Post Up: 21 Up, 21 Down

by March 16, 2013

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

On Friday night, the Lakers got a nice win in Indiana, James Harden caught fire, the Nuggets won a big game and the Heat kept streaking.

Lakers (35-32) 99, Pacers (40-25) 93
This was a great game. With 6:16 left, Paul George erased a 3-point deficit with a triple to tie the game. Earl Clark answered with a three of his own, putting LA back on top. The teams were tied at 87 with under 3 minutes left after a George Hill bucket.

From there Indiana’s offense stalled, allowing the Lakers to score six unanswered. Hill hit a trey to make things interesting with 36 seconds left, but the Lake Show held on late.

It was a balanced effort by the Lakers, who got 20, 12 and 4 from Howard, 19 from Metta World Peace, 18 from Steve Blake, 17 from Antawn Jamison and 15 from Steve Nash. Kobe Bryant wasn’t expected to play, but suited up and played in the first quarter. He shot 0-of-4 and didn’t score before sitting out the final three quarters, hopefully as a precaution.

Indiana was led by 27 from Hill and 20 from George. David West forgot his game at home–a rare occurrence for the big man this year. He shot 4-of-13 with 8 points.

It was a big win for Yellow LA. They’re fighting for their lives in the middle of the race for a Western Conference Playoff spot, and are in a pretty good position assuming Kobe can return soon. With Pau Gasol slated to return in the next week or so, they have a chance to gain some steam entering the postseason.

Raptors (26-40) 92, Charlotte (14-51) 78
Charlotte scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, allowing Toronto to turn a tight game into an easy finish. Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 28 points, while Amir Johnson grabbed 21 rebounds with his 12 points.

Charlotte got 22 points and 7 boards from Gerald Henderson, and 20 from Kemba Walker. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hit just 2-of-12 shots.

Charlotte is 7-46 in their last 53 tries—good for a win percentage a shade over 13. Over the course of an entire season, that would put them on pace for between 10 and 11 wins. The ‘Cats have some pieces—Kemba, Henderson, MKG, Bismack Biyombo and Byron Mullens actually makes a decent starting five. But they just can’t put wins together. In a League where worst-to-decent turnarounds happen quicker than you’d think (read: Cavs, Wizards, Pistons, Warriors, sort-of-but-not-technically Orlando), Charlotte has been stuck in the mud an awfully long time.

Wizards (22-42) 96, Hornets (22-44) 87
It’s a shame John Wall missed the start of the season, since Washington is pretty good when he plays. Last night, they created separation from the Hornets late in the third quarter, and the fourth wasn’t close.

Wall paced his team with 29 points on 12-of-15 shooting, and handed out 9 dimes. He hit all three of his attempts from downtown. Over his last three, he’s averaging 26.3 points and 11 assists. Martell Webster dropped 18 and Trevor Booker grabbed 13 boards off the bench.

Eric Gordon led New Orleans with 20 points. Greivis Vasquez played a great game, and finished with 18 points, 9 assists and 8 boards. He’s having a breakout season, and, most impressively, he’s been doing it all year. With less than 20 games to go, it seems like he’s the real deal, and not just a guy playing well.

Anthony Davis only played 16 minutes because of bad foul trouble, but tallied 7 boards and hit 8/8 free throws. He’s suddenly playing very well for the Hornets. He’s averaging nearly 17 points and 11 boards in six March games so far. Ryan Anderson made only 1/10 threes.

Hawks (36-29) 107, Suns (22-44) 94
Atlanta outscored Phoenix in the first three quarters, and were able to close the game without too much trouble. Josh Smith and Al Horford each double-doubled, and the trio of Kyle Korver, Devin Harris and DeShawn Stevenson hit 9 threes for 43 points.

Goran Dragic scored 21 points with 8 assists for Phoenix, and Jermaine O’Neal chipped in 18 (7/9) and 5. Markieff Morris double-doubled with 15 and 11.

Rookie Kendall Marshall failed to score, and has been a massive letdown in his rookie season. I loved him coming out of the draft. I thought he was already an NBA-level point guard in college and would transition to the pros smoothly. Couldn’t have been more wrong.

Rockets (35-30) 108, Timberwolves (22-40) 100
Minnesota held a 59-42 lead early in the third quarter before James Harden went absolutely wild. He scored 11 points in three and a half minutes to kick off the second half, and finished with 15 third-quarter points. He added 10 points in the fourth quarter, where Chandler Parsons stepped up as well. Houston closed the game on a 24-15 run.

Harden finished with 37 points, 8 dimes and 7 boards. He’s been unbelievable across the board this season. He ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring, first in the NBA in free throws made per game, first in assists per game by a shooting guard and fifth in rebounding per game by a shooting guard.

The Rockets have hung onto their Playoff spot all season, and he’s surely improved the game of Parsons, among others. Obviously LeBron James is the clear-cut MVP, and Kevin Durant is a good candidate, too, but Harden is an obvious top-5 guy in my mind. The Thunder got a decent package in return for him, but I would imagine his trade value has at least doubled and maybe tripled or quadrupled because of his 64 games in Houston. He’s among the untradeables in the League.

Jeremy Lin dropped 24 and Parsons finished with 14. Houston hit 11-of-31 three-point tries, compared to 6-of-24 for the T-Wolves.

Minnesota got double-digit scoring from six guys. Derrick Williams and JJ Barea were the high-men with 19. They’re so banged up that Mickael Gelabale played 31 minutes (10 points, 7 boards, 5 assists).

Thunder (49-17) 117, Magic (18-48) 104
The Magic looked like they might get run out of the gym after being outscored 39-26 in the first quarter, but played OKC even in the last three quarters.

The Thunder’s big three—Kevin Durant (26), Russell Westbrook (23) and Serge Ibaka (20)—led the team. Kevin Martin added 15 off the bench and Kendrick Perkins grabbed 12 rebounds—a big number for one of the least productive players in the NBA. Rookie Perry Jones scored 8 points with 5 rebounds—welcome production for someone who hasn’t seen the floor much this year.

Each Magic starter scored at least 12. Jameer Nelson (26 & 7), Nikola Vucevic (21 & 14), Arron Afflalo (20) and Tobias Harris (19 & 6, semi-breaking out since coming to Orlando) all played well. Their bench produced six points total. Can’t do that in Oklahoma City no matter who you’re starting.

Heat (50-14) 107, Bucks (32-32) 94
The Heat just keep on rollin’. They dominated Milwaukee in the middle two quarters, perhaps giving us a first-round Playoff preview. LeBron hit 12/24 shots for 28 points, and tacked on 10 boards and 7 assists. Chris Bosh also scored 28 and Dwyane Wade scored 20.

The Bucks got a mammoth effort from Ersay Ilyasova, who scored 26 points with 17 rebounds. Brandon Jennings dropped 21, but Monta Ellis was cold. He shot 3-of-11 for 7 points. JJ Redick came off the bench for 14.

Milwaukee grabbed 19 offensive rebounds compared to 8 for Miami, but the Heat shot 52 percent compared to 37 by the home team.

Mavericks (31-34) 96, Cavaliers (22-43) 86
Cleveland took an eight-point lead into half and a one-point lead into the fourth, but couldn’t hang on. Brandan Wright and Roddy Beaubois sparked a fourth quarter run for Dallas, and Dirk Nowitzki sealed it late.

Beaubois was Dallas’ high-scorer with 18. Four others joined him in double-figures, including Dirk (13 & 11).

The Cavs were again without Kyrie Irving, and rookie Dion Waiters stepped up with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting. He’s averaging around 15 per game this year, and has had a really nice, reliable first-year campaign.

Fellow rook Tyler Zeller had the barebones double-double—10 & 10—and Tristan Thompson hit 6/8 shots for 12 points with 7 boards.

Nuggets (45-22) 87, Grizzlies (44-20) 80
This was a must-have for Denver to keep their chances of landing the third seed in the West alive. They got it. Memphis led by eight going into the fourth quarter, but let the lead slip away. In six minutes, a 66-58 lead turned into a 73-70 deficit.

Let’s play a quick game of “Guess That Player”
Player A: 8.8 points (62%), 6.9 boards, 1.3 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, earning $10.5 million this year
Player B: 8.4 points (61%), 6.7 boards, 1.4 blocks, 0.7 turnovers, earning $3 million this year

…aaaaand time. Player A is DeAndre Jordan. Player B is Kosta Koufos, who’s turned into a completely reliable center for the Nuggets. Last night, he led the team in points (18) and rebounds (16) against a great post team in a big game. Not bad.

Danilo Gallinari added 15, and Andre Miller was solid off the bench (10 points, 3 assists, +19 on the floor) while Ty Lawson (4/12) struggled. The Nuggets have now won 11 in a row, and last lost at home on January 18th.

Memphis got a big 18 & 18 from Zach Randolph. 10 of those boards came on the offensive glass. Marc Gasol posted 14 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Mike Conley committed 7 turnovers. Memphis shot just 35.3 percent from the field.

Kenneth Faried was uncharacteristically bad, but did chase down Tony Allen for this stuff:

Bulls (36-29) 113, Warriors (37-30) 95
The final score doesn’t look too bad, but don’t be fooled—this was a laugher. The Bulls held a 36-pont lead at one point. Three Chicago starters dropped at least 20—Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson. Joakim Noah double-doubled with 16 and 13 and Marco Belinelli hit 3 threes for 13 points.

Stephen Curry made just 2/13 shots in the embarrassing home loss. Klay Thompson scored 7, Harrison Barnes scored 12 and Andrew Bogut had two more fouls (3) than points (1) in 17 minutes. Jarrett Jack was solid with 20 off the bench. He’s been impressive all year.

The Warriors are slipping fast, and might fall out of the Playoff picture all together if they’re not careful. There’s enough time to turn things around, but it needs to happen soon. I’m not sure they’re better than a .500 team that got off to a hot start.