Spurs (24-16) 98, Hornets (15-25) 93
Charlotte was enjoying a five-game win streak until it came face-to-face with the defending champion Spurs on Wednesday night.
Manu Ginobili shot 10-14 from the field for 27 points in 24 minutes as San Antonio dismantled the Hornets. The sixth man also added 3 steals. At 38 years old, Tim Duncan is a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year; the Big Fundamental posted 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks in the five-point win. Danny Green added 18 points including 3-7 from beyond the arc. The Hornets drew within one point with four minutes remaining but Manu was simply too difficult to stop. Kemba Walker (28 points, 3 blocks) and Bismack Biyombo (12 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks) were bright spots for Charlotte. Lance Stephenson (8 points in 19 minutes) returned to the floor after missing 14 games with a pelvic strain. San Antonio is still without 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, absent since Dec. 15 with a torn ligament in his hand. PJ Hairston earns bonehead of the night honors with the following flop…absurdity:
Magic (15-27) 120, Rockets (27-12) 113
Dwight Howard dropped 23 points and 8 rebounds, but his former squad got the last laugh; Orlando’s young nucleus nabbed a seven-point victory to snap Houston’s four-game win streak. Victor Oladipo (32 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) had his second straight 30+ scoring game—he’s the heart of this inexperienced yet immensely talented Orlando team. Nikola Vucevic is a machine at this point, so it’s no surprise that he went for 25 points, 12 rebounds and 3 steals. He leads the NBA in double-doubles with 24 on the season.
The game was neck-and-neck until rookie PG Elfrid Payton (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) broke out of his slump for a clutch fourth quarter. He shot 4-4 and dished out two dimes—one of which was a pass to Oladipo for a 360 nail-in-the-coffin dunk—in the final period to propel Orlando to its 15th win. The Rockets made costly mistakes down the stretch which led to their downfall despite 26 points, 10 assists and 5 steals from their stalwart shooting guard James Harden.
Grizzlies (27-11) 103, Nets (16-23) 92
NBA frontcourts must dread seeing Memphis on the schedule due to the Grizz’ dynamic duo of Z-Bo (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (18 points, 8 rebounds). There’s no denying that Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee (15 points, 9 rebounds) had a solid game, but he was outplayed and overmatched.
The Nets have now dropped seven straight games as head coach Lionel Hollins fell to his former team. They missed Kevin Garnett’s toughness against the Grizzlies’ Grit-N-Grind style of play on Wednesday night. The Big Ticket was serving a one-game suspension for head-butting Dwight Howard on Monday. BK is also still without the injured Deron Williams. Tony Allen (13 points, 2 steals) and Courtney Lee (18 points, 3-4 from beyond the arc) were instrumental in the win. Gasol had the assist of the night:
Pelicans (19-19) 105, Pistons (14-25) 94
The Pistons have been the talk of the league since waiving Josh Smith, forming a “f*cking wall” and stringing together an impressive number of wins. That talk was muted a bit last night at the Palace of Auburn Hills, as Anthony Davis did Anthony Davis things and the Pelicans improved to .500 on the season. The Brow put up 27 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks, Tyreke Evans approached a triple double with 18 points, 9 dimes and 8 rebounds and Ryan Anderson added 17 points in the win.
This one was never close. New Orleans led 58-36 at the half and didn’t look back. The Pels dominated Detroit 47-30 on the glass as the Pistons seemed to lack energy. Greg Monroe (16 points, 8 boards, 5 assists) and Brandon Jennings (19 points) played well but the team looked out of sync as a whole.
Raptors (26-12) 100, Sixers (7-31) 84
Toronto fans, rejoice: DeMar DeRozan is baaack!
The sixth-year shooting guard shot 9-14 from the floor and scored 20 points in his return as the Raptors easily handled the lowly Sixers. Kyle Lowry continues to impress; his 18 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 steals were a big reason for T. Dot’s 26th win. Amir Johnson added 10 points and 16 boards, getting the best of Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel (12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals). Michael Carter-Williams (29 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals), whose name has been involved in trade talks, carried the load offensively for the Sixers. Leading scorer Tony Wroten sprained his knee on Tuesday and, as a result, didn’t make the trip to the 6.
Wizards (27-12) 105, Bulls (26-14) 99
Wizards-Bulls is quickly becoming one of the more exciting Eastern Conference matchups to watch. They faced off in the 2014 Playoffs and have now played each other closely three times in ’14-15. The individual matchups—Wall-Rose, Beal-Butler, Gortat-Noah—are especially intriguing each time these squads meet.
DC got the best of Chi-town at home this past Friday and Wednesday’s game resulted similarly, as John Wall (21 points, 9 assists, 2 steals) continued his career year and savvy vet Paul Pierce (22 points, 6 rebounds) came up big in crunch time. Washington beat San Antonion on Tuesday night but showed no signs of fatigue in the second outing of a challenging back-to-back. Chicago led at halftime thanks to Derrick Rose’s 20 points, but Washington took control throughout the final two quarters to best the Bulls. Bradley Beal (17 points, 6 assists) looked like the best SG on the floor on a night when Jimmy Butler (13 points, 4 steals) failed to find his shot. Nene’s uncharacteristic contribution in the assist department—the big Brazilian dropped 8 dimes—was huge. Joakim Noah left the game in the closing seconds of the first half after rolling his ankle. He wouldn’t return.
Hawks (31-8) 105, Celtics (13-24) 91
The Atlanta Hawks aren’t flashy. None of their players have commercial spots. No one on the roster can leap out of the gym.
…And? The Hawks simply go about their business, play quality basketball and stack wins to the tune of the league’s best in-game musical accompaniment. The ATLiens have now won 10 straight—the first time that’s happened in 17 years. They took care of a talent-depleted Celtics team on Wednesday night thanks to a combined 62 points from Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague. Sharpshooter Kyle Korver took the night off.
Nuggets (18-20) 114, Mavericks (27-13) 107
Ty Lawson posted 29/12/5 to carry the Nuggets over Dallas. Kenneth Faried chipped in with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Wilson Chandler contributed 15/10/6. The Mavs boasted 8 players in double figures—none scored above 15, and five of those players came off the bench—but Denver improved to 18-20 on the year. Dallas was short-handed as head coach Rick Carlisle rested Dirk Nowitzki, Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler. Richard Jefferson provided a blast from the past with 16 points and 6 boards. JJ Barea had 17 and 6. The highlight of the home telecast occurred when injured Nugget Danilo Gallinari took over the play-by-play:
Warriors (31-5) 104, Heat (17-22) 89
Aside from Chris Bosh (26 points, 7 assists), the Heat struggle to find the cup when Dwyane Wade is out of the lineup. Flash’s hamstring injury meant other players had to step up against the NBA’s best team. Luol Deng did his job—surpassing his season averages for 19 points and 7 rebounds—but it’s extremely difficult to overcome the absence of a future HOF shooting guard when you’re going up against Steph Curry. The baby-faced assassin torched Miami for 32 points in a Warriors rout at Oracle Arena. Klay Thompson added 19. Golden State is now 13-0 against the Eastern Conference. There was a cool moment when Heat rookie Tyler Johnson, who attended the Warriors’ basketball camp growing up, made two free throws at the end of the game for his first career points.
Clippers (26-13) 100, Blazers (30-9) 94
Jamal Crawford is as tough a cover as anyone in the league when he’s got it going.
The Blazers learned that the hard way at home, as Crawford dropped 25 points—including 22 on contested jumpers—and the Clips eclipsed Portland in a down-to-the-wire affair. LaMarcus Aldridge (22 first half-points, 37 and 12 rebounds on the night) was dominant throughout, but it took until the fourth quarter for Damian Lillard to catch fire. After scoring just 3 points the first three quarters, Damian Lillard put up 12 in the fourth. However, LAC’s sixth man was just as hot in the game’s final period. Blake Griffin (18 points, 3 steals) and DeAndre Jordan (17 points, 18 rebounds) were forces in the paint. Per usual, Chris Paul (23 points, 10 rebounds) was calm, cool and collected with the game up for grabs down the stretch. CP3 did a terrific job of defending Lillard for the first 36 minutes of action. The highlight of the night came in the second quarter, when Crawford made Steve Blake look silly:
Oh, and can someone get Doris Burke a 10-day contract?