Hornets 76 (19-26), Knicks 71 (8-37)
The Hornets were playing without point guard Kemba Walker, but they found a way to grind out a win to halt the Knicks’ season-high three-game winning streak. A big reason they were able to take down the Melo-less Knicks was because of Al Jefferson’s (9 points, 6 rebounds, 7 blocks) unexpected strong play on the defensive end. Big Al tied a career-high in blocks with seven. From time to time, Jefferson can show this ability to have an impact defensively. In Walker’s absence, point guard Brian Roberts (17 points, 3 assists) filled in respectably and made a crucial jumper that broke a 69-69 tie with under three minutes left in the game. Gerald Henderson (14 points) and Jefferson made the team’s final five points to close this one out. Tim Hardaway Jr. (25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) had quite the performance in the loss, really finding his stroke from deep. Even though both these teams shot below 40 percent from the field, New York actually shot better than Charlotte. However, the Knicks simply committed too many fouls, which led to 37 attempts for the Hornets. New York only shot 18 free throws. The Hornets have now won nine of their last 11 and are certainly in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Bucks 101 (22-21), Pistons 86 (17-27)
The Bucks moved back above .500 thanks to a huge third quarter from their shooting guard. After the first quarter, Detroit led 28-23 and looked to be moving the ball well. However, the script quickly changed in the next 12 minutes as the Bucks outscored the Pistons 40-21. O.J. Mayo (20 points, 4-5 on 3-pointers) really broke out in the quarter, going on his own 9-0 run off three treys at one point. With younger guards Brandon Knight (14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Khris Middleton (16 points, 7 rebounds) in the starting lineup, Mayo has accepted his bench role this season and played a key role in keeping Milwaukee around .500 all season. For the Pistons, the loss isn’t the worst part of the night. Unfortunately for this hot Detroit team, point guard Brandon Jennings (16 points, 4 assists) went down in the third quarter with a nasty injury to what looked like his achilles and had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair. If it is a long-term injury, Detroit will certainly lose some of its fervor and tenacity as Jennings was the heart and soul of this rejuvenated offense. The biggest disparity in this game had to be the shooting percentages. The Bucks shot 50.6 percent from the field and 11-17 (64.7 percent) on 3-pointers while the Pistons only managed to shoot 36 percent from the field and 6-25 (24 percent) from deep.
Grizzlies 101 (31-12), 76ers 83 (8-36)
The Grizzlies pulled off their sixth win in the past seven games behind a strong double-double from Zach Randolph (17 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists) and a balanced offensive attack. They also forced the Sixers to cough it up 23 times, something Philly has done often this season. With Memphis not having played since Wednesday and Philadelphia playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Grizzlies looked like the fresher team early on and used a 33-20 second quarter right before halftime to put this game out of reach for good. With the way David Joerger has this team playing defense, it’s difficult for any team to climb out of large deficits. Jeff Green (18 points, 2-2 on 3-pointers) scored in single digits Wednesday against Toronto for the first time since he was traded to Memphis. He got back to his double-digit scoring ways against the Sixers. Jerami Grant (career-high 16 points, 5-10 from the field), who was the 39th pick in last summer’s draft, led the way for Philly with a career performance.
Jazz 108 (16-28), Nets 73 (18-26)
The Nets have had some blowouts this season, but they haven’t really led wire-to-wire like Saturday night against the Nets since the third game of the season against Phoenix. Things were simply clicking in this one Dante Exum (13 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds) had it going early on and Gordon Hayward (24 points, 3 steals, 10-14 from the field) led the way until garbage time arrived. Exum had seven points in the first nine minutes, helping Utah sustain its first quarter lead. Then in the second, Trey Burke (19 points, 4-8 on 3-pointers) went off for 15 points, capped off with a smooth jumper at the 3:29 mark that gave the Jazz a commanding 48-33 lead. He may not like coming off the bench now, but he turned that frustration into production against Brooklyn. Utah then cruised to a victory in the second half, really extending the lead in the final 12 minutes. Jarrett Jack (16 points, 7 assists) and Mason Plumlee (11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) were the only Nets players in double figures as their team shot 38.7 percent from the field. The Nets also looked very bad on the boards, being outrebounded 42-29. This listless performance but Brooklyn comes one game after the team was blown out 123-84 by the Clippers. It’s hard to imagine but the Nets were one time 16-16 this month (January 2). They have now gone 2-10 and handed the eight seed to the Hornets.
Blazers 103 (32-13), Wizards 96 (29-15)
The Blazers had recently been showing signs of struggles, going into Saturday’s game losers of five of their last six. However, this team received a huge boost from a tough power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points, 9 rebounds) as he surprised most of us by even being on the court. Aldridge was set to have surgery on his thumb but decided to play through the injury for the betterment of the team. With his free agency coming up this summer, he certainly is showing his care for the Portland Trail Blazers organization by pushing forward with his injury. Not only did Aldridge play with an injury against the Wizards, he actually led the way for a quality win. Nene (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) tried to hold his ground against Aldridge but couldn’t contain him. Nene eventually fouled out of the game after a bad play in which he fouled Meyers Leonard (9 points) on a 3-point attempt with just over a minutes left in the game. Leonard made all three free throws to extend Portland’s lead to 97-91. Aldridge and Damian Lillard (20 points, 7 assists) would go on to make 6-6 free throws to seal the victory. The Wizards, who led by as many as 14 in the first half, were led in scoring by John Wall (25 points, 9 assists) and Paul Pierce (19 points, 6 rebounds). Their team shot 48.8 percent from the field compared to only 40.2 percent from the Blazers; however, Washington couldn’t get more than one shot per possession most times down the court. They only grabbed two offense rebounds on the night.