by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz
Los Angeles had a tough night, Jeremy Lin got his revenge on New York and a bunch of sub-.500 teams played tight games. It was a near-full slate, so let’s get to it.
Clippers (8-4) 76 at Nets (7-4) 86
Spending record-breaking amounts of dough over the summer was nice for the Nets and their fans, but the team needs prove-it wins to show they’re for real. They got one last night. Facing a Clippers squad which started 8-2 before dropping one in OKC earlier this week, they played a great game—on both sides of the ball. The game was tied after one quarter, but the Clippers led by seven at halftime.
The Nets evened it up entering the fourth quarter. They led by five with under two minutes left, when a Reggie Evans offensive rebound led to a Joe Johnson corner three to seal the game. They outscored the Clippers 23-13 in the fourth, and LA scored just 29 second-half points.
JJ played his best game as a Net, dropping 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Brook Lopez dominated with 26 points. Evans grabbed 12 boards off the bench, and interestingly was in the game down the stretch over a struggling Kris Humphries (0/2, 3 rebounds).
The Clippers had a +10 rebounding margin, but couldn’t find their shot all night. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan combined to shoot just 20-of-48. Those guys are, of course, their best players, and simply need to be better than that. The team shot just 4-for-17 from downtown.
Side note: I was at this game, and had a few takeaways. First, Lopez looked incredible. He made countless tough shots at strange angles, and his mid-range jumper is great. He’s still not a good rebounder, but he is turning into legitimate shot-blocker. Conversely, Deron Williams (3/10) didn’t look sharp at all. He was short on a number of makeable jumpers, and is shooting just .414 from the field this season. He’s still averaging 17.5 points per game, but he hasn’t found his stroke yet. Lastly, Lamar Odom is just about the least imapctful player I’ve ever watched live. He played six inefficient and invisible minutes last night, missing his only shot while turning it over once and picking up two fouls. It’s sad to see what has become of a once incredibly versatile talent.
Cavaliers (3-9) 104 at Magic (5-7) 108
There wasn’t a ton of talent on the floor on Friday in Orlando (relatively speaking, of course). The Cavs are without their star, Kyrie Irving, and the Magic… are in for a long season (though they have been a nice surprise). However, the lack of stars didn’t keep this game from being interesting. It was tied after three quarters, and knotted at 92 after a Dion Waiters jumper with 4:24 left.
But Glen Davis knocked down a pair of free throws on the following possession, and Orlando led the rest of the way. Davis played a nice game, scoring 16 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Jameer Nelson led the team with 22 points, while chipping in 6 boards, 6 dimes and 2 steals. JJ Reddick continued his strong season with 18 points and 6 assists off the bench.
For Cleveland, Waiters, who has a massive opportunity with Irving out, was impressive with 25 points. Anderson Varejao posted 19 points and 17 rebounds. He’s averaging nearly 14 and 14 this year.
Thunder (9-4) 100 at Celtics (7-6) 108
22 second-half points from Paul Pierce kept the Cs above .500. Boston led by as many as 14, but led just 101-98 with under two minutes to play. A Kevin Durant three-point attempt would have tied the game, but was off the mark with 1:14 left. From there, Boston went on a quick 5-0 run, icing the game.
The Truth dropped a game-high 27 points, including 4 threes and 4 boards. Rajon Rondo scored just 6 points, but, in typical Rondo fashion, handed out 16 assists. Jeff Green was big with 17 points off the bench on just 11 shots.
Oklahoma City got 29 from KD and 26 from Russell Westbrook, who also tallied 7 assists and 8 rebounds. Serge Ibaka posted 17 points and 13 rebounds, but Kevin Martin shot just 1-of-7 off the bench.
Raptors (3-10) 90 at Pistons (3-10) 91
This one went down to the wire. With 1:21 left, an Andrea Bargnani trey broke a tie and put the Raptors up three points. A Tayshaun Prince bucket cut the Raptors lead to one with 36 seconds remaining. Kyle Lowry missed a jumper, giving Detroit a chance. Brandon Knight took advantage, and finished a tough layup with seven seconds left. It would prove to be the game-winner, as Lowry couldn’t answer at the buzzer, just missing a step-back jumper.
Bargnani was huge, pouring in 34 points on 20 shots. Lowry scored 19.
Greg Monroe led Detroit with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Rookie Andre Drummond double-doubled off the bench, posting 13 and 13. The Pistons pounded Toronto in the paint, where they outscored the Raptors 52-26.
Hawks (7-4) 101 at Bobcats (6-5) 91
Al Horford’s career night led a surprising Hawks team to their seventh win last night. The big man dropped 26 points on 13-of-17 shooting, while grabbing 13 rebounds. He was dominant, covering up a 4/12 shooting night from Josh Smith and 21 team turnovers for Atlanta. Kyle Korver was big, too, staying hot with 16 points. Jeff Teague tallied 12 assists. The team as a whole shot 11-of-22 from downtown.
For the Bobcats, Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions were solid again. They combined for 38 points and 13 assists. However, Charlotte shot just .373 from the floor versus Atlanta’s .538 clip. That was the difference in this one.
Spurs (10-3) 104 at Pacers (6-8) 97
San Antonio came from behind to beat Indy, making them the first team in the NBA to win ten games. The Pacers led by four entering the fourth quarter, and expanded the lead to 11 with ten minutes left. However, the Spurs closed the game out on an extended 29-11 run.
Tony Parker had it going all night, and finished with 33 points and 10 dimes. He shot 15-of-23 from the field. Tim Duncan was huge as well, going for 19 and 17. In an uncharacteristically unbalanced box score, nobody else scored double-figures for the Spurs. They hit a wretched 2-of-17 three-point tries, but did make 20-of-22 free throws.
David West led the Pacers with 22 points, while Roy Hibbert double-doubled.
Lakers (6-7) 98 at Grizzlies (9-2) 106
I pity the team that has to face Memphis without home court advantage in the Playoffs. Memphis moved to 5-1 at home by dominating the Lakers last night. They outscored them, 34-18, in the first quarter, and really closed them out in the third. The Grizzlies led by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, and never let the Lakers back into it.
Per usual, the Grizzlies spread the wealth offensively, as all five of their starters scored at least 12 points. Rudy Gay dropped 21 along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Marc Gasol recorded just 5 boards, but did score 14 points on 8 shots and hand out 8 assists. Zach Randolph continued his unbelievable season, putting in 17 points with 12 rebounds. Mike Conley scored 19 and picked up 4 steals.
For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, but shot just 7/23 from the floor. Antawn Jamison was big off the bench, scoring 16, but Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard combined to shoot 5-of-15 from the field. Memphis won the rebounding battle, 39-28, a huge margin—especially against a team with DH. In case it wasn’t clear by now, the Grizzlies are not messing around this year.
Knicks (8-3) 103 at Rockets (6-7) 131
For the first time this year, the Knicks have dropped two straight. There are a two questions to be asked here. 1: Are the Knicks as good as they were over their first nine games? No. 2: Are they as bad as they were last night when they got stomped on by a mediocre team? Also, no.
On Friday, the Knicks were outscored by 21 points in the second and third quarters combined, and also lost the first and fourth quarters. For those of you keeping track at home, that makes it impossible to win. Carmelo Anthony was great, shooting 14-for-24 overall and 7-of-12 from deep on his way to 37 points, but his team couldn’t buy a stop.
Houston eclipsed 30 points in each of the first three quarters, and both Chandler Parsons and James Harden scored over 30. Parsons shot 8-for-8 in the first quarter, while Harden shot a perfect 16-of-16 from the stripe for the game. Amazingly, 15 of those free throws came before halftime. Meanwhile, Omer Asik dominated the glass with 14 boards, and also scored 18 points. His offense has been improving all season. Playing against his old team, Jeremy Lin scored 13 points and snagged 7 rebounds. Overall, Houston out-rebounded New York, 49-30.
The two teams combined to shoot a wild 31-of-64 from beyond the arc.
Warriors (7-6) 91 at Nuggets (7-6) 102
These are a pair of pretty strange west coast teams. Both have massive offensive upside, but need to lock down on defense and strengthen their half-court offenses to be taken seriously. Last night, the Nuggets were the better of the two teams. Golden State led at halftime, but a big third quarter from Denver (31-17) gave them a nice lead going into the fourth. The Nuggets never let the Warriors make things interesting in the final period.
Andre Iguodala erupted with 29 points on 19 shots. Danilo Gallinari played well, scoring 20 points, though he missed all five of his three-point attempts. He’s shooting below 22 percent from deep this season. Ty Lawson added 18, while Kenneth Faried grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Warriors won on the glass, but it wasn’t enough. They were outscored 58-34 in the paint and 19-7 in fast break points—decisive numbers in a fairly close game. David Lee had a strong effort with 21 points and 10 boards, while rookie Festus Ezeli notched 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Jarrett Jack chipped in 17 off the bench.
Kings (3-9) 102 at Jazz (7-6) 104
The Kings just about won their first road game of the season last night. Instead, the Jazz moved to a perfect 5-0 at home. Sacramento led, 97-85, with under five minutes to play—a seemingly safe lead. However, a 9-0 Jazz run in just a minute cut the lead to three. Utah took a three point lead with under a minute left, when Marcus Thornton knocked home a game-tying triple from the top of the key. Sacramento forced a miss and got the ball back with 32 seconds left, but Aaron Brooks coughed it up. Gordon Hayward hit a go-ahead jumper with a few seconds left, and a James Johnson floater was just a little too strong at the buzzer.
It was a heart-breaker for the Kings, and the type of win that the Jazz seem to pickup pretty frequently at home. Hayward led the game with 23 points, while Marvin Williams delivered with 22. Williams was a late add to the starting lineup, replacing Derrick Favors. The Jazz really won the game on the glass, where they beat Sacramento, 43-31. Favors pulled in nearly a third of the team’s boards.
For Sacramento, each of DeMarcus Cousins, Brooks, Tyreke Evans and Thornton scored at least 14 points. Nobody recorded more than 7 boards or 5 assists in typical Kings fashion.
Mo Williams left the game early for the Jazz, and did not return. Veteran Jamaal Tinsley, who should seemingly be playing in China alongside Stephon Marbury and Tracy McGrady by now, filled in beautifully with 12 assists and 6 boards in 31 minutes.
Hornets (3-8) 108 at Suns (6-7) 111
Yet another nail-biter between non-playoff teams in what was a wild night. The Hornets, minus Anthony Davis once again, played very well, and led by four entering the fourth quarter. However, Phoenix opened up an eight-point lead with 1:37 on the clock. But Ryan Anderson nailed a three which was followed by a Robin Lopez jumper which cut the lead to three. After a Jared Dudley miss, Greivis Vasquez hit a game-tying three, which sent the game into overtime.
The Suns led by three with under a second to play, and a Roger Mason Jr missed desperation triple ended the game.
Markieff Morris hit 9-of-12 shots and 2-of-2 from downtown while scoring a team-high 23 points. Goran Dragic scored 20 points and handed out eight assists. There aren’t many more efficient point guards in the NBA than Dragic. Three Suns—Luis Scola, PJ Tucker and, yes, Jermaine O’Neal—came off the bench to score at least ten points.
For the Hornets, Ryan Anderson went off. He scored 34 points (13/23, 8 threes) and grabbed 11 boards. He’s followed up his Most Improved season with an equally impressive year so far. Vasquez was excellent, scoring 25 points on just 13 shots while handing out 14 assists. The Grizzlies made a big, big mistake giving him up. Al Farouq-Aminu played another quality game, shooting 6-of-7 while piling up 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block.
Timberwolves (5-6) 95 at Blazers (6-6) 103
Portland has a serious backcourt. Last night, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews dominated a close game, combining to shoot 23-for-34 for 58 points. On a night when LaMarcus Aldridge (6/13) didn’t play up to his standards, those two took down a tough Minnesota team.
The T-Wolves had a 5-point halftime lead, but Portland pulled ahead entering the fourth. The Blazers opened up the final quarter on a 7-0 run, effectively sinking Minnesota.
Minnesota had 20 more free throws, 14 more rebounds, six more points in the paint and three more fastbreak points than Portland. It’s tough to lose with those numbers. But Portland hit eight more threes than the T-Wolves, and simply played a better second half.
Kevin Love posted 24 and 13 in his second game back from a hand injury. Nikola Pekovic was strong, too, scoring 18 points while snagging ten boards.
Portland is now 4-1 in their last five games. Minnesota has dropped four straight.