Bulls 115 (14-8), Blazers 106 (17-6)
Derrick Rose (31 points, 5 assists, 31 minutes) had one of his most complete games and offensive performances in quite some time. In fact, Rose’s 31 points was the most he has had since March 2012. He didn’t do it on his own, though, as backup point guard Aaron Brooks (17 points, 16 minutes) also came alive late in this game. These two combined to score 22 points in the final quarter, holding off a Blazers team that just wouldn’t go away. LaMarcus Aldridge (35 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) came out blazing, putting up 21 points in the first quarter and Damian Lillard (35 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) heated up towards the end, nailing multiple late 3-pointers to keep his team in the game. He had 18 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to slow down a balanced attack by the Bulls as all eight Chicago players that entered the game scored at least eight points.
Wizards 104 (16-6), Clippers 96 (16-6)
This one ended up looking much closer than it actually was as the Wizards easily took care of the Clippers in a wire-to-wire victory. Behind strong play to start from big men Kris Humphries (11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) and Marcin Gortat (18 points, 2 blocks), Washington jumped out to a quick 10-4 lead and then built that into a 30-19 lead after a Rasual Butler (8 points, 2-4 on 3-pointers) triple. The Wizards were getting everything they wanted through the first 12 minutes in putting up 30 points while the Clippers couldn’t get much offensive production out of their second unit. Jamal Crawford (12 points, 2 steals) was the only Clippers’ bench player in double digits and he shot 2-13 (15.4 percent) from the field. The Wizards didn’t get much from their bench, either, but received big enough games from Gortat, Bradley Beal (29 points, 3 steals, 4-7 on 3-pointers) and John Wall (10 points, 11 assists) to cruise to a victory. Wall, specifically, had one of his best defensive performances of the season and played a large part in forcing Chris Paul (19 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds) to cough up a season-high six turnovers on the night.
Hawks 87 (16-6), Magic 81 (9-16)
The Hawks showed some grit in winning this ugly match between two Eastern Conference foes. Paul Millsap (23 points, 8 rebounds) led the way for the Hawks, making a crucial 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to turn a one-possession game into a five-point lead. Jeff Teague (13 points, 5 assists) scored six straight points down the stretch as big man Kyle O’Quinn (14 points, 10 rebounds) started to heat up late in the game. Even though both these teams shot below 40 percent from the field and the Hawks were actually a few percent points below the Magic, Atlanta made enough critical stops down the stretch to snatch the win. Victor Oladipo (21 points, 8-12 from the field) and Orlando only scored 17 points in the final quarter. Don’t look now, but the Hawks have won nine straight games and are only half a game out of first place in the East. They are playing stingy defense and running an efficient offense with Teague understanding and running Mike Budenholzer’s offense. If you look at the top three teams in the East (Raptors, Wizards, Hawks), these are all teams that brought back their coach, core players and system from a year ago. So, chemistry is definitely something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Knicks 101 (5-20), Celtics 95 (7-14)
The Knicks won! Carmelo Anthony (22 points) and Amare Stoudemire (20 points, 7 rebounds) gave everyone a reminder why New York invested so much money in these two players and also snapped their 10-game losing streak. They almost blew this one, though, as Jeff Green (28 points, 6 rebounds) attempted to play the role of hero in front of his home fans. After Melo drained a triple with 5:44 left in the game, the Knicks held a comfortable 90-75 lead and looked to be in control. Then, Green went on to score 14 points in less than five minutes and cut the deficit to 98-93 with less than a minute to go. However, New York would force some bad shots to win its second road victory of the season and inch a little bit farther from the bottom of the East.
Nets 88 (9-12), 76ers 70 (2-20)
Through the first three quarters, the Nets actually looked about as bad as the worst team in the NBA. They only held a 63-60 lead and couldn’t seem to get anything going offensively. Robert Covington (20 points, 6-10 on 3-pointers) was having another great game offensively while Michael Carter-Williams (14 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds) was doing a little bit of everything. However, in the final quarter, the Nets clamped down defensively and only allowed Philadelphia to score 10 points in 12 minutes. Offensively, ten Nets players scored in the fourth quarter, led by a big double-double from Miles Plumlee (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals). He helped make up for Deron Williams’ (3 points, 10 assists, 0-8 from the field) dreadful shooting night. Williams might say he is back to being an elite point guard, but he isn’t showing it on the court. The Sixers only made 22 shots on the night, shooting a horrid 31.9 percent from the field. Half of these made baskets came from behind the 3-point line. They also turned the ball over 23 times, compared to 17 times by the Nets.
Raptors 106 (17-6), Pacers 94 (7-16)
Lou Williams (26 points, 29 minutes) reminded his home Canada crowd Friday night why he has a legitimate case to be Sixth Man of the Year. The backup point guard does a fantastic job of bringing energy and acting as a spark plug every time he enters the game. The transition from Kyle Lowry’s (9 points, 7 assists) first unit and Williams’ second unit is seamless and it is a major reason they remain atop the East even without DeMar DeRozan (groin). Williams made a tough and-one to start the second quarter that gave the Raptors a double-digit lead. Besides part of the third quarter and late in trash time, Toronto comfortable led in this one and didn’t let Solomon Hill (16 points) and the Pacers really have a chance in this one. Both teams shot 41 percent from the field, but the Raptors had 11 more attempts thanks to their 52-39 advantage in the boards. Jonas Valanciunas (10 points, 14 rebounds) played a large part in helping the Raptors establish their dominance in the paint. With the Knicks and Pistons finally finding a way to pull out victories, the Pacers now own the longest losing streak in the NBA at seven.
Grizzlies 113 (18-4), Hornets 107 (6-16) 2OT
Not only have the Hornets been the most disappointing team of the season so far, they have dealt with some of the most frustrating, heartbreaking and/or tough losses in the League. The momentum was in Charlotte’s favor, though, after the fourth quarter when Gerald Henderson (10 points) tipped in a shot with 0.4 seconds left to send this one into overtime. But then at the end of that first overtime, the Hornets held a 102-99 lead with 23.1 seconds remaining. They went on to leave Vince Carter (8 points) wide open in the corner…the one Grizzlies player you don’t want to lose track of behind the 3-point line. By that second overtime, the Hornets simply ran out of gas while Memphis knocked down its free throws to claim the victory. Guards Kemba Walker (28 points, 7 assists) and Gary Neal (25 points) put up some big numbers while Al Jefferson (16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) never really found his touch down low. Zach Randolph (20 points, 11 rebounds) did find his touch in the paint and Tony Allen (9 points, 10 rebounds) grabbed double-digit boards as well. The Grizzlies pulled this one out despite committing 20 turnovers on the night.
Thunder 111 (10-13), Timberwolves 92 (5-17)
The Thunder are officially rolling in winning their fifth straight and inching closer and closer to snatching that eighth seed—especially with how the Suns have been struggling of late. This one was probably over less than six minutes into the game as the Thunder built a 20-7 lead after Serge Ibaka (13 points, 2 blocks) nailed a triple. By the end of the quarter, Russell Westbrook (34 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 12-19 from the field) was in complete control of this game and OKC led 39-21. Westbrook might have a game here and there when you question his ability to be a “true point guard” and play along side another star. But a night like this one reminds us that he can often times look like the best point guard in the NBA. Young guns Andrew Wiggins (18 points) and Shabazz Muhammad (18 points) put up decent performances to provide a silver lining for the injured Wolves. They now possess the worst record in the West.
Pelicans 119 (11-11), Cavaliers 114 (13-9)
This was the one issue many people were worried about as the Cavs were rolling through their recent winning streak: defense. The Cavs are going to put up big offensive numbers night in and night out, but can they make just enough stops when they need to? They couldn’t on Friday as Tyreke Evans (31 points, 10 assists), Jrue Holiday (16 points, 8 assists) and Ryan Anderson (30 points, 8-14 on 3-pointers) kept making big shot after big shot without their All-Star big man. Anthony Davis left the game in the first quarter due to chest pains. LeBron James (41 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) had a monster performance in the loss, showing us he can still take over a game even with Kyrie Irving (17 points, 7 assists) and Kevin Love (21 points, 7 rebounds) on the court. Again, the defense was the issue as the Pelicans shot 55.7 percent from the field, made 12-28 (42.9 percent) 3-point attempts and poured in at least 30 points in three different quarters.
Pistons 105 (4-19), Suns 103 (12-12)
Detroit’s 13-game losing streak has come to a close thanks to dominant play from the interior. Andre Drummond (23 points, 14 rebounds), Greg Monroe (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Josh Smith (12 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) showed why that three-headed tandem can be dangerous if they can actually figure out what their roles are when playing together. A large factor in their success also came due to the Suns’ deficiencies as they have struggled with their interior play since last season. It was a problem down the stretch a year ago as Miles Plumlee (10 points, 6 rebounds), Alex Len (0 points, 0 rebounds, 12 minutes) and the rest of their big men couldn’t hold their own with the towers of the West. Friday night, the Suns allowed the Pistons to score 60 points in the paint and were also outrebounded 47-37. All five starters actually reached double figures while Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Morris each chipped in 10 points. But the Pistons big men were too much for the Suns as those three played strong defense down the stretch to earn the two-point win.
Heat 100 (11-12), Jazz 95 (6-17)
He might have been sick, but Dwyane Wade (29 points, 7 assists) put up some solid numbers to help the Heat take care of the young Jazz. After Gordon Hayward (18 points, 8 rebounds) netted a layup with 10.2 seconds to go, the Heat only led 95-93. After being fouled, Wade calmly sunk two free throws to extend the lead to a two-possession game and help his team get one game away from being back to .500. Chris Bosh (22 points, 9 rebounds) had a solid game down low while Luol Deng (14 points, 6 rebounds) made some key stops down the stretch. For the Jazz, Enes Kanter (25 points, 8 rebounds) had one of his best games of the season but missed a key 3-point attempt with just over a minute to go. The Heat shot exactly 50 percent from the field while the Jazz shot 44.2 percent.
Lakers 112 (7-16), Spurs 110 (16-7) OT
Before this game even took place, it was all about Kobe Bryant (22 points, 9 assists, 4 steals) and his potential to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. Well, Bryant came close and ended up being overshadowed by Mr. Nick Young (29 points, 6-9 on 3-pointers). It seemed as though Young had the Kobe gene in him as he hit some ridiculously tough shots to help his Lakers upset the Spurs. The epitome of this came with 7.4 seconds remaining in overtime as Swaggy P nailed a contested deep trey to turn a one-point deficit into a two-point lead. Manu Ginobili (18 points) missed a 3-pointer of his own that would have given the Spurs the victory. Recently benched starters Jeremy Lin (14 points, 8 assists) and Carlos Boozer (14 points, 13 rebounds) both looked very comfortable in their new roles Friday night and gave their team solid minutes off the bench. Along with Boozer, starting center Jordan Hill (14 points, 10 rebounds) posted a double-double, helping his team just win the rebounding battle 49-47. Tim Duncan(19 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks), though, had the most commanding double-double of anyone in this game, trying his best to keep his team in the game. In the end, though, Bryant handed the reins to the hot hand and allowed Swaggy P to fire away and give his team their seventh victory of the year. Swag on, Swaggy P.