What a beautiful Wednesday night in the League.
Twelve games on the slate, about five too many for me to really focus on so I picked my spots and I think I did a pretty fantastic job since I got to see Granger’s buzzer beater, Outlaw’s back to back big shots to save the Blazers, Kobe and Pau bail out the Lakers against the Warriors, Bargnani continue to piece together strong game after strong game (shooting 8-9 last night), the Rockets take down the Celtics (at home!), and of course Minnesota defeating Oklahoma City 129-87.
Yeah, okay, you got me, I didn’t really watch that last one, but I did flip over every once in awhile to make sure Yahoo! Sports wasn’t lying to me.
So, the Blazers are pretty great. Rudy is great, Steve Blake is beyond likable, Oden you root for just because he looks so big and old and awkward out there, Outlaw is a damned athletic freak, we don’t need to get started on Brandon, and LaMarcus has a smile that would melt an iceberg to go along with his basketball skills. Throw in Nate McMillan and I can find myself getting hooked.
It was fun to see them win, especially without Roy. I love seeing teams pull together and grind out a win.
Speaking of teams pulling together, JR/Kleiza/Billups did just that, each scoring 21 as the Nugs took down the Heat despite Dwyane’s best efforts at getting the W.
In the Warriors/Lakers matchup, of course I wanted the Lakers to win (even more so, since they lost last night), but man, did it feel good to see those ragtag Warriors come back from 17 down to take a lead and battle the Lakers until the final possession. It was sweet to see Pau hit free throws down the stretch, but it was even sweeter seeing my boy Jax on the sidelines cheering his heart out for his teammates.
For those of you wondering, Pau had 33 points and a career-high 18 rebounds last night. Ariza scored 17 points and pulled down 9 rebounds off of the bench for LA, as well.
On the Warriors side of things, Biedrins was nuts with 12 points, 17 rebounds and 8 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocked shots. Yup.
Obviously, the story of the night was Houston coming into Boston and taking down the Celtics. Really, what more can I say except. Stephon Marbury… Stephon Marbury… Stephon Marbury….
I feel like it’s coming.
And really, that Granger shot was incredible.
Houston 89 Boston 85
It wasn’t a pretty win, but the Rockets would take it. A victory against the defending champs on their home floor, without Tracy McGrady? Hell yes, they would take it and they’d enjoy it. It was reserve Von Wafer, who has cracked the starting line up as of late that saved the Rockets, draining a three-pointer with 44 seconds remaining to put the Rockets on top and the game out of reach for the Celtics. While the Rockets led in the third, a scoring drought allowed the Celtics to come back and take the lead, but then they would go cold in the fourth, managing only 11 points in the period while Houston scored 18, just enough to take the win. Ron Artest returned from injury to score 17 points for the Rockets while Wafer finished with 12 and Yao Ming scored 26 points and Aaron Brooks had 19 off of the bench. Paul Pierce led Boston with 26 points while Kevin Garnett had 18 and Ray Allen, 12.
Orlando 106 Atlanta 102
While the Hawks are off to their best start in years, the Magic had no intention of losing this game, not even after surrendering a 21-point lead in the third quarter and then going scoreless for over five minutes in the fourth. Orlando defeated the Hawks 106-102 behind Dwight Howard’s 23-point, 19-rebound performance, and escaped a push from the Hawks that saw them get to within two in the final minutes. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis each scored 20 points for the Magic. Josh Smith led Atlanta with 21 points and 9 rebounds while Mike Bibby had 17 points, but missed a crucial lay up in the final minutes of the game. Marvin Williams scored 16 points and Flip Murray added 14 off of the bench in the loss.
Indiana 113 Phoenix 110
While the Pacers led early, this one was a battle late, with Danny Granger hitting the shot of his life to win the game for Indiana, taking down Phoenix 113-110 at the buzzer. Despite holding a lead throughout the first half and going up by as many as 16, the Pacers found themselves defenseless against a potent Suns offense in the fourth quarter as Steve Nash continuously set up Leandro Barbosa for three-pointers. Barbosa’s sixth three on the night gave the Suns a 110-108 lead before the Pacers would tie the game up on a jumper from Granger with 34 seconds remaining. After the Suns failed to score on their final possession, the Pacers got the ball back with .9 seconds on the clock. Mike Dunleavy (in his first game back this season), inbounded to Granger who found himself free at the three-point line and drilled a basket as the buzzer sounded. It was a night that saw Granger tie a career-high 37 points while Stephen Graham added 13 points and Dunleavy scored 14 off of the bench. Barbosa and Grant Hill each scored 18 points for the Suns as Amare Stoudemire had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Steve Nash scored 16 points to go with 12 assists.
Raptors 99 Washington 93
Amid all of the trade talk and rumors, Andrea Bargnani is quietly putting together a strong stretch of games in the absence of Jermaine O’Neal and Jose Calderon. Last night, that included a line of 25 points on 8-9 shooting, as he led the Raptors to a 99-93 victory over the Washington Wizards. While Toronto would jump out to a 27-16 lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 21 points, the Wizards came back and cut the deficit to only five in the fourth, but it just wasn’t enough. Besides Bargnani’s big night, Chris Bosh finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists while Anthony Parker had 15 points on a night that the Raptors were down to nine players. Antawn Jamison did his best to lead the Wizards, pouring in 32 points, but he didn’t get enough help as Caron Butler was held to 15 points on 6-18 field goals.
Denver 106 Miami 97
Despite being without Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets pulled together and found a way to win. They are going to have to get used to doing this in the next few weeks as Melo’s fractured hand will keep him on the sidelines for awhile . The Heat are going to have to learn how to take advantage of teams when they are down. In this one, the trio of Chauncey Billups, JR smith and Linas Kleiza each contributed 21 points, offsetting the 31-point performance by Dwyane Wade. While the Nuggets never trailed in the game, they led by as many as 13 points before the Heat trimmed the lead down to three in the third. A 10-2 run from the Nuggets saw them leading by 11 at the start of the fourth and from there they were able to roll to the W. Shawn Marion had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat while rookies Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley each added 12 points apiece.
Portland 85 Detroit 83
What a game this one was. The Blazers without BRoy and the Pistons minus Sheed and Rip and still this was a fun one to watch. Close throughout, the fourth quarter of this one was a seesaw as each team traded baskets with it appearing as though the Pistons may take the game after a dunk from Kwame Brown of all people, with 1:19 remaining to put the Pistons up 83-80. Travis Outlaw reminded us that things are not always as they appear when he knocked down back to back shots to give the Blazers the win, his last jumper coming with eight seconds remaining in the game. Outlaw finished with 14 points off of the bench as LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and Steve Blake had a 10-point, 10-assist double-double. Tayshaun Prince had 26 for the Pistons while Iverson scored 14 points to go with 7 assists and Rodney Stuckey added 13 of his own to go with his 7 assists.