Warriors 105 (20-2), Mavericks 98 (17-8)
The NBA’s one matinee game on Saturday ended up being much closer than it should have been. The Warriors blitzed out to a 39-18 lead after the first quarter, behind—you guessed it—hot shooting from Stephen Curry (29 points, 8 assists) and Klay Thompson (25 points). When you combine the Mavs’ struggle to defend the perimeter and the ability of the Splash Brothers to light it up from deep, problems will ensue. The Warriors kept the pressure on all the way until the start of the fourth quarter…but the odd play of the game came in the third quarter. With both teams headed down the court, Curry picked up Mareese Speights’ (4 points, 5 rebounds) loose shoe and tossed it to his big man, which prompted Tyson Chandler’s (11 points, 12 rebounds) defensive instincts. The big man swatted the shoe in midair and causing the mostly quiet American Airlines Center to find some life. The Mavs found some life in the final quarter, when they cut their once 28-point deficit to just seven points. In fact, the Warriors led 98-81 with just over five minutes to go. Behind big play from two former Warriors—Monta Ellis (24 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) and Brandan Wright (7 points, 5 rebounds)—the Mavs only trailed 102-95 with a minute remaining. Golden State would make their free throws to close this one out and earn their 15th win in a row.
Nets 114 (10-12), Hornets 87 (6-17)
The Hornets offensive woes have been very difficult to watch. After such a promising season last season combined with the addition of Lance Stephenson (11 points, 4 assists), it seemed as though they were bound for a big step forward this year. Their dreadful start to the season continued Saturday against Brooklyn as their opponent built a huge 32-17 lead after the first 12 minutes and cruised to a victory the rest of the way. The Hornets cut into the deficit at certain points in the game with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (15 points, 5 rebounds) leading the team in scoring, but they never really threatened to take over in a game they never held a lead. After his infamous 3-point attempt from earlier in the week, Cory Jefferson (11 points, 5 rebounds, 5-5 from the field) made up for it by finishing with a career-high 11 points. He had plenty of help from his teammates as four starters and three bench players reach double figures. Joe Johnson (22 points, 7 rebounds) was on fire during their first quarter outburst while Deron Williams (18 points, 10 assists) effectively ran the offense. As a team, Brooklyn couldn’t miss from deep, netting 16-23 (69.6 percent) from beyond the arc. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, there isn’t much you can do when a team is lighting it up like that. After shooting 39.2 percent from the field against the Nets, the Hornets have now failed to shoot above .500 in any game this season.
Blazers 95 (18-6), Pacers 85 (7-17)
The Blazers came into this one trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. Holding a 69-40 lead four minutes into the second half, Portland seemed to be well on its way back into the win column. C.J. Watson (23 points, 5 assists, 8-11 from the field), though, came alive and put the pressure back on his team’s Western Conference foe. Behind strong play from Watson, the Pacers cut the deficit all the way down to eight points, but they couldn’t contain their opponent’s All-Stars as Damian Lillard (18 points, 4 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points, 14 rebounds) made just enough shots to keep the Pacers at bay. Wesley Matthews (12 points) and Nicolas Batum (14 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) also played well while Chris Kaman (10 points, 6 rebounds) reached double figures coming off the bench. However, that still remains as Portland’s biggest issue—the bench. If they want to build on last year’s success and be legitimate contenders, they’ll need much more production out of their second unit. The Pacers still hold the longest losing streak in the NBA, now standing at eight in a row.
Magic 100 (10-16), Hawks 99 (16-7)
The Hawks have been climbing up the East ladder of late, coming into this game winners of their last nine games and right outside the top seed in the East. However, the Magic came into this game ready to compete and show they are a team that could potentially compete for that eight seed in their conference. They can thank developing forward Tobias Harris (20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) and his hero antics for the win Saturday night. After being the primary scorer for most of the night, Harris knew he would be the one to take the shot as his team trailed 99-98 with 3.4 seconds remaining. (Sidenote: Kyle Korver (11 points) hit a beautiful 3-point shot prior to Harris’ shot that would have been a clutch, go-ahead bomb.) After the timeout, Harris receives the ball at the top of the 3-point line, dribbles to his left, leans at the elbow and splashes the game-winner in front of his fans. What a dramatic way to finish a great game that featured ten ties and 15 lead changes. Harris had some help from his teammates as Nikola Vucevic (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Evan Fournier (19 points, 5 rebounds) both shot above 50 percent from the field. The Hawks didn’t shoot well on the night, only reaching 41.7 percent shooting from the field. Jeff Teague (24 points, 8 assists) had a solid game but his backup in Dennis Schroder (10 points, 4-13 from the field) had the green light when his shots just weren’t going in.
Bucks 111 (12-12), Clippers 106 (16-7)
The young guys in Brandon Knight (22 points, 5 assists) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 8-11 from the field) led the way for the Bucks as they have made their way back to .500. J.J. Redick (25 points, 5-7 on 3-pointers) had the hot hand for L.A. on the night. Even though giving up 106 points isn’t ideal defensively, the Bucks played good situational defense and held Los Angeles to only 42.9 percent from the field. The Bucks, on the other hand, shot the ball very well, finishing with a 56.6 percent mark from the field. Their is so much youth and length on this team that bothers many teams out there. Jason Kidd seems to already be establishing a great foundation in Milwaukee. The Clippers, though, climbed their way back into this game after halftime thanks to Matt Barnes (26 points, 2 steals) coming out of nowhere in the third quarter. The small forward poured in 13 of his 26 points in these 12 minutes. Los Angeles even led 76-72 early in the fourth quarter. However, thanks to a 18-3 run in just over three minutes, the Bucks put away the Clippers for good.
Grizzlies 120 (19-4), 76ers 115 (2-21) OT
A night after the Grizzlies needed double overtime to take down the lowly Hornets, the even worse 76ers forced Memphis to take them down in extra time as well. Philadelphia actually had a commanding 88-71 lead a few minutes into the fourth quarter, in large part due to Michael Carter-Williams (16 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds) doing a little bit of everything for his team. Whether or not he’d be as productive on another team, it is impressive what MCW is doing statistically this season. Hollis Thompson (21 points, 7-8 from the field) and Robert Covington (24 points, 9 rebounds) were both on the receiving end of many of Carter-Williams’ assists. However, this Grizzlies team finally woke up in the final 10 minutes of regulation play, during which they sprinted out on a 38-21 run to finish the quarter and send this one into overtime. They also sent it into five extra minutes of basketball in dramatic fashion as Mike Conley (career-high 36 points, 9 assists) hit a one-legged three-point dagger that sunk the hearts of many Philly fans. He just kept his career night going in overtime, hitting another huge 3-pointer that put the Sixers away for good. If there’s one thing for certain about all of the fantastic play in the West, it’s that Conley has made a legitimate case to be an All-Star. Even though Conley didn’t get much support from his bench, Zach Randolph (24 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals), Marc Gasol (18 poitns, 9 rebounds, 2 steals) and Courtney Lee (19 points, 2 steals, 3-4 in 3-pointers) all put up solid numbers in helping Memphis pick up another gritty win. And if you’re a fan of entertaining basketball, mark your calendars—the Grizzlies and Warriors face off this Tuesday night.
Rockets 108 (18-5), Nuggets 96 (10-13)
After he missed the previous 11 games, Dwight Howard (26 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) returned against the Nuggets, and he looked very healthy as he worked his way to another double-double. He also snatched his 10,000th career rebound on the night. His superstar teammate in James Harden (24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) didn’t seem to mind sharing the load with his big man as the Beard notched his third career triple-double. On top of both of these gaudy stat lines, Donatas Motiejunas (25 points, 11-19 from the field) still had a fantastic game with his superstar center teammate back in the starting lineup and Trevor Ariza (13 points, 8 rebounds, 3-11 from the field) contributed some triples. If these four starters can continue playing cohesively and not diminish the others’ strengths, this offense is going to be extremely difficult to stop. For the Nuggets, Ty Lawson (19 points, 12 assists) continued to put up great point guard numbers while Darrell Arthur (20 points, 6 rebounds) led Denver in scoring. However, Brian Shaw still doesn’t seem to know what he wants out of Kenneth Faried (7 points, 3 rebounds). He did get injured in the third quarter and return later, showing his toughness. However, beyond his toughness, it’s hard to tell exactly what his fit is on this roster. The Rockets held the Nuggets to 37.5 percent shooting from the field.
Pistons 95 (5-19), Kings 90 (11-13)
Has J-Smoove returned? The sample size of one game is obviously far too small, but for these 48 minutes of basketball, Josh Smith (21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals, 9-16 from the field) looked like the player that was once a very efficient, enjoyable basketball player while in Atlanta. The best part about his performance? He didn’t shoot a single 3-pointer. Smith decided to play to his strengths and get into the paint as much as possible. The outcome was his most efficient shooting performance of the season and a second straight win for his Pistons. His fellow big men also played extremely well as Andre Drummond (12 points, 10 rebounds) picked up another double-double and Greg Monroe (24 points, 8 rebounds) acted as the offensive sparkplug off the bench. Kings swingman Rudy Gay (20 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) flirted with a triple-double but kept firing away all night as his team still desperately needs DeMarcus Cousins (viral meningitis). Sacaramento has gone 2-7 without its big man, and this team’s cinderella story continues to slip away with each game he misses. Despite the weak play from most of Detroit’s guards, things started to fit together in the frontcourt thanks to Smith’s acceptance of his strengths. Again, it may only be one game, but if J-Smoove can (for once) realize how good of a basketball player he can be when he decides to approach the game in a different, smarter manner, he can make this Pistons team so much more dangerous.