Post Up: Close Encounters
Several games went down to the wire Monday with a jam-packed MLK Day NBA schedule.
With a full schedule of NBA games to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Pacers edged out the Grizzlies in a showdown of the best defenses, Joe Johnson helped the Nets put down the Knicks in the Battle of the Boroughs, and it seemed like every game came down to the fourth quarter.
The top two defensive teams in the League met up in Memphis on Monday afternoon for a true battle in the trenches. Each team has held their opponents to less than 90 points per game thus far this season.
Down the stretch, both teams came up with big buckets to keep the game close. Paul George, who ended the game one assist shy of a triple-double, put the Pacers up 81-79 after hitting a big three pointer with 1:42 left to go in the fourth quarter. George ended the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. Tony Allen grabbed a clutch rebound and found Zach Randolph for the tying basket with 10.5 seconds remaining. Allen finished the game with 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals shooting 3-of-8 from the floor. Randolph finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
George Hill, who had a game-high 8 turnovers, looked to redeem himself with 1.4 seconds to go in the game. He used his speed to get to the basket and draw the foul, but then he missed his first shot. Luckily, he was able to make the second basket, which put the Pacers up for good at 82-81.
The Grizzlies would have one last chance to pull out a win at home. Rudy Gay, who finished the game with 14 points and 8 rebounds, had a good look at the basket and buried the shot from the top of the key. But the replay showed that Gay had gotten it off about 0.5 seconds after the buzzer had already sounded, giving the Pacers their second win in a row and a secure lead in the Central Division.
Playing with the looming possibility of being relocated to Seattle, the Sacramento Kings (16-25) fell to the New Orleans Hornets (13-27) with Ryan Anderson leading the way with seven three-pointers.
After scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the first half, Hornets forward Anthony Davis sat out for the rest of the game after re-injuring the same left ankle that kept him out for 11 games in the beginning of the season.
DeMarcus Cousins had another big game, posting 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 assists. Isaiah Thomas added 20 points, 3 assists, and Tyreke Evans added 16 points but shot poorly from the field, connecting on only 5-of-12 attempts.
With 45 points coming off the bench, the Hornets were simply too much for the Kings. Anderson finished with 27 points and 6 rebounds, hitting five three pointers in the second quarter alone. Greivis Vasquez ended the game with 19 points, Eric Gordon notched 16, and Al-Farouq Aminu added 14.
The Hornets have won 3 of their last 4 games, while the Kings have dropped 2 of their last 3.
The Houston Rockets (21-21) snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating out the Charlotte Bobcats (10-30) in another close game, behind James Harden’s 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Kemba Walker made 6-of-7 from 3-point range and had a career-high 35 points to go along with 5 assists and 3 rebounds. Ramon Sessions added a spark off the bench with 19 points, 8 boards, and 5 assists. But Hakim Warrick was the only other Bobcat able to score in double-digits with 10 points.
The Bobcats notched their 15th straight loss at home, a franchise record. The Dallas Mavericks hold the record for the longest home losing streak with 19 straight losses, set during the ‘93-94 season.
The Rockets’ bench was the story of the game with 47 points. Marcus Morris scored 21 points and tallied 8 rebounds, Carlos Delfino notched 16 points, and Patrick Beverley put up 10. Harden has scored at least 20 points in 23 straight games, a career-high streak.
Houston couldn’t get going on offense early, falling behind by 12 against the Bobcats in the first half. But they stuck around enough for Harden to score 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter. Delfino, who’s averaging 16.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal in the last three games, hit a three pointer that put Houston ahead for good at 96-94 with 1:54 left.
The Minnesota Timberwolves (17-20) opened the game up strong against the Atlanta Hawks (22-18), who have lost 8 of their last 10 games, with a 31-18 advantage early on. That advantage would continue until the second half, when the Hawks finally woke up and proceeded to outscore the Timberwolves 60-38, shooting 74.2 percent from the field, and 77.8 percent from three-point range. Atlanta caught fire in the second half from downtown, hitting 7-of-9 in the final 24 minutes of the game.
Derrick Williams led Minnesota with 17 points, while J.J. Barea added 14 and seven assists off the bench. The Timberwolves, who dropped to 6-15 on the road, had only 10 available players with injuries sidelining Kevin Love (hand), Nikola Pekovic (thigh), and Alexey Shved (ankle). Andrei Kirilenko struggled throughout the game, scoring only 13 points on 3-for-8 shooting. He hit only 1-of-3 from three-point range.
Al Horford had a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds to help the Hawks snap a two-game losing streak. Off the bench, Kyle Korver scored 14 points, and Jannero Pargo, who was signed to a 10-day contract Monday morning, put in 16, with 14 coming in the fourth quarter.
The Brooklyn Nets (24-16) led for most of the game behind an all-around offensive performance from guard Joe Johnson. Johnson shot 8-for-20 from the field but it was his five bombs from downtown that helped the Nets take over in Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
By the fourth quarter, the Knicks (25-13) had fought their way back into the game. But Johnson was clutch down the stretch, hitting a fade away jumper over J.R. Smith to put the Nets up 85-84 with 22 seconds left to play. Then, Carmelo Anthony, who finished with a team-high 29 points, air-balled a six-foot jumper that would’ve given the Knicks an 86-85 lead.
Ahead 87-85, the Nets intentionally fouled Jason Kidd, who finished with 11 points and 6 steals. Kidd would make only one of the two free throws. Then on the next play, Deron Williams, who finished with 14 points, 12 assists, and 5 rebounds, was fouled and would also only hit one of two, leaving the Knicks an opportunity to tie the game and send it into overtime with 5 seconds left to play.
With the inbounds pass, Smith, who had 16 points off the bench, took the ball the length of the floor and launched up a last second three for the Knicks, but it clanked off the front of the rim, evening up the season series between the two clubs at 2-2.
In another game that came down to the wire, the Golden State Warriors (25-15) outscored the Los Angeles Clippers (32-10) 33-19 in the final quarter behind Stephen Curry’s game-high 28-points. Curry dropped 16 in the fourth quarter to lead the Warriors back from a slow start.
Blake Griffin led the way for the Clippers with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. But Chris Paul went 1-for-7 for a season-low four points in 33 minutes. Paul was playing in just his second game since returning from a bruised right knee injury.
Jarrett Jack had 18 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds off the bench. With this performance, Jack has three consecutive double-doubles. Klay Thompson added 18, and David Lee notched 12 points and 11 boards.
Lack of defense coming down the stretch allowed the Warriors to come back late. With Jack playing point guard in the fourth quarter for Golden State, their combo-guard, Stephen Curry was able to hit four three-pointers en route to the win.
The Warriors are 3-1 in their series against the Clippers this season and are the only team in the NBA to beat LA more than once this year.
The NBA’s slate of games for MLK Day was littered with games that came down to the fourth quarter. The Spurs-Sixers game was no different. In their 90-85 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers (17-24), Tim Duncan led the way for the San Antonio Spurs (33-11) with 24 points and 17 rebounds, while Tony Parker added 20 points and 8 assists.
Kawhi Leonard put up 16 points and Tiago Splitter had 10 points and 12 rebounds, posting a double-double for the Spurs, who improved to 33-11. Despite shooting 16.7 percent from three-point range, the Spurs were able to hang on and pull it out in the fourth quarter. Trailing 82-75 with 5:40 left, the Spurs turned it on and began playing more efficiently.
Evan Turner led the Sixers with 18 points and 12 rebounds while Spencer Hawes scored 16 points off the bench. Jrue Holiday had 15 points, Thaddeus Young put up 14, and Nick Young added 12 for the Sixers who fall to 17-24 overall and 11-10 at home.
With the win tonight, the Spurs have improved to 14-0 this year when they hold their opponents below 90 points.
Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli led the Chicago Bulls (24-16) to a 95-83 victory over the struggling Los Angeles Lakers (17-24). Hinrich paced the Bulls with 22 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Off the bench, Belinelli put up 15, while Nate Robinson added 11 points to go along with 3 steals.
The story of the game was the stingy Chicago defense. The Bulls held the Lakers to 17.6 percent shooting from downtown and 39.5 percent from the field overall. Kobe Bryant went 7-for-22 from the field and only tallied 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. Steve Nash contributed a team-high 18 points and 6 assists. Pau Gasol came off the bench to grab a team-high 12 rebounds, while fellow big-man Dwight Howard struggled offensively with only 8 points.
The Lakers continue their downward spiral and have now lost six straight on the road, and with this loss they’ve dropped 9 of their last 11 games.
In a thriller, the Washington Wizards (9-30) beat the Portland Trailblazers (20-21) on a game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer from Jordan Crawford that put the Wizards on top 98-95.
Nicolas Batum had 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double. Rookie Damian Lillard added 18 points and 5 assists on 7-for-17 shooting and all five starters for the Blazers scored in double-digits, but the Blazers couldn’t hold on and lost their 6th straight game.
Martell Webster and Nene led the Wizards with 24 points apiece. Nene also snagged 9 rebounds. Bradley Beal had an off night, scoring only 2 points in 25 minutes, on 1-for-7 shooting. Crawford came off the bench to add 13 points for Washington, including the game-winner.
Lillard threw down a dunk with 2:21 left to pull the Blazers to 91-90. Webster and John Wall answered with consecutive dunks, but Lillard added another layup and Wesley Matthews hit a 3-pointer to tie it with 7.9 seconds left, to setup Crawford for the show stopping finish.