by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Last night was just one big, never-ending #LeaguePassAlert. Let’s get it.
Dwight Howard missed 8 of his 9 fourth quarter free throw attempts and the Raptors pulled within 2 points twice in the last 31 seconds, but JJ Redick drilled a corner 3-pointer with 9.7 seconds left and sank a pair of free throws with 5 seconds left as Orlando escaped Toronto to improve to 25-14 on the year. It was a slow-paced affair, as the teams combined for just 15 fast break points, and Howard finished with 36 points (16-20 FGs) and 13 rebounds but missed a total of 10 free throws. Ryan Anderson put up 19 points and 13 boards and Redick had 13 points for the Magic, winners of 9 of their last 12 games. The Raptors made a 9-0 run in the third quarter that briefly gave them a 2-point lead, before Howard ripped off 11 points—including one thunderous alley-oop finish via Redick—over the next 5 and a half minutes to put Orlando back in charge. DeMar Derozan scored 23 points to lead the Raps, Jerryd Bayless had 15 off the bench (plus 5 assists and 6 rebounds), James Johnson delivered a solid 13-7-7 line and even Aaron Gray deserves a mention, with his 11×11 double-double.
Poor John Wall. It’s nights like these I get really worked up about the kid—about him getting overlooked because his teammates are so awful, about him looking incredible but no one noticing, instead opting for the jokes about the team’s ineptitude and unfairly lumping him in with them. Wall racked up 20 points (on 7-10 shooting), 14 assists and 6 rebounds and only 2 turnovers, and he probably could have had a half-dozen more dimes if not for some horrific shooting nights from other Wizards, like Chris Singleton (1-7, 2 points), Jordan Crawford (2-13, 5 points) and Andray Blatche (2-6, 4 points). Nick Young’s 25 points came mostly on isolations, and Washington shot 56 percent from the free throw line, missing 16 freebies. As for Golden State, what better way to get back on track on a poor road trip than to play the Wiz? Over the first four games of their trip, the Warriors shot 18 percent from the 3-point line and scored about 78 points per game—last night they made 15 of 23 threes (65 percent) and scored 120 points. Monta Ellis scored 25 points (3 of which were assisted by Javale McGee) and sat out the fourth quarter, Klay Thompson added 18, and Stephen Curry made a surprise appearance off the bench to score 12 points in 9 minutes on 5-7 shooting, including one ridiculous 3-pointer with time running out in the third quarter.
Al Jefferson: 23 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks, 0 turnovers? Aight, I see you. The Jazz shot 50 percent from the field as a team, and fed Big Al the rock all night, and got a season-high 23 from Gordon Hayward, as they improved to 18-19 on the year and got just their 4th road win. Jefferson and the boys inside won the battle on the glass 46-30 (a season-low for the Cavs), and had 13 offensive rebounds. Cleveland’s leading scorers were Antawn Jamison and Kyrie Irving, with 22 apiece, but Jamison had more assists (6) than Irving (4) and the Cavs shot9-23 from 3-point range as they dropped their sixth straight and fourth in a row at home. Utah led by as many as 17, using a 22-8 run to end the first half to take a 15-point lead into the break. In that second quarter, the Cavs shot just 3-16 from the field. The Jazz bench outscored Cleveland’s 46-33, helping to snap a six-game road losing streak.
Think the Bulls wanted this one? Last time these two hooked up, Chicago took exception to the Pacers’ celebratory reaction to beating the MVP and company. This time, there would be no celebration for Indiana. The Bulls won their seventh straight game and snapped Indy’s 6-game winning streak behind 20 points from Luol Deng (despite 1-7 shooting in the first half), 13 points and 9 dimes from Derrick Rose and 17 rebounds from Joakim Noah. Chicago’s bigs dominated all night long, outrebounding the Pacers 60-32 and holding All-Star center Roy Hibbert to just 2 points. Paul George scored 21 points to lead Indiana, but the Pacers managed to score only 72 points, a season-low. The Bulls are still the NBA’s best at 32-8, and are now an incredible 11-2 on the second night of back-to-backs this year. The only shred of bad news for Chi-town was that Rip Hamilton left in the first quarter, citing his right shoulder.
Brandon Jennings scored 14 of the Bucks’ first 19 points and had 19 points in the first quarter, but Philly jumped out to a 10-point first-half lead. The Bucks slowly got back into the game, and then used a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to take an 8-point lead late. In this back and forth affair, that wasn’t nearly enough to feel comfortable, as the Sixers stormed back behind 26 points from Lou Williams. Williams tied the game at 93 after Jennings fouled him on a 3-point attempt with one minute remaining, but Beno Udrih responded with a short jumper, and LouWill missed a runner with less than 10 seconds left that would have sent this one to overtime. The Bucks (15-23) scored 21 fast break points, to just 6 for Philadelphia, and were buoyed by Jennings’ monster 33-point, 7-assist game, plus big games from the frontcourt duo of Ersan Ilyasova (11 points, 18 rebounds) and Drew Gooden (25 and 10). The Sixers fall to 22-17, and have quietly been pretty bad lately—2-8 over their last 10, 0-7 in games decided by 4 points or less and now only 1.5 games up on Boston in the Atlantic division.
Dirk Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer to give the Mavericks an 88-85 lead with 4 minutes left to play, but from there on in, the Thunder controlled the game in its clutch moments, getting a huge answer 3 from Russell Westbrook, forcing Dirk into a bad turnover with 1:20 to play, and then locking down on defense to take out the Champs and slide to 30-8 on the year. Dallas couldn’t get a shot off while down 92-91 with under 40 seconds to play, then looked totally confused on the game’s last possession (Jason Kidd and Jason Terry ran into each other on the baseline, and Dirk never got a touch). The already short-handed Mavs lost Brendan Hawyood seconds into the game, and looked out of sync outside of Nowitzki, who scored 27 points. Westbrook led the Thunder in scoring with 24 points, Kevin Durant added 22, Kendrick Perkins hauled down 16 rebounds and Serge Ibaka had another weirdly awesome Serge Ibaka line, with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. Ibaka also hit a pair of clutch free throws with under a minute left to help stave off the Mavs. OKC won despite shooting 38 percent from the field, aided in part by a 19-point advantage at the free throw line.
Chris Paul had a clean look at a 3-pointer with under a minute to play and the Clippers down 5, but it hit back iron. Luckily, he immediately redeemed himself with a steal at the other end, after which he was immediately fouled. With Lob Angeles trailing by just 3 with 29.1 to play after CP3’s free tosses, JJ Barea clanked a runner and the Clips took over. Somehow, unbelievably, Derrick Williams made the rookie mistake of fouling Paul on a three-point attempt with 2.7 seconds left in regulation, and the veteran PG stepped to the line with an opportunity to tie the game. One, cash. Two, cash. Three…short. And L.A. fell that one point short of sending this one to overtime, instead allowing Minnesota to win game No. 20 on the season. Kevin Love can take most of the credit for building the Timberwolves’ lead—he dropped a crazy 39-point, 17-board performance in his game-high 43 minutes. But he got help in the form of 15 points and 9 rebounds from Williams and 13 points for Darko Milicic (who started in place of an injured Nikola Pekovic). Michael Beasley only had 9 points, but they all came in the fourth quarter, as the Wolves held off the Clippers (22-14) despite 26 points and 12 boards from Blake Griffin and an 18-5-4 line out of Paul.
When Tyreke Evans hit a pair of free throws to give the Kings a 5-point lead with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter, some Nuggets fans probably headed for the exits. When they found out what happened next, those fans have probably never regretted something so much in their lives. Arron Afflalo scored the final 8 points for Denver in regulation, including a 3-pointer with 9.7 seconds left to cut the deficit to 1, and then 3 clutch free throws with 0.6 seconds left to send the game to overtime after a boneheaded foul by Marcus Thornton. In overtime, his backcourt mate, Ty Lawson, had his own clutch moment, drilling a 3-pointer to break a 116-116 tie with 4 seconds left, lifting the Nuggs to the impossible win. Afflalo finished with a career-high 32 points, Lawson had 16 points and 13 assists, and don’t look now, but Denver is now 4-0 after the All-Star break. Plus, last night marked the returns of Danilo Gallinari and Nene, each of whom played less than 20 minutes and looked sluggish, but combined for 10 points and most importantly are back out there. Thornton and Evans each had 27 for Sacramento, who over and over again looked to have this game in the bag. But Lawson, Afflalo and the energy of rookie Kenneth Faried (career-high 20 points, game-high 12 rebounds) were too much for the Kings—er, so was basic basketball IQ, too. Just an insane basketball game. Totally freaking insane.
Ahh, the classic late-night blowout. New Orleans had been frisky lately, but Portland held the Hornets to just 10 points in the third quarter en route to earning their first win post-All-Star break. Nicolas Batum led the Blazers in scoring with 19, while Ray Felton had 11 points and 10 assists and LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 10 points and 11 boards. Portland shot just 6-22 from the three-point line, but locked down the Hornets at the other end—Jarrett Jack and Trevor Ariza shot a combined 2-10, Chris Kaman was 4-13 and only 3 NOLA players scored in double figures, led by Marco Belinelli’s 18. The Blazers’ win snapped a 3-game skid, as they led by as many as 26. Also, word to Marcus Camby, who had 16 rebounds. Does this dude age?
Line of the Night: Kevin Love — 39 points and 17 rebounds. Minnesota is now 3-0 vs. the Clippers this year.
Moment of the Night: Ty Lawson sinks the Kings in OT.
Dunk of the Night: Blake should have been a gymnast. Dwight don’t hurt ’em.
Funny of the Night: Just read the title.
Tonight: A Tuesday night 6-pack with some intriguing matchups on deck, including Hawks-Pacers, Rockets-Celtics and Knicks-Mavericks. Plus, the Heat and Lakers are in action. See you back here in 24.