by Daniel Friedman / @DFried615
The Knicks kept their streak alive after taking out the defending Western Conference champs, the Clippers made history with a win at the Staples Center, and the Lakers took a step back in the race for the final spot in the playoffs.
The New York Knicks (50-26) defeated the western conference juggernaut Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21) late in the fourth quarter to secure their 12th straight win.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony continued his reign of supremacy with 36 points and 12 rebounds. The 36 points weren’t enough to continue his consecutive streak of 40-point outings, but they were just enough to edge out his star opponent Kevin Durant in their side battle for the scoring title.
Anthony led the team throughout the game, but it was again JR Smith who came up big in the waning minutes of the game. With their lead dwindling late in the fourth quarter, it was Smith who put together a few clutch possessions to secure the victory.
The bench came up big for the Knicks down the stretch. Smith ended with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, while Jason Kidd and Chris Copeland combined for 27 points. Raymond Felton added 16 points and 8 assists, and Tyson Chandler contributed 15 points and 5 rebounds.
Russell Westbrook led the way for the Thunder with 37 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists. Kevin Durant pitched in 27 points, 7 assists and 4 blocks including a late jumper to put Oklahoma City up 105-104 with under 7 minutes to go. But the Knicks fought back and were able to hold on for their season-high 12th straight win.
The Los Angeles Lakers (40-37) loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (51-26) is historic on a myriad of fronts. First and foremost, the Clippers have clinched their first Pacific Division crown in team history. Second, they swept the Lakers in their season series for the first time since the Clipper moved to LA in 1984.
Chris Paul led the Clippers to their historic win with 24 points and 12 assists. Blake Griffin added 24 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, including a mesmerizing layup-turned-dunk. Caron Butler had 14 points and Jamal Crawford chipped in 20 points off the bench.
The Lakers trailed 56-49 at halftime and things wouldn’t get any better in the third quarter. Paul would hit a jumper on the baseline at the final second of the quarter, cementing the Clippers’ lead at 82-70. Then, with less than two minutes left in the game, Griffin sealed the deal with a put back throw down to put the Clips up by 13.
Kobe Bryant put up 25 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in the defeat. Dwight Howard added 25 points, and Pau Gasol had 13 rebounds. Lakers starters Steve Nash (hamstring) and Metta World Peace (knee) both sat due to injury.
In a physical game, the Boston Celtics (40-37) would outlast the Washington Wizards (29-48) by playing solid defense and shooting well from the floor (.558 from the field).
Brandon Bass led the way for the Celtics with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Paul Pierce added 15 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds and Kevin Garnett contributed 12 points and 6 rebounds in his first game back from injury. Chris Wilcox came up big off the bench with 13 points and 5 rebounds in only 20 minutes of play.
Wizards star point guard John Wall led his team with 16 points and 10 assists and was held down for the majority of the game (shot 8-20 from the field) by the Celtics’ Avery Bradley.
Things started to get physical when Wall went in for a layup and was floored by Celtics big man Shavlik Randolph. Wall then quickly retaliated by taking Randolph out as he went up for a layup on the other end, sending Randolph into the base of the hoop.
With the win, the Celtics sweep their three-game series with the Wizards, sending them to a 7-31 record on the road.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (24-52) pulled out a win over the Orlando Magic (19-59) in the fourth quarter with an overall team effort. After heading into the fourth quarter down 66-62, the Cavs came back and edged out the Magic 29-19 in the final period.
Cavs star guard Kyrie Irving was quiet with only 9 points and 10 assists. But it was the effort of forward Alonzo Gee that would send Cleveland to their second straight win. Gee ended the game with 19 points and 7 rebounds, shooting 58 percent from the field. Cleveland’s bench had a strong outing with 34 points.
Tobias Harris led the way for the Magic with 26 points and 12 rebounds, while Nikola Vucevic put up huge numbers with 21 points, 21 rebounds and 6 assists. Point guard Beno Udrih also added 13 points and 6 assists in the losing effort.
Brandon Knight led the way for the Detroit Pistons (26-52) with an efficient 20-point effort to defeat the Chicago Bulls (42-34) in The Palace of Auburn Hills, snapping an 18-game losing streak against the Bulls.
The Bulls’ leading scorer, Luol Deng sat out the game with an injured hip, while center Joakim Noah returned from an eight game absence to score 13 points and grab 7 rebounds in only 21 minutes of play.
Carlos Boozer led the way for the Bulls with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Nate Robinson added 18 points, and Jimmy Butler chipped in 14 points in a team high 45 minutes.
But it was Knight’s 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting that helped the Pistons improve to 16-23 at home. Rodney Stuckey had 14 points, and Jonas Jerebko added 17 points and 9 rebounds from the bench. The Pistons shot over 50 percent from both the field and three-point range.
The Utah Jazz (41-37) outplayed the Golden State Warriors (44-33) in the first half, entering the third quarter with a 56-48 lead. And behind the play of both Al Jefferson and Mo Williams, the Jazz would hold on to win in Oakland, CA.
With 25 points and 5 assists, Williams would lead the Jazz to their seventh win in the last eight games. Jefferson added 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap would combine for 24 points.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors in scoring with 22 points, including 4 from downtown. David Lee had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Klay Thompson added 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting.
Golden State is currently in sixth place in the standings out West, while the Jazz are fighting off the Lakers for the final spot.
The Memphis Grizzlies (52-25) secured the franchises first season-series sweep of the Sacramento Kings (27-50) with a win last night in Sleep Train Arena. Grizzlies center Marc Gasol came up with a few big blocks in the final seconds to send the Kings to their fourth straight loss.
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 25 points shooting 9-for-14 from the field. The rest of the team didn’t do so well from the field shooting under 44 percent. The Kings didn’t fare any better from the field putting up a paltry 35 percent from the field, and 28 percent from downtown.
Gasol had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5 important blocks for Memphis, while Tony Allen added 12 points and 6 rebounds. Quincy Pondexter also contributed 17 from the bench.
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 22 points and 9 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas also led the charge with 18 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. But the rest of Sacramento’s starting five couldn’t buy a basket, shooting a combined 3-for-16 from the field.
The Phoenix Suns (23-54) started out strong with a 26-17 first quarter, but the New Orleans Hornets (27-50) battled back and took the game over by the end of the third to snap an eight game losing streak on the road.
Anthony Davis led all scorers with 20 points for the Hornets. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson both added 17 points, including 4 hits from downtown. Greivis Vasquez had 10 points and 7 assists.
Markieff Morris put up 18 points for the Suns in the losing effort. Luis Scola dropped 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and snagged 3 steals and Jared Dudley came off the bench with 15 points, shooting 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.
Both teams struggled from the field, shooting under 43 percent from the field and 34 percent from long range. But, both were also incredibly efficient from the foul line, shooting above 89 percent.
The Dallas Mavericks (38-39) were able to fend off the Portland Trail Blazers (33-44) in the fourth quarter after a formidable attempt by the Blazers to get back into the game late.
For the Blazers, it was really the tale of two halves. In the first half, Portland was only able to put up 32 points. In the second, they made a descent comeback posting 59 points, 30 in the fourth quarter.
But it wasn’t enough as Chris Kaman led the Mavericks with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Shawn Marion was critical with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 10-for-14 shooting. Vince Carter and Brandon Wright added 26 points and 15 rebounds from the bench.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 6 rebounds. But it was guard Will Barton leading the Blazers from off the bench with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists in 32 minutes. Portland shot an ugly 18 percent from downtown and lost in the rebound battle with the Mavs 48-39.