Post Up: Red Hot Rocket

by February 26, 2014

Houston Rockets 129 (39-18), Sacramento Kings 103 (20-37)

The Rockets outscored the Kings 42-17 in the first quarter and that was all it took to cruise to an easy victory.

James Harden had arguably his best game of the season, putting up 43 points and 8 assists while sitting out the entire fourth quarter with the outcome already decided. Dwight Howard briefly left the contest after hurting his knee, but returned and finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

DeMarcus Cousins completely lost his cool for the Kings, picking up his fifth personal foul in the third quarter and was later thrown out for yelling at referee Courtney Kirkland. The Kings were without guard Jimmer Fredette, who appears close to a buyout with the team.

Washington Wizards 115 (29-28), Orlando Magic 106 (17-42)

No Nene, no problem, at least against the underwhelming Magic. With Washington’s big man out, the rest of the starting unit stepped up. John Wall led the team with 27 points and 7 assists, and the Wizards starters combined for 94 of the team’s 115 points. In fact, four Wizards—Wall, Ariza, Gortat and Beal—scored at least 20.

Orlando stuck around thanks to solid games from Victor Oladipo (26 points) and Nikola Vucevic (19 points, 14 rebounds). The Magic have two more games left on their four-game road trip before returning home to face off against the 76ers on March 2.

Toronto Raptors 99 (32-25), Cleveland Cavaliers 93 (22-36)

Don’t look now, but the Raptors are seven games over .500 and quickly establishing themselves as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference’s admittedly sad race for the third seed. DeMar DeRozan poured in 33 points and Terrence Ross added 19, which was more than enough offense in a relatively low-scoring affair.

Kyrie Irving appeared to brush off reports of his unwillingness to stay in Cleveland long-term, as he went for 25 points and 9 assists.

The rest of the team, however, wasn’t of much assistance, partially because it was lacking its usual depth (Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters were both out with various injuries). After stringing together a six-game winning streak earlier this month, the Cavs have dropped three in a row.

Indiana Pacers 118 (43-13), Los Angeles Lakers 98 (19-38)

Just as they’ve done all season long, the Pacers used a dominant second half performance to slowly take their opponents out of the game. Indiana outscored the Lakers 34-16 in the third quarter, getting balanced scoring from all five starters. Paul George had 20-7-6, and with the game mostly in the bag, head coach Frank Vogel turned some minutes over to new acquisition Evan Turner (13 points and 6 rebounds).

Kent Bazemore got the start for Los Angeles and scored the ball well, finishing with 23 points. The undersized Lakers were no match for Indiana’s physicality though, getting outrebounded 62-42. Los Angeles is one game “ahead” of the Kings in the race for the worst record in the Western Conference.

Chicago Bulls 107 (30-26), Atlanta Hawks 103 (26-30)

Even though Derrick Rose is done for the year and Luol Deng is playing for Cleveland, the Bulls just keep on churning out wins. Chicago is now 6-1 in its past seven games and sits a season-high four games over .500.

Joakim Noah had 20 points and 12 rebounds, getting some help from Mike Dunleavy (22-8-4), who played all 48 minutes. No, that’s not a misprint – it was a result of Jimmy Butler sitting out with a rib injury.

Already down Al Horford, the Hawks were without the services of Paul Millsap as well. Atlanta trotted out a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Shelvin Mack, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll and Elton Brand, but managed to stay in the game until the closing seconds. The Hawks are trending in the opposite direction of the Bulls and are 1-9 in their last 10 games.

Portland Trail Blazers 100 (39-18), Denver Nuggets 95 (25-31)

The Nuggets continued their downward spiral in the Western Conference standings, falling to the Blazers—already sans LaMarcus Aldridge—at home. Since Jan. 17, Denver is just 5-13 overall. The Nuggets haven’t been able to fill the void of Ty Lawson, who remains out with a rib injury. The only player on the team to step up against Portland was former Trail Blazer J.J. Hickson, who had 16 points and a whopping 25 rebounds.

Damian Lillard led the charge for Portland with 31 points and 9 assists, and all five Blazers starters finished in double-figures. The team has won three straight contests and will look to make it four in a row against Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Minnesota Timberwolves 110 (28-29), Phoenix Suns 101 (33-23)

The Timberwolves completed a fourth-quarter comeback thanks to the outstanding play of Kevin Love, who narrowly missed a triple-double on the night (33-13-9). Corey Brewer chipped in with 18 points on 7-9 shooting and rookie Shabazz Muhammad had a career-high of 20.

Phoenix got a combined 35 points from Gerald Green and Goran Dragic (who fouled out of the game) along with 24 points off the bench from Markieff Morris. Still, the Suns had as many assists (19) as they did turnovers, and shot just 3-15 from beyond the arc.