by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Pacers 97 (36-10), Nets 96 (20-25)
The Pacers swept the season series from the Nets, with this one being the closest of the four games. David West (17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) scored 7 of the Pacers’ final 8 points as both teams relied heavily on their starting lineups. Even though Indiana had a season-high 24 turnovers, they completely controlled the boards, outrebounding Brooklyn 46-27. The Nets now have 44 rebounds in their past two games. Paul George (20 points, 8 rebounds) and Roy Hibbert (20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks) both had solid games while Shaun Livingston (season-high 24 points) played very well throughout the night. The Nets hung around for the majority of this game but Paul Pierce (15 points, 6 steals) and Joe Johnson (16 points) couldn’t make shots down the stretch. The Nets have cooled off since starting 2014 so hot, now losing three in a row. The Pacers have only lost back-to-back games one time this season. (Also—could there have been a more Scola way for Scola to seal this game?)
Wizards 96 (23-23), Thunder 81 (38-11)
The Wizards led by four at halftime, and it looked like the Thunder could be well on their way to winning an eleventh straight game with a quick run. Then John Wall (17 points, 15 assists, 6 steals) took over, scoring 15 of his 17 points in these final 24 minutes. Wall and the Wizards exploded in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Thunder 36-26 and swinging the momentum. Washington got some help from Kevin Durant (26 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 turnovers, 8-21 from the field, 0-6 on 3-pointers), who actually had an off-night. Yes, that is a real thing. Furthermore, other than Serge Ibaka (14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks), Durant didn’t get much help from his teammates. Marcin Gortat (14 points, 14 rebounds) had a solid double-double while Trevor Ariza (18 points, 6 rebounds) helped the Wizards spread the floor. After Ariza hit a 3-pointer with just under a minute left in the 3rd quarter, Washington took its first double-digit lead of the game and led by double-digits the rest of the way. If the Wizards can find a way to take down Portland on Monday, they will be above .500 for the first time since October 2009.
Hawks 120 (25-21), Timberwolves 113 (23-24)
Poor Kevin Love (43 points, 19 rebounds) must be the best player in the NBA at having dominating performances in losing causes. He scored 21 points in the 4th quarter, including the final 9 points for the Wolves. However, the Hawks just had more scoring options than the Wolves, as Kyle Korver (24 points, 3-5 on 3-pointers) broke out in the 3rd quarter and scored 12 of his 24 points. Korver has now made at least one 3-pointer in an NBA-record 115 straight games. It was also during this quarter that Atlanta took control of the game, outscoring Minnesota 38-21. Paul Millsap (20 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals) had an energy-driven performance even though he fouled out in the 4th quarter. This first-time All-Star has been a battler his entire career, continuing to improve year after year. Jeff Teague (19 points, 8 assists, 3 steals) might be considered one of the top snubs to not make most people’s All-Star snub list. J.J. Barea (12 points, 4 assists) was ejected in the 4th quarter for arguing with an official. Hawks swingmen DeMarre Carroll (19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) and Mike Scott (14 points, 6 rebounds, 21 minutes) continued to be workhorses for a scrappy Atlanta team. Carroll is averaging 15.7 points over the last seven games while Scott is averaging 13.7 points over the last 12 games.
Pistons 113 (19-27), 76ers 96 (15-33)
Without Michael Carter-Williams (shoulder), the Sixers didn’t have a chance in this game—even though it was the Pistons. After James Anderson (12 points, 6 rebounds) made a layup with 7:57 left in the 1st quarter, Philadelphia led 11-10. This would be the team’s last lead for the rest of the game. Led by Andre Drummond (22 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks) and Greg Monroe (21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks), Motor City would close out the quarter on a 22-11 run and never look back. These two Pistons combined to shoot 18-21 for the game. Detroit won the next two quarters 61-48, allowing garbage time to take place in the final 12 minutes. The Pistons have done few things consistently well all year; however, scoring in the paint and rebounding are the exceptions. Saturday night, they outrebounded the Sixers 58-44. Tony Wroten (18 points) led the Sixers in scoring. Brandon Jennings (20 points, 4 assists) and Kyle Singler (20 points, 10 rebounds) both played well against a Sixers backcourt that lacked any sort of defensive presence without Carter-Williams.
Rockets 106 (32-17), Cavaliers 92 (16-31)
Jeremy Lin (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) claimed his first career triple-double Saturday night. He might not be making the kind of national noise that he was making while in New York, but the 6-3 point guard has settled into a fantastic role in Houston. Whether he is subbing in for Patrick Beverley (0 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals) or playing next to him, Lin changes the pace of the game when he comes in off the bench. And he looks comfortable with this role. Lin got plenty of help from Dwight Howard (26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks), James Harden (28 points, 4 assists) and Terrence Jones (17 points, 7 rebounds), one of the biggest surprises this season. After falling behind by double-digits in the 2nd quarter, it seemed as if the Cavs were down and out already. However, behind 7 quick points from Luol Deng (24 points, 4 rebounds) in the first three minutes of the 3rd quarter, Cleveland actually took the lead, 63-61. However, Houston would respond by going on an 11-0 run and hold onto the lead the rest of the way. The Rockets pushed the ball well, outscoring the Cavs 29-10 in fast break points. They also outscored Cleveland in the paint 62-32. The Cavaliers should be proud to have Kyrie Irving (21 points, 7 assists, 6 turnovers) in the starting lineup for the East All-Stars, but this team is quietly becoming one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
Grizzlies 99 (26-20), Bucks 90 (8-39)
Nick Calathes (career-high 22 points, 4-5 on 3-pointers) had a breakout performance in his first career start for the Grizzlies with Mike Conley (ankle) out at least a week. Even though the consistent play from Zach Randolph (23 points, 10 rebounds) and the resurgence of Marc Gasol (19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) are two major reasons this team is right back in the playoff hunt, the contributions from the Grizzlies’ young core have been a major factor towards their success. One of these players, James Johnson (14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 22 minutes), continued to be a spark plug off the bench. (On a side note, can Tayshaun Prince (0 points, 3 rebounds, 0-5 from the field) be any more washed up than he is right now?) For the Bucks, Brandon Knight (23 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) had a solid game while Larry Sanders (10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) was finally tolerable. The Grizzles actually trailed by 13 points in the 1st half before realizing who they were playing and taking their own double-digit lead in the 2nd half. As seems to be the case every year, the Grizzlies are once again looking like the team no one wants to face in the 1st round of the playoffs. They currently have a League-best six-game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 12 games. Look out, Western Conference.
Pelicans 88 (20-26), Bulls 79 (23-23)
As tank-less as these Bulls can look at times, they can also look offensively deficient. The Bulls only managed 36 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, which is when this game got out of hand. It even looks much closer than it actually was, as the Pelicans held a 16-point lead with three minutes left after an Anthony Davis (24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 steals) jump shot. The Pelicans big man has single-handedly won a handful of games for New Orleans this year. The Bulls would make a quick push in the final minutes but only get as close as the final score shows. It sounds weird to say this…but D.J. Augustin (23 points, 7 assists) needs some help. Joakim Noah (14 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists) and Taj Gibson (17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) played their part but the rest of the team seemed unable to put the ball in the basket. Davis didn’t get a lot of help from any one player but had enough small contributions from all his teammates that stepped onto the floor. The Pelicans had eight players with at least 6 points.
Spurs 95 (34-13), Kings 93 (15-32)
They might hold the worst record in the West and be on a League-worst seven-game losing streak, but the Kings don’t seem to go down without a fight. This current losing streak has a lot to do with the absence of DeMarcus Cousins (ankle). The Spurs, on the other hand, have now broken a season-worst three-game losing streak behind strong play from their leaders Tim Duncan (23 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks) and Tony Parker (18 points, 10 assists). This was Duncan’s 50th career game with at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists. Isaiah Thomas (26 points, 5 assists) and Rudy Gay (23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals) continued their strong play Saturday against San Antonio; these two are both having great seasons despite their team’s current record. Quincy Acy (2 points, 10 rebounds) had his second 10-rebound game since joining the Kings. Sacramento looked good for the majority of this game but simply couldn’t finish strong. Over the final 11 minutes, the Kings shot 3-15 from the field. During this stretch, Matt Bonner (7 points, 4 rebounds, 17 minutes) exploded and scored all of his points in just under three minutes. Gay and Derrick Williams (14 points) each had a chance to send this game into overtime in the closing seconds but couldn’t convert. Tim Duncan was then able to let out a big sigh of relief since he missed two free throws with 12 seconds left.
Heat 106 (33-13), Knicks 91 (19-28)
Even when a fair amount of the nation pictured LeBron James (30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals) as a choke, he usually brought his top game to Madison Square Garden. Saturday night was the same story as he reminded the nation who is the reigning MVP. And his sidekick, Dwyane Wade (22 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 10-15 from the field), looked the healthiest he’s been since returning from his injury. James and Wade combined to score 15 of the Heat’s 29 points in the 4th quarter. Shane Battier (16 points, 4-7 on 3-pointers) had one of his sporadic outbursts at just the right time with Chris Bosh (4 points, 10 rebounds, 2-11 from the field) having an uncharacteristic off-night. Carmelo Anthony (26 points, 8 rebounds, 7 turnovers) did everything he could offensively, but just didn’t have the support he needed to compete at a high level. You can blame Melo or the situations he’s been in while with Denver and New York, but the superstar seems so far away from reaching the level of success LeBron has achieved and will most likely continue to achieve. J.R. Smith (20 points, 4-7 on 3-pointers) reached 20 points for just the fourth time this season. At this point in the season last year, Smith had already reached that mark 14 times. Rookie Tim Hardaway (17 points, 3-7 on 3-pointers) is currently in the midst of his best stretch of basketball, averaging 18 points in the last five games. The Heat used a quick 15-7 run in the 2nd quarter to grab a double-digit lead. Even though New York would cut the deficit to single-digits over the course of the 2nd half, Miami never seemed to lose their composure or control of the game. New York only managed 14 assists to go along with 17 turnovers. The Knicks have looked good of late, but they still look like a team that won’t be able to even compete with the Heat and Pacers once the playoffs arrive…if they are still playing at that time.
Suns 105 (29-18), Bobcats 95 (21-28)
Even though these two teams are in completely different places record-wise, they both are surprisingly right in the thick of their conference’s respective playoff race. But the Suns were clearly the better team on the night, building a 90-63 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter. Anthony Tolliver (14 points) and Jannero Pargo (12 points, 6 assists) would then combine to score 21 points in the 4th quarter and make this game seem more respectable. However, before these garbage minutes, Goran Dragic (25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 27 minutes) had himself another All-Star-esque performance. The Morris twins provided the necessary energy off the bench, combining to score 28 points and grab 12 rebounds. For as blistering hot as he’s been of late, Al Jefferson (10 points, 6 rebounds, 4-15 from the field) finally came back down to earth. Big Al had reached at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in his previous three games. The Bledsoe-less Suns have now won five straight games and could be on pace to reach 50 wins by season’s end.
Blazers 106 (34-13), Raptors 103 (25-22)
The Blazers got back to their winning ways behind big performances from their two All-Stars—LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points, 15 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (21 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 0 turnovers). Lillard hit a go-ahead free throw with 11.8 seconds to go before the Raptors turned the ball over. Wesley Matthews (21 points, 5-7 on 3-pointers) and Nicolas Batum (18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) also helped give Portland just enough to overcome All-Star DeMar DeRozan’s (36 points, 12 assists) stellar night. Kyle Lowry (23 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) provided fans with a fun point guard matchup. (I mean, really? Joe Johnson over this guy?) Jonas Valanciunas (18 points) has scored in double-digits in six of his last seven games. The Blazers barely escaped losing their third straight and escaped losing a game in embarrassing fashion. After C.J. McCollum (4 points) made two free throws midway through the 3rd quarter, the Blazers held a 69-50 lead. Then after Matthews hit a 3-pointer midway through the 4th quarter, the Blazers led 98-82. But Toronto just wouldn’t go away, going on a 19-4 run in under five minutes to make this a one-point game. However, the Blazers locked down defensively and made their free throws to hold off the resurgent Raptors.
Clippers 102 (34-16), Jazz 87 (16-31)
Jamal Crawford (27 points, 5 assists) and Blake Griffin (25 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) are doing something special in Los Angeles right now. If you think back to what this team was before Chris Paul turned them into Lob City, they were not a competitive basketball team whatsoever. But Crawford and Griffin have taken their games to another level in his absence, allowing the Clippers to not lose a step in the competitive Western Conference. Since losing CP3, Los Angeles has gone 11-4 and remained in the top four of the conference. The Clippers simply took care of business Saturday night, letting Enes Kanter (23 points, 14 rebounds) get his and not worrying about much else from Utah’s players. Richard Jefferson (19 points, 4-6 on 3-pointers) continued to look somewhat decent, which has oddly been the case for certain stretches this season. After Trey Burke (6 points, 5 assists) knocked down a 3-pointer with two minutes left in the first quarter, the Jazz held their largest lead of the game, 19-12. They would then fight during the 2nd quarter, trading the lead for almost the full 12 minutes. The 3rd quarter was a different story, though, as Matt Barnes (9 points, 4 rebounds) and Darren Collison (11 points, 6 assists, 2 steals) gave the Clippers a boost coming right out of the locker room. The Clippers didn’t give up the lead the rest of the way. DeAndre Jordan (10 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks) had his 10th game of the season with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks.