers shut down Denver offensively, holding them to 16 points below their season average. Andrew Bynum had a big game with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Pau Gasol grabbed 17 boards. Kobe did not shoot well going 7-23 for 20 points, but he did have a game high 9 assists. Al Harrington nearly won the game for Denver by himself. Harrington came off the bench with six minutes remaining and scored 10 straight points in less than three minutes to cut the lead to 1. But, Harrington couldn’t play hero as he missed a step back 3-pointer at the end of regulation that would have won the game.
Stat Line of the Night: A lot of good stat lines last night but I’m using my literary power to give this prestigious award to Paul George for his career high 30 point, 9 rebound, 5 assist effort and for being a really cool guy overall.
Play of the Night: Paul George chases down Jason Terry for the block and finishes with the 3 on the other end.
Dunk(s) of the Night: Andre Iguodala down the lane.
Jason Richardson catches the reverse alley.
Tonight: 13 games on deck including a cross-river battle between the Nets and Knicks, and a great matchup out west when the Nuggets travel to the always raucous Rose Garden to take on the Blazers. Catch y’all tomorrow.