Hornets 100 (4-9), Magic 105 (6-8)
The Hornets continued to struggle holding large leads Friday night, failing to close this one out after having a 23-point lead midway through the third quarter. The Magic, though, climbed their way out of that hole thanks to strong performances from Evan Fournier (21 points, 7-12 from the field), who returned from from his left heel injury. Elfrid Payton (16 points, 5 assists) showed great maturity again and Willie Green (9 points, 5 rebounds) provided a huge spark in the final 12 minutes, in which he scored all his points. The duo of Tobias Harris (17 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 10 rebounds) seems to be coming together quite nicely, as this team has found success when these two find their rhythm. The Hornets simply go through too many lulls without any scoring, even with Al Jefferson (24 points, 11 rebounds) being the source of their offense down low. In Friday’s loss, the defense became the issue as Orlando outscored Charlotte 41-21 in the fourth quarter. The Hornets have now lost a season-high four straight games and six of the last seven.
Suns 122 (8-5), 76ers 96 (0-12)
Nothing unexpected in this one. The Sixers actually led 27-26 at the end of the first quarter behind balanced scoring. However, the Suns used a 33-8 blitz over the span of nine minutes in the second quarter to take command for good. The Sixers came into the league shooting a League-worse 40.2 percent from the field and actually shot 46.2 percent Friday night. However, they struggled at the line, shooting 20-33 (60.6 percent) while the Suns shot 21-23 (91.3 percent). Phoenix brought balanced scoring the entire night, as Isaiah Thomas (23 points, 8 assists, 3 steals) led eight Suns who were in double figures. If the Sixers lose four more in a row, they will top the 1972-73 Philadelphia team that went 0-15 for the worst start in team history. That season, the Sixers went 9-73–the worst record in NBA history.
Hawks 99 (6-5), Pistons 89 (3-10)
Jeff Teague (28 points, 6 assists, +26) has been playing some of the best basketball of his career this season, and Friday night was no exception. The Hawks point guard did it on both ends of the floor, being the catalyst that helped Atlanta hand Detroit its fourth straight loss and tenth of the season. Andre Drummond (13 points, 16 rebounds) notched a double-double while Josh Smith (16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 8-19 from the field) faced off against his former team and continued taking bad shots as he has been doing all season. J-Smoove is currently shooting 37.4 percent from the field and 19.0 percent on 3-pointers. The Hawks got back starting forward DeMarre Carroll (10 points, 7 rebounds) after he had missed the previous four due to a strained groin. He brought his usual strong wing defense. After trailing by 19 earlier in the game, the Pistons cut the deficit to 84-80 with 5:37 to go after Drummond (surprisingly) made two free throws. The Hawks, though, used a quick 10-4 run to put this game away and move back above .500.
Raptors 124 (10-2), Bucks 83 (7-6)
The Bucks came into this game seeking a third straight road win for the first time in two years, but the Raptors quickly showed the difference between a hot team and elite team. Behind strong guard play from Kyle Lowry (20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) and Lou Williams (22 points, 5-7 on 3-pointers) along with a double-double from Jonas Valanciunas (18 points, 12 rebounds), the Raptors exploded out to a 116-64 midway through the fourth quarter as everything was clicking offensively. They shot 52.3 percent from the field while the Bucks only shot 36.5 percent. This Toronto team seems to have the identity, drive and leadership necessary to compete for a championship. Even with Milwaukee’s potential, Jabari Parker (15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) and his teammates are still very young and bound to occasionally have these no shows through the regular season.
Grizzlies 117 (11-2), Celtics 100 (4-7)
The Grizzlies seem to be fighting through their team-wide stomach virus as only Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter sat out Friday’s game. They didn’t have many problems putting away the Celtics due to Marc Gasol (career-high 32 points, 8 rebounds) showing superior low-post play all night long. When Gasol is this prolific on the offensive end of the court, Zach Randolph (16 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists) is gobbling up rebounds and Jon Leuer (season-high 19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) comes out of nowhere with his scoring, there’s not much the opponent can do. Memphis pounded the ball down low, outscoring Boston 66-38 in the paint. Kelly Okynyk (18 points, 6 rebounds) led the Celtics in scoring as Rajon Rondo (4 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds) had one of his worst performances of the season. Memphis has yet to lose a regular season home game since this past February.
Spurs 121 (8-4), Timberwolves 92 (3-8)
Tony Parker (28 points, 5 assists, 12-18 from the field) quickly put up his game-high and efficient 28 points in only 25 minutes against a severely shorthanded Timberwolves team. The bright spot for Minnesota had to be Anthony Bennett (20 points, 3 steals), who easily set a career high in points and remained active during his 32 minutes. He just didn’t have enough healthy teammates, as the Timberwolves were without Kevin Martin (wrist), Rubio (ankle), Pekovic (wrist), Young (mother’s death) and Ronny Turiaf (hip). The Spurs were without Tiago Splitter (calf), Marco Belinelli (groin), Matt Bonner (illness) and Patty Mills (shoulder), but they clearly have a solidified system and received nice contributions from young big men Aron Baynes (12 points, 9 rebounds) and Austin Daye (13 points, 11 rebounds). The Spurs had a 26-16 advantage in terms of assists and outrebounded the Wolves 53-34.
Nets 94 (5-7), Thunder 92 (3-11)
The rare close game on the night turned out to be yet another loss for the Thunder, despite a big game from Reggie Jackson (21 points, 8 assists). The young guard, though, couldn’t sink a potential game-winning deep ball at the buzzer, showing his disappointment in the locker room after the game. Jackson also couldn’t contain the Nets two veteran point guards in Deron Williams (17 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds) and Jarrett Jack (23 points, 5 assists). These two hit some tough shots and sank some crucial free throws in the closing quarter when the Nets turned a three-point deficit to start into a two-point win. Serge Ibaka (16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) earned another double-double but struggled covering Mirza Teletovic (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Brook Lopez (16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks). Brooklyn was great at the line, shooting 27-30 (90 percent). The Nets now have to travel to play the Spurs in San Antonio Saturday night.
Wizards 91 (8-3), Cavaliers 78 (5-6)
LeBron James (22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) is simply not defending this season with the same attention to detail that has made him a superior defender. Friday night, there were times when James didn’t get back and forced a 4-on-5 for his teammates. On top of this, Kevin Love (8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 turnovers) didn’t reach double-digits in points or rebounds, which seems unheard of for the power forward. And Kyrie Irving (22 points, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 0-6 on 3-pointers) could not find his touch from deep, while John Wall (28 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) torched the Team USA point guard in the third quarter when Washington took this game over. Paul Pierce (9 points, 5 rebounds) played fantastic defense on LeBron, keeping him to 1-8 shooting and three points when guarding him. Thanks to 23 strong minutes from Kevin Seraphin (12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks), the Wizards bench player helped his team outscore the Cavaliers 50-34 in the paint. Cleveland only managed 13 total assists in the game. James is now under .500 more than 10 games into a season for the first time in six years. Now they have to host one of the East’s elite teams, the Raptors, Saturday night.
Mavericks 140 (10-3), Lakers 106 (3-10)
At first glance, this final score seems unfathomable. Then when it’s established that this was the League’s best offense going up against the League’s worst defense, it all makes sense. Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, 8-10 from the field), Tyson Chandler (5 points, 4 rebounds) and the rest of the starters received some valuable rest as no one played more than 29 minutes. Monta Ellis (20 points, 10 assists, 3-4 on 3-pointers) sparked another big run for the Mavs, this time in the third quarter when Dallas extended a five-point lead to a 38-point spread as they poured in 42 points–a season-high for any quarter. This is the fifth time on the year that Dallas has held a 30+ point lead. Eight Mavericks finished in double-figures, and as a team, they had 37 assists. Kobe Bryant (17 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 6-22 from the field) had another rough shooting night while Jordan Hill (16 points, 10 rebounds) picked up his fifth consecutive double-double. However, not a single Lakers player gave the Mavs any sort of resistance, allowing them to shoot 62.2 percent from the field and 51.4 percent on 3-pointers. The 18 treys Dallas knocked down is tied for a franchise record. To give a perfect example of this team’s depth, this was the first time on the year that Nowitzki, Ellis and Chandler Parsons (21 points) all reached 20 points in the same game. That’s simply because this team has so many weapons and players step up from night to night. Winners of six straight, the Mavs tied their American Airlines record for points in a game. The last time they reached 140 points was on April 5, 2009 against the Phoenix Suns. NBA TV has a big-time Texas showdown Saturday night as Dallas travels south to play Chandler Parsons’ former team–the Houston Rockets.
Nuggets 117 (5-7), Pelicans 97 (6-5)
Both of these teams came into this game winners of three of their last four as the Pelicans were averaging 111.8 points during that stretch. With Anthony Davis (18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 7-17 from the field) coming back down to earth and Ryan Anderson (10 points, 2-11 from the field, 0-5 on 3-pointers) losing his touch for the night, the Nuggets held the Pelicans to 39.7 percent from the field as they shot 52.4 percent. The Pelicans also came into this game leading the League with 49.8 points in the paint per game. But thanks to some big games from Kenneth Faried (19 points, 8 rebounds) and JaVale McGee (14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6-6 from the field, 18 minutes), the Nuggets outscored them down low 52-32. Denver won the four quarters by 5, 5, 3 and 7–incrementally building their lead into a 20-point victory. Arron Afflalo (19 points), Danilo Gallinari (17 points, 3-4 on 3-pointers) and Wilson Chandler (18 points, 3-4 on 3-pointers) also played their part, showing that this Nuggets team might not be as bad as we though five games ago.
Warriors 101 (9-2), Jazz 88 (5-8)
The Warriors had won three straight games before taking four days off prior to Friday’s game against the Jazz. Their fresh legs certainly showed as Andre Iguodala (17 points, 7-8 from the field) and the Warriors built up a 30-point lead before the final quarter even began. Stephen Curry (8 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds) didn’t light it up offensively but got his teammates involved–especially Mareese Speights (14 points, 16 minutes). The big guy has been playing really well of late and reached double-digits in four of his last five games. Harrison Barnes (14 points, 11 rebounds) added his first double-double of the season. Utah’s frontline of Enes Kanter (18 points, 8-10 from the field), Derrick Favors (10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks), Gordon Hayward (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Rudy Gobert (career-high 12 points, 2 blocks, 6-7 from the field) pulled their weight but had too much on their shoulders against a hot Warriors team.
Blazers 105 (9-3), Bulls 87 (8-5)
If it was bad enough being without Derrick Rose (hamstring) and Pau Gasol (calf), Kirk Hinrich (chest contusion) wasn’t able to suit up for Friday’s game. The absence of Chicago’s top two point guards might have given Damian Lillard (21 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds) the green light to take this game over before it got out of hand. In the first quarter, Lillard acted as the distributor and dished out seven assists in the first 12 minutes. During the second quarter, Portland’s point guard scored 10 of his 21 points, helping the Blazers build a 61-43 lead. While the Bulls lost another player, the Blazers regained Nicolas Batum (9 points, 3 rebounds) as he returned from a bruised right knee. It could be getting worse for the Bulls since Taj Gibson (7 points, 5 rebounds) had to leave the game in the third quarter after awkwardly twisting his ankle on Wesley Matthews’ (12 points, 4 assists) foot. The silver lining for Chicago had to be Nikola Mirotic (career-high 24 points, career-high 11 rebounds, 4-7 on 3-pointers), who gave Bulls fans a glimpse of what he could grow into. With the win, the Blazers have now won six straight and remain tied with the Mavericks for the longest current streak in the League. Those two teams don’t play each other again until February 7.