by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Raptors 96 (39-30), Hawks 86 (31-37)
The Raptors were down by 11 points going into the 4th quarter before Kyle Lowry (25 points, 4 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (21 points) took over. These two combined to score 23 of the team’s 36 points in the 4th quarter…while the entire Hawks team only managed 15 total points. Lowry and DeRozan have really grown to feed off each other when their team needs them most. Atlanta has started getting in the bad habit of allowing team’s to take over in the final quarter. During the final 12 minutes, the Hawks only managed to shoot 27 percent from the field. Jonas Valanciunas (13 points, 13 rebounds) contributed a big double-double as his team outrebounded the Hawks 45-38. The Raptors retained the three seed in the East with the win. DeMarre Carroll (17 points, 5 steals) and Paul Millsap (17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) led the Hawks in scoring. Since returning from injury, Millsap has been playing well. In his last nine games, Millsap is averaging 19.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 3.4 apg. The Hawks, though, are now 11-25 on the road.
Suns 127 (41-29), Timberwolves 120 (34-34)
Markieff Morris (25 points, 8 rebounds) led a huge 22-point comeback for the Suns, who are now only half a game back of the eight spot in the West. This is the largest lead the Timberwolves have given up this season. For the 35 minutes he was on the floor, Eric Bledsoe (21 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, +28) seemed to be making all the right plays and positively impacting his team. Since Bledsoe’s return, the Suns have gone 5-2. Kevin Love (36 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists) had another eye-popping performance…in another losing effort. Kevin Martin (25 points) did his only job by simply scoring and not doing much else. The two Kevins combined to shoot 22-24 from the free throw line. Three minutes into the 2nd quarter, the Wolves took command of a 51-29 lead. Ricky Rubio (19 points, 9 assists, 3 steals) had scored 10 of his 19 points in the first 15 minutes, really forcing Phoenix to stretch its defense. The Suns, though, slowly crept back into the game, and after a P.J. Tucker (19 points, 8 rebounds) three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, they only trailed 73-62. The third quarter was a back-and-forth contest before the Suns took control in the final quarter. During the final 12 minutes, Jeff Hornacek went with a three-guard lineup that included Dragic, Bledsoe and Gerald Green (14 points), and Minnesota had no answer for the Suns’ quickness. These three scored 10 straight points midway through the 4th quarter to finish off a 14-3 run that gave Phoenix a 107-106 lead. The Suns would go on to knock down 14-16 free throws in the final 5:24 to pull out the win. One of the key reasons the Suns were able to climb out of the hole they put themselves in was their bench, which outscored the subpar Timberwolves bench 61-20. When the Wolves three bench players went in, the flow was messed up. When the Suns main four bench players checked in, the pace only heightened. This will be a key advantage if they can find a way into the playoffs.
Nuggets 105 (32-38), Wizards 102 (36-34)
The Nuggets didn’t have much of a presence down low but Kenneth Faried (20 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) made up for this absence. Fellow big man Darrell Arthur (15 points, 5 rebounds) didn’t have the same impact down low, but he was certainly feeling it from outside. Arthur knocked down a career-high three 3-pointers as the Nuggets shot 11-27 (40.7 percent) from deep Sunday night. Ty Lawson (9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals) continued to be the engine that makes this offense run while Aaron Brooks (13 points, 7 assists) didn’t let the pace miss a beat. They even worked together at times. Bradley Beal (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3-5 on 3-pointers) had the hot hand while Marcin Gortat (16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) had a double-double. Trevor Ariza (18 points, 6 rebounds) only managed to score 3 of his 18 points in the final three quarter while John Wall (15 points, 4 assists, 8 turnovers) didn’t take care of the ball. This impacted the entire team as Washington turned the ball over 24 times. The Wizards actually led 25-11 in the 1st quarter before letting Denver slowly crawl there way back into the game. Early on in the 4th quarter, the Nuggets used a 9-1 run to take hold of a lead they wouldn’t give up the rest of the way. They shot 6-6 on free throws in the final 12 seconds. The Nuggets, who were without J.J. Hickson (knee) and Wilson Chandler (hip), have now won five home games in a row.
Kings 124 (25-45), Bucks 107 (13-57)
It might have come against the team with the worst record in the NBA, but the Kings had their best win of the season Sunday night. The Kings big three consisting of Isaiah Thomas (30 points, 8 assists, 9-13 from the field), DeMarcus Cousins (32 points, 12 rebounds, 14-19 from the field) and Rudy Gay (24 points, 8 rebounds, 9-16 from the field) each reached 20 points for the 11th time this season. Cousins was making shots from down low and from midrange while Thomas dribbled wherever he wanted on the court. The Kings won wire-to-wire and built up an insurmountable lead early on. After the first 12 minutes of play, Sacramento was already winning 39-16. Milwaukee had no energy, outside of Ersan Ilyasova (14 points, 4-7 from the field, 23 minutes), at any point in the game. After Cousins scored his last bucket with 1:52 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Kings led 102-62. Due to garbage time, this game looks much closer than it actually was. O.J. Mayo (21 points, 9-14 from the field) led the Bucks in scoring while Brandon Knight (6 points, 7 assists, 2-12 from the field) really struggled during his time on the floor.
Nets 107 (37-31), Mavericks 104 (42-29) OT
For the first time since the 1999-00 season, the Nets completed the season sweep of the Mavs. Joe Johnson (22 points, 8-16 from the field) might sometimes be considered as overrated, but he came up big for the Nets again. Not only did Johnson knock down the game-tying layup that sent the game into overtime, then he made a 3-pointer followed by a tough fadeaway jumper in overtime to hold the lead. Since joining Brooklyn, Johnson is 12-14 (85.7 percent) on game-tying or winning shots. Marcus Thornton (20 points, 7 rebounds, 7-11 from the field, 24 minutes) played his role as the scoring punch off the bench. Early on, the Mavs were passing the ball and running all around the Nets. After Vince Carter (12 points, 10 rebounds) made a 3-pointer on the last play of the 1st quarter, the Mavs led 29-15. Midway through the 2nd quarter, though, Brooklyn was already back in the game. Up until overtime, Samuel Dalembert (12 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks) was having his best game of the year, making an impact down low on both ends of the floor. On two straight possessions late in regulation play, Dalembert crashed the offensive boards on a miss and caused Andray Blatche (5 points, 3 rebounds) to foul him and send him to the free throw line. Monta Ellis (game-high 32 points) was driving into the lane all night and made some big jumpers late. However, he missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer on the last play of the game. In the extra five minutes, the Mavs seemed to go away from what usually works—high screens set by Dirk Nowitzki (10 points, 8 rebounds, 2-12 from the field). The offensive became stagnant until Ellis made some late 3-pointers in the closing seconds. Jose Calderon was elbowed in the face by Miles Plumlee (5 points, 6 rebounds) early in the 1st quarter and didn’t return while Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) left in the 2nd quarter and didn’t return. With the Mavs loss, the Grizzlies have jumped into the seven seed in the West.
Cavaliers 106 (27-44), Knicks 100 (29-41)
The Knicks looked great during their recent eight-game winning streak, but they quickly turned back into the Knicks everyone has gotten to know in letting the Cavs take this one. With Jarrett Jack (season-high 31 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds) playing out of his mind, Cleveland came back from a 17-point deficit to keep New York from closing in on the eight seed. When the Knicks were fighting back late in the game after giving up their double-digit lead, Jack made five straight points for the Cavs, keeping the Knicks at bay. Raymond Felton (14 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds) has really been a hindrance defensively for New York. Carmelo Anthony (32 points, 8 rebounds, 12-12 on free throws) had a big game but had a bad offensive foul in the closing seconds. Dion Waiters (22 points) gave Jack some offensive support while Tyson Chandler (4 points, 6 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 35 minutes) seemed to be out of sync all night. After J.R. Smith (18 points) completed an alley-oop with 4:31 left in the 2nd quarter, the Knicks led 51-34. Cleveland, though, used a 9-0 run to start the 2nd half that got them right back in this game. During this stretch, Melo and Smith tried to play hero ball, with each missing a 3-pointer and each having a turnover. The Cavaliers finished the night shooting 60.9 percent from the field, getting any look they wanted for most of the 2nd half. In the final quarter, the Knicks only had one team assist. For the game, they only managed 24 points in the paint, compared to 40 for the Cavs. With Atlanta losing to Toronto, New York really missed a chance to inch closer to the eight seed. They’ll get their chance, though, in the next two games as they face the Lakers (23-46) Tuesday and the Kings (25-45) Wednesday.
Lakers 103 (23-46), Magic 94 (19-52)
Jordan Hill (career-high 28 points, 13 rebounds) had his first start in the past nine weeks and had a career night because of it. Hill has always had the energy and potential to become something much greater but has never seemed to take advantage when given the opportunity to get major minutes. He showed what his potential could be Sunday night against Nikola Vucevic (4 points, 11 rebounds) and Kyle O’Quinn (14 points, 7 rebounds) and the Magic frontcourt. Rookie Victor Oladipo (21 points, 10 assists, 8 turnovers) had an energetic game, still making a case for Rookie of the Year. Hill got a lot of support from gunners Nick Young (26 points) and Jodie Meeks (13 points, 6 assists). The Lakers used an 8-2 run to start the 4th quarter to take control of Sunday’s game. The Magic actually outrebounded the Lakers 46-34 and had a 26-20 advantage in assists, but L.A. consistently got to the line, especially down the stretch. The Lakers knocked down 13-14 free throws over the final 5:18 in the game. Pau Gasol left the game in the 2nd half after getting dizzy. He got three liters of IV fluid and will spend the rest of the night in the hospital. The Magic are now 0-30 when trailing after the 3rd quarter.