Post Up: Bledsoe Blazes Rockets

by March 22, 2015
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Nets 123 (29-39), Pacers 111 (30-39)

With both these teams coming off close games Friday night, they weren’t able to bring much to the court defensively but kept making basket after basket. These two teams combined to shoot 91-165 (55.2 percent) and have 13 total players in double figures. The Nets, though, pulled through down the stretch and outscored the Pacers 35-24 in the final quarter. Nets coach Lionel Hollins decided to go with Joe Johnson (14 points, 6-12 from the field) at the four in some small lineups, and it paid off as he made more big shots in crunch time. Brook Lopez (26 points, 4 blocks, 11-14 from the field) also held his own in the second half when George Hill (18 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds) and the Pacers took it right at the seven footer. The Pacers simply ran out of steam once the full 48 minutes was up and couldn’t keep the Nets from penetrating into the paint. Bojan Bogdanovic (21 points, 5 rebounds, 8-8 from the field, 3-3 on 3-pointers) yet again came through in a big way after playing a full 49 minutes in Friday night’s triple-overtime victory. Along with Jarrett Jack (13 points, 8 assists), these two are carrying Brooklyn’s bench and balancing each other extremely well. The Nets are now a game back of the Celtics for the No. 8 seed in the East.

Pistons 107 (25-44), Bulls 91 (42-29)

The Monroe-less Pistons came storming back in the third quarter behind a strong performance from Reggie Jackson (22 points, 11 assists) to take down the Bulls. After Paul Gasol (27 points, 10 assists) made a jump shot with 6:59 to go in the third quarter to give him 21 points, Chicago easily held a 72-53 lead. Then behind 12 points and five assists from Jackson, the Pistons went on a 27-8 run to close out the quarter and take an 80-79 lead going into the final 12 minutes. The onslaught began in the fourth as the Bulls just couldn’t put the ball in the basket and only scored 12 points in those 12 minutes. Tayshaun Prince (4 points, 10 rebounds) played well on the defensive end of the floor during the fourth quarter, picking up two crucial steals. Spencer Dinwiddie (10 points, 10 assists) stepped up his game when Jackson took a seat in the fourth and finished with a double-double. While Detroit finished with six players in double digits, the Bulls only had three.

Suns 117 (37-33), Rockets 102 (46-23)

Eric Bledsoe (career-high 34 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 11-18 from the field) came out strong in the first half and kept it going in the fourth as he went off for career night. If the Suns find a way to sneak into the playoffs, it will be in large part to Bledsoe, who has really taken over the reins of the offense since the Suns shipped out Goran Dragic. Phoenix took a scare, though, as the team almost let Josh Smith (17 points, 5 rebounds) and Donatas Motiejunas (18 points, 6 assists) shoot the Rockets back into this game. After Archie Goodwin (11 points, 3 rebounds) made a layup to put the Suns up 101-86 to start the fourth quarter, Houston went on a 14-4 run to close the gap to just four points with under six minutes to go. The Suns scrappy defense then held the Rockets scoreless up until 25.7 seconds remaining when the game had been all but decided. Marcus Morris (17 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) and Markieff Morris (17 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) both came up in a huge way for the Suns, contributing in many different ways. James Harden (16 points, 5 assists, 5-19 from the field) was limited to only 16 points after scoring a career-high 50 points in his previous game. Phoenix now trails the Thunder by two and a half games for the No. 8 seed.

Grizzlies 97 (49-21), Blazers 86 (44-24)

Mike Conley (21 points, 9 assists, 8-11 from the field) and Jeff Green (23 points, 9 rebounds) led the way in building an 18-point lead and holding on late to extend Portland’s recent struggles. Fellow starters Zach Randolph (17 points), Marc Gasol (13 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) and Tony Allen (10 points, 11 rebounds) all chipped in along the way to the team’s second straight victory against a West playoff team. The Grizzlies connected on 11-18 (61.1 percent) shots from deep, matching a season-high for made 3-pointers. This starting lineup was simply too much for the undermanned Blazers. Damian Lillard (27 points, 7 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points, 5 rebounds) led the way for Portland, but with Wes Matthews done for the season and Nicolas Batum not returning in the second half due to lower back pain, the Blazers have become too thin on both ends of the floor. Aldridge also bruised his left hand and sat out the second half. Not only did they struggle to put points on the board, but without Matthews’ and Batum’s perimeter defense, Portland simply couldn’t keep up Saturday night. The Blazers also only managed 15 assists while the Grizzlies had 21 on the night. Rip City is now on a season-worst four-game losing streak and only a game ahead of the seventh-seeded Mavericks.

Warriors 106 (56-13), Jazz 91 (31-38)

After one of his worst shooting performances of the season, Stephen Curry (24 points, 3-6 on 3-pointers, 3 steals) reestablished his shot from deep and helped the Warriors outscore the Jazz in every quarter Saturday night. Golden State never outscored Utah by more than five points in any quarter but simply wore down their young opponents. Draymond Green (15 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 11-13 on free throws) had another complete game and did a little bit of everything for the Warriors. He is truly the epitome of a glue guy as he works in multiple lineups at different positions with practically all players. Andre Iguodala (13 points) plays a similar role off the bench and adds even more versatility. Leandro Barbosa (19 points, 3 steals, 8-10 from the field) has settled into a clear role off the bench and always lets the game come to him. These Warriors players have all found a place in Kerr’s system and thrived along the way. For the Jazz, Derrick Favors (21 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Trey Burke (20 points, 5 assists, 5-11 on 3-pointers) reached the 20-point plateau while Rodney Hood (19 points) came one point shy of joining them. As promising as the Jazz have been since the All-Star Break, this game shows they still have a long way to go before the pieces start to all come together.