by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Hawks (15-13) 127, Cavaliers (10-17) 125 (2OT)
In a game in which neither team could maintain any separation, it took every bit of two extra periods to decide a winner. With under three seconds remaining in the second OT, Jeff Teague (34 points, 14-24 shooting, 14 assists) made his move from the top of the arc, pulled up around the left elbow and launched a jumper that bounced off of every part of the rim before dropping in, putting an end to a marathon game. The Hawks overcame a huge effort from Kyrie Irving, who dropped 40 points (17-33 shooting), including 16 in the extra 10 minutes.
After a pedestrian regulation game, there were big plays galore in the overtimes. In the first OT, after the Cavs appeared to have things out, Teague hit a long triple to extend the game. After a scoring burst from Kyrie and Tristan Thompson (22 points), Kyle Korver came back for the Hawks with a four-point play, followed by another big three. With under a minute to go, Kyrie stepped back to hit a game-tying jumper before Teague’s winner.
Dion Waiters, playing with a heavy wrap on his wrist, put up 20 (9-14 shooting) off the bench for the Cavs. Paul Millsap was a beast in the first overtime for Atlanta, scoring the Hawks’ first eight points of the period on his way to 20 and 11 boards. It wasn’t all good news for Atlanta, though: Al Horford (25 points) left the game with a right shoulder injury and did not return.
Rockets (20-11) 100, Grizzlies (12-16) 92
It looked like the Rockets were suffering from a Christmas hangover a night after blowing past the Spurs, falling behind by double digits to Memphis. But Houston was able to turn it on against Memphis when Dwight Howard (two points, six rebounds in 18 minutes) went to the bench for good with foul trouble. James Harden (27 points, 2-9 from the field, 22-25 from the line) helped complete the comeback, hitting 9-11 free throws in the fourth quarter, and Jeremy Lin scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth to guide Houston to the win. Chandler Parsons also did his thing for Houston, posting a double double with 15 points and 11 boards.
Early on, Memphis looked like the Grizzlies of old, beating the Rockets up on the glass and in the paint. Zach Randolph (23 points, 17 rebounds) dominated his matchup with the smaller Terrence Jones, scoring 15 of his 23 in the first half. Jones (20 points, 10-14 shooting) wasn’t bad himself of the offensive end, hitting all six of his first-half shot attempts. The Grizz got a spark from the newly acquired James Johnson, who threw down three monstrous first-half dunks, including this strong drive to the hoop:
With Omer Asik sidelined, Donatas Montiejunas stepped up with Howard on the bench. The second-year big man played 23 minutes – more than he’d played in the previous two weeks combined. He posted a team-best +17 plus-minus rating, while his three blocks helped spark the Rockets’ turnaround. Houston trailed 76-66 with 11 minutes left on the clock, but used an extended 21-5 run to pull ahead for good with under five minutes to go. The foul disparity in the second half, which Randolph called out after the game, certainly helped the Rockets; they took 25 second-half free throws compared to the Grizzlies’ 13 attempts.
Spurs (23-7) 116, Mavericks (16-13) 107
The Spurs were able to bounce back from the Christmas Day shellacking they took from the Rockets to top Dallas on Thursday, but they sure made it interesting. Leading by 15 midway through the fourth quarter, the Spurs appeared to have the game in hand. But a 12-0 Mavs run, with nine points coming from Monta Ellis (23 points, six assists, 9-19 shooting), cut the lead to 100-97 with just under four minutes remaining. That was as close as the Mavs would get, though, as the Spurs held on and pulled away for the win. Danny Green was perfect from the field, going 7-7, including five threes, to score 22 points, while Tim Duncan turned back the clock for 21 and 13.
Duncan’s strong game may have been aided by who the Mavs had to trot out at center. Brandan Wright and Sam Dalembert were both out sick for Dallas, so former Spur DeJuan Blair, giving up nearly half a foot to Timmy, started at center. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 25 points, while Vince Carter poured in 20 off the bench and helped keep Dallas in it late with his free throw shooting (11-11 from the line for the game). For the Spurs, Tony Parker shook off his rough outing against Houston to score 23 points, although his shooting (6-18 from the field) was off for the second straight night.
Trail Blazers (24-5) 116, Clippers (20-11) 112 (OT)
Just a few days removed from having his wisdom teeth pulled, LaMarcus Aldridge had no issue extracting a win from the Clippers in overtime. Portland’s big man scored seven of his 32 points in OT, hitting all of the Blazers’ field goals in the frame to push them to the win.
The Clippers dropped their second game in as many nights, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Down by 11 points with seven minutes to go, LA fought back to grab a late lead on the back of their all-world point guard. Chris Paul (34 points, 16-29 shooting, 16 assists, six steals) went into video game mode down the stretch. In the final 7:30 of regulation, he poured in 11 points and three assists. When the Clippers pulled ahead 101-98 with under a minute to go, the Blazers were rescued by a very deep triple from Nicolas Batum (19 points) off a handoff from Aldridge.
In OT, Blake Griffin tried his hand, scoring six of his 35 points (to go along with 11 rebounds), but missed a layup that would have given the Clips the lead with 30 seconds to go.
Portland had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night (43.8 percent), likely influenced by LA’s improving defense, but still managed to place six scorers in double figures, including all five starters. Wesley Matthews knocked down 4-10 treys – the team was 13-36 from deep overall – on his way to 19 points, also posting seven rebounds and six assists. Robin Lopez went for a double double with 11 and 15. The Blazers are up to 24 wins in just 29 games. Last season, it took them until game no. 47 to reach that total.