Portland 96, Utah 91
The Blazers were just on point on Monday, executing expertly on both ends and keeping the Jazz at bay even though the game took place in Salt Lake City. Portland had an answer for every Utah run, it kept a very good offensive team from having a good offensive night, all while overcoming yet another injury to a Portland big man.
Marcus Camby(notes) had to leave the game in the third quarter after he rolled his ankle. This isn't on the same level as career-killing injuries from Portland past, but it could keep him out for a spell, and Portland needed him down the stretch in this win. Still, LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) continued his white hot play (27 points, including a game-clinching turnaround jumper late), and the team got just enough second looks off the glass to keep Utah at arm's length.
The same sad story for Sacramento. An early lead fizzles, and the Kings just couldn't close it out at home. Sacramento did mount a nice comeback late in the contest, but it wasn't enough. It's just never enough, for this team.
Baron Davis(notes) had an active line (11 points, nine assists, five turnovers, two steals, two blocks) and Blake Griffin(notes) (24, 14 rebounds, four assists, five blocks) got his, but Eric Gordon(notes) was beasting for the Clippers. EG is probably the Most Improved Player right now, and he hit six three-pointers on his way to a 31-point night. Ike Diogu(notes) came off the bench to score eight points and six rebounds in 22 minutes because that's what Ike Diogu does.
His legs looked a little fresher, or maybe it was the fact that nobody on the Clippers was guarding him, but Tyreke Evans(notes) had a throwback night with 32 points in the loss. A missed free throw late helped seal it for Los Angeles, though, as did a rushed (who could blame him) heave at the buzzer from the second-year Kings guard.
Philly really impressed with its effort early on, but bad (sometimes lazy) decisions on either end in the second half, along with a lack of offensive talent, helped seal the 76er fate.
The Warriors wouldn't miss, either, which is always a bit rude. Everyone was nailing three-pointers, even Rodney Carney(notes), as the Warriors pulled away in the second half. 5-7 from Dorrell Wright from long range, he finished with 28 points, as the W's just drove and kicked Philadelphia to death. Quite the offensive exhibition.
J.J. Redick(notes) (15 bench points) was hitting in crucial spots (and missing in non-crucial spots) and Hedo Turkoglu(notes) (20 points, seven rebounds, five assists) was an all-around demon throughout, but Dwight Howard's(notes) sturdy base kept New Jersey from having a hope in Hoboken on Monday night.
114 points per 100 possessions for Orlando, a great number, but Howard's six blocks felt like the biggest impact of all. New Jersey took long jumper after long jumper, couldn't connect, couldn't string enough stops together after the long rebound usually fell in Howard (13 caroms) or Turkoglu's hands, and Orlando is really starting to roll, here.
This wasn't the fastest game we've ever seen, don't let them tell you that Paul Silas is turning the Charlotte Bobcats into the Phoenix Suns, but for a Bobcats game this was a track meet. And a fun game, too. Detroit seemed ready to let Charlotte walk all over them in the first half in the "of course they're going to play brilliantly in their first game with a coach they like"-give up style, but John Kuester had the Pistons defending and nailing shots in the second half to make a game of it.
The hole was too deep, though. D.J. Augustine (27 points, no turnovers, finally putting arc on that jumper) was fantastic, but Shaun Livingston(notes) and Tyrus Thomas'(notes) presence in the first half helped put the Bobcats over the top. Charlie Villanueva(notes) scored 27 points on 14 shots, but every time I clicked over to this game he was doing something upsetting (to me, at least) either on the glass or defensively. Three rebounds in 33 minutes for CV.
***Dallas 103, Oklahoma City 93
Pretty impressive night out for the Mavericks. Rick Carlisle was on the mend and even Dirk Nowitzki(notes) turned a knee midway through this win, but the Mavs just kept defending and finding ways to put up points. Jason Terry(notes) overcame a terrible shooting start to score 13 points with eight assists, and Shawn Marion(notes) was on point throughout -- 22 points, nine rebounds, zero turnovers for the one-time All-Star.
Oklahoma City played hard, but the team's offense sputtered late, and Dallas just seemed to have extra legs even with Dirk (and Brian Cardinal(notes), due to the flu) out. The Mavs made just 10 free throws (that's a game's worth for Kevin Durant(notes) and Russell Westbrook(notes), if not this game) but made up for it by hitting 11 three-pointers in 23 attempts.
Five turnovers and a series of tough shots for Kevin Durant, while Russell Westbrook missed 10 of 15 shots in the loss.
Terrible defense from the Hornets throughout in this loss. The team still has its moments defensively where they really get at it, five men at a time, but the team was terrible in closing out and the Timberwolves took full advantage.
30 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists (!) for Michael Beasley(notes) in the win, as he took it to Trevor Ariza(notes) all night, and Wesley Johnson's active legs sprung him toward six three-pointers in eight attempts. I wasn't joking about the "terrible in closing out" bit.
7-23 shooting from the NOLA bench, as Monty Williams' team has lost 12 of its last 19 after a 11-1 start.
Also, Luke Ridnour(notes) earned possibly the dumbest technical foul of the year in the first half. David West(notes) was somewhat harassing the Timberwolves guard a good seven or eight feet inside the half-court line, and swiped at the ball as a result. West missed the ball, and Ridnour, by about a foot. It wasn't even close. A couple of beats later, Ridnour then needlessly steps back with West now backpedaling away, and steps over the half-court line. Wasn't pushed, certainly wasn't harassed or backed into running away from West. Just made a dumb move, and then made it even dumber by dismissively waving at the ref after getting called for the over-and-back infraction.
In an encouraging development, the Rockets got after it defensively in this win, as the role players (they're nearly all role players at this point) all had their moments of glory in this needed win. Houston is at .500 again.
Chase Budinger(notes) and Aaron Brooks(notes) combined to shoot 5-19, but they both had key plays late, while Jordan Hill(notes) contributed well on both ends (even if the results weren't always all that great, his effort was there), and Kevin Martin(notes) (not a role player) dropped 20.
Washington's offense died with John Wall(notes) out of the game as Kirk Hinrich(notes) overdribbed, though he was trying to set up his teammates. Good enough passes, but zero assists for Hinrich as his teammates missed. Zero assists for Nick Young(notes), as well, but you knew that even before watching the game or reading the box score.
You'd be right to assume that Milwaukee's terrible offense was the reason behind the team's 80 points and 92 points per 100 possessions mark, and if you did click over and see some of the bad shots they were taking and missing, that hunch revealed itself to be a fair enough representation. But, and especially in the first half, Atlanta really got after it defensively. Closed out expertly, and earned this win.
Marvin Williams(notes) was active early with 14 bench points, while Al Horford(notes) managed 18 and 12 rebounds. John Salmons(notes) scored 18 points on just 12 shots for the Bucks, nailing all three of his three-pointers in three three'ing tries, but the Bucks couldn't overcome 9-29 shooting from its starting front court.
Even with Andrea Bargnani(notes) out, the Raptors seemed interested early on. The team won the first quarter by eight points, and even though you knew the more-talented Grizzlies would come back, you would at least think Toronto's effort would sustain. Instead, they pulled back a little bit, and just let the Grizz run all over them as the long misses piled up. And the turnovers. O, the turnovers.
21 and eight for Zach Randolph(notes), while O.J. Mayo(notes) chipped in with 12 points, but it was the ball-hawking of Tony Allen(notes) and Rudy Gay(notes) that got the Grizzlies out in transition. Six steals and a needed 14 points for Allen, he was the game-changer off the bench, and Rudy Gay had five steals along with his six assists, five boards, five turnovers, and 18 points.
22 points for Toronto's Linas Klieza, but the team turned over on more than a quarter of its possessions, and were not on the same page even in that promising first quarter.