Suns 106 (9-5), Pacers 83 (5-8)
The Suns earned their first four-game winning streak of the season behind another big game from Gerald Green (23 points, 5-9 on 3-pointers) and Isaiah Thomas (16 points). These two have been the staple of the Suns bench, providing instance offense when the starters need a breather. The Pacers, still struggling to get their roster healthy, had another rough shooting night. If you take away Soloman Hill’s (13 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) shooting performance, the Pacers starters shot 6-26 (23.1 percent) from the field. Phoenix used a quick 7-0 run early in the third, behind strong play from Markieff Morris (13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) and Marcus Morris (6 points, 2 blocks), to put this game out of reach for good.
Heat 99 (7-6), Magic 92 (6-9)
Dwyane Wade (hamstring) might have missed his fifth straight game, but Chris Bosh (32 points, 10 rebounds, 13-20 from the field) and Mario Chalmers (24 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 10-16 from the field) used efficient shooting to take down the Magic and spoil Nikola Vucevic’s (33 points, 17 rebounds) monstrous night. Even though Orlando probably won’t end up competing for a playoff spot, Vucevic should receive some legitimate consideration for the All-Star game if he keeps up this level of play. The Magic, who were without leading scorer Tobias Harris (calf), kept up with the Heat most of the night and had the game knotted 77-77. The Heat, though, then went on a 14-4 run in which Bosh and Chalmers scored all 14 points and helped Miami lead the game the rest of the way. As a team, the Heat shot 52.1 percent from the field.
Raptors 110 (11-2), Cavaliers 93 (5-7)
Lou Williams (career-high 36 points, +37) has always been a solid scoring punch off the bench for most of the teams he’s been on during his nine-year career. Saturday night, Williams turned into a prolific scorer and creator as he torched the Cleveland perimeter and interior defense. The Cavaliers started this game fast, as Kevin Love (23 points, 7 rebounds) picked up more points in the first quarter (10) than he had in all of his previous game. But after Cleveland took a 34-21 lead into the second quarter, guards Williams, Kyle Lowry (23 points, 8 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (20 points, 5 rebounds) helped the Raptors take control and build an 85-71 lead into the final quarter. LeBron James (15 points, 10 assists) remained active offensively but didn’t have much of any impact on the boards unlike his teammates Anderson Varejao (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (11 points, 7 rebounds). The Cavs just had a lack of offensive rhythm (again) in the third quarter, when they only managed to put up 17 points. Yes, it’s early, but there are some glaring problems with this star-studded Cavs team. All the while, the Raptors have established themselves as a clear contender in the East.
Knicks 91 (4-10), 76ers 83 (0-13)
A game that would historically be a good matchup between two elite teams was a showdown between two of the bottom feeders. As bad as the Knicks have been, they had something the Sixers won’t have for a while–an elite player named Carmelo Anthony (25 points, 7 rebounds). Every time the Sixers seemed to be creeping back into this game, Melo had an answer. He also had some help from his power forwards Amare Stoudemire (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Quincy Acy (10 points, 5 rebounds). Former No. 1 pick Nerlens Noel (season-high 17 points, season-high 12 rebounds) had possibly the best game of his young career, even though he struggled from the free throw line. Noel got help from Hollis Thompson (10 points, 5 rebounds) and Robert Covington (14 points, 4 rebounds) but not much else otherwise. As a team, the Sixers shot 40 percent from the field while the Knicks shot 50.0 percent.
Rockets 95 (10-3), Mavericks 92 (10-4)
This Texas showdown might have featured two of the West’s best and a Mavs team that came into this winners of their last six games. However, these two foes both shot themselves in the foot multiple times throughout this match and also both shot below 40 percent from the field. The deciding play came on a 3-point play by James Harden (32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals), as Chandler Parsons (8 points, 8 rebounds) was moving while trying to draw a charge. That and-one gave Houston a 93-92 lead with 28.2 seconds remaining. On the next possession, Monta Ellis (17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) went up in the air without knowing what he was doing with the ball, causing him to arrantly pass it behind him and allowing Harden to come up with the steal to seal the game. After the Mavs had dug themselves in a 73-55 hole by trying to match Houston’s style of 3-point shooting offense, that exact method gave Dallas a chance to get back in this game–which they did. The Rockets suddenly couldn’t seem to buy a 3-pointer in the second half, while Brandan Wright (14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Tyson Chandler (13 points, 13 rebounds) started to take advantage of the absence of Dwight Howard (knee). The Mavs actually led 88-82 with 2:55 to go but made far too many mistakes down the stretch. Parsons missed some crucial free throws late in this one and Dirk Nowitzki (11 points, 0-8 on 3-pointers) never found his shot. By the end of the game, the Rockets shot a ridiculous 46 3-pointers on the night, making 15 of them. The Mavs shot an inefficient 6-35 (17.1 percent) on their treys. One thing was certainly made clear after this gritty battle–these two Texas teams don’t like any part of the other. An entertaining rivalry is brewing.
Kings 113 (8-5), Timberwolves 101 (3-9)
DeMarcus Cousins (31 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks, 11-15 from the field) continues his dominating season night in and night out. On a night when his teammates seemed sluggish most of the night against an injury-ridden Timberwolves team, Cousins remained the stable force who knows how to have an impact on both sides of the floor. He now has at least 22 points, 12 rebounds and a block in each of his past three games. For the Timberwolves, Mo Williams (11 points, 12 assists) and Gorgui Dieng (12 points, 10 rebounds) each picked up a double-double while Andrew Wiggins (career-high 29 points, 4 steals) had the best scoring performance in his young career. He didn’t come out of the game until seven minutes into the second quarter. It was in the third quarter, though, when the Kings took control of this game by outscoring Minnesota 36-25. Ben McLemore (22 points, 9 rebounds, 4-9 on 3-pointers) played a key role during this time period, scoring 11 of his team’s first 24 points to start the third. Darren Collison (19 points, 7 assists) and Rudy Gay (14 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds) acted as the distributors on the night. One of the main disparities in this one came down low as the Kings outrebounded the Wolves 50-37.
Wizards 111 (9-3), Bucks 100 (7-7)
This Washington roster is filled with young, growing talent led by John Wall (19 points, 9 assists, 5 steals) and Bradley Beal (17 points, 6 assists). They took down Brandon Knight (27 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) and the Bucks, though, because of their new veteran wingman they signed this offseason. Paul Pierce (25 points, 10 rebounds, 4-5 on 3-pointers) looked fantastic in his best game since joining the Wizards. As he has been doing his entire career, The Truth drilled some critical jumpers late in this one when Milwaukee started to creep closer. After the Bucks had fought back behind strong play from Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo (20 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) and only trailed 104-97 with 2:13 left in the game, Pierce killed the Bucks’ momentum and nailed a 19-foot jumper as the shot clock expired to push the lead back to nine. As promising as Milwaukee has been early on, they still lack a strong presence down low, as Marcin Gortat (10 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) and the Wizards outrebounded the Bucks 53-36. If they want to fix this issue, Larry Sanders (5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks, 19 minutes) needs to figure out his place on Jason Kidd’s team.
Spurs 99 (9-4), Nets 87 (5-8)
Tony Parker (22 points, 7 assists) had his second straight strong performance while received a boost from the young guys in Kawhi Leonard (21 points, 9 rebounds) and Danny Green (21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 5-7 on 3-pointers). The Spurs are finally starting to show glimpses of the machine that won the NBA Finals in five games last season, dishing out 16 assists on their first 20 buckets and outscoring the Nets 54-34 in the paint. Brooklyn’s shooting woes continued as they shot 37.4 percent from the field and Joe Johnson (12 points, 5 assists, 5-16 from the field) kept firing away. Deron Williams (24 points, 7 assists) and Mirza Teletovic (22 points, 8 rebounds) were the only other Nets players in double-figures. Brooklyn only managed 36 points by halftime, trailing by 15 points. Both of these teams get a long three-day break before getting back into action Wednesday night.
Pelicans 106 (7-5), Jazz 94 (5-9)
Anthony Davis (career-high 43 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) was an absolute terror for the young Jazz Saturday night, scoring in a multitude of ways and knocking down almost all of his free throws. The Unibrow is one of those players who can get in a dominating zone, becoming unstoppable against practically all players in the League. He easily and deservingly overshadowed Gordon Hayward’s (31 points, 8 rebounds) big night. Jrue Holiday (19 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds) gave his center just enough offensive help to push the Pelicans forward for their seventh win of the season. For Utah, Trey Burke (20 points, 4 assists) showed Jazz fans a Trey Burke they have rarely seen since he was drafted. Before this game, Burke was shooting 32 percent from the field and 26.7 percent on 3-pointers. He made eight of his 12 field goals attempts, including two of his five shots from deep. The Jazz will need more of that type of efficiency from their point guard if they want to find some sort of success on the year.