Post Up: Nuggetron
Denver powers past Lob City, plus the MVP at MSG and four other Thursday night games.
by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
A half-dozen games to look at from last night, and some goodies to break down. Last Post Up of the work week before we hit Super Bowl weekend. Let’s go not-Giants!
So much for first place in the Southeast Division, Atlanta. Rudy Gay scored 21 points as the Grizzlies dismantled the Hawks, leading by as many as 30 en route to snapping a six-year losing streak in Atlanta’s home arena. Memphis was up by 10 at halftime, thanks to a big run late in the half, and got 13 steals on the night—4 from Mike Conley, who entered the night No. 2 in the NBA in swipes per game. After a 4-1 road trip, the Hawks suffered just their second home loss on the year (16-7 overall) after getting to the free throw line only 9 times. Atlanta was “led” by 11 points from Josh Smith (two on a beautiful flush) and 10 from Joe Johnson, while Ivan Johnson chipped in 10 points and 9 boards off the bench. The Grizz, now 12-10, scored 58 points in the paint, which is the most ATL’s given up this season. Most of that production came via Gay, Marc Gasol (11 points, 10 rebounds), Tony Allen and OJ Mayo (18 points each). And shouts out to Dante Cunningham, my fellow Silver Spring, MD native, who racked up 8 points, 12 boards and 3 assists in limited minutes. Word up!
The Knicks trailed by 3 with 13 seconds to play, and Amar’e Stoudemire got a clean look at a top-of-the-key three-pointer, but it rimmed out. Somehow, Derrick Rose missed a free throw on the other hand, leaving Carmelo Anthony with one last chance at a game-tying heave, which fell short. Rose scored 32 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter—seemingly answering every time the Knicks began to make a surge, often in spectacular fashion—and added 13 assists to lead the East-leading Bulls to their NBA-best 19th win of the season. Melo, meanwhile, had 26 points but only 4 in the final period, and the Knicks allowed Chicago to shoot 53 percent from the field. The free throw disparity also sunk New York in this one, as they shot just 10-of-14 from the line to Chicago’s 21-of-29 at the charity stripe. The only Knick who could hit anything in the first half was Amar’e, who scored 18 of his game-high 34 points before halftime, while his teammates only made 9 of 24 first-half field goal attempts. Toney Douglas’ six-point contribution was the only bench scoring for the Knicks (8-14), who turned the ball over 5 times in a 3-minute stretch to end the first half that brought on the boo birds.
One night after scoring 25 points to lead the Spurs to a win over the Rockets, Tim Duncan came back with 19 and San Antonio got another W, this time against the West’s worst team, New Orleans. The Hornets hung tough for the first three quarters even with Jarrett Jack nursing an injury and Chris Kaman still sitting out until the Hornets can find a trading partner for his country butt, but could only score 13 points in the fourth quarter (when the Spurs got 22) and eventually couldn’t keep up with Duncan and the rest of Pop’s boys. Tony Parker had 18 points and 7 assists, Tiago Splitter chipped in 16 and the Spurs are now 12-1 at home. New Orleans starters Trevor Ariza and Jason Smith combined to shoot 4-of-21 from the field, while Carl Landry and Greivis Vazquez led the Hornets in scoring with 17 and 16 respectively. Thankfully for NOLA, their next game comes at Detroit on Saturday, the same day the Spurs face the juggernaut that is OKC. But hey, at least the Hornets’ loss provided one of my favorite post-game quotes so far this season, from head coach Monty Williams, who’s either extremely clever or accidentally hilarious: “We’ve had so many losses, they all sting.”
For a team considered by many to be one of the most dangerous in the West, Portland sure has trouble on the road. The Blazers are now 3-9 away from home, and have lost four straight road games (13-10 on the year). The Kings took advantage of bad second-half shooting from the Blazers and won despite 28 points and 14 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge—and despite turning the ball over with about 20 seconds left while clinging to a three-point lead. Luckily for Sacramento, the Blazers clanked a pair of threes in the final 10 seconds, ending with a 95-92 Kings win at the horn. Gerald Wallace played 40 minutes against (one of) his former team(s), but had just 8 points and 3 rebounds. SacTown beat Portland for just the second time in the teams’ last 14 meetings, as John Salmons scored 19, Tyreke Evans had 18 (but on 8-20 shooting) and Jason Thompson had a double-double (13×12).
Remember when Mark Jackson benched Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis for crunch time in their win over Sacramento on Tuesday? Yeah, he didn’t do that last night. Instead, they both played 38+ minutes, Ellis finishing with 33 points, while Curry had 29 and 12 assists. Throw in David Lee’s 23 and 14, and the Warriors were well on their way to an easy win over the Jazz, who were forced to start Jamaal Tinsley (and give him monster minutes) due to injuries. Okay, so Tinsley had 13 assists, including one ridiculous pass to Big Al Jefferson, but he shot 4-for-10 and the Jazz failed to keep up with Golden State. Utah was led in scoring by Gordon Hayward’s 21, while Jefferson and Josh Howard scored 19 each and Paul Millsap did his double-double thing with 15 and 11. But the W’s scored 40 points in a ridiculous third quarter and another 31 in the fourth—by my math that’s 71 (!) in the second half. Golden State is now 8-12, and while Nate Robinson shot 0-for-5 in 10 minutes, you should peep the Super Bowl predictions video he hosted, it’s pretty great.
Early on, it looked like the Clippers were ready to roll over the momentum from a big win against the Jazz on Wednesday night, as they outscored the Nuggets 32-19 in the first quarter and Blake Griffin got free for a tremendous throwdown. Unfortunately, that was the high point of the night for Lob City, because starting in the second quarter, Denver brought the heat. Second quarter: 35-19 Nuggs. Third quarter: 32-16 Nuggs. Those middle two quarters turned a close game into a joke, with Denver using—shocker alert—a balanced scoring attack and 8 guys playing 19+ minutes. Danilo Gallinari shot 5-for-5 from three-point range, and finished with 21 points to lead the Nuggets, who also got 18 from Ty Lawson and 15 fro Arron Afflalo. Blake Griffin had 18 points on 9-12 shooting and Chris Paul racked up 15 points and 9 dimes, but Chauncey Billups made only 2 of his 9 shots and the Clippers let Denver shoot 53 percent from the field and LAC was outrebounded 41-28. The Nuggs are No. 2 in the West behind OKC, the Clippers No. 3. Denver’s upcoming schedule is crazy hard though, with the Lakers, Blazers, Rockets and Mavs up next, while the Clips get Washington and Cleveland in two of their next three.
Line of the Night: Derrick Rose — 32 points, 13 assists in a win vs. NYK.
Tweet of the Night: A post-game gem from Tony Allen, who continues to be one of the L’s best tweeters.
Moment of the Night: It’s not a buzzer-beater or a record-breaker, and the Kings win was far from pretty, but you have to appreciate the hustle from rookie Isaiah Thomas, who stopped a Blazers’ 3-on-1 fast break all by his 5-9 self.
Dunk of the Night: Amar’e or JJ? Tony Allen? Write-in ballots also accepted.
Tonight: ESPN has Knicks-Celtics and Lakers-Nuggets, part of a 10-game slate in all. Pete will have you covered, which means I’m sure there will be at least 400 words on the Knickerbockers, win or lose. Thank god he doesn’t do Mondays, because there’s a certain football game on Sunday that Pete and a handful of other SLAM family brethren have a lot invested in. If the Giants prevail, don’t expect much from me. I might skip town if there’s a parade. Anyway, enjoy the days off, I know I will!