Hornets 103 (5-15), Knicks 102 (4-17)
The Hornets only have five wins on the year, but two of them have now been attained thanks to a Kemba Walker (11 points, 4 assists, 4-15 from the field) game-winning shot. Walker’s teammates need to be thankful he nailed this lefty layup as they almost squandered yet another double-digit lead. Things continue to be frustrating for Carmelo Anthony (32 points, 7 rebounds, 11-22 from the field) and the Knicks, with this loss coming after they fell just short of the Cavs 90-87 at home to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Friday night, Melo didn’t receive much help from any of his teammates but also took twice as many shots as the Knicks player with the second most shot attempts on the team. Walker had help from Lance Stephenson (16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists), Al Jefferson (16 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Gerald Henderson (22 points, 8-10 from the field). With the win, the Hornets have broken their 10-game losing streak and will have a nice break before playing the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
Thunder 103 (6-13), 76ers 91 (1-18)
Unfortunately for the Sixers, their winning streak (1) didn’t last as long as their losing streak (18) to start the season. The now healthy Oklahoma City Thunder will need some time to discover their rhythm and chemistry again. It might be the lowly Sixers, but a wire-to-wire victory will help the Thunder start to get its groove back. It seems as though this team could find it quicker than any other roster in the NBA, but it will still take time. Friday night, even though Kevin Durant (10 points, 6 rebounds, 3-11 from the field) struggled, Russell Westbrook (27 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) took care of business while Serge Ibaka (19 points, 3 blocks) and Jeremy Lamb (15 points, 3-3 on 3-pointers) shot a combined 11-15 (73.3 percent) from the field. The Sixers did have six players in double figures, led by Robert Covington (21 points, 6 rebounds) and Michael Carter-Williams (16 points, 14 assists, 3 steals). However, they only managed to shoot 38.1 percent from the field, while OKC shot 49.3 percent.
Wizards 119 (13-5), Nuggets 89 (9-10)
The Wizards have been playing some of the best basketball in the league the past few weeks, and a huge reason for that has to be John Wall (9 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds). He has been one of, if not the best facilitator in the game and has even been cut short of a couple triple-doubles because he’s been sitting out of fourth quarters in blowout victories. With the DeRozan-less Raptors struggling a bit without their All-Star shooting guard, it might not be long before there’s a new top team in the East. Wall might not have reached double-figures in this one, but all four of the other starters reached double-digits in scoring, led by Kris Humphries (20 points, 7-11 from the field). Nene (8 points, 8 rebounds) returned after missing five games due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He hasn’t been getting much national attention, but Rasual Butler (16 points, 3 steals, +26) has quietly become an effective punch off the bench for the Wizards. In the past five games, the veteran forward is averaging 16.2 points while shooting 11-21 (52.4 percent) from downtown. The Nuggets, down by 34 points at one point in this game, lacked any sort of offensive chemistry on the night. Ty Lawson (14 points, 10 assists, 3-10 from the field) notched a double-double but shot poorly while Wilson Chandler (20 points, 5 rebounds) was the only Nuggets player who scored more than 20 points.
Celtics 113 (6-11), Lakers 96 (5-15)
Just a handful of seasons ago, this would have been a marque matchup. Friday night, it featured two teams trying to climb out of the bottom of their respective conference. The Celtics won this one thanks to their strong play coming out of the locker room. Boston combined to outscore L.A. 63-44 in the first and third quarter. Tyler Zeller (career-high 24 points, 14 rebounds) had a career night almost solely thanks to the absurdly efficient play from Rajon Rondo (12 points, 16 assists, 8 rebounds). The star guard only had one turnover to his 16 assists and had a glimmering +40 on the night. The other three starters reached double figures as their team shot 51.1 percent from the field and 8-20 (40 percent) on 3-pointers. Kobe Bryant (22 points) led the Lakers in scoring but had the worst plus-minus (-29) on the team. There are still so many plays on offense that stall when Kobe takes the possession for himself. Robert Sacre (1-10 from the field) had one of the worst shooting performances of his career.
Hawks 98 (12-6), Nets 75 (8-10)
Don’t look now, but Atlanta has strung together five straight wins and looks very good. The Hawks showed strong defense in this one, holding the Nets to only 31 points by halftime. And in the second quarter of this one, DeMarre Carroll (18 points, 6 rebounds) poured in 14 of his team-high 18 points in helping Atlanta outscore Brooklyn 36-13. Jeff Teague’s (14 points, 5 assists) Hawks cruised to a win in the second half and retain their three seed in the East. Brook Lopez (20 points, 7 rebounds) had a decent game but there wasn’t much else to look at for this offense. As Joe Johnson (12 points, 6 rebounds) worried about earlier in the season, the Nets still aren’t passing very much and only had 16 assists against the Hawks. When your point guard in Deron Williams (8 points) can only manage to have two assists in 23 minutes, that is an issue. And shooting 37.5 percent from the field doesn’t help the cause, either. The Nets will try to bounce back Sunday when they host the Nuggets.
Cavaliers 105 (11-7), Raptors 91 (15-5)
A lot has changed since the Raptors came back from an 18-point deficit and caused Lebron James (24 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds) to call his Cavaliers team “a very fragile team.” Now they look like a freight train blowing by the competition. Winners of six straight, the Cavs got a big boost from Tristan Thompson (season-high 21 points, season-high 14 rebounds) off the bench. The power forward had endless energy as the only bench player who did much on the night. There was no need for more bench play, though, due to James’ big night and Kevin Love (15 points, 13 rebounds, 3-8 on 3-pointers) racking up another double-double. As flowing and comfortable this offense is starting to look, it’s scary to think they are only 18 games in this season with their brand new head coach and revamped roster. Toronto’s Amir Johnson (27 points, 7 rebounds, 11-15 from the field) had his best game since returning from injury while Kyle Lowry (22 points, 9 assists) played his role. This team clearly misses DeRozan (groin), especially when replacement in Greivis Vasquez (4 points, 2-11 from the field) fails to have much of any positive impact.
Spurs 107 (15-4), Grizzlies 101 (14-5)
The Big Fundamental decided to mess around in this one. Tim Duncan (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) notched a triple-double in a close six-point win against the Grizzles, even though Memphis never led in this one. The Spurs took down the Southwest Division-leading Grizzlies with balanced play as everyone who played scored and nine players had at least six points. It might get old saying this almost every game of every season, but the Spurs just know how to play team ball in the most effective way. The Grizzlies had three players reaching 20 points—Mike Conley (23 points, 10 assists), Marc Gasol (28 points, 12 assists) and Tayshaun Prince (20 points, 8-11 from the field, 4-4 on 3-pointers). But when Vince Carter’s (0 points, 15 minutes) scoring struggles continued and Tony Allen (4 points) is only productive on one side of the court, it is going to be difficult to take down the defending champions. The Spurs really seemed to set the tone early in building a 25-14 lead after the first 12 minutes. Memphis cut into the lead at times, but San Antonio always seemed to have a response.
Rockets 114 (15-4), Timberwolves 112 (4-14) OT
You might not have expected this to be one of the two overtime games on the night, and the way the Rockets claimed the victory came as a surprise as well. James Harden (38 points, 6 assists) went off in this game, really getting anything he wanted driving to the lane. However, after he picked up his sixth and final foul with 1:20 remaining in overtime, rookie Nick Johnson (6 points, career-high 22 minutes) replaced the All-Star shooting guard. Up to this point in the season, the former Arizona Wildcat had just started receiving some playing time late in November. Friday night, he took advantage of Harden fouling out by driving to the right, going into Zach LaVine’s (17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) body and banking in a tough layup to give his Rockets the victory. Jason Terry (19 points, 6 assists) had to be have been proud of his fellow Wildcat. Even though they lost in this one, the Timberwolves had absurd balance as seven of nine players who went on the court reached double-digits. Shabazz Muhammad (20 points) had another scoring performance while Thaddeus Young (19 points,5 rebounds) made some big shots late in this one. This game featured two contrasting styles in basketball. Houston hoisted 32 treys while Minnesota only attempted 10. And down low, the Timberwolves outscored the Rockets 66-40 in the paint.
Suns 118 (12-8), Mavericks 106 (15-6)
Goran Dragic (28 points, 13 assists, 1 turnover, 10-15 from the field) and the Suns got a quality win in Dallas, snapping the Mavs’ five-game winning streak and showing off their strong shooting from deep. Dragic reminded fans Friday night why he created so much buzz for his play last season. He controlled the Suns offense and picked apart the Dallas perimeter defense, which has struggled at times this year. Phoenix’s point guard also received a boost from Markieff Morris (22 points, 10 rebounds), who had a big run in the third quarter in which he scored eight of 10 points for the Suns. But the biggest run of the game came right off the bat when the Suns poured in 40 points in the first quarter, building a 13-point lead. They shot a blistering 70 percent from the field during these 12 minutes, showing great energy from all five players on the court. Monta Ellis (33 points, 14-22 from the field) notched yet another 30-point performance, really coming into his own this season. Even with this type of performance, the Mavs need more from Dirk Nowitzki (10 points, 4 rebound, 2-10 from the field), who had a very uncharacteristic shooting night. The most glaring disparity in this one came behind the 3-point line. While the Suns shot 13-26 from deep, the Mavs only managed to make four of their 19 trey attempts.
Bucks 109 (11-10), Heat 85 (9-10)
This Bucks team is so young, long and simply fun to watch. They easily handled a veteran and struggling Heat squad by remaining active on both ends of the floor and running their offense through Kendall Marshall’s (20 points, 7-8 on 3-pointers) post-up game. Yes, there has been a Kendall Marshall sighting. After failing to score double-digits in any of Milwaukee’s first 20 games, he exploded for 20 in this one, making a lot of his baskets backing down his defender. Dwyane Wade (28 points, 8 assists) even had to take a taste of his own medicine on a few of Marshall’s plays. Giannis Antekounmpo (14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) had the play of the game, hammering one right over Chris Bosh (21 points, 6 rebounds). The Heat defense did not look good in any way Friday night. They allowed the Bucks to shoot 56.5 percent from the field and only pulled down 20 rebounds to the Bucks’ 45 rebounds. (And yes, by only grabbing 20 rebounds, the Heat set a franchise-low for a regular season game.) While the Bucks continue to straddle a .500 record, Miami has now lost three in a row and six of their last 10.
Magic 98 (8-14), Jazz 93 (5-15)
Tobias Harris (22 points, 7 rebounds) and Victor Oladipo (20 points, 6 assists) led the way for the Magic as they held off a Jazz team that almost came back from a 17-point deficit. But late in this one, Oladipo was too quick for the Jazz guards while the Magic’s spacing gave the second-year guard room to work. Losers of eight in a row, Utah continues its season of growth. Derrick Favors (21 points, 13 rebounds) had a commanding double-double and Trey Burke (13 points, 11 assists) notched one as well. Gordon Hayward (9 points, 4-11 from the field), though, had an off-night, which has started to become a theme. Of the top Jazz players, they can never seem to all be on their game on the same night. This will simply come with time and playing together.
Kings 102 (10-9), Pacers 101 (7-13) OT
The Kings avoided falling below .500 for the first time since their season opener because of strong play from Rudy Gay (27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and Carl Landry (14 points, 7 rebounds). With DeMarcus Cousins (viral infection) still sidelined, Landry has done an effective job stepping into some big shoes and helping fill Cousins’ role to the best of his ability. And in this one, he came through in a major way by banking in a putback game-winner with 0.8 left on the clock. Before Landry calmly knocked this one down, it looked as if C.J. Watson (14 points) was going to play the role of hero as he made his own bank shot to give the Pacers a 101-100 lead with 1:03 left in overtime. But they couldn’t close this one out for their eighth victory of the season. The Pacers will now play the Hawks Monday and the Kings will look to build off their close victory against the Magic on Saturday night.