by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Grizzlies 95 (11-15), Knicks 87 (8-18)
The Grizzlies snapped a five-game losing streak behind another double-double from Zach Randolph (25 points, 15 rebounds) and strong performance from Tony Allen (19 points, 8 rebounds, 8-13 from the floor). After reaching 16 points and 7 rebounds respectively only once in the first 23 games, Tony Allen has done so in each of the last 3 games. He also remains the team’s leading defensive force with Marc Gasol still sidelined. Even with Tyson Chandler (8 points, 6 rebounds) back in the starting lineup, New York couldn’t keep Memphis from pounding the ball down low, as they had a commanding 60-28 points in the paint advantage. The Knicks starters did not look good, as Carmelo Anthony (30 points, 7 rebounds) was the only starter to have double digits in any statistical category. Strong bench play from J.R. Smith (16 points, 7 assists, 4 steals) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (16 points) kept the Knicks in this game as Anthony, Smith and Hardaway Jr. combined to score 22 of the team’s 26 points in the 4th quarter. Midway through this final quarter, the Grizzlies held a 85-66 lead. Behind a barrage of 3-pointers from the aforementioned 3 Knicks players, the lead dwindled all the way down to 91-87 with 25 seconds to go. Jerryd Bayless (11 points) then made 2 free throws to hand the Knicks their 10th home loss out of 14 games at Madison Square Garden.
Wizards 106 (12-13), Celtics 99 (12-16)
The Wizards came back from a double-digit deficit to take down the Atlantic division leaders, extended their winning streak to 3 games and inched closer to that elusive .500 mark…for Eastern Conference teams. Trevor Ariza (27 points, 8 rebounds, 5-8 on 3-pointers) had the hot hand all game long, making more 3-pointers than the entire Celtics team, while John Wall (20 points, 9 assists, 6 steals, 1 turnover) finally decided to take care of the ball. In his previous 3 games, Wall was averaging 6.3 turnovers per game. Saturday afternoon, he only had 1 turnover for the third time this season. Jared Sullinger (22 points, 11 rebounds) had his 2nd 20-10 performance in his last 3 games and 4th in his last 12 games. Avery Bradley (26 points, 12-18 from the floor) had one of the best games of his career, but Phil Pressey (5 assists, 0 turnovers, 13 minutes) was the guard putting on a show early in the 4th quarter. At one point, the rookie assisted on 3 of 4 straight Celtics possessions, which led to a 90-84 lead with 6:59 to go. However, Washington would go on a 22-7 run to end the game, which included Wall and Nene (13 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) making 6 straight free throws in the final 45 seconds. The Celtics have now lost 2 straight games after leading by at least 18 points in each.
Kings 105 (8-18), Magic 100 (8-19)
Rudy Gay (23 points, 6 rebounds) and Isaiah Thomas (23 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) each chipped in 23 points while Marcus Thornton (15 points, 6-10 from the field, +16) carried the bench, making 3 triples in a row at one point in the 4th quarter. The Kings shot very well in the 2nd and 4th quarter, scoring over 30 points points in each. They made a season-high 12 3-pointers on the night. Arron Afflalo (26 points, 3-5 on 3-pointers) came back strong after sitting out against Utah due to sickness. Afflalo continues to improve his game, increasing his scoring in each successive year he’s been in the League. After having an outbreak end to his 2012-13 season, Tobias Harris (21 points, 7-11 from the field) hasn’t looked like that Tobias Harris in his first 4 games back. However, Saturday night, Harris finally performed like the player that averaged 19.8 points per game during the final month of last season. Orlando was clinging onto a 77-75 lead going into the 4th quarter, but Sacramento used an 18-4 run in the first five minutes to hand the Magic their fourth straight loss at home.
Jazz 88 (8-22), Bobcats 85 (13-15)
Utah has won 4 of 7 games for the first time this season and that is in large part due to Trey Burke’s (20 points, 4 assists, 4-8 on 3-pointers) emergence as a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. Burke played better and better as the game moved along, scoring his team’s final 7 points. Al Jefferson (19 points, 11 rebounds) had his third straight double-double and Kemba Walker (20 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 turnovers) reached the 20-point plateau for the 5th consecutive game; however, he only had 2 points in the final quarter. The Jazz shot an abysmal 38.6 percent from the field, were outrebounded (50-44) and were outscored in the paint (44-32). With less than a minute to go in the game, though, the Bobcats helped Utah out by missing 3 straight attempts right at the rim. Burke has now scored 20 or more points in three of his last five games; however, sandwiched between those 3 solid performances are two no shows—both losses. Burke will get a chance to sustain this level of play Monday in Memphis.
Rockets 114 (18-10), Pistons 97 (13-16)
As has often happened this season, the Pistons had one of their sporadic games where the defense just didn’t make an appearance. Detroit has allowed at least 110 points for more than a third of its games this season. Dwight Howard (35 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) completely dominated the Pistons frontcourt the entire game, something Roy Hibbert couldn’t do earlier in the week. Bench players Aaron Brooks (10 points, 7 assists) and Omri Casspi (13 points, 7 assists) each played the role of distributor with Patrick Beverely fracturing his hand in the 2nd quarter. He will be out up to 6 weeks. Francisco Garcia (16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) started and filled in well for James Harden (ankle). Josh Smith (19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) led the Pistons in scoring, Greg Monroe (10 points, 11 rebounds) had a double-double and Andre Drummond (9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks) dealt with foul trouble throughout the game. These 3 just can’t seem to all play at a high level during the same game. The Pistons shooters couldn’t find their touches, making just one of their 12 attempts from deep.
Bulls 100 (10-16), Cavaliers 84 (10-16)
Chicago led from start to finish in this game, behind a big performance from its frontcourt. Carlos Boozer (19 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) and Joakim Noah (11 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists) played well thanks to D.J. Augustin (18 points, 10 assists, 4-6 on 3-pointers) continuing to step into his new role and fit in nicely with Thibodeau’s system. Augustin is averaging 13.8 points and 8 assists in his last 4 games. Andrew Bynum (19 points, 7 rebounds) led the Cavs in scoring while Kyrie Irving (14 points, 5 assists, 5-16 from the field) shot below 40 percent for the 10th time this season. (For one game, D.J. Augustin can tell himself he outplayed Kyrie Irving…yes, that happened.) The Bulls used a 9-0 run right before halftime to extend their lead to 58-41 and put Cleveland away for good.
Bucks 116 (6-21), 76ers 106 (8-20)
This battle between the two worst teams in the East showcased two extremely bad defenses. Khris Middleton (27 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists), Caron Butler (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Brandon Knight (21 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 0 turnovers) all had their way for most of the night as their team shot 52.4 percent from the field. Thaddeus Young (30 points, 10 rebounds, 4-4 on 3-pointers) poured it on through the first 3 quarters while Spencer Hawes (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Michael Carter-Williams (19 points, 12 assists) put together some double-doubles. This team has such a fast and fun pace to the offense but just doesn’t know how to keep the other team from scoring when they fall behind. The Sixers are giving up an atrocious 126.3 points in their past 4 games. Having an entire week off until playing the Suns next Saturday, Philadelphia’s players will get a chance to rest their legs and maybe muster up some defense.
Thunder 113 (22-4), Spurs 100 (21-6)
This game was all about Russell Westbrook (31 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 13-22 from the field) and his backup point guard, Reggie Jackson (21 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 8-14 from the field). Westbrook played the pick-and-roll very well, as he usually does, exploding straight to the rim or hitting the open man. When Westbrook needed a breather, Jackson came in and held his own against Tony Parker (23 points, 8 assists) and the Spurs backcourt. However, as has often been the case this season, after Jackson came in for Thabo Sefolosha (5 points, 4 rebounds) toward the end of the 3rd quarter, he never again left the floor. Westbrook and Jackson hit timely buckets in the 4th quarter to extend a 3-point lead early on to a double-digit victory. Jackson is certainly not what James Harden was for the Thunder, but he is certainly finding his role on the League’s best team win percentage-wise. League-leading scorer Kevin Durant (17 points, 5 rebounds) failed to reach 20 points for just the fourth time this season. The Thunder outrebounded San Antonio 48-37, while Serge Ibaka (14 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks) had a commanding double-double. Oklahoma City leads the League in rebounding (47.4 rpg) and showcased its ability to pound the boards against Tim Duncan (17 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks), Tiago Splitter (6 points, 11 rebounds) and the Spurs, as 7 OKC players had at least 4 rebounds. Shooting 16-23 in the second quarter, the Thunder poured on 40 points and took a double-digit lead into halftime; they didn’t give up the lead in the second half. When the good Westbrook comes out to play like he did Saturday night, it’s difficult for anyone to beat his team.
Suns 123 (16-10), Mavericks 108 (15-2)
After an emotional 109-108 overtime loss to the Raptors Friday night, the Mavs just didn’t seem to have the energy to fight off a high-energy offensive team like the Suns. Eric Bledsoe (25 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) and Phoenix kept their lead around 10 points throughout the night and allowed Dirk Nowitzki (21 points, 6 rebounds), Monta Ellis (19 points, 9 assists, 3 steals) and their Mavs to hang around and keep the game in reach. Dallas even trimmed the deficit to 100-94 with 8:31 to go. However, the Mavs just couldn’t make enough stops with Channing Frye (18 points, 8 rebounds, 4-6 on 3-pointers) and Marcus Morris (8 points, 4 rebounds, 2-3 on 3-pointers) making jump shot after jump shot. Brandan Wright (19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 8-10 from the field) continued to play well in his return but still lacks the bulk an NBA center needs. The Suns outscored the Mavs 45-9 from 3-point range.
Blazers 110 (23-5), Pelicans 107 (11-4)
Damian Lillard (29 points, 5 assists) hit another big shot, putting in the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:27 to play. Lillard is habitually making these clutch shots, and if this continues to be the norm, he must be considered as a legitimate MVP candidate. The other four Blazers starters scored in double-digits as Nicolas Batum (11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists) flirted with a triple-double. With LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and Lillard being the leaders of this team, Batum does an exceptional job being the “glue guy.” The Pelicans erased a 10-point 4th quarter deficit, taking a 105-103 lead after an Anthony Davis (21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) dunk with 2:19 remaining. However, Lillard goes to a different level when he finds himself in a close game, responding with his aforementioned 3-pointer. Even though Portland looked good for the most part Saturday night, the bench continued to be subpar, only contributing 20 of the team’s 110 points. Tyreke Evans (21 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds) outscored the entire Blazers bench, reminding people that he once was a 20-5-5 type of player. In his first game with the Pelicans, 7-footer Alexis Ajinca (4 points, 11 rebounds, 16 minutes) was the only player to have grab double-digit rebounds. Trailing 110-107, New Orleans had 12 seconds to tie this game after calling a timeout. After Anderson missed a shot from deep, Anthony Davis grabbed his 4th offensive rebound and gave Tyreke Evans another fairly clean look from deep—he also missed. The Blazers have now won 6 of 7 games and might just be a genuine force in a competitive Western Conference.
Warriors 102 (15-13), Lakers 83 (13-14)
Pau Gasol wasn’t able to play (upper respiratory infection) and his teammates certainly missed him. Two people that weren’t upset about Gasol’s absence were Andrew Bogut (12 points, season-high 20 rebounds, 2 blocks) and David Lee (19 points, 10 rebounds), who had his 8th straight double-double. Even without Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup, Nick Young (20 points) has remained on the bench and continued to be an offensive spark plug. The Lakers kept this one close up to halftime, staying within single digits the entire 24 minutes. However, with 9:08 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Warriors went on a quick 21-4 run as Marreese Speights (10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 13 minutes) made 3 layups during this run, before being ejected for grabbing Young around the neck. Golden State cruised to a victory the rest of the way. This game was sloppy for both teams, as they combined to have 40 turnovers on the night.
Clippers 112 (19-9), Nuggets 91 (14-12)
This game showcased two teams going in two different directions. The Clippers have won 4 in a row while the Nuggets have lost 3 in a row. And this one wasn’t even a contest, as Jamal Crawford (27 points, 6-12 on 3-pointers) helped his Clippers lead wire-to-wire. Blake Griffin (24 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists) and Chris Paul (10 points, 11 assists, 3 steals) had double-doubles, which they are each averaging this season. Matt Barnes (13 points, 3-7 on 3-pointers) looked good after playing in his first game since November 18 (eye injury). Making 13 3-pointers on the night, the Clippers’ shooting allowed this victory to be an easy one. Los Angeles led by double-digits after the 1st quarter and won the following 3 quarters as well. This team is now 21-2 in the past 2 seasons when making at least 11 3-pointers. The Nuggets only made 31 of 88 shot attempts and turned the ball over 18 times. Wilson Chandler (team-high 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals), Ty Lawson (13 points, 6 assists) and Timofey Mozgov (15 points, team-high 9 rebounds) played decent, but the Nuggets didn’t get much production from their other players. Kenneth Faried rolled his left ankle early on in the 1st quarter and didn’t return.