by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz
Last night, Melo dropped 40, the Clippers steamrolled past the Warriors and Eric Gordon made a tough shot when it mattered. Let’s get to it.
Nets (19-15) 113, Kings (13-21) 93
Brooklyn dominated last night. They held big leads in both halves, and Sacramento never really had a chance. Brook Lopez led the team in scoring with 18. He added 5 boards and 2 blocks. Andray Blatche came off the bench for 15 and 11, while Deron Williams went for 15 points, 7 assists and 6 boards.
DeMarcus Cousins played another big game for the Kings. He’s ben on fire early on in January, and scored 28 points to go along with 11 rebounds last night. He made 11-of-18 shots, but the Kings shot a measly 40 percent from the field as a team.
The Nets are back on track after winning five of their last six, while Sacramento fell to 3-14 on the road.
Celtics (16-17) 89, Hawks (20-12) 81
Atlanta was looking good early on last night. They led by 15 at half, but got outscored 33-9 in a brutal third quarter and couldn’t rebound in the fourth.
Paul Pierce led Boston with 26 points. He made 8-of-20 shots and grabbed 9 boards. Rajon Rondo triple-doubled with 14 points, 11 boards and 10 assists.
Atlanta finished with 21 turnovers and got out-rebounded by eight. Lou Williams scored 28 on 12 shots—a great mark—but didn’t get enough help from his teammates. Al Horford had a rare off night, and Josh Smith connected on 4-of-18 shots.
Knicks (23-10) 114, Magic (12-21) 106
New York trailed entering the fourth before going on a 28-13 extended run. They took control of the game late, and picked up the come-from-behind road W.
Carmelo Anthony was incredible. My pick for MVP so far made 14-of-29 shots on his way to 40 points, and added 6 boards, 6 assists and 4 threes. JR Smith added 18 off the bench, and Tyson Chandler double-doubled.
The Magic got nice games out of Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo, who each dropped 29. Nikola Vucevic, suddenly a boards machine, grabbed 18 rebounds. He has 59 over his last three games.
Pacers (20-14) 95, Bucks (16-16) 80
The Pacers led throughout this entire game. It was a 13-point contest going into the final period, and Milwaukee never rallied back.
Roy Hibbert led Indy with 20 points 15 rebounds and 5 blocks. 11 of his rebounds came on the offensive glass. Lance Stephenson had another solid game, scoring 10 points in 23 minutes. Indiana won the rebounding battle 59-39.
Monta Ellis led the Bucks in scoring with 21. Larry Sanders went for 12 points, 12 boards and 4 blocks. Brandon Jennings shot 4-of-15 for the 94th time this season. John Henson, who has turned into one of the great rookie surprises this year, grabbed 13 boards off the bench.
Rockets (20-14) 112, Cavaliers (8-27) 104
Cleveland led by one with eight minutes left before the Rockets got hot and pulled away late. James Harden led the Rockets in scoring once again. He scored 29 points and totaled a huge 7 steals. Jeremy Lin added 20, and Greg Smith, more than capable of the occasional eruption off the bench, double-doubled in 26 minutes.
Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 30. Dion Waiters made just 4-of-13 shots off the bench. He needs to be better than that, as it’s clear that Irving needs a reliable sidekick moving forward. Tristan Thompson, who is quietly having a big year, went for 14 points, 16 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block.
Trail Blazers (18-15) 102, Timberwolves (15-15) 97
Minnesota cut a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit all the way down to two with under a minute left, only to have the door slammed on their comeback attempt. Portland scored on their last three possessions (two of which came from the free throw line), icing the game.
Wesley Matthews knocked down 5 threes on his way to 26 points. Nicolas Batum shot 9-of-11 from the floor, and also scored a game-high 26. Damian Lillard added 20 and 6 assists.
The T-Wolves, playing without Kevin Love (hand) once again, actually had no trouble on the glass. They won that matchup 52-39, largely thanks to new starter Dante Cunningham’s 12 rebounds in 42 minutes. He also scored 10 points and blocked 3 shots. Nikola Pekovic was even better, scoring 21 points with 15 rebounds.
Ricky Rubio sat with back spasms, and the team just didn’t get the production they needed from their guards without him. Alexey Shved, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea combined to make just 10-of-35 shots.
Hornets (8-25) 99, Mavericks (13-21) 96
With 18 seconds remaining, Dirk Nowitzki went to the free throw line with Dallas trailing by a point. Shockingly, he split the free throws, giving the Hornets a chance for a game-winning shot. But a Greivis Vasquez jumper missed the mark, forcing overtime.
In OT, the Hornets had the ball with 14 seconds left in a tie game, and Eric Gordon came through. He knocked down a jumper, got fouled and hit the free throw, putting New Orleans up three. Vince Carter couldn’t respond with a game-tying three as time expired.
Gordon finished with 14 points, 4 assists and 2 blocks on the night. He’s struggled to find his groove shooting-wise since coming back, but that’s to be expected, and he has been playing well overall. That’s a great sight for Hornets fans and NBA fans alike after he seemingly sat out years with a knee injury. Vasquez scored 25 points with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Anthony Davis was terrible, going for 4 points and 1 rebound in 12 inefficient minutes.
Dirk led Dallas with 20 points, but did miss that crucial free throw. OJ Mayo scored 14 points on 17 shots, and Dallas is really sputtering. The big problem for them is that they simply aren’t very good. They’re well coached and still have a chance every night behind Nowitzki, but there isn’t a ton of talent on the roster and they seem like a solid bet to miss out on the postseason this year.
Spurs (27-9) 109, 76ers (15-20) 86
Entering the night, the Sixers were 6-12 on the road. The Spurs were 13-2 at home. That’s a recipe for an easy San Antonio win, and that’s exactly what we saw last night.
Tony Parker led the charge with 20 points and 5 assists. Tim Duncan, who’s having a great season (18, 10 and 2.5 a night), went for 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. Manu Ginobili dropped 19 off the bench. Tiago Splitter made just 4-of-13 shots, but still finished with a double-double.
Spencer Hawes was the Sixers’ lone bright spot. He made 10-of-13 shots for 22 points. Each of Evan Turner, Jason Richardson, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young was mediocre, and they combined for 45 points. Philly needs a lot more than that from those four starters to have a chance. Holiday handed out 8 assists but committed 5 turnovers.
Nuggets (19-16) 110, Jazz (17-18) 91
The Jazz might just slip into the playoffs this year, but their offense will give them next to no chance at a first-round upset. They simply can’t keep up against strong offensive teams like Denver. That was evident last night, when they got outscored by at least six points in each of the final three quarters.
Danilo Gallinari was Denver’s high-scorer with 26. He was very efficient, knocking down 7-of-11 shots and 11-of-12 free throws. Kosta Kufos and Kenneth Faried combined for 23 points and 23 rebounds. 13 guys played for Denver, and the team shot over 51 percent from the floor.
Paul Millsap’s 15 was enough to lead the Jazz. Gordon Hayward chipped in 14 off the bench, and for the sixth time this season I briefly fell asleep writing about Utah’s box score.
Clippers (27-8) 115, Warriors (22-11) 89
I wonder if we’ll ever see the Clippers lose again. Last night they scored at least 32 in the first, second and third quarters, jumping out to a huge lead. They let up in the fourth, but still won easily.
Chris Paul, fresh off dominating the Lakers, made 10-of-12 shots for 27 points. He added 9 dimes and 5 boards. Blake Griffin scored 20 points with 7 assists, and Eric Bledsoe led the second unit with 17 points.
It was an unusually poor showing from Golden State, who scored just 12 points in the first quarter. Stephen Curry led the team with 14 (always a bad sign), and Draymond Green’s 8 rebounds in 15 minutes may have been the team’s brightest spot.
Red LA is, for my money, the scariest team in the West. They’re a more complete squad than the Thunder, who often leave you with more questions than answers down the stretch in tight games. The Spurs are great, but might have a hard time running with LA in a long series. Who knows what the Lakers are going to be able to do in the Playoffs. I like Memphis a lot, but they don’t have a good enough go-to-guy in dire situations. Contrary to popular belief, Rudy Gay (40.9 percent from the field this year) is not that guy.
The Clippers, led by CP3, have a focused team and tremendous bench. That’s not including Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups, who will be able to add to the team eventually. I don’t want to overreact to a regular-season hot streak and say that the Clippers are a lock for at least the Western Conference Finals, but I find it hard to imagine anybody winning four out of seven games against them.