by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Happy Holidays, everybody!!
In front of a quiet crowd at the Barclay’s Center, Joe Johnson paced the Nets with 22 points to lead Brooklyn to a win before their game against Boston tomorrow. The Nets had the game well in hand with under a minute left but the Sixers made it tight with 9-4 run over the final 40 seconds. After Deron Williams (16 points, 6 boards, 5 assists) missed two free throws, Jrue Holiday (24 points, 9 dimes, 6 boards) responded with a three with 19 seconds left to make it a four-point contest. After a miss on the next possession, the Sixers were forced to foul again and the Nets hit one of two to make it 92-87. Dorrell Wright then nailed a three to make it a two point game with under ten seconds to go. The Nets finally put the Sixers away with three free throws after being shaky at the line down the stretch.
Carmelo Anthony was unstoppable in the fourth quarter, scoring 19-points over the final 12 minutes, as the Knicks improved their homes record to 12-2 overall with a come from behind win over Minnesota. Without Kevin Love in the lineup, Nikola Pekovic stepped up for the Wolves and dominated the Knicks inside during the first half. While he finished with 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, the Knicks were able to neutralize him in the second half as they began to mount a comeback. Up by as many as 11 in the third quarter, the Wolves became tentative and allowed the Knicks to cut the lead to two heading into the fourth. With the game within reach, Melo smelled blood and took over, scoring the Knicks final 12 points as New York was able to overcome a Reggie Miller-esque sequence by Alexey Shved (18 points, 5 boards, 4 assists) in the final 20 seconds for the win.
After two straight losses, the Jazz bounced back with a tough road win over the Magic behind Paul Millsap’s 18 points and 7 rebounds. Utah was down by as many as 16 in the first half but cut the lead to two heading into the break. Orlando did themselves no favors, committing 20 turnovers which the Jazz turned into 22 points. The Jazz bench also came up huge, scoring 43 points–including 17 from Gordon Hayward and 12 from Derrick Favors. Trailing by two in the fourth, the Magic ran a play for Arron Afflalo (20 points) but his shot was blocked by Hayward. The Jazz hit their free throws the rest of the way to hang on for the win. Nicola Vucevic scored 16 points and grabbed 16 boards for Orlando.
Dirk Nowitzki’s (8 points in 20 minutes) return didn’t give the Mavs the lift they needed as the Spurs crushed Dallas. The Spurs hit a franchise-best 20 three-pointers, including seven from Danny Green who finished with a career-high 25 points on 56 percent shooting. Kawhi Leonard made his return from injury and finished with a strong 17 points, 4 boards and 2 assists. The Spurs led by as many as 46.
The Clippers are the hottest team in the NBA and were firing on all cylinders during last night’s victory over the Suns. Chris Paul scored 17 points, dropped 13 dimes and stole the ball 5 times (the first player to tally a stat line like that in consecutive games since John Stockton in ’91), Jamal Crawford scored 22 off the bench and Blake Griffin scored 23 and grabbed 11 boards in the win. The thirteenth straight victory is a new franchise record.
Without DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, the Kings rallied and snapped the Blazers five-game win streak. The Kings led 77-71 with time expiring in the third quarter when Aaron Brooks hit a 30-foot three at the buzzer to give the Kings a nine-point lead into the fourth. In the final quarter, the Kings outscored the Blazers 28-25 for the win. Marcus Thornton led the way with 22 points, John Salmons scored 15, grabbed 7 boards and dropped 7 dimes while Travis Outlaw scored 15 off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points and grabbed 11 boards, Nicolas Batum added 17 points and 8 assists and J.J. Hickson notched his eighth straight double-double with 14 points and 11 boards.