Boston 118, New York 116
A brilliant contest, possibly the game of the year, punctuated by a thrilling fourth quarter that saw both sides answer basket after basket despite ... well, the defense wasn't that great.
No shame in that. The Knicks aren't a good defensive team and the Celtics were playing with Glen Davis(notes) at center for long stretches of the deciding moments, and this was as bad as I've seen Davis play defense (especially rotating to help, as a center is supposed to do) all season. But that hardly took away from what was an astonishing back and forth as the Knicks kept up with last year's Eastern champs until the bitter end.
Paul Pierce(notes) had 32 and 10 (all defensive) rebounds for Boston, and it felt as if each of those caroms was needed so, so badly. 20 and 13 for Kevin Garnett(notes), with three steals and a series of go-to moves down the stretch that weren't pretty but eventually impactful. Boston guards Rajon Rondo(notes) and Nate Robinson(notes) did well to toss in daring entry passes after an iffy first quarter, Ray Allen(notes) managed 26 points, and Pierce's go-ahead bucket was expected by no less jaw-dropping.
And New York just deserves credit for bringing it, consistently. Mike D'Antoni has these guys attacking. One penetration led to another which led to another, as opposed to a single drive-and-kick, and if that failed? The league's finest screen and roll attack dominated. 39 points for Amar'e Stoudemire(notes), who had a potential game-winner spin out in the game's third-to-last possession, and a potential game-winner (that actually went in) rightfully ruled as too late upon further review.
Even with those five points taken away, the Knicks still managed nearly 121 points per 100 possessions against the NBA's finest defense (who routinely only gives up 25 fewer than that), with Raymond Felton(notes) offering 26 points and 14 dimes. Wilson Chandler(notes) wasn't the most efficient offensive player (18 points on 17 shots), but he did haul in 12 rebounds and give great defensive effort for all the bits that I had the pleasure to witness.
And if the Knicks and Celtics were planning on getting together in the first round of this spring's postseason, I would not be opposed.
This was actually a bit of a shootout for a goodly stretch until the 76ers decided to pack in the lane, and the Clippers just couldn't cope. 35 second half points for Vinny Del Negro's team, as Philly scored one fewer than that in the third quarter alone, and the Sixers continue their march back toward respectability.
Also, just three turnovers for Doug Collins' crew all night, which is pretty ridiculous. 24 points for Jrue Holiday(notes), but this was a team effort. Hell, even Spencer Hawes(notes) had five offensive rebounds. (16 and 12 with five blocks overall).
Not the greatest offensive game, but certainly a fantastic watch in the second half, which was somewhat surprising given Milwaukee's terrible start.
You'd like to think that the Bucks are going to always have a fighting shot in games due to the squad's defense, but because its offense is so awful that usually isn't the case. Wednesday was different, as the team put together a 55-point second half on its way toward a game that the Spurs ended up winning on a Manu Ginobili(notes) jumper at the buzzer.
Bummer, because this game deserved overtime. Andrew Bogut(notes) had 15 points, four assists, seven blocks and seven rebounds, and Drew Gooden(notes) (sporting a little peach fuzz in his face, finally) was incredibly active against one of his 42 former teams, coming through with 20 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. The Bucks think Manu may have traveled on the final play, but the guy also hit a clutch jumper with no time on the clock, so I'm willing to just hand it to him.
You want to say that the final score didn't reflect how one-sided this game was, but in reality Houston did keep things pretty close for 80 percent of this game. Maybe longer. The Thunder's work on the glass, especially in the third quarter, helped the team pull away.
32 points in 35 minutes for Kevin Durant(notes), who had to sit a goodly chunk of that third quarter due to foul trouble. Jeff Green(notes) (21 points) always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and Houston (playing on the second night of a back-to-back) just seemed a little dazed and confused whenever Oklahoma City was focused and on point.
Nearly 129 points per 100 possessions for OKC, which is just criminal, Houston.
New Orleans got off to a terrible start, Sacto had a 20-point lead by the second quarter, but the Kings just had nothing in their foundation that allowed for them to keep that lead. They weren't getting to the line, they weren't playing smart defensively, and Tyreke Evans'(notes) offensive fundamentals still need a ton of work.
Let's not completely discredit the Hornets, though. They really got after it defensively, forcing the Kings into tough shots (inside, and outside) throughout. Just 34 second half points for Sacramento, as the Hornets just met every movement with a sound cover.
And Marcus Thornton(notes) was back, scoring 17 points (his misses looked good, too) in the second half as New Orleans pulled out the win. Otherwise, a pretty unremarkable game. Sacramento just looks terrible.
I'm going to watch this second half later this afternoon on my Tivo, as I was getting a little woozy late in this contest (still recovering, and I spent most of the morning slogging through what I missed on League Pass online), but Dallas is to be commended for not completely giving up another significant first half advantage.
It was a shootout between LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) (who dropped 35 points) and Dirk Nowitzki(notes) (21) late, but Portland just couldn't overcome a slow first half (39 points) that saw Brandon Roy(notes) just depressing the hell out of everyone with his injury-addled play.
Memphis 113, Charlotte 80
Oh, man; you could tell right away that Memphis knew from the outset that Charlotte did not want to be in Memphis on a Wednesday night playing an anonymous game in the middle of winter. The Bobcats showed no enthusiasm in this loss, and the Grizzlies took full advantage. From beginning to end.
This was a blowout in the second quarter, and one that you'd call just a few minutes into the third quarter if you were a boxing referee, as Charlotte showed little enthusiasm to start the second 24 minutes. The fourth quarter was embarrassing, every time I flipped over, as Memphis was just high stepping into the end zone routinely.
An awful game. Miami only got it together when it had to, and Cleveland's offense is just so miserable to watch.
Dwyane Wade(notes) had one of those nights where his long arms seemed to allow for proper rotation on long shots. That's not a dig, just the truth, as the usually-sketchy long range shooter hit on three of six from behind the arc. LeBron James(notes) pulled in a very needed 13 rebounds (Chris Bosh(notes) had four, and he was just floating save for those four pull-ins), and this game just seemed to go on forever.
Just a lay-up drill, throughout, for Chicago. You really didn't even get the feeling that the Bulls were playing all that well offensively. I'm a red and black backer and didn't think this team's offense was really clicking on all cylinders, and yet the team flirted with a red hot 125 points per 100 possessions all night.
Toronto just allowed penetration throughout the blowout. Guards and forwards and centers were just allowed clean looks near the rim all game, as Carlos Boozer(notes) took the most advantage with 34 points and 12 rebounds in just under 26 minutes of play.
A frustrating night for both sides, in the end. Chicago was grateful for all the easy buckets, but word filtered out around halftime that Joakim Noah(notes) (who still played in the second half and finished with a double-double) would be out for the next 8-to-10 weeks due to an impending right hand procedure. And as I noted above, it didn't feel as if Chicago was doing anything special in the win. Just playing tough basketball and taking advantage of a Raptors team that stopped caring consistently a long, long time ago.
Toronto was without Andrea Bargnani(notes), and he's had his moments against Noah and the Bulls before, but this was really a give-up. Amir Johnson(notes) got his 2008-level two fouls within the first few minutes of the first quarter, and he had his head and body turned the wrong way throughout. There was little fight in Toronto until the fourth quarter, and the businesslike Bullies pulled out a good one.
All business as well for the Lakers early on -- the defending champs came out attacking offensively to put this game away within minutes. Pacers coach Jim O'Brien had to call a timeout just a quarter of the way into the first quarter with Los Angeles up 15-4, and by then the game was effectively over. No defense in the world was stopping the Lakers, who just seemed to get whatever they wanted in an offense that seemed to offer innumerable options.
25 assists on 42 field goals for L.A., and this was a road game, so you know the ball was moving. Even more impressive were the cuts, the quick little dashes to where the Lakers needed to be, and this was a team-wide phenomenon.
Phoenix 128, Minnesota 122
Minnesota scored 36 points in the fourth quarter and 66 in the final 24 minutes, but the Suns really did win this one with great defense on just enough plays down the stretch. The Suns kept scoring -- three-pointers, mostly -- and the Wolves just didn't keep up.
Phoenix scored 128 points, and the Wolves just didn't play smart enough offensively to match the efficiency as the game hit its waning moments. All it takes are a couple of little things gone wrong -- a bad possession from Luke Ridnour(notes), a terrible choice from rookie Wesley Johnson -- and the Suns take (and took) advantage.
Thanks for reading.