by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Suns (28-18) 102, Pacers (35-10) 94
The NBA has had a hard time handling the Pacers all season. That doesn’t apply to the Phoenix Suns, who went into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and secured a season sweep over Indiana. Phoenix raced out to a big lead early, only for the Pacers to clamp down, as they’re known to do, in the third quarter. When the Pacers drew within a point with four minutes to go in the game, it was the Suns who turned up the defense, holding Indy to 1-6 shooting down the stretch. Goran Dragic, lef off the All-Star roster despite his stellar season, scored 28 points (11-21 shooting) and dished out seven assists to lead the Suns, streaking away for a fast-break dunk to put the game out of reach in the final minute. Gerald Green scored 16 in his return to Indiana, while Marcus and Markieff Morris scored 16 and 15, respectively. The Suns wrapped up their four-game Eastern conference trip undefeated.
After watching Phoenix put up 62 first half points the first time these teams met, Indiana once again got blitzed early as the Suns put up 66 points over the first two quarters en route to a 17-point lead. Unlike most teams, the Suns took it at All-Star center Roy Hibbert (26 points, 9-17 shooting, two blocks), led by the fearless Dragic. The Pacers ended up holding Phoenix to just 42.9 percent shooting, but allowed themselves to be coaxed into the hyper pace the Suns play and occasionally got sloppy, turning the ball over 15 times and taking too many quick 3-pointers (1-15 from deep). Lance Stephenson responded to his ASG snub just as strongly as Dragic, putting up his fourth triple double of the year with 14-10-10. Paul George was limited to 12 points on 5-17 shooting, but pulled down 12 boards.
Knicks (18-27) 117, Cavaliers (16-29) 86
With David Stern in attendance on his final night as commissioner, the Knicks embarrassed the Cavaliers on a national stage from the opening tip for their fourth straight win. In the first quarter, the Cavs topped Carmelo Anthony 21-18. Unfortunately, Melo was just one of five guys on the floor, and Cleveland went down by 17 after 12 minutes. The Knicks led by as many as 28 in the second quarter and never let the Cavs within striking distance. With injuries all over the roster, Anthony got the start at power forward and finished with 29 points in just 30 minutes. Mike Woodson went back to last season’s form and started two point guards, going with Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton. It worked magic against the inept Cavs, as New York shot 56.6 percent and hit 12-26 shots from 3-point range. Tim Hardaway Jr. came off the bench to net a career high 29 points, while J.R. Smith got the start and scored 19 points, including several highlight-worthy plays.
The Cavaliers played some shameful ball from their first shot of the game, which was fittingly rejected by Tyson Chandler (11 points, eight boards, three blocks). They went on to have two more shots blocked in the opening period while turning the ball over six times. Things didn’t get any better for the Cavs, who had already had a less-than-stellar day with rumors of Kyrie Irving (24 points, 10-25 shooting) wanting out. Looking at the Cavs rock-bottom type box score, can you blame him? Cleveland shot just 35.6 percent, while Luol Deng, who Cleveland traded for t0 bolster their Playoff chances, shot just 3-9 on his way to 13 points (he did have 11 boards). Dion Waiters was the only other Cav in double figures with 21 off the bench.
Warriors (28-19) 111, Clippers (33-16) 92
The Warriors bested the Clippers in the least eventful game between these two rising Western powers in recent memory. Golden State jumped on L.A. early, and their inconsistent-of-late defense locked in on one of the Association’s top offenses, holding the Clippers to just 40.8 percent from the field. The Warriors’ front court led the way, with David Lee going for his usual double double with 22 and 11, while Andrew Bogut went for 14 and 17 along with three blocks, shutting down Blake Griffin (27 points, 11-21 shooting) one-on-one at times. Stephen Curry had a highly efficient night, going 8-10 from the field and hitting all four of his 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, along with seven assists.
The Clips looked out of sorts from the start, as they were stuck playing their fourth game in five nights. Their normally solid defense was asleep early on, getting hit with several alley-oops in the opening minutes of the game. L.A. got dominated in the paint, giving up 66 points in the lane while scoring just 22 themselves. DeAndre Jordan pulled down 20 rebounds to go with his nine points and Darren Collison dropped 22, but the bench unit got hit hard early on by the Warriors’ second unit, led by Harrison Barnes (13 points).