by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Nets (33-30) 96, Heat (44-18) 95
If the Heat and Nets end up facing off in the Playoffs, we’d be in for one hell of a series. Brooklyn fended off the Heat, pulling out a win against the champs to move to 3-0 against Miami this season. This one went down to the final seconds. After Chris Bosh (24 points, 7 rebounds) moved the Heat within one with an and-one layup, his inbounds pass to LeBron James (19 points, 7 assists, 5 turnovers) on the Heat’s final possession was tipped away by Shaun Livingston, bouncing until the clock expired.
Paul Pierce stepped up his game, as he’s known to do when going against LeBron and the Heat, popping off for 29 points, including 17 in a third-quarter explosion. The Nets were outshot by Miami, 48.5 to 43.6 percent, but made up for it from deep. Mirza Teletovic was a factor, hiting 3-5 from 3-point range for 17 points as the Nets hit 12-29 from 3. For Miami, Dwyane Wade had 22 points (8-11 shooting), but cost the Heat precious seconds by dribbling out the rebound that secured their final possession instead of calling timeout.
Nuggets (28-36) 120, Magic (19-47) 112
Denver sprinted to a road win over the Magic, riding a big night from Kenneth Faried. The Manimal put up 26 points and pulled down 9 boards while hitting 11-18 from the floor. He got some help from Wilson Chandler, who had a double double with 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Nugs, who snapped a two-game slide. Denver got up and down the floor, hitting 51 percent and dropping in 10-22 from long range.
The Magic got 24 points from Arron Afflalo and 20 points and 16 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic in their fourth straight loss.
Kings (23-42) 115, 76ers (15-49) 98
Sacramento had no problem in Philadelphia, blowing out the 76ers as they trudge toward the longest losing streak in NBA history. Rudy Gay put up 27 points on just 12 shots (how’s that for efficiency?) while DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 27 minutes. The Kings marched to the line 50 times, hitting 80 percent.
Game by game, the Sixers are getting closer to the 2011 Cavaliers’ all-time worst losing streak, which reached 26 games. Philly has dropped 18 straight and have sunk within 2 games of Milwaukee for the worst record in the Association. The upcoming schedule isn’t friendly, as they face seven Playoff teams in the next eight games. Henry Sims was the best player on the floor for the Sixers, putting up 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Raptors (36-27) 101, Pistons (25-40) 87
Toronto put a hurting on the Pistons, getting a blowout win at home and winning for the 10th time in their last 13 games. The Raptors got a steady effort from DeMar DeRozan, as the All Star put in 25 points, while Amir Johnson had 20 points and 9 boards against the team he started his career with. Kyle Lowry had 19 points (6-13 shooting) and 6 assists for Toronto, winners of four of their last five.
Brandon Jennings was unusually efficient for Detroit, scoring 24 points on 10-15 shooting. Unfortunately, Josh Smith did not follow his point guard’s lead, shooting 5-17 en route to 13 points. Andre Drummond had 16 and 9 rebounds while Greg Monroe registered 13 and 10.
Bobcats (31-34) 98, Wizards (33-1) 85
The surging Bobcats pulled away from the Wizards down the stretch, powered as usual by Al Jefferson’s left-block excellence. Big Al finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds for the ‘Cats, who are 6-4 over their last 10 games. Kemba Walker pitched in 16 points, including a spree of free throws as Charlotte pulled away. Gerald Henderson was back on the floor after a five-game absence and hit 6-9 from the field for 13 points.
John Wall had 23 points on 10-19 shooting, knocking down 3-5 from 3-point range, but went scoreless in the fourth quarter as Washington faded. The Wizards hit their first three shots of the quarter, but went 5-15 the rest of the way. Bradley Beal kicked in 18 points.
Knicks (26-40) 116, Celtics (22-43) 92
The Knicks don’t have much of a shot at the Playoffs, but after beating the Celtics, New York is on a five-game winning streak that gives their fans hope and has apparently convinced Phil Jackson to come aboard to help clean up their mess. Carmelo Anthony had 34 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Knicks, who moved with 3 games of the 8-seed, while Tim Hardaway Jr. came off the bench to score 22. New York got the win despite having its starting front court on the bench, as both Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire missed this one. It was no matter, as the Knicks shot 52 percent and hit 11-19 from long range.
The Celtics were led by Jeff Green’s 27 points. They played without Rajon Rondo, resting on the second night of a back-to-back set. Kris Humphries had 15 points and the block of the night with a rejection of Hardaway.
Grizzlies (38-26) 90, Pelicans (26-38) 88
Mike Conley (16 points) capped off a big Memphis comeback, lofting up a floater that splashed in with 1.5 seconds left to give the Grizzlies the win. Memphis stormed back with a 9-0 run over the final three and a half minutes of the game, shrugging off a 43 percent shooting night to get their fourth straight W. Marc Gasol put up 15 for the Grizz, while Zach Randolph and Tony Allen both scored 13.
(GIF via SBNation)
Anthony Davis did what he could to carry the Pellies, finishing with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks. The Pelicans missed their final six shots and committed 2 of their 15 turnovers down the stretch.
Mavericks (39-27) 108, Jazz (22-43) 101
On a night where he passed John Havlicek on the all-time scoring list, Dirk Nowitzki carried the Mavericks to a win over Utah. Dirk was lights out, scoring 31 points on 12-14 shooting to move past Hondo and into 12th in career points. He hit two big-time triples in the fourth quarter, one to break and 88-all tie to put the Mavs ahead for good and another to end any hope of a Jazz comeback with under two minutes to go. Monta Ellis netted 16 for Dallas in support of the big German.
Trey Burke had 20 points and 6 assists for the Jazz, while Enes Kanter went for 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Utah hung in, but eventually succumbed to the Mavs’ hot hands, as they allowed 53 percent shooting on the night.
Spurs (48-16) 103, Trail Blazers (42-23) 90
The rolling Spurs dealt Portland another L, dispatching them with relative ease in San Antonio. The Spurs have now won eight straight, quietly ascending to the top of the West as they get healthy for the first time all season. Patty Mills led a balanced scoring effort, netting 15 points in just 17 minutes off the bench, Manu Ginobili hit for 13 and Tim Duncan (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Tiago Splitter (12 and 10) both notched double doubles. San Antonio was hot from 3, knocking down 11-24, including 4-7 from Danny Green (14 points).
The Blazers are in a bad spot right now, having dropped four straight games as the Playoff race heats up. Even worse, they lost LaMarcus Aldridge in the second half when the big man landed hard on his lower back. Damian Lillard scored 23 to keep Portland afloat, but got little help as the team shot 39 percent and hit just 4-21 from 3.
Cavaliers (25-40) 110, Suns (36-28) 101
Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers dashed the chances of a happy return for Eric Bledsoe, as Irving slashed his way to 12 points in the fourth quarter to lead Cleveland to a win. Irving finished with a game-high 23, getting some help from Spencer Hawes (19 points) and Luol Deng (18 points, 9 rebounds). The Cavs led from end to end, but the Suns cut a double-digit margin down to just five points to start the fourth before Irving exploded with an assortment of long jumpers and drives to the hole.
Bledsoe was uneven in his return from knee surgery after having missed 33 games. He posted 15 points and 9 assists, but shot just 5-16. Goran Dragic led the Suns with 20 points, while Markieff Morris (18 points, 10 rebounds) had a double double off the bench. After spending all season in the thick of the Playoff race, Phoenix has dropped three straight and has fallen 2 games behind Dallas for the 8-seed.
Clippers (46-20) 111, Warriors (41-25) 98
The Clippers are forcing their way into the “best team in the West” conversation, picking up their ninth straight win as they streaked away from Golden State in the second half. Blake Griffin, as he’s done much of the season, led the Clippers with 30 points and 15 rebounds, putting the exclamation point on the win with a nasty put-back dunk off a missed 3. Danny Granger showed what he can add to this contender, putting up 18 points in 24 minutes off the bench. Chris Paul approached a triple double, finishing with 16 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds and DeAndre Jordan had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 6 rejections.
If the standings hold, these teams will meet in the first round in what promises to be a heated 7-game\ battle. They split the regular season series, with both teams holding home court. Klay Thompson scored 24 points to lead the Dubs, while Stephen Curry had 13 points and 11 assists.