by Jay Wallis | @JayWallis11
Wizards 108 (8-9), Hawks 101 (9-9)
Winners of 6 of their last 8 games, Washington is now one win away from .500, something that hasn’t happened for this franchise since November 3, 2009. After an off game the previous night, John Wall (26 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals) had a fantastic bounce-back game while his fellow starters pulled the rest of the weight, scoring 68 points. The Wizards took the lead in the first few minutes of the game and never gave it up the rest of the way. Trevor Ariza (24 points, 5-6 on 3-pointers) and Martell Webster (19 points, 5-9 on 3-pointers) had the hot hands on the night while Nene (13 points, 12 rebounds) had his second double-double of the season in his return. Paul Millsap (23 points, 10 rebounds) continued to play well in his new uniform, and Atlanta’s biggest surprise of the season, DeMarre Carroll (11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals), had a team-high 36 minutes. For a player that bounced around his first few seasons in the League, he seems to have found a starting role and home in Atlanta.
Cavaliers 97 (5-12), Bulls 93 (7-8)
This game was all about the resurgence of one man: Andrew Bynum. The one-time All-Star posted season-highs in points (20), rebounds (10) and blocks (5). He still doesn’t seem to have the full mobility and low-post moves from his Laker days, but he certainly looked comfortable and borderline dominant in his Cavaliers uniform. Trailing by 2 with just under 20 seconds to go, the Bulls had 4 chances from down low to tie this game up but missed all 4 attempts. Dion Waiters (20 points, 8-10 from the field) provided another spark off the bench while Tristan Thompson (14 points, 14 rebounds) posted his eighth double-double of the year. Even though there are plenty of trade rumors involving his name, Luol Deng (game-high 27 points, 11 assists) proved again that he is currently the best player playing for the Bulls. With Jimmy Butler still recovering from his injury, Tony Snell (18 points, 3-5 on 3-pointers) continued to step up and possibly gives Thibodeau yet another strong wing player. Kyrie Irving (19 points, 6 assists, 7-21 from the field) still hasn’t performed at the level most expected from him this year, and for those wanting an Anthony Bennett (2 points, 1-3 from the field) update, he is currently shooting 11-49 from the field this season.
Nets 97 (5-12), Grizzlies 88 (8-8)
The Nets beat a team over .500 for the first time since their win over the Heat on November 1 while the Grizzlies have now lost 4 straight at home. Brooklyn pulled out this victory over the Randolph-less Grizzlies by playing their slow-paced, methodical game with Brook Lopez (20 points, 9 rebounds) and Joe Johnson (26 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 4-7 on 3-pointers) finally playing like this franchise expects them to…at the same time. They scored the Nets’ final 13 points. Andray Blatche (21 points, 8 rebounds) came up big off the bench, scoring 7 straight points in just over a minute at one point in the 3rd quarter. Quincey Pondexter (22 points, 8-12 from the field) proved his worth, but without Marc Gasol, this Memphis team feels one player short, especially when Tayshaun Prince (0 points, 1 rebound, 1 turnover, 23 minutes) decides to not show up.
Rockets 112 (13-5), Spurs 106 (14-3)
James Harden (31 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists,) had a monster game and possible the best line of the night. These type of performances make it seem like he’s the best 2-guard in the game. Tony Parker (27 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds) returned in Tony Parker fashion, living in the paint and the midrange game. Even though San Antonio made a furious comeback and almost pulled out the win, this team continued to struggle against the young, elite teams of the League (losing to Portland, Oklahoma City and now the Rockets on the season). Leading 72-54 in the 3rd quarter after a Patrick Beverley (11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) 3-pointer, the Rockets seemed to be on their way to an easy win. However, by means of a couple runs, the Spurs ended up taking a 104-102 lead on a Manu Ginobili (9 points, 11 assists) 3-pointer. Houston quickly responded by going on a 10-2 run to finish the game, including a big Chandler Parsons (25 points, 5 assists) dunk from Harden.
Timberwolves 112 (9-9), Mavericks 106 (10-8)
All season long, the Mavericks have found a way to score a lot of points but the problem comes when they need to get stops. With Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 10-13 from the field) making midrange shot after midrange shot in the fourth quarter, Dallas was making the baskets the team needed to in order to stay in the game…but Dallas also allowed Kevin Martin (27 points, 10-11 on free throws) to take control of the last 6 minutes of this game, when he scored 13 of the team’s 20 points during this time period. And for the last six minutes of a game, 20 points is way too high for a Mavs team aiming for the playoffs. Dirk’s co-star Monta Ellis (26 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds) had another efficient game, but other than these two, Dallas got little support from the rest of the team. DeJuan Blair (11 points, 8 rebounds), however, remained the most consistent player off the bench while starting point guard Jose Calderon was a late scratch with a bruised right ankle. Kevin Love (21 points, 11 rebounds) has had a double-double in all but one game this season. Defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute (4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 26 minutes) played his first game for the Timberwolves and even received playing time in the fourth quarter.
Jazz 112 (3-15), Phoenix 104 (9-8)
Traveling from Utah to Phoenix, these two teams played each other for the second night in a row, with a different outcome taking place Saturday night. Behind rookie Trey Burke (20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists), who seems to be coming into form, the Jazz finally earned their first road win of the young season. This victory didn’t come easy as both team never held a double-digit lead on the night. Seven of the nine Jazz players that entered the game scored in double-figures while six of these players grabbed at least 4 rebounds. This young team used a team effort to take down Goran Dragic (24 points, 9 assists), Channing Frye (17 points, 6 rebounds) and a Suns team that has lost its consistent and defensive ways. In the past four games, Phoenix has given up a Jazz-esque 106.5 ppg. The Jazz’ winning ways might be coming to an end very soon, with the Rockets, Pacers and Blazers being their next three opponents.
Bucks 92 (3-13), Celtics 85 (7-12)
The Bucks won their first game since November 6 and it happened due to John Henson (13 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Ekpe Udoh (9 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) playing strong down low and O.J. Mayo (22 points, 9-14 from the field) and Brandon Knight (20 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) pushing the tempo. The Bucks outrebounded the Celtics 49-41 and had a 16-4 fast break points advantage. The inconsistent Celtics were led by Jared Sullinger (21 points, 14 rebounds), who has been taking advantage of Kevin Garnett’s departure. The big man has more than doubled his scoring (12.8 ppg) with only 5 more minutes of playing time this season compared to last season. Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo (10 points, career-high 7 rebounds, 4 assists) had the highlight of the night, showing his athleticism on both ends of the court. The Bucks will get the chance to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they have a rematch with the Celtics Tuesday night.