by Adam Figman | @afigman
So, the Magic suited up their new guys, but it seems safe to presume they haven’t completely jelled just yet. The Hawks—without Jamal Crawford (back) but now with a fully recovered Joe Johnson—were able to run right over Orlando, who started Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu and brought Gilbert Arenas off the bench. None of those guys shot well, or played well in general, though I think it’s a little early to cast them off just yet—they haven’t even had a single practice as a (new) team. Al Horford (24 points, 11 rebounds) led the way for Atlanta, while Dwight Howard (19 points, 20 boards, 2 blocks) put up some nice numbers for the Magic. It’ll take Howard and Co. a little while to get going, and my only hope is that they come together to some extent before Christmas, so we can get a competitive mid-day matchup when they face the Cets on Saturday.
Upon hearing about Brandon Jennings’ poor fortune (more on that in a sec), John Wall tweeted at the Young Buck to get healthy soon. Brandon responded, first by saying thanks and then with “@jimmywa11 winning is everything remember that.” Wall couldn’t do much with the info, given that he sat out again last night, but his teammates must’ve been reading along, because they took the advice and stepped all over the Bobcats at home. Nick Young dropped 21, and all five Wizards starters scored in double figures as they cruised to the victory. The W ended a seven-game losing streak, and the Wiz will try to keep up those winning ways tomorrow night against Chicago.
The bright spot for the Cavs: Daniel Gibson scored 29 points. Besides that, though, nothing went right for Cleveland, as Utah came into their arena and pretty much had their way. Deron Williams went for 17 points and 10 dimes, and Al Jefferson scored 16 and grabbed 13 boards. The win put the Jazz (20-9) atop the Northwest, and their road trip ends tomorrow, in Minnesota.
When things are going downhill, it feels like every bounce and every force of nature is going against you. So after David West hit a jumper with four seconds to go that gave the Bees a lead, maybe they should’ve known to expect the worst. And so it was. Even though Danny Granger’s potential game-winner rolled out, Mike Dunleavy just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get a hand on the ball and tip it in as the clock expired. Still, it’s hard to complain if you’re New Orleans, because you don’t win games in this League by shooting 39.8 percent from the field. The Hornets have now lost seven of 10, but have a good chance to turn the ship around Wednesday night when they host New Jersey.
Hard to pinpoint a single problem within any two-point loss, but I’m going with this: Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James combined for 60 points, and that number will probably have to be in the 70-75 range if they want to beat the League’s best. And, in case you didn’t notice, the Mavs have pushed themselves into said category these past few weeks. Dirk Nowitzki led ’em with 26, while Jason Terry caught fire in the final quarter, scoring all of his 19 points in the fourth. Beyond that, this was a very winnable game for the Heat, who just couldn’t come through with clutch baskets in the last couple of minutes as the contest slipped away. Mike Miller made his grand return, kind of, playing only four minutes and without scoring a single point. With their 12-game winning streak wrapped up, Miami will attempt to start fresh Thursday in Phoenix.
Speaking of teams that have pushed themselves into the elite, the Spurs won last night, holding off a depleted Suns squad that was still without its new acquisitions. Gary Neal stepped up off the pine and scored 22, and all five San Antonio starters went for double digits. The Spurs now hold a 24-3 record, which is both their best in franchise history and has them sitting comfortable atop the NBA. They’ve got some challenges coming up, though—Denver on Wednesday and Orlando on Thursday. Both should be tough.
The Wiz might’ve managed OK without John Wall, but the Bucks didn’t—and won’t—be alright without Brandon Jennings, who’s out four-six weeks with a foot injury. The Blazers ran all over them, led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 29-point, 19-rebound outing. Sad as it is, the Bucks are in serious trouble, and a spot may have just opened up at the back end of the Eastern Conference Playoff race. John Salmons led the Bucks with 23 in the loss.
L.A. Clippers 113, Minnesota 90
The good thing about a Clippers-TWolves matchup is someone has to win. The bad thing is someone has to lose, which is just kinda humiliating. But the Clippers, behind Eric Gordon—who scored 36 points and distributed 6 dimes while sitting on my fantasy team’s bench (*bounces head against wall*)—and some efficient shooting from the floor (51.8 percent). LAC, or maybe just Blake Griffin, actually contained Kevin Love, as the TWolves forward scored only 12 and grabbed “only” 10 rebounds.
Did Houston and New Orleans make some kind of “trading places”-type pact? Seems like it. The Rockets kept rollin’, scoring 121 points and taking down the Warriors in Oakland. Kevin Martin led the charge with 30, while Monta Ellis did his best to defend his team’s home court, scoring 44 points and dishing 7 dimes. (Can somebody help this dude out?) The Rockets have won five of six, and upcoming games against the Wizards and Clippers mean they’ll have more opportunities to keep moving in the right direction.
Actual Stats: LaMarcus Aldridge: 29 points, 19 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks.
Moment of the Night: Not that I blame him, but I guess “BOX OUT MIKE DUNLEAVY!” wasn’t Monty Williams’ main message before sending out his guys to defend the game’s final play.