by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Magic (4-5) 94, Bucks (2-5) 91
Milwaukee got out to a hot start, posting 36 in the first quarter on 58 percent shooting. They came back to earth in the second quarter as the Magic closed the gap to 9 points by halftime. Orlando got balanced scoring from their three young core players – Arron Afflalo, Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless – in the first half. For Milwaukee, it doesn’t matter what anyone else did early because Giannis Antetokounmpo did THIS:
Those arms. Good lord.
Things tightened up even more in the third, as the Magic drew within two behind a ridiculous shooting display from Afflalo, who drained all 5 of his triples in the quarter. Afflalo kept pouring it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 more points and hitting two more threes on his way to 36 points. OJ Mayo (25 points) and Khris Middleton (19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) did what they could to keep the Bucks within striking distance, but in the end they didn’t have enough to overcome Afflalo’s explosion. Vucevic had yet another double-double with 17 and 10.
76ers (5-4) 123, Rockets (5-4) 117
The Sixers just keep on defying expectations. In a game missing both teams’ lead guard – Michael Carter-Williams for the 76ers, James Harden for the Rockets – there were still plenty of fireworks, especially early, as they went to halftime with the Sixers leading 60-57. Both squads were led by former castoffs in the first half, with James Anderson, cut by the Rockets after last season, going for 15 points on perfect 6-6 shooting in the first half, and Jeremy Lin bombing in 4-6 threes for 16 points before halftime. The Sixers, sadly, started intentionally fouling Dwight Howard (23 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 blocks) early, going to the tactic at the end of the first half.
Things opened up for Houston in the third, as the bromantic duo of Lin (34 points, season-high 12 assists and 9 threes) and Chandler Parsons (22 points) combined for 20 points in the quarter as Houston built a 10-point lead. The Sixers closed to within a point with under two minutes to go, thanks to some excellent one-on-one defense and timely shooting by Spencer Hawes (18 points, 3-5 threes). Anderson also kept up his hot shooting in the fourth on his way to a new career high of 36, and Tony Wroten, who joined him with a career high and also had a triple-double (18 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) with a layup to tie it up late. The Rockets took the lead from the line and were poised to take the W. Anderson had something to say about that, draining his sixth trey of the game off a wild pass from Wroten to send it to OT.
In the extra periods, the teams went back and forth, with the Sixers taking a lead on a Hawes putback dunk on Dwight’s head with under a minute on the clock. Philly went on to seal the game at the line.
Bobcats (4-4) 89, Celtics (4-5) 83
The Bobcats pulled their record back to .500 with a road win up in Boston. Al Jefferson took it to his first team early, putting up 12 points and 6 rebounds in the first half. The Celtics’ offense was just as bad as it’s been all season, as they shot just 36 percent in the first two quarters.
This game was among the least exciting you’ll see in the league all year. Neither team turned the ball over an exceptional amount – 15 for Boston, 11 for Charlotte – so fast break chances were limited. These teams just missed a ton of shots. Neither shot better than 38 percent in this low-scoring affair. Jefferson finished with a 22-11 double-double, adding in 2 blocks and even picking up 3 assists. Jeff Green kept up his run of solid play with 19 points on 7-13 shooting, but was cold from downtown (1-5 from three). Starting PG Jordan Crawford put up 16 points and 6 assists for Boston.
Raptors (4-5) 103, Grizzlies (3-5) 87
The Grizzlies early-season troubles continued, dropping yet another home game against a seemingly inferior team. A game after one of the worst shooting performances in history, Rudy Gay was a bit more efficient for the Raps. After missing 26 shots in Monday’s loss, Rudy dropped that number to 10 as he scored 23 points for Toronto. The Raptors were fairly efficient on the whole, shooting 46 percent and knocking down 8-15 threes, including 4-6 by Gay and Kyle Lowry going 3-5 from deep, against the once-vaunted Grizzlies defense.
For Memphis – what is going on? They were down 11 at halftime, and despite outscoring Toronto in the third never really made this game close. The Raptors were up by as many as 18 as they pulled away down the stretch. Mike Conley had 29 points for the Grizz, and Marc Gasol got 18 (shooting under 50 percent to get there), but Memphis got next to nothing from the rest of their roster.
Timberwolves (6-3) 124, Cavaliers (3-6) 95
Ouch, Cleveland. The Timberwolves ran away and hid from Cleveland without Kevin Martin in the lineup, notching a massive blowout win. Minnesota, a top-10 team in points per possession, kept up a trend of hot starts. They topped 30 points in the first quarter for the fifth time already this season. Things didn’t slow down at all for the Wolves in the second quarter. At halftime, they were shooting 62.5 percent from the field and 6-10 from three and had 70 points. Seven-zero. Ricky Rubio already had a double-double at half, Kevin Love had 19 points and Corey Brewer had 17. It was like the Cavs weren’t even on the court for stretches, as the Wolves had several mini-runs to keep widening the gap. Things did not any better for the Cavs as the game worse on, as they trailed by 34 and had given up 108 points through three quarters, and had fewer field goals than Minny had assists.
Love finished with 33 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists for the Wolves, while Rubio had 16 points, 16 assists and 6 boards, both in three quarters of work. Brewer finished with 27. For the Cavaliers…woof. The horrible offensive start continued, as they shot just 41 percent. Kyrie Irving scored 20 points, but did it on just 8-17 shooting, and also had just 2 assists.
Knicks (3-4) 95, Hawks (4-4) 91
The Knicks made good on James Dolan’s guarantee, getting an important road win agains the Hawks. New York finally got their shooting untracked, hitting 12 threes on the night, after being among the worst teams in the league from deep to start the season (just 32.4 percent coming into the game, 22nd in the league). On the other side, the Hawks missed their first 9 three-point tries before finally hitting one with about three minutes to go in the first half. The Knicks’ defensive deficiencies were still evident, as they allowed Atlanta to score relentlessly in the paint, with Andrea Bargnani logging most of the minutes at center. Carmelo Anthony (25 points) put up 15 early, while JR Smith, in the starting lineup for the first time in over a year, went off for 3 triples in the first half.
In the third, the Hawks took the lead on the strength of Jeff Teague and Al Horford, and they held a lead halfway through the fourth. The Knicks took off on a quick 11-0 run to retake the lead. New York’s hot shooting kept up in the fourth, where they knocked down 4 more threes. Bargs had his best game in blue and orange, notching a 22 point, 11 rebound double-double. Teague paced Atlanta with 24 points and 8 assists, while Horford put up 23 points on 11-14 shooting, taking advantage of having Bargnani on him.
Spurs (8-1) 92, Wizards (2-6) 79
San Antonio’s starters got to rest early as they pulled away from the Wizards and coasted to a win. Six Spurs scored in double figures, with no one playing more than Tim Duncan’s 26 minutes. They were led by Tony Parker’s 16 points, and all but one player that saw action for the Spurs got into the scoring column.
The Wiz trailed by double digits for almost the entire game, but pulled it as close as 60-57 late in the third thanks to hot shooting from Bradley Beal (19 points, 9-19 shooting) and Martell Webster (21 points, 10 rebounds, 3-6 from three). San Antonio came right back with a 10-0 run to end the quarter, though, and that was it for this one.
Nuggets (3-4) 111, Lakers (4-6) 99
Denver got rolling at home as the Lakers’ up-and-down season continued. Timofey Mozgov, also known as the man baptized by Blake Griffin once upon a time, put up a career-high 23 for the Nugs as they pulled their home record up to .500. Wilson Chandler made his season debut for the Nuggets, and stroked a couple of threes to close the Lakers out in the fourth quarter.
Pau Gasol had his best overall game of a very uneven season, scoring 25 points and pulling in 12 rebounds. The Nuggets got out to a 60-54 halftime lead, and held the Lakers at bay for the entire second half, never relinquishing the lead. Kenneth Faried, reportedly being mentioned in trade talks, put up a nice line for Denver with 21 points and 13 rebounds. For the Lakers, Jordan Hill (18 points, 15 rebounds) and Steve Blake (15 points, 11 assists) both recorded double-doubles for LA.
Jazz (1-8) 111, Pelicans (3-6) 105
We can all breathe a sigh of relief: every team in the league now has one in the win column, as the Jazz finally got on the board after a furious comeback victory over the Pelicans. Anthony Davis kept up his path of destruction, going for 29 points and 15 rebounds in the loss, but New Orleans fell apart down the stretch.
The Jazz were down 8 with 9:30 to go in the game, and slowly started clawing back in it. Richard Jefferson (22 points, 7-11 shooting) and Marvin Williams (12 points, 9 rebounds), two totally forgotten players, combined for 16 points from that point, helping the Jazz complete the comeback. Gordon Hayward (10 assists for the game) was big in the fourth as well, netting 11 of his 27 points in the quarter. Down 104-100, Eric Gordon splashed a three for the ‘Cans to cut it to a single point, but the Pellies conceded a foul on the next trip, Williams blocked a Jrue Holiday layup attempt, and Derrick Favors (12 points, 12 rebounds) put it out of reach with a rolling layup. Enes Kanter, Favors’ front court partner, was huge for Utah with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Trail Blazers (5-2) 90, Suns (5-2) 89
The Suns were involved in another down-to-the-wire game, this time coming out on the wrong end of things. This game was on the seesaw for most of the fourth quarter, with 8 lead changes in the last 7 minutes. With 11 seconds on the clock, Damian Lillard took an inbounds pass and rolled to the hoop unimpeded as Portland took a 90-89 lead. The good thing about forgetting to play defense is that Phoenix got a chance to win it with 6.5 seconds on the clock. Eric Bledsoe took it hard to the hole, but the ball caught rim coming off the backboard and multiple tip attempts wouldn’t fall as time ran out.
Despite the late miss, Bledsoe kept up his star play for the Suns with 23 points and 6 assists. Gerald Green came off the bench for Phoenix to drop 17. Portland got a balanced scoring effort, with 6 players going for double figures. They were led by Thomas Robinson, the often-traded second-year player, who had 15 points (6-9 shooting) and 8 boards in just 17 minutes off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge and Lillard both went through tough shooting nights, combining to go 9-32.
Kings (2-5) 107, Nets (2-5) 86
Think Mikhail Prokhorov is having second thoughts about his decision to hire someone with no experience to coach a brand new roster? The Nets woes don’t fall all on Jason Kidd, but the results have not been good from the start as the Nets struggle for any kind of continuity. They got blown out by the Kings at Sleep Train Arena, being held to 37.8 percent shooting by the worst defensive team in the league. Marcus Thornton, playing the role of sixth man for the Kings, finally looked comfortable scoring the ball after beign a starter all season, hitting for a season-high 24 points.
This one was never particularly close; the Kings took the lead for good toward the end of the first quarter. They grew it to 12 by half and as high as 23 in the second half. The Nets let it get away when they went 2-12 in the first 6 minutes of the third quarter. If there was a bright spot for Brooklyn, it was Brook Lopez, who scored 16 points (6-12 shooting) and pulled in a season-high 9 rebounds (yes, he’s 7 feet tall). Greivis Vasquez had 17 points and 12 assists for Sacto, while Isaiah Thomas gave them even more scoring punch off the bench with 19 point and 6 assists in 26 minutes.
Clippers (6-3) 111, Thunder (5-2) 103
NBA gods: Please let us get this series in the Playoffs. These two contenders played a wild one that was fun from the start. Both sides were whipping the ball around, good and bad, in the first half. They combined for 36 first half assists, but also had 17 turnovers. We also got what qualifies as an NBA fight as time ran down in the second quarter after Serge Ibaka and Blake Griffin (22 points, 12 rebounds) got tangled up. Matt Barnes (surprise, surprise!) escalated things by shoving Ibaka, and both he and Serge got tossed.
The Clips came out of the locker room strong after halftime, erasing OKC’s 9-point halftime lead and building their own 7-point advantage by the time the quarter ended. Chris Paul (14 points, 16 assists), as always, was at the steering wheel as the Clippers surged ahead, picking up 6 points, 4 assists, and setting teammates up as they got to the line in the third. Jamal Crawford helped seal the win in the fourth as Russell Westbrook (19 points, 10 assists) and Kevin Durant (33 points, 10 assists) did everything they could to pull the Thunder back into it.