Post Up: Still Fly
Big nights for veterans Pierce and Nash, plus OKC overcomes 48 points from Monta Ellis.
by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
A six-pack of games to get to, including big moments for two of the L’s aging superstars, monster games for Monta Ellis and David Lee in a GSW loss, and more drama in Minnesota. Let’s hit it!
Danny Granger scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Pacers to the win and a 17-7 season record despite blowing a 21-point lead earlier in the game. Darren Collison added a game-high 25 points, plus 5 assists, Roy Hibbert had 17 and 10, and Indiana turned the ball over just 8 times. The Pacers were up 11 at halftime and jumped out to an even bigger lead after a big run to start the third quarter, but the Jazz stormed all the way back to take a fourth-quarter lead. Apparently that was enough to wake up the Pacers (or at least Granger), who still have yet to lose two straight games this season. Six Utah players scored in double figures, including 18 (plus 10 boards) from Paul Millsap and 16 and 8 from Al Jefferson, as the Jazz fell to 13-11 on the year—they’ve won just two road games all year, and host OKC on Friday.
Normally, you wouldn’t even blink at a 15-point, 9-assist, 8-rebound game from Paul Pierce, helping the Celtics improve to 14-10. But on this night, Pierce stepped into Boston history, passing Larry Bird for second all-time among Celtics career scoring leaders. He now sits at 21,797—6 points ahead of Bird and just under 5,000 shy of the No. 1 man, John Havlicek. Pierce shot just 2-10 from three-point range, but finally got one to go in the third quarter to move past Bird, drawing an ovation from the home crowd. The fans in attendance probably also appreciated the Celtics’ fifth straight win (their longest win streak this season), in which the team shot 51 percent from the field and had 31 assists to Charlotte’s 19. Sure, the Bobcats are one of the L’s sorriest squads (now 3-22), but it was all about The Truth last night. And to celebrate, buddies Rajon Rondo (10 points, 14 assists) and Kevin Garnett (game-high 22 points) had big games, too. Some fleeting positive notes on the ‘Cats: Reggie Williams has now scored 21 points in each of his first two starts this year, and Derrick Brown was 10-10 from the field for 20 points in 28 bench minutes.
Sources tell me these two teams will be forever linked. And that MIA likes to lay the beatdown when they match up. How’s this? Dwyane Wade: 26/4/6. LeBron James: 24/5/6. The Heat outscored the Cavs in every quarter aside from the third (24-24) en route to win No. 19 on the year. The Cavaliers opened the second half on an 18-9 run to take a 66-63 lead, then after Miami took the lead again, Clevaland pulled to within 1 point later in the third quarter, but made only 2 of their next 19 shots and took the L. Cleveland shot 39 percent from the field and turned the ball over 17 times, including 5 from Kyrie Irving, who scored 16 points but shot just 5-15. Antawn Jamison led the Cavs in scoring with 25 points, and Anderson Varejao had an 11×11 double-double. Miami now sits just a game behind Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings, having won 11 of their last 13. Hey, Happy 39th Birthday Juwan Howard!
The final two points of Steve Nash’s 18-point, 11-assist performance came on a driving layup banked in off the glass with 5 seconds to play, putting the Suns in front for good on his 38th birthday. Phoenix held the Bucks without a shot attempt in the final seconds (kudos to Stephen Jackson for holding the rock ’til the buzzer) and picked up the W to move to 11-14 on the year. It was also a homecoming of sorts for Michael Redd, who scored 14 points off the bench in the city where he once played. Brandon Jennings had a, well, weird game. He scored just 3 points (1-4 shooting)—and they came on a game-tying triple with 3 minutes to play in the game. But Milwaukee couldn’t stop Nash down the stretch, and the Bucks lost their third straight game (10-14) despite a season-high 25 points from Drew Gooden and and 17 and 12 off the bench from Ersan Ilyasova. Every Phoenix starter scored in double figures, but Marcin Gortat couldn’t quite get that double-double we’re so accustomed to seeing from him (21 points, 9 boards). C’mon, Mar-chine!
Derrick Williams hit a 3-pointer with just under a minute left to play, and Donte Greene missed a jumper at the horn as the Wolves won and got to a game over .500 (13-12) despite being without the services of Kevin Love, serving the first game of his stomping suspension. With KLove sidelined, Nikola Pekovic picked up the big man minutes for Minnesota. And he delivered with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. Don’t know who Nikola Pekovic is? Not to worry, here’s some photographic guidance. Pekovic was fiery, and was smart enough to follow Ricky Rubio around the court, leading to easy buckets like this on the break. Rubio, for his part, finished with 14 assists and 5 steals, plus 6 points in 37 minutes. Williams finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, and Mike Beasley chipped in 17 and 14 as a reserve. The Kings, meanwhile, shot just 39 percent from the field as a team, a percentage not helped by Tyreke Evans’ 5-13 shooting (11 points) and DeMarcus Cousins’ 3-13 night (10 points, 11 rebounds). And their final possession was a scrambling scrum at best, ending in Greene’s heave—SacTown is now 9-16.
When a guy on your team drops 48 points, and another guy on your team has a triple-double, you probably shouldn’t lose that game. The Warriors did not get this message, it seems. Player A was Monta Ellis (18-29 shooting), Player B was David Lee (25 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), and Golden State shot 55 percent from the floor. And yet, Kevin Durant’s bank shot J with 14.2 seconds left in the game put the Thunder up by 1, clinching a monster win for OKC in the face of two of the year’s best performances. Ellis was unstoppable for most of the first half (he finished with 30 before the break), but KD and Russell Westbrook turned in big-time performances of their own and looked calm in the clutch moments, pushing the Thunder to 20-5 on the year. Durant finished with 33 points, 10 boards and 7 assists, while RW racked up 31 points and 7 dimes for OKC, which also shot the ball red-hot (52 percent). Monta and Brandon Rush each missed threes that would have tied or won the game in the waning moments, and the Thunder won their second straight close game after an OT win over Portland in their previous tilt.
Line of the Night: Monta Ellis scored 48 points and David Lee had a triple-double (25/11/10). Somehow, the Warriors found a way to lose despite those two performances. In that vain, perhaps Golden State’s most impressive line was Andris Biedrins, who started, played only 14 minutes, picked up 5 personal fouls and had 1 steal. And no other statistics whatsoever. Thanks for playing, Andris!
Moment of the Night: Steve Nash buries the game-winner on his 38th birthday. It’s worth saying again: the dude is 38 years old. And still doin’ it.
Dunk of the Night: Wesley Johnson’s lucky alley-oop. Does Rubio get credit on the assist?
Record of the Night: Seems like we get one every night these days. This time, Paul Pierce passes Larry Bird on the Celtics’ all-time scoring list. Pretty crazy if you think about it. Oh, and someone I know wrote a pretty nice feature on Paul in SLAM 155…
Tonight: The Linsanity comes to DC for a re-match with John Wall and the Wizards (on NBATV at 7), part of an 11-game schedule on Wednesday. The best of the rest includes Heat-Magic, Spurs-Sixers, Pacers-Hawks, Mavs-Nuggets and Rockets-Blazers. Whew, that’s a lot to look out for. Pray for me to get some sleep!