Post Up: LA’s Finest

by December 29, 2012

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

On Friday night, the Clippers stayed scorching hot, the Nets got their first win under PJ Carlesimo and Detroit stunned the Heat.

Pistons (10-22) 109, Heat (20-7) 99
This was a strange one. Miami seemed to have full control of the game after outscoring Detroit by 15 in the first quarter, but gave the lead up in the second. They trailed by six at the break. Certainly not an insurmountable deficit, but one the Heat couldn’t recover from without Dwyane Wade. The Pistons didn’t budge in the second half, maintaining double-digit leads for most of it.

The bench was the story for Detroit. As LeBron James said post-game, they kicked the team up “17 notches.” After scoring 31 points in the Pistons’ last game, Will Bynum led the charge again, knocking down 10-of-16 shots on his way to 25 points and 10 dimes. He played 28 minutes and was a +17 on the floor. Starting point guard Brandon Knight played 20 ineffective minutes and was a -7. Bynum’s benchmate Andre Drummond posted 10 points, 10 boards and a pair of steals in 23 minutes. Charlie Villanueva, another reserve, scored 18 points on just 10 shots.

James (15/22, 35 points) and Chris Bosh (11/17, 28 points) played well for Miami, but their teammates did not. The rest of the team combined to make 13-of-38 shots. Ray Allen was especially bad, connecting on just 3-of-13 attempts from the field.

Nets (15-14) 97, Bobcats (7-22) 81
In their first game since firing coach Avery Johnson, Brooklyn dominated the first quarter and never looked back.

Brook Lopez paced the team with 26 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks. He made 9/12 shots from the field and 8/8 from the line. Deron Williams scored 19 points with a pair of threes, but he totaled just 2 assists. Reggie Evans came off the bench for 13 boards in 27 minutes. MarShon Brooks was finally freed from Johnson’s doghouse, but made just 3-of-8 shots in 20 minutes. He did contribute 3 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.

Only three Bobcats were in double-figures, and nobody scored 14 or more. Hakim Warrick was the team’s leading scorer, despite connecting on just 4-of-10 shots. Charlotte didn’t block a single shot and missed 10 of their 32 free throws.

Pacers (17-12) 97, Suns (11-19) 91
Indy and Phoenix were tied at 85 before the Pacers finished strong behind David West and Paul George. West finished with 14 and 7 while George posted 15 and 4.

The real star for Indiana was George Hill, who scored 22 (9/13 from the field) with 2 steals. In 37 minutes, Lance Stephenson scored 10 points with 8 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals. He’s turning into a very reliable player for Indiana. Roy Hibbert grabbed 14 rebounds.

Sebastian Telfair started for Phoenix in place of Goran Dragic, and posted 19 points and 6 assists. Marcin Gortat went for 15 points and 10 boards. The Suns made just 2 of their 14 three-point attempts.

Wizards (4-23) 105, Magic (12-17) 97
The Magic came out of the gate strong before fizzling. The Wizards took over in the second half, and while the game was close it was never really in doubt late.

Jordan Crawford had the hot hand for Washington, making 11-of-16 shots for 27 points. He also had 6 boards and 6 assists. It’s his sixth straight game with at least 17 points. Nene played very well, finishing with 23 points, 11 boards and 4 assists. Kevin Seraphin scored 17 off the bench and blocked 4 shots.

Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 26 points. He made 9/21 shots from the field and 7/7 from the stripe. JJ Redick knocked down 5 threes off the bench on his way to 23 points.

Hawks (18-9) 102, Cavaliers (7-24) 94
The Cavs held a seven-point lead in the early fourth quarter before letting up. Jeff Teague either scored or assisted on four straight buckets for the Hawks during an 8-0 run that gave them the lead with 9:30 to play.

Cleveland led again with under three minutes remaining, but Atlanta closed the game on a 9-0 run.

Teague tallied 27 points, 8 dimes and 2 steals. Al Horford double-doubled with 14 points and 11 boards. Josh Smith had a full stat line with 7 points, 6 boards, 6 assists and 5 blocks, but made just 2-of-12 shots and left early with a strained hip. He did not play in the fourth quarter. Kyle Korver scored 11 points with 5 boards and 2 assists as well as an uncharacteristic 3 steals and 3 blocks.

Raptors (10-20) 104, Hornets (6-23) 97
Toronto led for the entire second half before choking late in regulation. They led by seven with 1:38 remaining, but the Hornets went on an 8-1 run, including a pair of threes, to send the game into overtime.

The Raptors regrouped in OT. They held New Orleans to just two points in the first four minutes of the extra period, and took a commanding nine-point lead. The Hornets finished with just six points in overtime.

DeMar DeRozan was the game’s high scorer, dropping 30 on 22 shots. He made 11/13 free throws. Kyle Lowry returned with 17 points on just 7 shots. He also handed out 8 assists, and the Raptors can only hope that the immensely talented guard can stay healthy.

Anthony Davis was big for the Hornets, scoring 25 points with 9 boards and 3 blocks. Greivis Vasquez dropped 20 and 14 dimes, though he did commit 6 turnovers. He’s averaging 13 points and 8.5 assists this season. New Orleans will have a terrific backcourt moving forward if Austin Rivers pans out and Eric Gordon doesn’t turn into Brandon Roy 2.0. Plus, with just six wins in 29 tries this season, they’re likely looking at a top-3 draft pick.

Nuggets (17-14) 106, Mavericks (12-18) 85
Dallas is in real trouble. They got absolutely dominated last night (out-rebounded by 17 and made just 37.5 percent from the field), and are now 1-8 in their last nine.

Some of their struggles can be contributed to OJ Mayo, who has cooled off considerably since his red-hot start. He entered the night having totaled just 29 points over the last four games, but made 6/13 shots for 15 points on Friday. However, he coughed the ball up six times, and has now committed a ridiculous 23 turnovers in the Mavs’ last four games.

Denver got a big effort from Danilo Gallinari in the win. He made 7/11 from deep and 4/4 from the line on his way to 39 points. He added 8 boards and 3 assists. Kenneth Faried, fresh off of a 15-rebound outing against the Lakers, grabbed 19 boards against Dallas—just three fewer than the entire Mavericks’ starting lineup combined. Andre Igoudala added 20 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 threes and 2 steals.

Spurs (23-8) 122, Rockets (16-13) 116
A late Rockets run made this game look tight, but there wasn’t much nail-biting in San Antonio during the fourth quarter. The Spurs led by 19 with under four minutes to play before Houston’s spurt.

Tony Parker was excellent for San Antonio, dropping 31 points on 19 shots with 10 dimes and 5 boards. Tim Duncan was nearly as good, scoring 30 points on 20 shots. Manu Ginobli scored 23 points off the bench, and needed just 12 shots to do so. A combined 84 points on 51 shots—incredible.

Houston got very nice games from Jeremy Lin (21 & 8 dimes) and Chandler Parsons (24 & 8 boards). James Harden led all scorers with 33. He made 10-of-22 shots, but knocked down 10/13 from the line.

That’s been the story all season for him, and the reason I haven’t yet bought into Harden as a truly elite scorer. He has an amazing ability to get to the line, but his shooting needs to be more consistent. He’s making 2.5 more shots per game than he did last year, but he’s attempting 7 more. His 8.6 free throws made per game make him a steady 25+ guy, but his 45 percent shooting needs to be improved for Houston to be taken seriously. If he can get closer to or above 50 percent shooting, he has a great opportunity to steal a few scoring titles away from former teammate Kevin Durant. Don’t get it twisted—he’s awesome, but still has room to grow.

Clippers (24-6) 116, Jazz (15-16) 114
The Clippers dropped four games in six days late in November. Then they beat the T-Wolves on the 28th and won 14 straight after that. Over those 15 games, only one team had lost to Red LA by fewer than five: the Jazz. Last night, they faced the Jazz on the road.

Utah seemed ready to snap the Clippers’ win streak, as they led 74-55 in the third. But a 16-2 LA run got them back in the game, and they cut the deficit to four entering the fourth. The entire final period was neck-and-neck. With 17 seconds left, Al Jefferson knocked home a pair of free throws to tie the game at 114. But with three seconds left, Jefferson fouled Chris Paul and sent him to the line, where he knocked down the game-winning free throws. That makes 16 straight for Lob City.

CP3 led the Clippers with 29 points and 6 dimes. He made 13/14 free throws. Blake Griffin added 22 points and 13 boards, while DeAndre Jordan posted a strong 16 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals.

X-Clipper Randy Foye led the Jazz with 28, but missed what would have been a game-winning three at the buzzer. He made 8-of-13 shots, but was strangely a -18 on the floor. Jefferson added 22 and Gordon Hayward went for 17 off the bench.

Kings (10-19) 106, Knicks (21-9) 105
What a heartbreaker for New York. Playing without Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton (and, of course, Amar’e Stoudemire), they trailed by as many as 27 in Sacramento. But they erased the deficit, and led 105-101 with 2:50 left. Then the offense disappeared.

The Knicks didn’t score from then on, and it gave the Kings a chance to comeback. Sacramento trailed by two with the ball after a Jason Kidd turnover with 15 seconds remaining. A missed shot by Isaiah Thomas led to a long offensive rebound, and some serious passing put the ball in the hands of James Johnson, who promptly knocked down a game-winning three from the top of the key.

Getting blown out on the road without your best players on the floor is one thing, but pulling off a massive comeback only to fold is just brutal. Meanwhile, the Kings are a very solid 9-7 at home this season.

Johnson played well all night, and finished with 17 points and 7 boards. Marcus Thornton was the team’s leading scorer with 18. DeMarcus Cousins returned from his suspension to double-double with 15 and 10, but made just 5-of-14 shots. Amazingly, he’s made more than half of his shots in just five of 24 games this season.

New York got 28 points from JR Smith, who likely hasn’t minded being the offense’s focal point in Anthony’s absence. Chris Copeland played very well, coming off the bench for 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Tyson Chandler went for 21 points and 18 boards.

Lakers (15-15) 104, Blazers (14-14) 87
Portland was never really in this one. The Lakers led early and often, and didn’t allow the Blazers to claw their way back. Kobe Bryant led Yellow LA with 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Dwight Howard added 21 and 14 and Steve Nash handed out 10 assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge was Portland’s only offensive bright spot. He shot 12-for-17 for 26 points. The Blazers were out-rebounded by 8 and made just 3-of-19 three-point tries.

Warriors (20-10) 96, 76ers (14-16) 89
Golden State controlled most of this game before Philly made things interesting late. The Sixers cut the Ws lead to four with roughly six minutes left, but couldn’t get any closer from there.

David Lee continued his great season with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for just 25 points, but neither of them shot too terribly from the field (a combined 25 shots). Jarrett Jack scored 16 off the bench.

The Sixers got 21 points and 10 assists from Jrue Holiday, who was cemented himself as the team’s best player. He’s averaging 18 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in a breakout season. Thaddeus Young added 19 and 10 rebounds.