Bulls 107 (31-20), Pelicans 72 (27-24)
The Bulls defense has had its deficiencies throughout this season, but Chicago made a statement in a big way Saturday night. Behind another big performance from Pau Gasol (20 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks), the Bulls held the Pelicans to a season low with only 72 points. As hard as it was to watch New Orleans’ offense struggle to find any rhythm, the scariest moment of the night came in the second quarter when Anthony Davis (8 points, 5 rebounds) took a hard fall after finishing an alley-oop. After the game, though, Davis said he is “just sore” after his tough landing. In his absence, Tyreke Evans (15 points) tried his best to keep the offense going without Holiday and now Davis. His attempt failed since he had no real help from any of his teammates. The Bulls had plenty of offense on the night as Gasol, Derrick Rose (20 points, 4 assists), Jimmy Butler (18 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) and even Tony Snell (19 points, 5-6 on 3-pointers) all scored at least 18 points. The Bulls shot 51.2 percent from the field and 10-22 (45.5 percent) on 3-pointers. This was one of those nights when everything seemed to be clicking for Chicago while New Orleans simply couldn’t catch a break—leading to a 35-point blowout.
Wizards 114 (32-20), Nets 77 (21-29)
Just like the Bulls, the Wizards put on a dazzling performance with every facet of the game firing on all four cylinders. John Wall (17 points, 7 assists), Otto Porter Jr. (12 points, 4 rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (11 points, 8 rebounds) combined to score 23 of their 40 points in the first quarter as Washington jumped out to a 28-19 lead after the first quarter. The Nets were lucky Brook Lopez (19 points, 8 rebounds) poured in 11 quick points in the first 12 minutes to keep his team within reaching distance. This game got blown open in the second quarter as the Wizards used a 19-4 run over the span of six minutes to build a 26-point lead. Washington’s bench would sustain this lead the rest of the way. From shooting percentage to rebounds to assists, the Wizards dominated every part of this game from the opening tip to the final buzzer. They looked like a team taking care of business Saturday night.
Warriors 106 (40-9), Knicks 92 (10-41)
Steve Kerr made his Madison Square Garden coaching debut as this was the other team that wanted to hire him as their next head coach. I think he made the right decision. Draymond Green (20 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks) posted a big double-double as Golden state bounced back from their recent loss to the Atlanta Hawks. They found a way to pull off the victory despite both Stephen Curry (22 points, 6 rebounds) and Klay Thompson (16 points, 4 rebounds) shooting very well. In fact, by shooting 22.7 percent from the field, Thompson had his second lowest field goal percentage in his career. But then again, this was the New York Knicks without Carmelo Anthony, who got the night off. Langston Galloway (15 points, 4 rebounds) and Jason Smith (14 points, 13 rebounds) led the way for New York as their team tried to climb back into this game after a bad first quarter. But the Warriors were too much for the Knicks to handle.
76ers 89 (12-40), Hornets 81 (22-28)
Even though Philly has had plenty of struggles this season, they have turned their defense up a notch since the start of the new calendar year. They used their stingy defense to pull of the impressive win against the Hornets Saturday night, earning their fourth straight home win. Robert Covington (22 points, 8 rebounds) led the way down the stretch and Hollis Thompson (18 points) provided valuable minutes off the bench. The Hornets shouldn’t have been caught off guard by the efficient shooting from these two. Covington and Thompson have combined to shoot 27-54 (50 percent) on 3-pointers over the past four games. These two helped turn a six-points halftime deficit into a nine-point lead by the end of the third quarter. Philly wouldn’t relinquish the lead the rest of the way. Al Jefferson (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Gerald Henderson (17 points, 9 assists) led the Hornets in scoring, as their team shot a paltry 34.5 percent from the field.
Mavericks 111 (35-18), Blazers 101 (34-17) OT
In quite possibly their most impressive win of the entire season, the Dallas Mavericks pulled off a huge win that put them in a tie with the Blazers in the Western Conference standings. The Mavs have had their struggles against the West’s elite, so this victory means a lot for a Dallas team playing without Rajon Rondo. It wasn’t easy for the Mavs, though, as they were looking at an 11-point deficit with two minutes to go in regulation. Damian Lillard (26 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals) and LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 14 rebounds) looked like the younger, fresher duo that was ready to finally take home a road victory. However, Run DMC wouldn’t go down that easily. Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 11-19 from the field), Monta Ellis (20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks) and Chandler Parsons (20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals) went on to score 23 of the team’s final 28 points as they closed out the final quarter and overtime on a 28-7 run. The Blazers had plenty of plays when they shot themselves in the foot, but the Mavs were flying around and sharing the ball to close out this game, showing their ability to play a flowing offense. Parsons had a big shot at the 1:43 mark when he splashed a trey after the ball had been whipped around. The clutch shot, though, came from the Big German himself when he made a game-tying 3-pointer with 20.9 seconds remaining in regulation to send this game into overtime. Ellis then got into the deep ball action at the 2:50 mark in overtime by nailing a deep triple from a pass from Parsons. This is what the Mavs expected from these three more often when they traded for CP—all three reaching the 20-point plateau. Even without Rondo, it became very clear Saturday night how dangerous the Mavericks can be when their top three scorers are working together and in a groove. Next up for the Mavs is a home game against the struggling Clippers Monday night.
Bucks 96 (28-23), Celtics 93 (19-31)
It may have been closer than they would have hoped for, but Milwaukee picked up its sixth victory in the past seven games behind a strong performance from point guard Brandon Knight (26 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds). The three-year points guard hadn’t scored a single point in the fourth quarter up until the waning moments of the final period. But with his team only up one, he nailed a key jumper to extend the lead to three points with only 6.7 seconds to go. Jae Crowder (10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), who had just made a layup in Boston’s previous possession, missed a jump shot with 2.4 seconds to go to seal the win for the Bucks. From a statistical standpoint, this was a very even match as neither team separated themselves from the other in any specific way. Jared Sullinger (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Marcus Thonton (14 points, 2 steals) led the Celtics in scoring. Knight was the difference for Milwaukee as he continued to make a case for being a legitimate All-Star snub.
Jazz 102 (18-33), Kings 90 (17-32)
The Jazz ended their three-game losing streak against a Kings’ team still trying to find their identity. Before DeMarcus Cousins (27 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) went down with viral meningitis, Sacramento was flying high and a legitimate playoff contender. But with all that missed time without Boogie, the Kings lost their chemistry and never recaptured it when their big man came back. Even though Utah has struggles, Gordon Hayward (30 points) and Derrick Favors (20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) have not. These two have consistently led the way from an offensive standpoint and given Jazz fans hope for the future as they give the team a frontcourt foundation. To add onto that, starting center Enes Kanter (17 points, 13 rebounds) had one of his best games of the year, not bothered by Cousins down low at all. Cousins even fouled out of this game down the stretch. Ben McLemore (15 points, 3-7 on 3-pointers) was the only other Sacramento player who showed up to play offensively, and he still only shot 6-15 from the field. After starting the season 9-5, the Kings have now gone 8-27 since that point.